Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Column for Dec. 24, 2009

Last week, I was in a bit of a rush to ship a package by a deadline. On the way towards Durham, I wanted to ship out a small box to a business half way across the country. Since I have shipped literally thousands of packages over the years (I used to own a business in which I shipped packages to customers all over the world) I figured it would be no big deal to get one into the postal system.

I remembered that the Selma Post Office opened around 8:30 AM. One time I tried going earlier and found that they opened up then. So I grabbed the list of errands I had to perform which also included stopping by my bank and grabbing a freshly brewed Dunkin' Donuts coffee after I hit the Post Office, and headed out the door.

When I got to the local Post Office, I found a small line forming in front of the interior door at around 8:45. It seems that even in the holiday season, and especially the week before Christmas, the Post Office had changed its opening hour to 9 AM. I was not about to wait for another 15 minutes, so I hit the bank, the coffee shop, and went on to the Post Office in the next town. I figured that Smithfield was a bigger town and for sure their Post Office was open already. Negative. Their Post Office opened even later. I saw several upset potential customers walking away with the same disgust I was feeling. Surely Clayton's Post Office would be open, and since it was generally along my way to my destination for the day, I headed there.

After walking away from the Clayton facility with my package still in hand, I answered the inquiries of fellow customers that the facility was not opening until 10 AM. I should have known from watching a young mother departing with a toddler in one hand and a package in the other that the Post Office was closed upon my arrival.

I traveled further into Clayton to a facility I thought for sure would be open. A very large shipping company that delivers worldwide has a franchised agent store in Clayton. I am not going to mention the business name, but its initials are UPS. Bingo, they were open. Score one for private industry.

Private industry will only flourish however, when it meets customer needs at a price customers are willing to pay. I was astonished as I watched two extremely unsatisfied customers storm out of the business without transacting any business. One simply wanted to leave a dollar on the counter for the busy clerks to ring up later for a small card worth far less than a dollar. He was rebuffed so he dropped the card on the counter, made a deserved sarcastic remark to the clerk, and left.

One lady in front of me was quoted a price for shipping a large, gift wrapped, framed picture of some sort and a book. She was quoted over thirty dollars and we both winced. Then she was quoted an extra twelve plus dollars for the actual shipping. It seemed that the original figure was just for packaging the items for shipping and did not include freight charges. The customer got angry, felt misled, grabbed her items, and left. The two clerks shrugged off a second irate customer.

Then it was my turn to get annoyed. An item that costs about six dollars packed in a small box would cost over seven dollars to ship. Since I was not willing to go out of my way for a fourth time and find yet another Post Office, I paid the higher than expected shipping charge and left. At least I got tracking information for the package unlike I would have gotten at the Post Office and it shows that as of this writing, my package is on time for an expected delivery.

Here is the bottom line. The Post Office is run like a government bureaucracy instead of a business. The holiday season is the busiest shipping time of the year. Instead of catering to customer needs, some pinhead government bean counter decided that the Post Office would open at an inconvenient hour allegedly to save money. Instead of providing a competitive operating schedule and competitive service, they continue to act like a monopoly and as a result lost my business. How many millions more people like myself did the same thing this year instead of using the United States Postal Service? If a private company can ship a package half way across the country and track it as it goes, so can the Post Office.

Sure I am beating up on the Post Office, but I feel the same way about ABC stores in North Carolina. The same principle applies. If a government operation wants to make better revenue, they need to think like a business instead of like a bureaucracy.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Column for Dec. 17, 2009

I have been recently complimented by several readers about the fact that I don't sugar coat things and am not afraid to state my opinions. That has been either a great gift or a great bane in my life, depending upon how you look at it. Then again, that is why I am sitting behind the keyboard right now. I have a list of things about which I have been pondering. I do believe that I will touch on several subjects today from my list.

First, I read with interest the plans to perhaps establish an historic district in Selma. I find it equally interesting that the Town of Benson recently voted down such a proposal. Historic districts are nothing new. I have been familiar with hysterical, I mean historical societies and their work in other towns, as well. My biggest opinion on this topic is simply that something, whether it is a building or other object, is not inherently historic just because it is old. In town, the Mitchener Station building may be considered historic since it was in effect the genesis of the town. My house in town was built in 1950. By definition, it is qualified as historic. However, it is a plain single family residence, and nothing of noteworthiness occurs here except that this is where I usually craft this column and where I raise my family. There are many such homes and buildings in this town. Big deal. Perhaps the most interesting and most noteworthy thing in Selma of historicity is the Vick Building. Vick's Vaporub is a world famous product and was developed right down the street from my non-historic home. I am going to stop myself before I get into the concept of developing an historic district and the eventual resulting regulations and disrespect for personal property rights. It is allowing the proverbial camel to put his nose in the tent.

I despise political correctness, as you may know. I was amazed when I was informed that I can no longer refer to particular restaurant employees as a waiter or waitress. My six-year-old informed me that the proper term is "server" and that we should never call a waiter a waiter or a waitress a waitress. I was informed that this is the type of garbage that is being taught in elementary schools. So, a first grader is not being taught how to look at a clock and tell time in school but is being taught about parallelograms, trapezoids, and servers. I don't know about you, but I learned to tell time long before I ever learned geometric figures. Impressionable young minds that can not tell time can be taught the politically correct terms for wait staff, and I think I have to remedy both at home.

Is it just me or is North Carolina about the worst state anywhere for leaving road kill on the side of the highway? I have traveled through a good many states and do not recall seeing anywhere near the amount of dead deer, possums, dogs, cats, raccoons, and other critters laying dead on the road side as I do here in Carolina. What is worse is that these carcasses are left to rot for weeks, sometimes months. I recall seeing dead deer become flat from decay after months of neglect. Other states are very active in picking up dead animals. We could do a whole lot better. Don't even get me started on the litter problem here compared to other states. Enough about flat cats and smeared deer, though.

The Christmas holiday season excepted, am I the only one left in the area that flies the American flag every day? I am just curious. It used to be common to see people fly the flag regularly in many areas of the state and country. I now rarely see ordinary citizens fly a flag at their own homes except maybe for a few days at the beginning of July. I will offer my old flag and maybe even a flag pole and mount to the first person who contacts me and asks for it. My old version of Old Glory may be faded some and a little weathered from waving in front of my non-historic home, but she is still beautiful and stands for a great nation.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Column for Dec. 10, 2009

I almost got it out of my system after my last column, and then I saw another news report of more of the race wars being perpetrated by the NAACP. Racism will not end unless all parties, regardless of race, stop the bigotry.

In Wake County, I was thrilled to see the newly elected Board of Education decide to stop some of the insane policies that were going on in there. This included an end to early dismissal Wednesday, and it looks like they may stop the forced bussing of students across the county in the name of diversity instead of allowing students to attend neighborhood schools. I see little value in putting a child on a school bus and sending them to the other side of the county rather than allowing him or her to attend a school a whole lot closer to home. That wastes both time and tax dollars, and adversely affects families.

In Wayne County, on the other side of our fair County of Johnston, school administrators a few years ago had that same epiphany of brilliance and decided to return to neighborhood schools instead of resorting to ineffective and expensive bussing. Apparently the National Association for the Advancement of Crazy People believes that sending a child to a school close to home is tantamount to the re-institution of segregation. That's just a dishonest assertion.

Segregation was the practice of exclusion and separation. Going to community based schools is a practice of inclusion and equality. There is nothing exclusionary about attending school with whatever fellow students happen to be in your immediate area. Regardless of your background, financial status, or race, you get to go to a community school.

The NAACP argues that many schools in Wayne County are almost completely populated by Black students. I fail to comprehend to how this is segregationist. If the admission criterion is that you live nearby the school, then Black people must predominantly populate the neighborhoods serviced by said schools. If they are predominantly poor, then the proportion within the school population will reflect that, as well.

Ironically, if the school population is primarily poor, then more students will qualify for free and reduced lunch at the schools. When that school reaches the magic number percentage thereof, they get even more federal funding under Title 1 provisions under federal law. In theory, this will lead to better education and accountability for academic achievement.

State NAACP President "Reverend" William Barber claims that Wayne County school policies have resulted in "poor performance statistics, including lower graduation rates, higher dropout and suspension rates, and stiffer discipline for Black students". Barber further claims that some schools that are "100 percent African-American with maybe one or two white children."

If there were few white children in the neighborhood by percentage, then I would expect that fewer white children would be at some neighborhood schools. To be sure, Barber is not claiming that if there were more white children at these same schools that they would have better performance statistics, higher graduation rates, lower dropout and suspension rates, and lesser discipline for Black students.
I do not for one minute believe that Black students are less intelligent, by nature perform poorly, and are innately prone to behavioral problems. By way of example, white children are the minority at our own Selma Elementary School and overall school performance statistics have risen the past few years.

Anyone who believes that Black students (or adults for that matter) are inferior and need government (or NAACP) intervention in order to achieve equality of intellect, behavioral standards, and academic achievement is truly blind to the truth. That scorns Martin Luther King, Junior's wish for a nation where his children "will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

Throwing around terms such as segregation is simply a tactic to incite people into angrily supporting the agenda. The agenda is to continue to have sufficient racial tension to continue to have a raison d'ĂȘtre. If we all, regardless of race, treat those of other races or even our own with dignity and the belief that all men are created equal (I remember that phrase from somewhere in antiquity) then we will dampen the racism that unfortunately continues in our midst.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Column for Dec. 3, 2009

For the past 20 years, I have been hearing the term, "racial reconciliation". In many regards, I believe that this nation has come a long way since the Jim Crow era. For the sake of simplicity and this column, let us say that the term "racial reconciliation" will only be applicable to Negroes and Caucasians.

This so-called reconciliation can not be a one way street. By definition, two parties can not reconcile if one is not willing to do so. Within the past week or so, I have seen two examples of this very premise. One is local, the other is on a national scale. Let me first tackle the local episode.

I wrote last week about Mr. Harris Jenkins' appeal to the Johnston County Board of Elections. I wrote that I thought the idea that Selma Elementary School being too far to travel as a polling place was ridiculous. A reader commented to me via email that I was possibly mistaken and that the complaint was about the polling location at Selma Baptist Church. Thank you for the communication, by the way. I greatly appreciate the feedback.

I was going by the printed news reports in newspapers and one radio station in the county. Within the past week, one news report said, "Jenkins, who ran for mayor in Selma, said the town's two polling places were too hard for some of his supporters to reach." That pretty much supports what I wrote.

Here is how this ties into racial reconciliation. The argument was basically made that minorities and the poor were disenfranchised with the allegedly distant polling places. But wait, it get better. According to one news report, it was alleged that "the lack of minorities working at another polling location affected the outcome". A lack of minorities working the polls? I quote myself from last week. "This is a joke, right?" Why not quote myself again? "You have got to be kidding me!"

What in the world does the color of the skin of a poll worker have to do with whether or not someone will cast a vote? If someone is so petty as to allow that to affect the decision of whether or not to vote, I don't want that person to vote at all. The country will be better off that way.

Personally, I like the idea that the poll workers are the same faces each time I cast a ballot and that they know me by name when I walk through the door. They work all day long every election day, and I have no idea if they are even paid for their efforts. I suspect that if more minorities actually volunteered their time, then perhaps more minorities would be working at the polling location(s).

The national disgrace to which I refer is the foolhardy Jesse Jackson, Sr. Supposedly he bears the title "Reverend" but since I became aware of his existence in the 1980's, I have yet to hear him ever have anything "Gospel centric" to say.

Jesse Jackson actually chided a Black skinned Congressman (who is also a Democrat) for voting against the health care boondoggle bill. He was quoted as saying, "You can’t vote against health care and call yourself a black man."

What in the world does being Black (note that I have sufficient respect to capitalize the word) have to do with being intelligent enough to realize that the bill was contrary to The U.S. Constitution and that its passage would effectively cripple the economy and our health care system? Why should one illegally vote in favor of national suicide just because he is Black? For that matter, what does the health care bill have to do with race, Mr. Jackson? Health care affects ALL Americans, not just Blacks. Note that I do not use the fallacious term, "African-American". Not all people of the Negroid race are from Africa and not all dark skinned Americans are of African heritage. If you are an American, you are an American. Period.

Look, folks, if people truly desire "racial reconciliation", then they have to stop being race conscious regarding every last detail of life and stop seeing hidden institutional racism where none exists. If you truly want the races to reconcile, then stop whipping out the race card. There are indeed some unjust cases of racism in this world, but when it does not truly exist, the "little boy who cried wolf" scenario gets mighty old and makes reconciliation harder to accomplish.