Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Column for Dec. 30, 2010

“This would have doubled our tax base overnight.” We have heard that sort of claim before, and I am dubious. We heard that sort of claim when Sysco was looking to relocated to Selma. We heard figures about how many jobs this would bring to the town and how many homes would be built to accommodate the influx of laborers. That didn’t happen with the construction and operation of the Sysco facility. Even the executive in charge of the Selma facility bought a house in Clayton, not Selma. When large companies want to come to a town with promises of an increased tax base, jobs, and more residents, towns tend to get excited. They tend to make tax concessions, agreements to provide infrastructure, and other tax payer funded incentives. Basically, it amounts to providing corporate welfare. I don’t blame a business for going with the location that is to its greatest economic benefit.

As you may have read, Electrolux was looking at Selma as a possible location to build a new manufacturing plant. Electrolux used to be known in America only for its vacuum cleaners. I remember when my parents bought an Electrolux with the 1976 Olympics sponsorship logo decal on it. The woman who sold the vacuum was doing door to door, in home demonstrations. But the Swedish manufacturer makes a lot more than just vacuum cleaners. They also make a lot of appliances that have been showing up more and more in stores here in North America.

I am all for wooing a large business like Electrolux to build its factory in town. Though I did not necessarily want an ethanol plant in Selma a few years ago, I was all for their freedom to build one. If an area has the ability to provide the water, streets, natural gas, labor force, and real estate necessary to sustain a company, then I am all for it.

I do get concerned, however, when promises are made and plants like the Dell facility in Winston-Salem end up closing shortly after opening. I also get concerned when promises are made to be able to provide the 500 acres necessary for development. I have to be honest and say that if I was a property owner in the way of construction, I may very well take the offer to sell my property and leave. Money talks. But not everyone is willing to abandon land that may have been in the family for generations or is making money for their family, such as farm or timber land. You are only going to find 500 acre parcels in what was or is farm land around here.

What disturbs me is the possibility of eminent domain by a municipality to take land from one private property owner and give it to another private entity such as a developer or corporation on the promise of higher tax revenue for the municipality. In one of the greatest travesties of American juris prudence, that very thing was the result of Kelo vs. the City of New London, Connecticut just five years ago. The Supreme Court upheld New London’s decision to take land from a private citizen and give it to a developer for the sole purpose of potential greater revenue from land usage. The irony is that the financials never panned out for the developer and the taken land sits empty. That is, to me, one of the biggest abuses of eminent domain and unethical decisions to ever come along. Then again, that sort of dilemma may never have been an issue had Electrolux determined to build in Selma. I am, however, always vigilant in looking at such potential government abuse.

The bottom line is that though I support industrial development, feel that it is overall a good thing for the area, and would like to have seen the factory come to our little town, I would want to see all things done honestly and ethically. I would want to see development that would not cause us to give away all of our potential revenue increases as tax incentives to lure a company here and would not want to see private lands taken forcibly and given to private business in the name of the public good. Hopefully, that is how things would have gone.

It is good to see that industry is taking notice of our little gem of a location. We have railroads, easy interstate access, land, and an available labor force. Selma has now been through this drill a few times over the years. Sometimes the effort has worked, other times not. Perhaps with this unsuccessful bid, Selma will be ready for future endeavors here and other businesses will take note of the consideration of Selma for the Electrolux plant and also give us a look. I also hope that the puffery of promises of benefits to the town do not fail to deliver, as in times past.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Column for Dec. 23, 2010

“Save us from ourselves, Big Brother! Please act as a father for us because we are but stupid sheep!” Does the Johnston County’s Board of Commissioners think that this is how we all think and that is what we all need? Sorry, but I am 42 years old, a responsible adult, and don’t need a group of elected officials attempting to codify common sense for me. I had parents to teach me, I am a parent doing the same, and some things are just plain common sense.

I am going to quote from Grass Roots North Carolina, a state wide Second Amendment organization. “Johnston County commissioners are considering an ordinance to ban shooting of any kind of projectile within 600 feet of a dwelling. This would include BB and pellet guns. Upon questioning, county officials admitted that this would even include bows and arrows.” I know what has really kicked this subject into consideration, and quite honestly, it is another instance of hard case making for bad law. Because some individuals operate a veritable shooting range on private property in the county (outside of any town limits or jurisdiction), the county wants to pass an ordinance barring all county residents from shooting even a BB gun.

I am already covered by such nonsense, seeing that I live within the town limits of Selma. I am not allowed to discharge a firearm for sporting or pastime purposes in the town limits. I can see the regulation within the closer quarters of town limits more so than in the more rural areas of the county. I only have a quarter of an acre of land on which to recreate. The insanity is that Article 13, Article I, Section 13-4 of the Town of Selma code reads, “Any person using an air rifle in the town shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.” I can not even take my Daisy Red Rider and plug a stray dog that threatens my children or teach my boy how to proficiently handle a BB gun in my backyard. Quite honestly, if I want to tape a paper target to my glass door in my backyard and shoot at it, that should be my business and nobody else’s.

The county is even taking it one step further. A football field is 300 feet long (100 yards x 3 feet per yard). The county wants you to have to be two entire football fields away from a house in order to shoot a firearm, bow and arrow, or even BB gun. My best friend has 3 acres out in the country. His nearest neighbor can barely be seen from his house. If I wanted to comply with the town ordinance and go to his house in rural Johnston County to shoot a BB gun or even a .22 caliber rifle, we would not be allowed to do so. And I am talking way out in the country. In my friend’s words, he lives so far out in the country that he does not get the TV show “Saturday Night Live” until Tuesday. If my friend wants to stand on his porch and shoot at targets or even psychotic squirrels, he will not be allowed to do so. He would have to be off his own property, over two football fields away from his house. That is just ridiculous.

My son just won a toy marshmallow shooting crossbow Sunday night. Will he be able to shoot it in Selma without being guilty of a misdemeanor? How about in rural Johnston County? Do we have to turn in his Nerf guns to county or town officials now as part of some Nerf buy back program? Should I have saved the receipt to return the BB gun I bought him for Christmas (he better not read this column and none of you had better tell him about it since this column is going to be published just before Christmas)?

We do not need government to save us from ourselves. When I was growing up, we rode in cars without seat belts, played with lawn darts, and carried pocket knives. We survived. We also learned how to shoot safely and away from other people. Just because a few yahoos are around does not mean that every last common sense using citizen needs to have Big Brother holding our hands or acting as a parent for us.

I don’t know about you, but I am going to contact all of my elected officials on the County Board of Commissioners and let them know that too much government regulation is just not welcome. If they don’t listen to me, I hope that they will listen to common sense from citizens during the January 3rd public hearing on the matter.


As a result of the lobbying efforts of people like myself and other citizens, I got the following email today.

-------- Original Message --------

Subject: Proposed Firearms Ordinance Hearing
Date: Mon, 20 Dec 2010 15:57:14 -0500
From: Rick Hester

From: Allen L. Mims, Jr., Chairman, Johnston County Board of Commissioners

Re: Proposed Johnston County Firearm Ordinance

As you are aware, the Johnston County Board of Commissioners was scheduled to hold a public hearing on January 3, 2011 at our 6:00pm meeting to review and discuss the adoption of a proposed firearm ordinance. I, as well as my fellow Board members, have received several communications over the last week from concerned citizens regarding the implementation of such an ordinance. In light of these concerns, the Board and I have decided to develop a workgroup, consisting of Commissioner, staff and citizen representatives, who will review the proposed firearm ordinance, address the citizen concerns and develop a revised ordinance that is mutually acceptable among us all.

Currently the workgroup will be comprised of the following members, with the possible addition of a couple more individuals:

Allen L. Mims, Jr. – Chairman of the Johnston County Board of Commissioners
Jeffrey P. Carver – Vice Chairman of the Johnston County Board of Commissioners
Rick J. Hester – County Manager
Steve Bizzell – Sheriff
Berry Gray – Planning Director

Citizens: Jeff Lawrence, Mike Walters, Jake McAllister, Stephen Reeves, Jonathan Parker and Todd Blackburn

Therefore, the public hearing scheduled for January 3, 2011 has been postponed until further notice. Upon receipt of a revised ordinance from the workgroup, we shall re-advertise the date and time of the public hearing.

Thank you.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Column for Dec. 16, 2010

Sometimes a government action banning or outlawing something is a good thing. Other times, it is not. Then there are the cases in which I am very libertarian in my leanings and would rather the government just stay out of the way and let stupid people be stupid. For instance, I am extremely neutral on the subject of gambling.

Contrary to many of my Christian brethren, I was not in opposition to a state lottery here in North Carolina. I was, however, very opposed to the way in which the lottery was passed through the NC General Legislature. I thought it was done sneakily and underhandedly. Even so, I have been known to purchase an occasional lottery ticket. I don’t buy many or often, but when I have a few spare dollars in my wallet, I don’t mind purchasing a chance at winning millions of dollars.

In a short while, my wife and I will be on a cruise ship heading to the western Caribbean. I am told that there will be casinos aboard ship, and I very well may partake of them. I look at it as no more of a waste of my money than a trip to a Chuck E. Cheese to play video games with my son. I have wasted far more money on over-taxation, getting ripped off by vendors, various business schemes I have tried over the years, and the like.

As with my willingness to buy lottery tickets and try a casino, I have no issue with people who wish to play with internet gambling or digital poker machines. Internet cafes that sprang up across the state were, in my opinion, a legitimate business. They provided a legal service that people wanted and were willing to spend money upon. Well, they were legal, anyway. Now they are being forced out of business. The State of North Carolina, reaching its tentacles of regulation and control, has decided to outlaw such businesses.

I have yet to have a theologian explain to my satisfaction any Biblical problem with gambling. I have read many interpretations, extrapolations, and suppositions. The Bible deals with stewardship, covetousness, greed, and the love of money. There are plenty of ways that gambling can cause sin in those areas, but purchasing a lottery ticket, enjoying a casino once in a while, and visiting an internet cafe does not have to be such. I approach it the same way as I do alcohol and pornography. Both are legal products. I do not have much use for the latter, but I occasionally imbibe the former. Alcohol, contrary to many legalistic people in Christianity, is not expressly forbidden within the Bible. Excessive use of it, however is. Government regulation is not the best method of keeping people from abusing alcohol. Some have a problem with addiction to alcohol, but as history has shown, prohibition was a horrible idea. Hard cases and legalistic, self-righteous, religious views often make for bad law.

Pornography is not specifically banned, but lust and adultery are. The very purpose of pornography is to fuel one’s lust, so it is, in my opinion, sin. I partake of all the pornography I so choose. I just choose not to sit at home and download videos and pictures off the internet or buy porno videos. I know where I can get them cheap, but they just don’t interest me.

There are people who have problems with both alcohol and pornography. There are people who have problems with gambling. However, the total ban on any or all will only fuel Al Capone type figures who will find a way to capitalize on the illegality of it, just as Capone did with gambling and alcohol during the Prohibition era.

When there is a choice between liberty and legislated morality, I tend to choose liberty and to allow God to deal with the hearts of people, provided that exercising one’s liberty does not harm others (such as is the case with abortion). Because a few knuckleheads have problems with gambling is no reason to prohibit everyone else from enjoying a personal vice or diversion. If we are going down that road, why don’t we ban automobiles and return Prohibition as a Constitutional amendment? Of course that is ridiculous. It is hypocritical of the State of North Carolina to enact a lottery but to ban private gambling. If it is a matter of legislating morality, then the state should outlaw topless bars, thus “killing two birds with one stone”, ban the sale of Playboy and Hustler magazines, and require all internet service providers to block pornographic web sites from reaching North Carolina homes. I guess the government just doesn’t like the competition for gambling revenue.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Column for Dec. 9, 2010

I have known for a couple of months now about the impending property re-evaluation for all of Johnston County. I know that every eight years, the county has to re-evaluate property values. If you are a property owner and have not received your new property value statement, you will. I got mine about a week ago. I bought my house in Selma just over eight years ago. Shortly after the purchase, I got my first re-evaluation. The tax value went up significantly, but it was not unreasonable at the time. Not this time.

I doubt very seriously that my property value has increased $26,530 in just eight years, especially in a down economy. Here in Selma, I see plenty of houses for sale, many of which have been able to sell for a long time. I have done some property value comparison just within the last six months because I was looking at refinancing my mortgage to a lower rate. I used two different services to look at my estimated property value, and both did not have my property value as high as Johnston County claims. I don’t know on which planet the value estimator was working, but it sure wasn’t in my neighborhood.

I understand the reason for a property re-evaluation. When you assess taxes based upon property value, only a re-evaluation of the property’s retail value will raise the taxation revenue per property. That means a property tax increase. In my case, this means an annual increase of $347.54 in my property taxes. That also translates to an increase in my mortgage payment of about $57.92 to make up for the shortage in my escrow account plus the tax increase itself. Needless to say, I have documents refuting that much of an increase in value and will be appealing that newly assessed value. If I am going to pay property taxes, then I want it to be fair.

Speaking of property taxes and my home, I have been contemplating what I wrote two weeks ago about the almost $22,500 that the Town of Selma wants to spend in taxpayer money (assuming that it will come from some public funding source) just for a consultant to make the application for a historic district designation for parts of Selma’s residential neighborhoods. The more I think about it, the more I find better uses for that $22,500.

Anyone who has walked along Selma’s old residential neighborhoods knows how horribly the sidewalks have held up. For years I have been squawking about how decrepit some sidewalks are. Not only are they not pleasant to see, they are a great safety hazard. I can not tell you how many times I have tripped over the uneven concrete pads just in front of my own home and on my block. That is a huge liability for the town. I used to get paid to help eliminate safety hazards, and I cringe every time I walk along my street.

I have not, nor will I formally petition for the horrendous sidewalk to be improved in front of my house. Why? Because the town ordinance states that “One hundred (100) percent of the cost of the improvements shall be assessed” (Chapter 14, Article III, Sec. 14-47 of the Selma Town Code) to me. Why should I have to pay to fix a sidewalk that the town has neglected for a half century? I don’t want to have the cost for the town’s negligence assessed against me and “the assessments shall be a lien on the property assessed...for collection in the same manner as property taxes”. (Chapter 14, Article III, Sec. 14-55) I don’t own that sidewalk, but I would be taxed for its improvement just because it is in front of my house. If I have to pay for it, I should own it. If I own it, I should be able to put up a toll gate on it and require pedestrians pay me a quarter to walk on my sidewalk.

That $22,500 would begin to pay for a whole lot of concrete that would eliminate a whole lot of potential liability for the town. Just one trip and fall could cost the town a whole lot more than that $22,500. I am baffled about priorities in some municipalities. I have said for years, “take care of what you have” before tackling new facilities or “things that would be nice to have”. Take care of infrastructure such as sidewalks, streets, water and sewer lines, and the like before worrying about things like historical neighborhood designations. After all, Selma is about to get an increase in property tax because of the re-evaluation done by Johnston County. I aim to give up as little as possible on that front, however.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Column for Dec. 2, 2010

Who controls the purse strings in Johnston County? I thought it was the Johnston County Board of Commissioners. At least that is who I thought had the power to control county money, levy taxes, and portion out money as they see fit. That is why we elected them. There is a quote from the movie "Dune" which says, "He who controls the spice, controls the universe!" In the case of Johnston County, it had better be the Board of Commissioners that control the spice, not the Board of Education.

I have been reading with interest the rhetoric from the Board of Education and the Superintendent of Schools about the budget crunch here in our little county. This is nothing new and it is nothing applicable only to Johnston County. But how affairs have been conducted has been a media skirmish. The Board of Commissioners is asking for money back from the school budget. The School Board made counter offers and asserted that any further budget cuts would be devastating to the county's school system.

I don't buy that assertion for one minute. The schools will continue, even if on a shoestring budget. There are tons of wasteful and foolish things we can cut from the budget and still provide a decent education. I guarantee that if I was given a line item budget, I could find plenty of areas from which to trim expenses. Just because something is a good idea does not mean we should be doing it, providing it, or spending money on it. Right off the top of my head, I can think of several areas from which to cut, including middle school athletics, the superintendent's salary, and the pay increases given to the administrative office staff.

The one sacred cow that I would not mind seeing slaughtered is the threat of having to do away with some staff positions in the school system. Stupidly, 330 staff positions were being funded by federal stimulus dollars. It is just plain common sense to me that anything funded by the federal stimulus spending travesty (that my grandchildren will be paying for in years to come) will not be funded after that money runs out. So why then did the Johnston County School System depend upon that money to fund school worker salaries? It makes sense to me that when that money ceases, so do those jobs. We should never count short-term serendipity money as a basis for long term spending and employee retention. That is just plain foolish.

I was reading Superintendent of Schools Ed Croom explanation about how the school system accounts for the multi-million dollar reserve fund. If you are counting on a "reserve fund" rather than general funds to pay for construction projects, then something is amiss in how we are accounting for money. I have read some conflicting accounts from different sources that do not jive with that assertion, so the truth has got to be somewhere out there waiting to be fully explained to the populace of Johnston County. Figures have ranged from $23 million to $32 million of reserve funds and investment accounts.

If it is true that the school system has that much in undesignated funds, then I think that some taxpayers in Johnston County are due a refund. If these funds are indeed designated for construction costs, then the accounting needs to be made plain.

One thing that bothered me about this whole melee was that after the Board of Commissioners requested money back from the school system, the Board of Education countered with a lower figure with a stipulation attached that they could get the money back at any time. I don't see where they are in a position to be able to set terms. Another disappointment was that School Board Chairman Larry Strickland decided to hold a press conference in which he criticized the Board of Commissioners for being fiscally prudent in cutting the budget to the school system. I am now having second thoughts about that vote I cast on November 2nd.

The Board of Commissioners is supposed to be the elected body to control the spice. They supply the money, have the power to raise revenue, and should have the say about rescinding any budgets. Period. End of sentence.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Column for Nov. 25, 2010

My house is 60 years old. I think I will start calling it historic. This year I sold my historic automobile, since it is technically almost an antique. The flag pole in front of the Selma Post Office is old, too. Maybe we should designate it as historic and name it after someone in town who was a dedicated mail carrier for years.

Everyone wants a legacy. Everyone wants to feel important. In little old Selma, it seems that people want to feel that our town is big and important. Not only that, but we need to name some of our important structures after Selma residents or past residents. And apparently we need to spend tax money on these things.

I have long said that just because something is old does not mean that it is of historical value. Residential neighborhoods in a town that have been around for 50 to 100 years are not necessarily important other than to those living in those homes. Let’s face it, the only really big claims to fame for Selma are that we are a convenient halfway stop between Miami and New York City and that Vicks Vaporub was invented here. Maybe we should have a Vicks museum and vending machines on every corner that dispense jars of Vaporub.

I read that the town is going to spend money “to apply for a historical designation for a residential area in town”. This will cost almost $22,500 just for a consultant to make the application. To what end, I wonder? Just because we have some old buildings does not make us historic. I barely consider the Mitchener Station building historic, and it certainly is not serving the public in its present usage or location. I have heard a lot of talk about doing something with that building, but that is all it has been, just talk. How many visitors to our town does that building attract?

I doubt seriously that an aging, nothing special, and rather unattractive residential neighborhood is going to do the public any more good with an expensive historic designation as opposed to without one. I seriously doubt that the town will recover the $22,500 from sales tax revenue from visitors flocking to Selma to see some aging, average houses. If this was Colonial Williamsburg, I would think differently. Even at that, Williamsburg is over rated. I have seen better, older neighborhoods still in use in New England. Other than making a few residents feel good about their houses at the expense of the rest of the town residents and taxpayers, the idea of an “historic” residential neighborhood designation will do little for the town.

On an almost related note, I was glad to see that the Town Council in Selma saw fit to refrain from naming every building, water tower, and flag pole after someone from Selma. I have no problem with honoring someone from time to time, but where does it stop? What is wrong with calling the Selma Police Station, “the Selma Police Station”? That works for me. Why do we waste time and money naming every water tower and building after someone? Why did we pay for brick columns and engraved plaques with a dedication? In my experience, those who want monuments erected to others often want to set a precedent for some to be erected for themselves.

In my hometown, the local police station was named in honor of a police officer who was slain in Afghanistan. I knew this man personally. We were in high school together, on the same football team, were in the fire department together, and he eventually served as a police officer in our hometown. He was in the National Guard and ended up serving in Afghanistan. He was killed by an improvised explosive device as his vehicle flipped over after the explosion. That town has several buildings named after a few past prominent citizens, like most towns do. When this man came home in a casket, his memory and life were honored as having an impact on the town. The town named the police station after him. This was the exception rather than the rule in that town. That is the way it should be, rather than automatically naming every edifice, street, park, tower, fence, light pole, and outhouse after a town resident.

Like I said, everyone wants a legacy. I don’t want mine to be a building with my name on it. I want mine to be that I had an impact on my community, that I gave my children a heritage full of faith and values, and the knowledge that I stood firmly and lived by what I believed.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Column for Nov. 18, 2010

When a topic comes up more than once in a week, I figure it is something that may be worthy of my attention. I was reading an article in a Winston-Salem newspaper the other day with the headline, “Is N.C. now ripe for gay-marriage vote? Conservatives want GOP to put ban on ballot". I have also had conversations on the legality of constitutional measures, federal courts, and about homosexuality all in the past week.

I don’t hate homosexuals. I personally find their behavior repugnant, but I personally could not care less what they do with their private lives or in their own bedrooms. I do, however, take issue with ascribing legitimacy to their relationships under civil law as if equal to heterosexual marriage. What I do hate is the attempts by homosexual activists at forcing the majority of people to accept a deviant behavioral choice as normal. Again, I don’t care if someone engages in that lifestyle. Yes, I do have homosexual friends, relatives, and acquaintances. I do not treat them as less than human beings or without common courtesy. I just don’t want those who speak for their cause to force the government sanctioned indoctrination of my children and society in general towards acceptance of their behavior.

I have to laugh at most right wingers who make the claims that once homosexual marriage is passed, people will want to marry their pets or inanimate objects. Though I understand the thought process, it is indeed flawed language and an over-reactionary extrapolation. It is, however, a fundamental redefinition of marriage. Marriage, since the beginning of the human race, has been between male and female. There has obviously been some variations in cases of polygamy, but they have always been marriages between those of opposite sex. Male and female is the natural, God ordained order of things, both in human kind and in the animal kingdom.

There are plenty of civil reasons I have besides my religious values that go into my opposition to homosexual marriage. Note that I do not use the word “gay”. I despise the use of the word in this context. I hate that several good, wholesome things such as the symbol of the rainbow and “civil rights” have also been hijacked by the homosexual activists just like the word gay. I can’t listen to “The Flintstones” theme song anymore without cringing.

I take great exception with theologians who are accepting of homosexuality as anything less than a sin. I also take great exception with any politician who thinks that we should all be accepting of homosexuality as something intrinsically normal and should treat that behavioral choice just as we would the color of some one's skin or their national origin. That is why I even take issue with someone like Rush Limbaugh, who does not support homosexual marriage but does accept the idea of “civil unions”. That is tantamount to calling table condiment catchup as opposed to ketchup. They are both the same thing, just under a slightly different name.

Now that a Republican majority controls both houses of the NC State Legislature, I do hope for a ballot initiative to formally codify a ban on homosexual marriage in the state constitution. However, I also have a fear that if we did so, some foolish judicial activist federal judge would attempt to strike down the measure. Just within the past couple of weeks, we have seen the State of Oklahoma voted overwhelmingly to affirm a constitutional amendment that would ban the state from considering the use of Sharia (Muslim) or foreign national laws in determining legality in their state. That is only common sense and how a sovereign state works.

Simply put, a sovereign state has the right to determine its own laws. The Tenth Amendment does still apply in that the powers not specifically granted to the national government are reserved for the states. After all, it was the states that created the national government, not the other way around. If a state (which derives its power from the people thereof) that has the right to sanction and dissolve marriage chooses to pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting anything but the natural order, fabric of society, moral principle of marriage being equal to one man and one woman, then that is their prerogative. A state should also be able to refuse to recognize marriages sanctioned outside of those parameters as sanctioned by another sovereign state. If you don’t like the marriage laws of a state, you don’t have to live there.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Column for Nov. 11, 2010

Last week's election exemplified why I am not a Republican. I don't say this because I am tremendously disappointed with the election results, but I am disappointed in how the GOP has handled some issues.

Renee Ellmers had gotten little or no support from The National Republican Congressional Committee all during her campaign. They claimed that her campaign was "not ready for prime time". While I must agree that there were some issues not readily apparent to most of the public, the fact is that she was the one who was running against the incumbent Democrat candidate, Bob Etheridge. When your candidate is running, you do what you can to support that candidate. You put the novice status aside and you run with that person. I didn't see anyone else standing up to the plate to take on Ol' Bob this year.

Then came election night. I sat up until after 11:30 PM watching election results trickle in. I don't know what makes returns trickle so slowly in this day of electronic media, but even that late there were still returns not yet reported from all precincts in the district. We pulled up Harnett and Johnston County's Board of Elections web sites and watched the results come in quicker than television was reporting the data. The count was neck and neck for a long time, then Renee Ellmers pulled out far ahead of Bob Etheridge in both counties.

Now there is a recount in the voting district after more ballots miraculously showed up that were supposedly not counted. This put the incumbent within the margin needed for a recount, so it appears that we will have one.

What did The National Republican Congressional Committee do when asked to help keep Renee as the winner? They told Renee Ellmers to raise the money herself for the cost of the recount. They snubbed her twice. The second snubbing is beyond my comprehension, since she had apparently won the election. You would think that they would want to keep it that way, even if the GOP did sweep a lot of seats in The House of Representatives.

Political games and disrespect like that are reasons why I left the Republican Party and why I do not believe that they will be as conservative and effective as many pundits seem to think. Somehow, Republicans have forgotten how to take command once they have power and want to limp-wristedly try to compromise and not seem so sinister. That is not a winning strategy. If you are in control, act like it. The Democrats have this part down pat. The Republicans seemed almost apologetic about being in charge, in times past.

Locally, we saw a similar snub to Johnston County School Board candidate, Jamie Guerrero. I have met and interviewed Jamie. He is a conservative, concerned family man. The local GOP originally endorsed him. However, Jamie took issue with things such as the fact that teachers and staff got no raises in salary this year but overpaid bureaucrats in the school administration building got a 7% salary increase. That is a legitimate observation. He also railed against the $30+ million reserve fund that the school system has, but they are not using it to offset expenses in a period of tight fiscal times. Again, that is a legitimate observation.

Jamie was warned to get off these issues, but he held to his convictions. When the local GOP chastised him, he put the actual data on his web site to prove his claims. As a result, the county Republican Party rescinded their support of Mr. Guerrero, republished their polling place voting guides at the last minute without his name included, and refused to take his literature and campaign signs to polling places in the county.

A look at the election results had Jamie coming in fourth place. Only the top 3 candidates would take seats on the board. The top two Republicans got far more than the 3rd place candidate, who got just a little more support than Mr. Guerrero. It is entirely possible that had the local GOP not taken the actions they did, Jamie could be a board member elect today. Instead, they in effect handed the election to a liberal Democrat incumbent.

The Johnston County Republicans would rather tolerate a liberal in office than one of their own with the conviction and courage to state the issues. The national Republicans would rather keep a liberal Congressman in office than make sure he was defeated, the margin of control in Congress was increased, and party unity was shown.

I saw some of the same gamesmanship played at the local level several years ago. Local GOP representatives told me how things have "changed" since I was a Republican, and how the local party has improved. I see the same games played on the national level in my own district. As long as I see things like this, I will have a hard time believing that the GOP has returned to its conservative roots and that they are willing to change politics as usual. Until I see it, I won't believe it, and will remain registered as an "unaffiliated" voter.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Reader feedback on my Nov. 4th column

I apparently struck a nerve with a reader of The Selma News. I got this email today. My response follows.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: November 4th Column
Date: Fri, 5 Nov 2010 17:23:18 -0700 (PDT)
From: Christina Holt

Mr. LaPlante,

Good evening. I am writing to express my extreme displeasure and disappointment in your November 4th column in The Selma News. While I am wholeheartedly in agreement that we should all be able to express our opinions, insults about a person's race or ethnicity, even those hid in sarcasm and mediocre humor should be excluded from print. Referring to the WIC recipient as having "questionable legal status" and calling her an "English as a Second Language candidate" is beyond reproach. Did you ask to see her green card? Did you attempt to carry on a conversation with her to assess her English speaking skills? I am sure both answers would be no.

You, like so many other narrow-minded individuals these days, simply sat back and talked about her as if she was less than human. Regardless of whether or not she had toys, a cell phone, or an expensive stroller, she had something even more important with her that day - children. Every child, legal or not, deserves adequate nutrition. Have you ever looked into your child's eyes and wondered how you would find the money to deliver his or her next meal?

I have been a single mother. Thank God I had a supportive family so that I didn't have to ask myself that question. Unfortunately, not every parent, single or not, is that lucky. Many of these parents go to work every day, performing menial tasks that you probably wouldn't even consider. However, they just don't make enough to support their families and provide everything their children need. Do you think that most people enjoy going and asking for help? I can tell you that it is humiliating and makes you feel like a failure as a person and a parent. What makes you feel even worse is people like you who sit back and analyze everything in your cart, tap their feet because it's taking too long in the check-out line, and whisper, thinking we must also be too stupid to understand you are talking about us.

I was a WIC recipient and my daughter grew up strong and healthy. I also put myself through school while working full-time to better our lives so that we didn't have to continue taking "free money" as you call it. Let me ask you another question, would it have made you feel better about the WIC recipient if she had no toys and no stroller? Perhaps her children should be punished in your eyes because they were born to immigrants of a low socioeconomic status.

My husband is an immigrant, who by the way speaks perfect English along with four other languages. How many languages do you speak? He works long shifts and goes to school. I wonder if you'd stand behind him in the check-out line and make the same assumptions on your way home from church next Sunday. Perhaps you should pay closer attention to the sermons, which I can guarantee do not revolve around judging others or alienating certain groups of people.

Perhaps also you should be reminded that this wonderful country of ours - the one that grants you the freedom to rant - was built by immigrants. These people, like so many today, seek more opportunities, freedom from some kind of oppression, and a chance for their children to have and be more. Maybe we are out of candy to give away, but we are also out of much more important things - love for one another, generosity, compassion, and respect. Instead of worrying about what we give away, maybe you should be focused on what we don't.

Thank you for your time.

Christina H. Nait Saidi
112 Kirkwall Lane
Selma, NC 27576

My reply:

First of all, thank you for reading the column. If you are displeased, that is fine. It is not like that is going to sway my opinion.

As to the subject's questionable legal status, it was not necessary to ask for her Green Card. Her being an ESL candidate was obvious. All we had to to was listen. We did not have to carry on a conversation to hear her lack of command of the English language. I have no problem with her not knowing how to fluently speak the language. I do have a problem with taking from Americans who work hard and pay the freight in this country. Race or ethnicity has NOTHING to do with it, madame. Common sense does.

Children do not "deserve" adequate nutrition at the expense of everyone else. That is the parents' responsibility, not that of the taxpayer. If she could not afford to have more children, then her money would have been better spent on birth control rather than on toys. Or better yet, she could have refrained from procreative activities altogether rather than making us all pay her way.

Is it fair for the American taxpayer to shoulder her burden as well as our own? Is it fair that we pay full price for school lunch while subsidizing the meals of 90% of Selma Elementary student lunches? Are all children guaranteed an equal outcome? Is it fair that my parents had to bust their tails to provide for us while others got freebies at taxpayer expense? Was it fair that welfare recipients in my hometown were driving nice, new cars while so many hard working citizens drove rust buckets?

As to your comment, "Many of these parents go to work every day, performing menial tasks that you probably wouldn't even consider", you obviously do not know me nor know how poor I have been in my lifetime and the menial, low paying, mundane jobs I have had. I have worked my tail off for years to make the sort of income I now enjoy. It came at a cost. It came with extremely hard work, discipline, and long hours. I have paid my dues, lady.

Since I am the one helping pay for what that woman was buying, I have every right to be critical of what is in her cart. As to your accusation of assumptions and judgmental ism, you have obviously missed the parts of Christianity in which we are SUPPOSED to judge. The oft misunderstood and misquoted "judge not that ye be not judged" is rarely taken in its context or with the rest of the verse, thus twisting it to fit one's point. The idea is that when you make a judgment, you will be held to that same standard yourself. I have no problem with that at all. As a matter of fact, the Bible is full of admonitions that if you don't work, you should not eat, meaning that you pay your OWN way. Also, we (the Church and who are spiritual) are to judge ALL things. Furthermore, one who does not provide for their own children is worse than an infidel and has denied the faith. Nowhere are we commanded to supply for everyone else's children. But of course these do not fit your perspective, so I am sure that you will be dismissive of them. If you want to bring religious belief into this, be prepared before you engage me, because I am just about always prepared for such discussions and teaching. Ironically, you have done the very thing you have just accused me of, which Jesus called hypocrisy.

You asked how many languages I speak. I speak two.

You wrote, "we are also out of much more important things - love for one another, generosity, compassion, and respect". No, we are not. We are full of these things, as well. When was the last time you sent someone $100 just because you knew someone was lacking? When was the last time you opened your pantry to someone who could not afford groceries? When was the last time someone came to you needing help with a car repair, with transportation, or with a meal and you cheerfully obliged? When was the last time you took in a family member who had nowhere to turn? When was the last time you tried to give away a perfectly good automobile to someone who had need of one? When was the last time you dropped a case of diapers on the doorstep of a young single mother just because you knew that she was struggling financially? Ask my bride sometime and you will find out just how much that is my nature...and she can only speak for the times she knows about.

As Americans, we give more money to charity, to churches, in volunteer service, and of ourselves than any other country on the face of the planet. We do this out of the willingness and gladness of our own hearts. When one mooches off the government, such generosity is extracted by force. THAT is the problem with WIC, welfare, and other entitlement programs. As one of the millions from whom that money is forcibly extracted, I have the right to be critical of how it is spent, or rather redistributed to others.

You wrote, "I wonder if you'd stand behind him in the check-out line and make the same assumptions on your way home from church next Sunday." Not if he whipped out his OWN debit card or paid cash rather than a WIC voucher or a food stamp card.

You wrote, "this wonderful country of ours...was built by immigrants". Only partially. And then by ones who primarily were here legally, my ancestors among them. You further wrote, "These people, like so many today, seek more opportunities, freedom from some kind of oppression, and a chance for their children to have and be more." Seeking opportunity is fine. I welcome those who seek opportunity. I welcome immigrants from all over the long as they enter the country legally. We are guaranteed equal opportunity. We were never guaranteed equality of outcome. Since you wrote of religious concepts, Jesus himself said, "the poor you will have with you always". That does not mean that we have to give them equal food, equal education, equal clothing, equal housing, or even equal toys for children at taxpayer expense.

For what it is worth, just this evening I had someone recognize me, ask me if I was the one who wrote the newspaper column, and then proceeded to tell me how much she absolutely loved the exact same column you despised above all the others that she has read.

Again, thank you for reading the column and for your feedback. I will continue each and every week to try to persuade people like yourself how correct I really am. By the way, if you think that my column is something, you should see my television talk show on Wednesday nights at 7PM on the local TV station, WARZ channel 34.


Troy LaPlante

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Column for Nov. 4, 2010

“Y’all are going to vote November 2nd, aren’t you?” we were asked while waiting in line at Wal-Mart. “Oh, yeah,” replied my lovely bride.

One of the frustrating things about writing this column is that I have a deadline for publication prior to knowing what Tuesday’s election results were. As I am writing this, we finally put one seven-year-old to bed and my wife is sitting in my living room trying to rock the baby to sleep so we can have the evening to ourselves. I just finished watching the New England Patriots win another football game and my wife finished handing out big handfuls of candy to the little beggars that come to our door every year.

I don’t mind giving out candy to children on Halloween, but I personally am not into participating in its celebration. Giving out candy at least gives me the opportunity to show good will and if I am so inclined, to slip in literature such as gospel tracts, campaign literature, fliers, etc. This year we did not give out an sort of literature, but we did give out the most candy we ever have previously. What October 31st really means to me personally is that it is the anniversary of the day on which I closed on my modest home here in the booming metropolis of Selma.

Each year we give handouts. Some people I know hate Halloween, some do not mind. Some have religious issues against the observance, some don’t care. Personally, I often liken it to government handouts. If your porch light is on during Trick or Treat time, you are in effect advertising that you have something to give away free. All one has to do is knock on the door to get free candy. We as a nation do that same thing each and every day of the year.

So what does that have to do with my opening paragraph? On the way home from our regular Christian religious observance gathering today, we stopped by the Wal-Mart in Clayton. We filled our shopping cart with groceries, a few low priced DVDs, and a few other desired items. We then proceeded to find the best open check out lane we could. We got in line behind a middle aged lady who did not have too many items on the conveyor belt. Ahead of her was a woman of questionable legal status who had a child with her who was about kindergarten age and what appeared to be twins in a double baby carriage.

This woman tied up the check out lane for quite some time. She had four different transactions. Her first three transactions were all paid for with WIC (Women’s, Infants, and Children’s federal assistance program) vouchers. Contrary to the WIC official web page, WIC is essentially an entitlement program. If free money is being given to people who did not earn it, then it is, as far as I am concerned, an entitlement program. Immigrants are especially considered for WIC because (reading from the WIC web site), “migrancy is considered a nutritional risk factor”.

We waited a good ten minutes just for this one woman’s purchases to be processed. Just when it looked like the order was complete, another was transacted with another voucher. Finally, she payed for the last bit of groceries with cash. She already had toys that were paid for in the shopping cart. She pulled out a cell phone while were were all waiting for her to be checked out, and the baby stroller was certainly not an inexpensive one.

The woman in front of us looked at us, and we looked at her. All of us were a growing a wee bit impatient. I said to the woman in front of us, “At least we are paying for hers in addition to our own groceries.” She assented to the sentiment and a moment or two later, after she grew increasingly frustrated, she asked us if we were going to vote. We knew exactly why she asked that question. Like us, she is tired of the handouts.

We grew even more impatient when we watched our check out girl leave the register in between WIC transactions and run into the bathroom. When she returned, she resumed checking out the English as a Second Language Class candidate. When the woman finally “paid” for all of her groceries, she attempted to apologize for taking up so much time. I wanted to tell her, “When you start paying for your own groceries, then you can truly apologize. Until then, I don’t buy that concept.” Of course I chose to remain silent, instead, and not cause a scene. It would not have accomplished anything at the time.

I believe in Christian charity. I do not believe in government forcibly taking money away from people who will work and giving it to people who do not or may be lower on the income scale. That is what family, charities, and the Church are for. I have never failed to help people who truly have been in need or were hungry.

I don’t know what the November 2nd election results will be as of this writing, but I do hope that we can turn the proverbial porch light out. We, as a nation, have run out of candy a long time ago and can not afford to keep giving it away.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Column for Oct. 28, 2010

I ranted about political advertisements last week. The amazing thing about attack ads is that either an ad is going after someone’s character or their beliefs. One ad that really got my attention had a lot of elderly people griping about how one candidate for Congress wants to privatize the Social Security system. I personally love that idea. I would gladly relinquish any claim to Social Security benefits in the future if the government would allow me to take the money I pay into that system and instead put it into my own private retirement program. Yet Americans have been duped by the lie of “security” for so long, they have come to the “gimme mine” entitlement mentality.

I have paid into the Social Security system since I was 15 years old. When I sat down with my Merrill Lynch planning software and ran some figures on my target retirement income, Social Security was factored in as a part of my plan. But it was only a part of the plan, not all of it. As much as I dislike Social Security, I don’t know if I will ever be excluded from its regressive payroll taxation. The Social Security system was never intended to be a full retirement plan, but rather a supplemental plan. The New Deal under the Roosevelt administration was more of a raw deal for Americans. That Social Security system has morphed into something abhorrent and gives a false sense of security and entitlement.

Amazingly, through political wrangling, FDR managed to get the Social Security Act passed. It has never passed objective Constitutional scrutiny and would never have survived had he not received extraordinary, unconstitutional power from Congress. Franklin Roosevelt is often cited as one of our greatest Presidents, but I see him as one of the worst. When it comes to government intrusion and control, it is hard to beat FDR, but our present Commander in Chief is right up there with him.

This is going to sound rough, but anyone who was ignorant enough to buy into the lie that government will supply all of your needs and therefore never made any other arrangements is going to have to live off the fruit (or lack thereof) of their own efforts. I know that is not going to sit well with people who are elderly and on a fixed income, but it is the brutal truth. In this country, we are guaranteed equal opportunities, not equal outcomes.

I just had a discussion with a friend about Social Security and its lack of constitutional grounds. We discussed the Democratic-Republican party history that sprouted as a reaction to big government Federalists. The party included men like James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. Both were for limited government and a “laisez-faire” style of government, meaning that government stays out of your life and your business. The idea also was that you are responsible taking care for your own and your family’s well being, not the government.

I will never be a member of the AARP. One reason is that they are terrible about supporting gun control agendas. Another is that they are adamantly opposed to privatization of Social Security and play on the fears of the elderly. They frighten people into thinking that politicians who are for financial accountability and rule of law are trying to take away their entitlements and will force them to eat cat food because they can not afford groceries.

In the nation of Chile, their old system of social security was modeled much like our own. They found it to be inefficient, expensive, and not beneficial to their citizens. They abandoned their system and privatized much of their public system. To quote Chile’s Minister of Labor, José Piñera, “Pension reform has contributed strongly to an increase in the rate of economic growth. Before the 1970s Chile had a real growth rate of 3.5 percent. For the last 10 years we have been growing at the rate of 7 percent, double our historic rate. That is the most powerful means of eliminating poverty because growth increases employment and wages. Several experts have attributed the doubling of the growth rate to the private pension system.”

In the ad to which I refer, a politician taking aim at another totally missed the idea that there are Constitutional boundaries and fiduciary responsibilities to those who are and will be paying the bills in this nation and played upon fear. I find the nagging, “Don’t touch my Social Security!” and “Privatize Social Security? Are you nuts?” claims of gloom and doom as disgusting as the mud slinging personal attacks. I also find the entire Social Security boondoggle a sad testament to America’s decline into socialism.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Column for Oct. 21, 2010

I have to turn off the television, walk out of the room, or hit the mute button when some political ads hit my TV. I try to catch the news on my local broadcast and cable channels once in a while. Unfortunately, television news is peppered with political advertising. I often finding myself shouting at the television and using some unsavory verbiage. Why? Because I have a very low tolerance for blatant lies.

I am used to politicians trying to blow smoke up my pants leg, but the latest ads I have seen from Congressmen in particular have my blood boiling at times. I don’t mind when a Congressman touts his roots in his family, his education, his military service, his church service, and his record as an elected official. But when a Congressman brags about being a Sunday School teacher then turns around in his next campaign ad and blatantly lies about his opponent, that has me shouting at the television.

I have written on several occasions about my support for The Fair Tax plan, which is a plan to eliminate all federal income tax, Social Security tax, Medicare tax, etc. and replace it all with a simple consumption tax built into the cost of products. It would not increase the cost of products, since there is already the cost of income taxes built into the goods we already buy.

Anyway, read up on the Fair Tax and learn about it on your own. Congressman Bob Etheridge obviously has not done so. He blatantly lied and said that his opponent, Renee Ellmers, supports a 23% sales tax on all goods and services including medications and mortgages. No, she supports The Fair Tax, which would replace the income tax. His ad is intentionally misleading and just plain dishonest. I fired a salvo of one way conversation at my television and on the internet after seeing that garbage.

Representative David Price is not much better. He levied the charge of being “wrong in the extreme” against his opponent B.J. Lawson. Lawson supports the idea of the abolition of the US Department of Education. Wow, that is extreme...wanting the U.S. Government to only perform the functions it is Constitutionally allowed to perform. The creation of The Department of Education is not in accordance with the Constitution or original intent. Nowhere does the Constitution give the federal government the authority to intervene or fund public education. As I wrote several weeks ago, the idea of public education was soundly rejected during the debates of the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

I firmly believe that the states, counties, and towns are much better equipped and knowledgeable about how to educate our children here in North Carolina than some bureaucrat behind a desk in Washington, D.C. Our state constitution deals with public education, our federal constitution does not. Therefore the federal government should get out of the business of education. Period.

I hate lies and dirty politics, but it happens at all levels and has happened for centuries. I read about the federal election of 1800 and it easily eclipses today’s dirty political climate. The more I read on that election, the less respect I had for some Founding Fathers, and more for others.

Right here in little old Selma, I saw dirty politics at work three years ago. At the time, I was running for town council. I encountered a situation in which I was the victim of marital infidelity. I will spare the details, but the next thing I knew, I heard from six different sources about the rumor that I was a wife beater and that is why I was separated from my (then) wife. I can count on one hand (and have a few fingers left over) how many people in this town knew that I was separated at the time, so that narrows it down from whence that dirty political trickery came.

I can handle hearing political criticism and even news about scandalous behavior by political candidates if (and that is a big IF) it is true. That is a part of public life. Congressman Etheridge’s notorious, caught on tape, “Who are you!?” assault several months ago is one of those cases. However, blatant lies and character assassination for political gain are dishonest and worthy of great disdain.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Column for Oct. 14, 2010

Whether you like and support Sheriff Steve Bizzell or not, do you want him or his employees looking through your prescription drug records? Or do you find that concept and the invasion of privacy as repugnant as I do? Well, if The North Carolina Sheriffs' Association has its way, your prescription drug records will be made available to your local sheriff. They have yet again asked the state legislature for a law allowing access to state computer records to help track down prescription drug abusers.

For years I have not slept well. I have gone through a sleep study and tried numerous over the counter sleep aids. I have resisted seeking prescription drugs to aid in getting sleep. I even bought a $3300 Sleep Number Bed to assist with better sleep. However, if under my doctor's care I decided to take Ambien or something similar, it is none of Sheriff Bizzell's business.

A year ago, I about broke my toe and went to an urgent care center. My toe was swollen and red, but it turns out it was not broken. Is it any of my local sheriff's business that the doctor gave me a prescription for Percocet for a few days to mitigate the pain? Heck, no, it's none of his business.

The idea is that law enforcement officials want access to the records to help track down drug abusers. Sorry, but that means that about the 30% of North Carolinians that got prescriptions for controlled substances would be subject to an invasion of privacy to root out a tiny fraction of the population.

Not only is that a huge invasion of your privacy, I am sure that the information could be used for non- drug abuse situations. In a small community like we find in some areas of the state, do you want Grandpa's Viagra prescription becoming public knowledge through some loose lips at the sheriff's office? Could an unscrupulous employee leak sensitive medical information about political foes?

Better yet, the county sheriff is responsible for issuing pistol purchase permits. In permit issuance, sheriffs have a good amount of discretion as to whether or not to issue a purchase permit. The fact that someone takes a strong, regular dose of Percocet or Ambien could be used as a reason for justifying the denial of a permit (which is not a Constitutional process, by the way) to purchase a pistol.

I have a close personal friend who is on a strong, regular dose of Percocet every day and has been for five years to help with the pain associated with regular foot surgeries. He is one of the most lucid and levelheaded people I know and experienced in the use of firearms. Should he be denied a purchase permit because he regularly gets a legitimate narcotic prescription for pain relief?

I personally know someone who was denied a permit to carry a concealed weapon by our local sheriff because she had a few issues with depression and sought treatment for it. She had dealings with the county mental health department, so the issue was brought to light through a background check. If she had not dealt with a county agency and was only dealing with a private physician, should she be denied the right of self-protection because she was found to be on Zoloft or Prozac?

Another issue here is just plain incrementalism. If we give up privacy rights concerning prescription drugs now, what is the next privacy we will have to give up? Will complete health records later be submitted for government review? Should all of our emails, phone records, internet use records, credit card bills, library records, and utility bill statements become subject to government inspection in order to pinch a few offenders?

In a drought period and subsequent water usage ban, should your water bill be up for government review? If the government decides to institute requirements to own fuel-efficient cars, should they have access to your gasoline credit card statements to see if you are buying too much fuel?

I value your privacy more than The North Carolina Sheriffs' Association does, and so should the state legislature. I will most likely vote for Sheriff Steve Bizzell in next month's election, but that does not mean I think he should be looking through my prescription drug records.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Column for Oct. 7, 2010

I am sure that there are a lot of you are like me in that you know of someone who has been out of work for some time now. I stand by my earlier assessment that the economy was not as bad as many people made it out to be. Unfortunately, just as with the Great Depression at the end of the 1920's, government intervention that was intended to help had just the opposite effect. But that is a different subject for a different column.

There are two people in my family who lost their jobs in the past couple of years. Both of them were long time employees of their respective employers. Both ended up being laid off and receiving unemployment benefits while they applied for new jobs. Neither has found new employment to this day. One finally reached the proper age for retirement, so he started drawing on his retirement savings. The other decided to just become a stay-at-home mom full time rather than re-enter the workforce.

Both of these people ended up being "overpaid" in their unemployment benefits. The elder of the two was the first one laid off and ended up paying back about a thousand dollars (as I recall) to the state. The younger of the two was amongst the 38,000 people who recently got nastygrams from the North Carolina Employment Security Commission saying that she owed the state.

As a matter of fact, this young lady received a total of four letters saying that she owed the state money. Three of those letters all arrived on the same day. You may have read, seen, or heard about this story in recent newspaper articles, on television, on the internet, or on the radio. I heard numerous stories about it. It was even national news.

Every one of the people that received nastygrams from the government allegedly received benefits above which they were entitled. The state knew that over payments were being made as far back as January but did nothing about it then. They waited until September to do something about it and put pressure on the poverty-stricken to repay money they did not have.

My family member was rather unhappy with the demand for money back since she, like tens of thousands of others in North Carolina, is still out of work. She received the alleged overage money through no fault of her own. She showed me the letters and they were as confusing to me as they were to her. She told me that every time her unemployment benefits were supposed to expire, she would get an extension of benefits letter. After getting these four letters saying that she owed the state money, she got yet another letter informing her of yet another extension of her unemployment benefits.

I am glad to say that Governor Beverly Perdue did the right thing by stepping in and making sure that the people who received any overage did not have to repay it. I am not much on government entitlements, but unemployment benefits are a bit different than welfare, WIC, food stamps, government housing, and other such programs. People pay into the system, as do employers for benefits during such cases of unemployment.

As I was told about the fun that my family members had in dealing with a state agency, I could only marvel at the gross inefficiency. The same state that knowingly overpaid unemployment benefits and failed to correct the problem is the same state government that tries to run our education system. The same state government that sent duplicate letters to 38,000 unemployed people is the same state that is ruthless in collecting back taxes from its citizens.

Look at this on a larger scale. If a state government can be so inefficient with unemployment benefits for 38,000 people, imagine how inefficient and wasteful the national government is with all of its giveaways and entitlement programs. I imagine that it is 50 times or more as bad as North Carolina.

When I think about government inefficiencies like this, I wonder why in the world we agree to depend upon them for retirement income programs, for running the mail service, for income for the elderly and infirm, and for medical care. Is the government that knowingly did not make correct payments to the unemployed then tried to demand the money back, the same government that you want taking decisions for your children's education or for your health care? Not me.

Friday, October 01, 2010

And sometimes I get fan mail

Received today via email:
I have never written to a news paper column before, so this is a first for me,but after I read your column in today's paper and read the other column regarding your choice to not let your son listen to Obama's speech , I felt the need to speak my piece. If you choose not to let your son listen to the speech, it is your choice and should not be any body's business!! Oh, and if we don't like your column, we also have another choice, DON'T READ IT .

I read your column every week and I sense that you are very concerned about the direction this country is headed, and I too am very concerned. It seems to me that some people have become so "politically correct" that if you don't agree with them, you are wrong.We as free Americans are slowly loosing our freedom and some people refuse to open their eyes enough to see this. I also took training and had the background checks to be granted a concealed weapons permit and I agree with you 100% on the fact that we should have the right to carry them anywhere. It is not the law abiding citizens that people need to be concerned about.There is an old quote that says" if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns".This is very true in places that post handgun bans. If Our founding Fathers could see the direction we are headed in as a country, they would roll over in their graves!! KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK !! Marie Kadow Micro NC

My reply to Marie:
Thank you for your kind words and for reading. I truly do appreciate it when people take the time to read my meager rantings. Whether people agree or disagree with me, they are reading. And for that, I am humbled and thankful.

The latest hate mail

The following is a letter that was published in The Selma News in response to one of my columns. I find it interesting that he proves my point. I did indeed support my argument with Obama's own words. I did have my facts straight as to how things at the school went in terms of whether or not children had to watch the speech. A child had to get a note from their parents in order to be excused from watching the speech, hence the note I wrote.

I was even got a phone call from and had a resulting meeting with the principal of the school after the column ran and we discussed the issue. She said that there was indeed an alternative activity scheduled, but John was the only one in the entire school who did it. The principal also said that they did not spend the whole time in the office as John had said, so I found out there was a half truth there. I was also told that the teacher in question did deny laughing at the note. Otherwise, the column was accurate on facts.

Anyway, this guy proves my point about the subtlety of the collective message. He can't recognize it his own self. His presumption of the ideas on education of The Founding Fathers is just that, presumption, and without basis. The facts are not in his favor. The Constitution is clear as to the federal government's role. The voluminous writings from their era totally support the idea of the federal government being kept out of such things. Period. Mr. Worley is purely ignorant.

Here is the rant against my rant. Enjoy.

To the Editor,

I’m not sure just exactly who Troy Laplante is, or why he merits a five column wide diatribe about anything. Perhaps there is a reason why his particular viewpoint is significant enough that your paper saw fit to allow him to editorialize for nearly a quarter of a page.

It might be nice however if Mr. Laplante would at least get his facts straight before writing statements that simply are not true. It also would be nice if he would learn the art of supporting his arguments with some shred of evidence, no matter how flimsy it might be.

Johnston County School students were not mandated to watch the President’s message to them. All students were given the opportunity to be excused from watching the message as long as they had parental permission. And just what activity did Mr. Laplante want his child to be doing while his classmates were watching the President of our country speak on television?

I hate political labels and those who engage in political labeling for the sake of choosing sides. Mr. Laplante strikes me as such a person.

President Obama may not be the person you voted for in our last election, but he is the President of the United States regardless. What a wonderful lesson we teach our children when we show them that if our man does not win, we simply reject the winner.

Mr. Laplante seems to suggest rather strongly that President Obama’s message to our school children was nothing more than political indoctrination. The problem is that he offers only the tiniest sliver of evidence, promises more, and ultimately fails to deliver when he gets caught up in the rapture of his words apparently.

So the President is indoctrinating our children to socialism when he suggests that it takes “the whole village to raise the child?” Really? Because, gosh, I guess my parents and all our neighbors were closet socialists way back during my childhood. That was sure the prevailing idea at work during my youth at least.

If I was messing around with some kids doing bad things, the neighbors would fuss at us and run us off, then call my folks so that they could fuss me out as well. Strange. I thought we usually referred to those as the good old days.

Clearly I am not as knowledgeable or educated as Mr. Laplante, but I’m pretty sure that many of our founding fathers had quite strong ideas about the education of our children. Horace Mann (for whom the insurance company is named) was but a generation removed from Thomas Jefferson when he responded to Jefferson’s idea for an academy of sorts for gifted children by asserting that a common educational experience for all students was necessary.

Given that our country has grown exponentially since the time of the founding fathers, is it so difficult to believe that they would have indeed been supporters of the federal government endorsing and supporting the education of our children?

I was still looking for Mr. Laplante’s “little bit of arsenic in the meal” when he literally stunned me with his final observation of how President Obama was seeking to twist and warp the minds of our children. When the President said that education was NOT all about getting into a good college or getting a good job, but instead was about fulfilling our promise and becoming the best version of ourselves we can be...well... apparently there was a sinister and hidden message there.

I read on through Mr. Laplante’s diatribe, hoping to find what my simple mind was unable to notice on the surface. Surely President Obama has slipped one in on us by suggesting that our children should treat others as they would like to be treated (oh my goodness, does that mean the President is now using Jesus’s words against our children - for shame!)...but alas, Mr. Laplante could never find his point again.

The excitement of sharing with us his many great educational accomplishments, all achieved by him and him alone, was apparently simply too much for the man.

Honestly Selma News, are you telling me that there is no one else in the Smithfield-Selma region who could do a better job finding a topic of relevance and interest to those of us in the community?

Are we simply fated to continue reading Mr. Laplante’s rantings and ravings about the insidious evil of encouraging people to become the best they can be?

Please save us all...

Bill Worley

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Column for Sept. 30, 2010

I recently sent a letter to the largest toy centered business in the world. I am not going to mention the name of the company, but I will share the letter with you.

"Just when I was about to continue my practice of getting my Christmas shopping done early for two boys and a bunch of nephews and nieces, I read that your company has unfortunately decided to disallow concealed carrying of firearms in your stores by law abiding customers like myself. It is not the law abiding citizen who has at his own expense taken classes on firearms law and handling, not to mention gone through an extensive background check by state law enforcement and local sheriffs that you have to worry about. You have to worry about the lawless, which steal weapons and use them to suit their own illegal practices. If there is ever a deranged or criminal shooter in one of your stores, it is people like me who you want to have as patrons in your stores to protect your customers and your employees.

"I make it a practice to not patronize businesses that wish to abridge the freedoms of honest Americans but still want our money. In America I not only have the right to carry a firearm to defend myself and those around me, I have the freedom to spend my money where I so choose. As long as your "no concealed weapons" policy is in effect, I shall choose to spend my money with your competitors."

Do you know why there are a lot of carjackings perpetrated near airports? It is because criminals know that anyone who just stepped off an airplane and is renting an automobile is unarmed because of security restrictions for air travel. That makes them an easy target.

Do you know what tells me that a business is an easy target for armed robbery? It is a sign on the front door that says something like, "All weapons prohibited", or "Concealed weapons prohibited". It announces that there is a good likelihood that there is nobody inside the business that is armed and can fight back. Then again, a house in an affluent neighborhood with a car in the driveway displaying a pro-Obama bumper sticker serves the same purpose to a burglar.

If schools allowed safe, concealed carry of firearms by trained, mature individuals, perhaps the shootings in Paducah, Columbine, and at Virginia Tech would not have been so deadly. Just maybe someone could have taken out the shooters before they killed more people. Police can not be everywhere all the time.

The State of New York proposed an amendment to the US Constitution for the Bill of Rights that explained the role of an armed populace. Their proposal included "That the People have a right to keep and bear Arms; that a well regulated Militia, including the body of the People capable of bearing Arms, is the proper, natural and safe defense of a free State". The responsibility was that of the citizenry to serve as the militia as well as to act as a constabulary force. The idea of a standing army was anathema to them, so it was expected that every able bodied man who could bear arms would be a participant in the putting down of insurrections, helping to repel invasion, and keeping order in their towns.

When I was asked why I would want to carry a gun, my answer was, "Because a cop is too heavy to carry around." I am a concealed carry permit holder. That means that I have demonstrated proficiency with a handgun, I have taken a class to learn the legal responsibilities of carrying a firearm, and have undergone a full background check by the State Bureau of Investigations. My fingerprints are on file with the state. In my own case, I have also undergone a background check by the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives because I also hold a Curio and Relics federal firearms license.

There are millions of people like myself who are law abiding, honest citizens. These are not the people you have to worry about. They are not criminals. They are the ones who have jumped through hoops of unconstitutional red tape in order to exercise their rights. Constitutionally, nobody should be required to get a permit to carry a firearm.

Business owners have every right to restrict what people should be allowed to carry into their establishments. At the same time, they are exercising their right to alienate their customer base and advertise themselves as easy targets for armed robbery.

Now compare the above to this business in the video below. I would do business with them in a minute.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Column for Sept. 23, 2010

“It is my understanding that today, students will be required to watch a televised speech by President Barack Obama. Since I do not want my child to be subjected to political propaganda, I find it entirely inappropriate to force grade school children to endure such a speech. Therefore, I request that my son, John, be excused from viewing said speech and instead participate in whatever alternatively planned activity is being provided.”

That is the text of a note I sent last week with my son to school. It was that time of year again, the Second Annual Back to School Barack Obama Propaganda Message. Last year we sent a similar note. There were two things very different this year. First was that the upcoming speech got very little media attention like it did last year. All over the nation, people were upset at the President using the opportunity to peddle his propaganda, myself included. This year it was kept relatively quiet so as not to inflame opposition.

The second thing that was different was that I was told that my son was the only one in the entire school to have gotten excused from viewing the propaganda speech and ended up hanging out in the school office because the school made no plans for any alternative activity. I was told that the teacher actually laughed when she read the above note. I hope that was not the case, since I don’t take this whole thing lightly.

I would have no real issue if there was a short, pre-recorded message given to encourage students and that was all there was to it. However, knowing how politicians, and liberals especially, like to grandstand and take every media opportunity, it was not going to be the case. I read the text from last year’s speech. I have the text from this year’s speech in front of me right now as I bang away on my aging keyboard.

In case you think it was just an encouraging pep talk, here are a few things I found that are really just a progressive and socialistic agenda with a fresh paint job. “So, you have an obligation to yourselves, and America has an obligation to you to make sure you’re getting the best education possible. And making sure you get that kind of education is going to take all of us working hand-in-hand. It will take all of us in government – from Harrisburg to Washington – doing our part to prepare our students, all of them, for success in the classroom, in college, and in a career...That’s what we have to do for you. That’s our responsibility. That’s our job.”

Do you see the problem in that statement? On the surface, it sounds nice, but it is subtle. It is the “it takes a village” mentality. It is the idea of collectivism rather than individual work and family support to facilitate achievement. This quote embodies the idea that it is government we must look to as our savior and our source. It is especially heinous since the federal government was never meant to be involved in public education whatsoever. Even during the Constitutional Convention of 1787 when it was suggested that the nation found a college for the public benefit, the idea was resoundingly shot down.

President Obama’s remarks were wrapped with plenty of encouragement to do your best, pursue your education, and take self improvement seriously. Again, that theme is not bad. It is the little bit of arsenic in the meal that is dangerous, though. A little leaven makes the whole lump of dough rise, as the Biblical example shows us. It is a socialist political agenda couched in a Tony Robbins pep talk.
An example of a good quote is, “But the truth is, an education is about more than getting into a good college or getting a good job when you graduate. It’s about giving each and every one of us the chance to fulfill our promise; to be the best version of ourselves we can be. And part of what that means is treating others the way we want to be treated – with kindness and respect.”

Of course we should treat others with kindness and respect. That reminder is always prudent. It is also true that there is a big difference between attending school and getting an education. I have become far more educated than some people who have schooling in certain topics because I have educated myself on the topics. I have had constitutional law discussions with lawyers who were woefully ignorant and looked foolish. I have met men who never took a computer course yet worked circles around the most certified of employees.

I am all for encouraging people to work hard, study hard, and be successful in life. At the same time I also recognize that there is no place for Utopian political ideas being spewed forth by a nation’s leader to subtly indoctrinate our youth. My son is learning that if he takes a stand for his principles, he may end up standing alone. I am used to it and am passing that value along to my family.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Column for Sept. 16, 2010

I have been observing the climate of both our churches and the world’s system for some time now. In both realms I have seen an awakening. I have been proclaiming that this awakening would be coming for years now. At the same time, I am in a season in my life where I have dropped back from both scenes in various ways. I have known that this season was coming. I am not sure why, but it has been the case during this stage of my life, so I am rolling with it.

I observed some time ago about how people by the hundreds were becoming disenfranchised by organized religion and dropping out of it, seeking something more. I have run across so many people who had just had enough. Some got bitter, some got better through their ordeals. Many people have maintained their faith through it all and even become stronger in their beliefs and relationship with God as a result. Some have not.

I know from experience that many people feel like they have been ripped off, deceived, lied to, and have a great mistrust of churches, church government, and have their senses heightened to such as a result. Often those who turn bitter have an outcry against the establishment. Those who become better often end up being dynamic teachers to help others in the same situation.

Quite honestly, there are many people in the Church overall who are deceived by false doctrines, have ears that are easily tickled, and are just plain lazy about learning solid fundamentals of their faith. They often are zealous but the zeal is often misplaced.

I have been observing people in the world’s system who have been going through much the same thing. Men and women by the millions have been feeling disenfranchised and angry at our nation’s government. As a result, we have seen people protesting and public outcry like I have never seen in my lifetime. I am not talking about protests against an unpopular war, I am talking about protests against what people perceive as an unfair government, against being used, and abused, and a loss of the basic precepts of our nation.

In the past several years, I have seen some men rise above the crowd who decided to lead by teaching others, by sharing the foundational principles of our nation. There are some men with whom I am often in agreement, some with whom I am not. One thing I do know is that either way, I am grateful that the fundamentals are being revisited.

Like with the Church, when people learn the truth about the foundations of the country, its history, and its principles, they tend to get angry. Having been burned by both sides of the comparison, I have endeavored to work through things within my own self and then reach out.

I decided several years ago to drop out of my pursuit of broadcasting, though I loved it greatly. I have dropped back my pursuit of ministry, though I loved preaching and teaching greatly. I have dropped back from copious writing, though I enjoyed it greatly. I dropped back from doing talk shows, though I enjoyed it greatly and have even been offered opportunities to do a good amount of it recently.

Even when I saw one of the greatest disasters heading towards our national sovereignty in the form of an avowed socialist as President of the United States and a complicit Congress, I remained fairly silent. I didn’t write much about the elections except in this column. Even then, I have refrained from giving most of my opinions. I have felt a cautious restraint in some ways, and I am not sure why. Yeah, I know that some of you are thinking that I am blunt and opinionated, but believe it or not, I have wrestled with this very thing for the four plus years I have been writing this column.

I have seen in the church world, pockets of men and women have gone underground, so to speak. I have seen patriots in this nation do the same. I have seen teachers arise in the church world, and I have seen the same in the world’s system. I have seen angry people be extremely vocal in the church, and I have seen a lot of it in the world. Quite honestly, I believe that people have just plain had enough in both.

There will be and has been a clash coming internal to the Church. I have seen and experienced a sliver of it myself. I have seen a huge clash arising in the world’s system. I don’t know how peaceful it will be, however. When we have seen spiritual movements and anti-world’s system movements cross paths, we have not typically seen peaceful resolutions in this country.

Troy and Sharon Wedding Book

Click here to view this photo book larger

Friday, September 10, 2010

Column for Sept. 9, 2010

You are not going to find someone who supports the local fire service more than I do. I consider it an essential service to the town and surrounding area. I actually support the levying of a fire tax for people who live outside of the town yet receive fire services from a town or country volunteer department. I have a degree in fire protection and I spent nine years in the fire service. I have a folder full of certifications and certificates and notebooks full of educational materials from classes I have taken over the years. I volunteer my time to serve on the county's Local Emergency Management Planning Committee.

I wrote in favor of the reorganization that the Town of Selma did several years ago when the Town Council decided to hire a full time chief. I believe that Chief McDaniel has done a great job so far. I do not doubt his capable leadership at all.

Yes, you knew that there was a big "but" coming. It has been said that I always have a big "but". But I read with dismay last week's edition of The Selma News. Right on the front page was the story, "Fire Dept. seeks Council approval to charge for auto wrecks".

I realize that every time the fire department is dispatched to a call for service, whether it is the proverbial cat in a tree (not that it really happens), a car wreck, or a full blown house fire, it costs money. There are always going to be costs associated with manpower, equipment, supplies, wear and tear on vehicles, vehicle maintenance, fuel, and the list goes on. I comprehend the concept of wanting to recuperate costs.

However, the fire department, like any other municipal department, has a budget for which they receive tax dollar funding. I expect a municipal government, or any other government for that matter, to spend tax money in order to supply the services they do. To then charge for the services for which we are already taxed amounts to double taxation.

I read the reasoning that the fire department or town could bill the insurance companies of the accident victims. If insurance companies start paying bills associated with emergency response, we all pay for those costs. Insurance companies are not just going to absorb those costs. They are going to pass on those costs to the insured, meaning us taxpaying citizens who already pay for emergency response in the first place. Again, that amounts to double taxation.

It is for this reason that I really despise local government grants and loans from the federal government, since we are taxed on both ends to pay for those, especially loans.

Just this week, my lovely bride and I filled out our passport applications, got our photographs taken, and went to go get them submitted. We are planning a trip or two next year, so we will need passports. We took all of our paperwork to the US Post Office. Would you believe that we were turned away, being told that we had to make an appointment first? At the USPS? I guess I will need an appointment to rent a PO Box or get a money order next.

We already pay taxes to fund the US State Department. On top of that, we just paid $110 a piece for a passport application fee for each of us. Not wanting to have to make an appointment, we went to the Clerk of Court's office the next day to make the application process quicker. There we were charged a $25 fee for each application just for them to process them and send our paperwork to Washington, DC.

On top of that, even if we presented the requisite certified copies of our birth certificates at the time of application at an accepting agency, we still had to send the original certified copies along with the applications. There is a $10 charge each should we need to replace them. The required photographs were $10 per set. All total, we paid $290 for two passports. Now watch me be on some "no travel" list, be stopped at the border by Customs agents, and denied entry into or re-entry from Canada and Mexico.

I view both of these scenarios as double taxation. We pay the government once via our tax dollars to provide services. Then when we utilize the services, we have to pay for them again. The response of fire trucks and emergency response personnel who have dedicated their lives to serving others should not be something for which we pay twice.