Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Column for June 24, 2010

I look at the birdbath and bird feeder as a microcosm of American society. I wrote at the begging of May how I've had more birds and squirrels at my feeder this year than ever before. It is amazing that the birds and cute, gray, bushy tailed rats can empty the feeder in less than a day. I fill it up almost daily now. I have spent more on birdseed so far this year than I have spent on most previous years combined.

There are a few observations I have made over the past few months. Even if the feeder is empty, birds and squirrels still come by the feeder to check to see if there is anything to eat. When the birds see me coming, they will actually fly away, perch on a wire or tree limb, and as soon as I leave the freshly filled feeder, flock to it. I have actually had birds angrily scream at me when the feeder is empty until I finish filling it again for them.

I see more squirrels on my little quarter acre of land than I have ever seen before. I am pretty sure that some of these squirrels do not live in the old pecan tree behind my house. Instead, they seem to sneak across the property border and plunder the feed. Birdseed is not even meant for squirrels, but they don't seem to mind. When I have bags of birdseed set out under my carport, squirrels will invade my carport and tear into the bags of seed.

When I put the seed bags into an old trash can that I am using as storage, the gray, illegal alien squirrels actually ate through part of the plastic garbage can to gain access to it and plunder what was never meant for them in the first place. They leave seed hulls all over my carport.

The one good thing the squirrels do is to rake out seed from the feeder and spread it on the ground. When they do that, many birds and other squirrels do actually benefit from their labor. Apparently the birds let the squirrels do jobs that they, in theory, are not willing to do themselves. I doubt that is truly the case, since when no squirrels have been handy, I have watched an ambitious bird actually shoveling out seed from the feeder to the ground with its beak. There is an obvious parallel to society here.

It is all part of my birdie stimulus spending plan. Birds and squirrels have come from all over the neighborhood to my feeder. Why they come to my feeder in particular is a mystery to me. Perhaps they are looking for a better life than they can find where their own nests are located. Maybe the food supply is just scarce on the other side of the neighborhood. Either way, the birds flock to my feeder more than that of my neighbors and more than any other year since I have been living in this house.

The seed is meant to supplement the animals' own ability to find food, not be their entire source of substance. I would hope that these now dependent birds and squirrels are also searching for worms, insects, berries, nuts and whatever else birds and squirrels consume. The handouts I provide are not meant to replace their own food chain. It seems that some take advantage of the free food more than others.

I get birds of all colors. Gray ones, black ones, red ones, blue ones, and a variety of color mixtures all flock to my feeder. Some are more common than others. Both birds and squirrels seem to take to the water supply in my birdbath. I have to rinse out the birdbath and refill it just about every day. Some days it takes less than an afternoon and it will be bone dry.

Regardless of whom the bird feeder and birdbath are meant for, the common factor is that when I put out an abundant supply of free food, I have an abundant supply of consumers wanting the handout. When I don't put out the food, the birds and squirrels find another way to get their sustenance. America could learn a lesson from that.

I almost feel like the federal government, giving out more in handouts than at any other time in my living here. The big difference seems to be that I can afford the birdseed. I guess if I charged the bird food to my credit card to pay it off years later with a huge amount of accrued interest, I would be more like the federal government.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Column for June 17, 2010

Over the years, I have been somewhat critical of Congressman Bob Etheridge. I have also endeavored to be fair and offer praise whenever praise is due. As of right now, I have zero praise for Congressman Etheridge other than to say "at least he offered an apology".

You have seen on the news or read in the newspapers that our very own Congressman Etheridge assaulted two students on a Washington, D.C. street last week. The college students were doing some sort of school project. When Congressman Etheridge walked by, they had their camcorder rolling and they simply asked him the question whether or not he is in support of President Barack Obama's policies. That was fair enough. Congressmen were asked about supporting Bush in years past.

Instead of politely stopping and asking who these students were and for what they were doing an impromptu interview, old Bob got hostile. He smacked around the videographer, grabbed the interviewer by the wrist and later by the back of the neck. He repeatedly asked them who they were, who they were with, and demanded to know their identities. Apparently if you see people with a video recorder and asking questions whom you do not know, that justifies assaulting them.

When Congressman Etheridge ran for his congressional post the first time, I interviewed him several times myself. He had a bad habit of not wanting to answer questions then, and he knew who I was and who employed me. He came to us wanting radio airtime and we gave it to him, but he dodged questions. He obviously wanted to dodge questions from strangers, as well. Two election cycles back, I offered old Bob an interview for my column as I did his opponent. He did not so much as pay me the respect of declining the offer. I have also extended unacknowledged offers for interviews on my internet radio show that I used to host regularly. Thus I know first hand what Bob Etheridge thinks about the press, about interviews, and about people with whom he does not want to be bothered.

I am trying to give Bob the benefit of the doubt on this one. I got to thinking that he is a very busy man. Maybe he had just gotten some bad news or maybe he just plain was having a bad day. Even if that was the case, that in no way justified assault. I saw the video of the incident several times. Perhaps the students could probably have handled the situation a bit better, but they were young and naive. I doubt highly, as has been speculated, that Congressman Etheridge was "set up" on this video encounter. I have concluded that his actions were inexcusable and just plain despicable.

Sure, Congressman Etheridge offered a formal statement reading in part, "I deeply and profoundly regret my reaction and I apologize to all involved. Throughout my many years of service to the people of North Carolina, I have always tried to treat people from all viewpoints with respect. No matter how intrusive and partisan our politics can become, this does not justify a poor response. I have and I will always work to promote a civil public discourse."

Sorry, Bob, but you have often failed in your attempt to treat people from all viewpoints with respect. I know too many people who have found that out first hand, especially others in the media. Furthermore, assaulting someone whose politics or viewpoints you have yet to even hear is purely partisan on your own part. Assaulting two people does not rate merely as a "poor response", it is criminal, despicable behavior.

Congressman Etheridge, I personally extend to you an offer for an interview with me, someone you have known by name and reputation for years. You know my family since my in-laws were neighbors of yours in Harnett County for years. You know the newspaper and blogs for which I have written for years, and I offer the chance to show the world you can have respect for people of all viewpoints. Let us have a civil public discourse together. I warn you though, if you ever try to manhandle me as you did those college students, I will ensure that you make use of the Congressional health care benefits package.

Yes, I have been critical of Congressman Etheridge for his lack of response to me as a constituent, member of the media, and for his leftist, progressive agenda. I have been hoping for years that he would be voted out of office for the benefit of the country. I had serious doubts that Renee Ellmers could beat Bob Etheridge in the upcoming election in November. Now I have a little hope that old Bob will be sent back to Lillington for good.

For fun:

More fun:

And for those who thought that Bob Etheridge was only rude to the public in the previous videos:

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Column for June 10, 2010

I just finished a several yearlong teaching on the Constitutional Convention of 1787 in which I went through the notes taken by James Madison during the Philadelphia Convention with two of my cohorts. During the course of the debates of the convention, the ideas, the purpose, and limitations of government were discussed.

What about state and local governments? Just today I started re-reading through North Carolina's state constitution. Many of the same principles found in the national constitution are present in the state document. It is always a good idea to brush up on such things so that my garbage detector can operate more accurately. I always have my garbage detector operating on my core values and principles, so when I hear of a news story or incident, my antennae go up when I catch a trickle of garbage.

Four garbage stories grabbed my attention lately. Three of the stories are from North Carolina and one is from Michigan. Here in The Old North State, our legislature seems to have adopted the idea that anything that is personally distasteful to a legislator can be banned. The idea that a person or group of people can and should control or limit something they detest, whether it is a moral issue or not, I often find even more distasteful than the item in question they seek to regulate.

There is currently a bill in the state legislature that would slap a one-year moratorium on further placements of electronic billboards alongside the state’s highways. Since when is it the job of the state to regulate what sort of billboards are along highways? That tends to be a local planning and zoning issue and should be treated as such. If billboards are allowed in a certain area, of what concern is it the type of the billboard? I have no problem with electronic billboards. Here in Selma and Smithfield, we have a couple of them owned by a local company and I find them no more distracting than a still board.

This is obviously not a safety matter but rather a matter of personal taste. If you want to regulate personal taste, I found it distasteful to cut down trees that buffered the view from Selma's cemetery at the corner of Pollock Street and Highway 70 to put up a billboard, instead. And that billboard does not change electronically. Even so, I would not want the state legislature getting involved in that decision taking process.

Another state issue is a bill proposed to limit local governments from entering the internet and data delivery business. This is one issue that requires full disclosure up front. I work for the area's largest cable television and data provider. Yet this does not have a bearing on my thoughts either way.

Cities like Wilson are using public dollars to provide their own broadband data network to attract industry and compete with big telephone and cable companies. Though I generally am not for regulation by large governments, I am equally opposed to governments at any level providing services at taxpayer expense that are readily available in the private sector. Cities and towns have no business getting into the broadband data business.

Two other governmental regulations proposed involve licensing. North Carolina wants to require providers of hair braiding services to be licensed just like cosmetologists and barbers. They don't cut, color, or treat hair; they just braid it. For that, the government wants to stick its dirty fingers into the pot, stir it, and extract more revenue and control in the form of licensing fees.

The other licensing issue proposed is from Michigan. Some Michigan elected officials actually want to require licensing for journalists. Now I will agree that there are many people in the journalism industry that are better off finding other careers. However, I also believe in a First Amendment principle that says that says, "Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…" The Michigan State Legislature is not the U.S. Congress, but this is one principle that you would think is inviolable. Even intellectually and ethically challenged journalists, usually employed at the Associated Press, New York Slimes, or The Washington Compost should not require licensing. The art of journalism is seemingly a lost one and journalists should study their craft, but not be required to hold a license. I doubt that the bill will pass.

Government is often over-reaching and over-bearing. There are just some lines that government should not cross, some things they should not regulate, and some endeavors from which they should stay away.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Column for June 3, 2010

On my way to church services last weekend, I had to stop for the friendly neighborhood police officers that were running a license checkpoint here in the booming Metropolis of Selma. I am fairly used this concept, since I have had to stop numerous times at impromptu checkpoints over the past few years. Each time I get out my wallet to produce my driver's license. This time, for the first time, I also had to produce my vehicle registration.

I actually have no problem with this concept, which may surprise some people. As long as such checks are done with consistency of fairness to all vehicle operators, I believe that it is a matter of public safety to ensure that people are sober, are indeed licensed drivers, and belong on the roads. It is a legal and reasonable use of governmental and law enforcement resources.

Since I as a driver have to produce proof that I am licensed to operate the motor vehicle I operate, I am astounded at the resistance to the Arizona law against illegal immigration. Their recent law allows for local law enforcement to ascertain the legal statuses of people that they suspect are in the state (actually nation) illegally. This is pursuant only to an already legal contact with law enforcement agents. This means that a police officer can not stop someone on the street or a driver on the highway whom they suspect is here illegally unless they have either committed another infraction of the law.

Liberals who have ignorantly decried this law as a violation of civil liberties have either not read the law or they are purposely being deceptive. President Barack Obama lied through his teeth when he claimed that the police would ask people for their papers when they are taking their family out for ice cream. The use of the term "papers" was specifically used to conjure up images of Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union's KGB. It is nothing more than a propaganda tactic.

If I, a law abiding citizen can be legally asked for my identification and "papers" at a license checkpoint, then a criminal can certainly be asked for theirs when they are caught in criminal behavior. Controlling immigration into America is one of the basic duties of the federal government, but one that they have abrogated most heinously. States and local governments have been paying the price for the lack of action on the federal government's part, so they in turn have begun to "step up to the plate" and begun dealing with the issue in their own sovereign ways.

There are legitimate powers of government for purposes of control and there are illegitimate ones. I think about this distinction often, and at all levels of government. Whether it is the national government, the state, county, town, or even church governments, there are legitimate uses of power and there are illegitimate uses thereof. Controlling our border for the sake of national protection is definitely a legitimate use of government. Ensuring that people who broke the law while entering the country and then enforcing that first infraction while enforcing other laws is definitely a legitimate use of governmental power.

Recently, the President of Mexico, Felipe Calderon had the audacity to criticize the sovereignty of Arizona and condemn their law against illegal immigration as a huge violation of human rights. He found it humiliating to be asked for proof that you belong in America. Oddly enough, he readily admits that the immigration laws in Mexico are far stricter than they are in the United States and illegal immigrants are readily deported or imprisoned. That flaming hypocrisy should be astounding to any logically thinking individual. What is even worse is the lockstep criticism by our current administration in the White House.

With all the irrational calls for boycotts against Arizona for their government's courage to stand against illegal immigration and to protect their own self interests, I am almost tempted to change my upcoming vacation plans and spend my tourist dollars in Arizona. I can only wish that legislators in North Carolina have the same fortitude to pass similar legislation in our state. Such a bill has recently been introduced into the North Carolina State Senate. I seriously doubt that either our weak governor or the state legislature would have such courage to pass it, however.

Cool. More hate mail.

On 6/1/2010 9:55 PM, Al Larivee wrote:
Mr. Laplante: Do you vote in every election? Are you a Military Veteran? What are personally doing to right all the wrongs you seem to percieve? I you think your going to find utopia here on earth,you've got a rude awakening coming. This ain't no storybook world by any stretch of the imagination.Your whining,moaning,and bellyaching is the main reason i opted not to renew my subscription to The Selma News. The office staff at The Selma news must be as blockheaded as you,because my subscription ran out in early February and they still send me the paper,which i have no intention of paying for,as i wrote to them,stated so and dropped in the BIG YELLOW BOX in front of the Post Office .Respectfully Al Larivee 103 Wiggs Rd Selma

And my response:
Yes. No. You read it. Take a remedial English class. I know better than you there is no Utopia. Conservatives are the ones who realize that, liberals are not. Boo frickity hoo that you don't like or read my column. You finished your email "respectfully" but have shown none in your email, so you don't mind being dishonest. I do. I fail to see how all three questions are relevant to the conservative opinions that I have the courage to espouse. I am doubtful that you have answers that would be acceptable to own yourself, which means that you probably hold others to a higher standard than you do yourself, making you a hypocrite. I at least believe and live the things about which I pontificate (and am asked to do so) on a regular basis.