Sunday, December 28, 2008

Column for Dec. 25, 2008

Here in North Carolina, we are taxed and hit with fees quite a bit. I read one time that North Carolina is now comparable with Massachusetts in our total level of taxation. Having grown up in a state neighboring Massachusetts, we used to call them, "Taxachusetts". The state that had "The Boston Tea Party" to protest high taxes is now an example of how to over tax the citizens.

I am glad I do not live in New York. I was just reading an article that the New York state budget has a huge shortfall. Now the governor there and the legislature are pondering numerous tax hikes to make up the difference. Their budget is short by over $15 billion. They are hoping that 88 new taxes and fees (fees are just taxes) will help fill that gap.

Residents of New York will pay taxes and fees on downloads for their iPods, movie tickets, taxi cab rides, soft drinks, beer, wine, cigars, and a host of other things. Their gas tax cap will be repealed. Basically, people are being "nickel and dimed" because of overspending. Most of the nickels and dimes will come from the working class because of the nature of the taxes.

The Democrat governor of New York is proposing cuts in spending, as well as income tax increases. It was spending that got them into the situation they now find themselves. And yet with all the talks of spending cuts, the state budget in New York is still going to increase by at least 1% over prior year.

So what does this have to do with North Carolina? First, we are heading in the same direction. The State of North Carolina is asking for millions of dollars of education funds back from counties in order to balance the state budget. We are going to see the same crisis here soon enough.

Secondly, and I am saying this as someone who migrated here from the Northeast, but many people are looking to duplicate the same mistakes that Yankees have made here. I have heard people refer to me as a Yankee, even recently. I have a French sir name and a French Canadian/Irish heritage. Many of my ancestors are indeed from New England and Quebec. But I was also born further south than most of the people in these parts and I have been a North Carolinian for just about all of my adult life, and half of my entire life. For over two decades now, I have lived and worked here by choice. I have been in Johnston County for more than half my time in North Carolina.

I have had the displeasure of talking with some brash, ignorant Yankees over the years. I understand why they say, "Well, up North, we did it this way." There are many things northerners do well and better than they are done here in the South, but that is another column for another day. Then there are some things they do not do well, at least fiscally.

A year ago, I was talking with a woman who moved to an eastern town here in North Carolina, about an hour's drive to the east and where you will find one of our state universities. She was railing about how the town did not plan for sidewalks and curbs in her brand new subdivision and how trash was collected, amongst other things. She had bragged about how things were done in her tiny New England town in terms of municipal services and decried the fact that she could not leave a refrigerator at curb side for pick up. My answer to this lady was simply that she relocated to North Carolina to get away from the high taxes and real estate prices of her previous locale.

Often, Yankees come to the South for jobs, climate, or other reason. I personally came here for a change. I had several job offers, and I chose the one in Raleigh, since it was in my field of study and chosen career, North Carolina gets less cold and snow, and I was ready for a change in my life as a young buck of 20 years. This loudmouthed woman and her daughter moved here for a job, a change, and according to our conversation, the lower cost of living.

To say that one comes here for the lower cost of living and then complains that there are not services available that one had in a more expensive area of the country is contradictory. Services cost money. Whether those services are health care, welfare, or curbside pick up of household appliances. You can have lower cost or you can have more government services. You can not have both.

If my taxes will be lower and I have to make a trip to the dump once every few years, I prefer to go to the landfill myself, thank you very much. If my taxes will be lower, we do not have so many people suckling off the government teat, and they have to fend for themselves the same way that my family does, then I choose the equality of treatment.

If we do not wake up to this soon in North Carolina, we too are going to pay taxes on cab rides, for downloads to iTunes, and get even more "nickel and dimed" to death, just like New York.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Sometimes I love getting hate mail

This afternoon, I received an email from someone who read my last column. I wanted to share it here. All email I get is subject to being posted on my blog. wrote:

Dear Troy,
I just read my complimentary copy of The Selma News and remembered why I stopped subscribing. The election is over, my friend, so you can stop the "scare tactics" now. (Maybe that's why your party got beaten so thoroughly.) If there is a lesson to be learned from the failed campaign of John McCain, it is that people don't respond to the fear of gloom and doom. I would think that someone in your position would realize that and support the newly elected president at least until you have a reason not too. He isn't even in office yet, for Heaven's sake!

First of all, no one could possibly manipulate the Constitution any more than George Bush and Dick Cheney have. From illegal wire tapping to an illegal war, to Gbay, the Constitution has been mutilated under this administration. Our new president elect is, as I'm sure you know, a Constitutional Law Professor, so my guess is , he knows more about the document than you or I. I wouldn't be too worried about the Constitution if I were you. No one is going to take away your gun or your right to free speech or your freedom from unreasonable search and seizure. That one, I believe, will be even safer under the new administration.
Any person who can't see that Bush has taken us down the wrong path just hasn't been paying attention.

I knew Mr. and Mrs. Tom Davis, the original owners of the Johnstonian Sun. Mrs. Davis was one of my favorite teachers and boy, was she political! She would absolutely turn over in her grave if she could read some of the garbage being spewed in her newspaper! Conservative twaddle, I like to call it.
As a firm believer in the Constitutional right to free speech, I totally agree that you have the right to say what you want in the newspaper. Please respect my right to totally disagree with you.
Pam Bizzell

Here was my response.

Thank you for your input, Pam.

You are correct that there was much to be learned from the failed campaign of John McCain. First and foremost is that if you are supposed to be a conservative party, nominate a conservative to be your candidate, not a centrist. McCain ran a horrible campaign and he got what he deserved, defeat. By the way, the Republican Party is NOT my party. Before you make such assumptions, you might want to do a little research. I am not member of the GOP.

Scare tactics? Nah, just making observations and commentary on what actually is. It is what it is, madame. Puppies grow up to be dogs. Snakes bite. Bees sting. It is their nature. Socialists do what they do and are very predictable. All one has to do is to read "A Communist Manifesto" to see what the leftists in this country have done and will do. Obama is an avowed socialist. If it quacks like a duck, well, you know the rest.

Actually, many of the accusations of "illegal" wiretapping and an "illegal war" are unfounded, though I do disagree with much of their implementation. I did NOT support our invasion of Iraq. Why? Because we did not have a declaration of war. However, I am a Constitutional scholar, unlike Barack Obama. It is folly to buy into the notion that he was actually a professor of Constitutional studies. I teach on the Constitution and US history nearly every week and I guarantee I have taught more on and know more about the document than Obama ever thought to have realized. I understand that though the Constitution calls for a declaration of war by Congress, there is zero provision for the form in which that declaration shall be delivered. Congress did indeed authorize the use of the military. Thus, that may very well be tantamount to a declaration of war. I have had this discussion with other very learned men who could put Obama to shame with their knowledge of the Constitution, its origins, its intents, and its implementation.

If you think that Bush and Cheney have manipulated the Constitution, then you obviously have no idea of the role that Dick Cheney has in the government. Furthermore, you are forgetting people like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. They have butchered the document just as bad. This is not to take in to account the New Deal or other leftist, illegal schemes passed by previous Democrat administrations. If you are going to point fingers at Bush (and I am NOT a Bush supporter, believe me. I have despised many things he has done in his administration up to and including wanting to slap him silly just today) then to be fair, you have to point fingers at LBJ and FDR. They have done far worse than W ever thought of doing in mangling the Constitution. Fair is fair.

You say that nobody is going to take away our freedom of speech or right to own firearms. They thought the same thing in 1930's Germany. They thought the same thing in Australia, England, and Russia. Yes, I would be worried about The Constitution, since if it is re-written, any such freedoms can be just as easily removed as they were penned into the document. That is the bottom line. If a socialist President who believes that the problem with the Constitution is that it does not provide for redistribution of wealth (this statement is well documented), a complicit Congress that will appoint delegates to a convention, and an ignorant public lacking any sort of civics knowledge or ethics is going to have a say, then we will indeed have a rewritten constitution. It is what it is.

I find it interesting that you would find The Selma News to be full of conservative twaddle, since for a long time, they had leftist columnists and the majority of the pages are news, not opinion. You are welcome to disagree with me all you wish. You have every right to be wrong.

Troy LaPlante

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Column for Dec. 18, 2008

The end of days for America if we have a new Constitutional Convention

I have heard for years about signs of the end of time, and that we are living in "the end times". People have thought that same thing in every generation since the first century A.D. I do believe, however, that we are living in the end times of the United States of America. America as we know it will cease to exist.

For those who do not know, I regularly teach along with two cohorts in a project called The Patriots Pub. In The Pub (as I call it), we have taught about American history and what led to the writing of our Constitution. Currently, we have been teaching through the day by day account of The Constitutional Convention of 1787. There are some 50+ hours of narrative and commentary available on the internet thus far.

There has been a call for another Constitutional Convention. That is nothing new. What is new is that we may actually get one this time. At the time of publication, 32 states have already signed on to the idea. Only two more states need to agree to the concept before Congress has to call for a convention. Once 2/3 of the states agree to call for a convention, it is required under the existing constitution to have one (Article V).

Make no mistake that if there is a new convention, our existing constitution will be tossed out the window. Congress gets to decide how delegates to the convention would be chosen. We currently have liberals in charge of Congress. We are going to have a flaming liberal (rated as the most liberal Senator in the entire Senate) as our president.
I have had the discussion lately with those who support the automobile industry bail out about its merits. My repeated question was to show me where in the Constitution that the government was allowed to make any sort of loan to the automobile industry, much less the financial system bail out that is 57 times larger. Alas, there was no answer found. Such an idea may end up in a new constitution.

In a constitutional convention, there is no limitation on the scope of the convention. In the 1787 convention, the Articles of Confederation were to be revised for better efficiency in government. Instead, the convention eventually scrapped them in favor of an entirely new constitution. We could see the same thing happen in our day.

If this were to happen, know that your First Amendment rights could be curtailed if the amendment is either stricken or amended. The same goes for the Second Amendment. Our gun rights, freedom of speech, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, freedom of press, and reservation of rights to the states, to name a few, could all be wiped out. We could easily lose the requirement of natural born citizenship for eligibility to be president. We could have someone from nations in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, or any other place in the world run for and be elected as the chief executive in this nation. The wisdom of the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 was to ensure a nationalistic tendency and loyalty.

When corrupt men write documents to justify or further their corrupt ways, it can only harm a nation. I have read extensively through the notes of James Madison about the first convention and the fears of government getting into the hands of corrupt men. Thus, we have some of the provisions and methods of government we have today and have had for well over 200 years. I can foresee the Constitution being rewritten or replaced to adapt to the whims of the ethically challenged.
President-elect Barack Hussein Obama has himself criticized the Constitution "because it fails to address wealth redistribution". Wealth redistribution? Folks, did you get that? He believes that the Constitution should allow for the government to forcibly take away your money at gunpoint and give it to those who have less of it than you do. Does this give you just a hint of what his supporters in Congress (who are in the majority) are going to do when appointing convention delegates?

I guarantee that we are going to have written into a new constitution provisions for homosexual marriage, abortion rights, gun control, a provision for the currently absent "separation of church and state" (only in the Supreme Court's opinion does this separation exist. It is not in the present constitution, just as with abortion rights), and a host of other liberal twaddle. Obama has said that the Constitution "needs to be interpreted through the lens of current events". That is indeed liberal twaddle.

Our own state, North Carolina, has already voted in the call for a new convention. If just two more states call for the same, then America may very well cease to exist as we know it.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Column for Dec. 11, 2008

There is nothing wrong with questioning governmental spending

I have been reading about the pending departure of the county's Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Anthony Parker. I read with interest the commentary in another newspaper about Dr. Parker retiring from his post. The writer said that by his retiring, Dr. Parker was actually saving the county money and was putting the county's interests above his own. I personally doubt that seriously, since I have also read from another media source that Dr. Parker is not indeed retiring, but seeking employment at another school system in South Carolina. He probably read the handwriting on the wall, so to speak, of a Republican majority coming aboard the county Board of Education and his probably forcible exit.

The Superintendent of Schools in Johnston County makes more money than the Governor of North Carolina. For that price, we have gotten a dubious performing leader and school system, in my opinion. We can make it better. We can do so with determination and not necessarily with money. We can find ways of saving money, especially after the state has demanded the return of millions of dollars worth of money they sent to counties for education. The State of North Carolina is required to balance its own budget. State government's spending has gotten it into trouble financially yet again, but that is another story for another day. We need to question governmental operational efficiency from time to time and the use of our tax dollars.

In my column that was published last month, I questioned school fund raising tactics and its necessity. I must give appropriate credit to the principal of the school, Ms. Janice Jett. Ms. Jett was kind enough to have read my column and wrote me in response to my column. We corresponded about that issue and I am glad that she took it as her responsibility to do so. For that, I publicly thank Ms. Jett. I was told by other parents that she was a "class act", and thus far, I can not argue with that assessment at all.

I recently emailed again about another issue. This time, it is about potential wasteful spending. I am going to share this with the readers since I also shared my concerns with most of members of the Johnston County Board of Education. At the time of my deadline for this column, I have not received a response, but there has not been sufficient time transpired within which to reasonably expect a response. Just as with the other column, I am going to share my concern. I do this to encourage others to do the same. My concerns may be unfounded in this situation, perhaps not. Time will tell. Either way, I always find it wise to question and scrutinize spending, waste, fraud, abuse, or any potential malfeasance at any level of government.

Here is my question of the school board and a school principal:

"My kindergarten aged son has come home several times with workbooks that we have been told we could keep, that were not required for school work, and did not need to be returned to the school. Just last week, he came home with a couple more of them. He has come home with one or two before. My question is simply whether or not these books are being paid for by the school with tax dollars.

If these books are being purchased for students, why are they not being used in the classroom, why are students not required to study from them, and why are we buying them if they are not going to be used? If these books are samples that are supplied by publishers (and I doubt that they are. I have never heard of any such thing for an entire class or for giveaway with no evaluation or usage), they why are they not being used and wasted on giveaways?

Please enlighten me on this topic. I get annoyed each time I see something that is as potentially wasteful as this and am being asked to buy classroom supplies, pay more taxes, swallow a salary for a county Superintendent of Schools that is higher than the salary for the state's governor, support bond issues, and support fund raisers."

What is my point in sharing this? It is not to disrespect any school official. It is to ingrain into my fellow citizens that it is appropriate to make phone calls, make inquiries, question authority, question expenditures, question accountability, and question ethics when we are the ones paying for it and are in essence, the only check and balance system against such abuses. After all, it is YOUR money. Make yourselves heard.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Column for Dec. 4, 2008

The political and family woes of a conservative Black man

I truly feel sorry for a good friend of mine. We talked this weekend and he is not having a fun time at home. There is a bit of strife in his household, and it is tough on him. My long time, close personal friend is a Christian and a staunch conservative. His wife is a Christian, as well.

To protect the innocent, I will call my friend Mr. D. Mr. D and I have been through a lot together. We founded a church congregation together, had home Bible studies together, traveled a little bit together, and have been there for each other through a lot of tribulations in life. Even if we do not talk as often as we both like, we are still good friends and have a great love for one another. Over the years, we have had the chance to extensively discuss issues like politics and religion. We have debated doctrine and world affairs. We have very similar views on most subjects. Mrs. D also has many of the same religious views. So why are they having division in the home? Mrs. D will shout "hallelujah" right along side Mr. D. However, Mrs. D is a Barack Obama lover and a strong Democrat. To top things off, Mr. and Mrs. D are both Black.

Mr. D is practically an outcast within his family for his lack of support for a fellow Negro's run for President. My friend decided that his faith and his values were going to decide which candidate and party to support. His family can not fathom why he would not support "one of his own". It is not just Obama, though. I have heard Mrs. D say that Republicans don't care about Black people whereas Democrats do. My response, not wanting to cause strife, is usually just, "Really?"

Mr. D is aware of the history of the Democrat Party. He knows that it was primarily Democrats who refused to give up slavery in America. He knows that it was the Republican Party that became the voice of the Abolition Movement. The Republican Party was started in Exeter, New Hampshire in October of 1853 by former Democrats who wanted to fight against the evils of enslaving an entire race of people. I used to live in the next town over from the birthplace of the only successful abolitionist political party in America. My brother was born in Exeter.

Mr. D is also aware that it was Democrats who started the KKK and later stood against school integration. It was Democrats who got us involved in Vietnam, came up with social engineering programs such as Social Security, welfare, and affirmative action. Such programs are nothing more than modern day enslavement. It is the Democrat Party that falsely told Mr. D's family that they can not make it in this world without the help of the government; they were not smart enough, did not have enough ability, and could not overcome any disadvantages without the government helping them along.

Make no mistake that any government operation or program that gives money to others for any length of time is nothing more than an effort to enslave the masses. When a person looks to the government for a paycheck, for a monthly stipend, or other benefit, then he is beholden to the source of his personal revenue. A political party that is responsible for feeding money to those who did not work for it is going to be held in esteem by those who receive the cash. They will falsely be seen as caring for the recipients but rather they hold the recipients in contempt and bondage all for the sake of power. These facts are not lost on Mr. D. This, of course, is contrary to the prevalent paradigm within his family and hence the source of strife.

I am no apologist for the Republican Party in its current form. Several years ago, I told the GOP to shove my membership card somewhere about which I can not write. They have drifted so far from their genesis, it is not funny. I am, however, a fan of the early Republican Party of the 1850's. Like William Wilberforce of England in the late 1700's, they stood against slavery and oppression in any manner and stood for freedom. Rather than standing true to their roots, the GOP has slid left to where the Democrats were in the 1960's while the Democrats have slid towards the Socialists of the 1930's.

Mr. D has a daunting task ahead of him called perseverance. I can personally relate, since I have gotten a lot of flack from friends, relatives, and critics for my political and religious views. It is especially tough, though, when it comes from one's own household. For that, Mr. D has my full support and sympathy. To stand for what is right is not always easy, but it is nonetheless, the right thing to do.