Friday, July 30, 2010

Column for July 29, 2010

Last week’s copy of The Selma News arrived just moments before the family and I left for a vacation to New England. I took one glance at the front page and saw the very thing I figured would happen. Selma has extended its tentacles of power two miles outside the town’s corporate limits via an extra-territorial jurisdiction (ETJ). I did not bother going to the town council meeting/public hearing for two reasons. First, I already knew the outcome beforehand. Second, it was the same night as we had scheduled my baby’s first birthday party. I was not going to miss my baby boy’s birthday for anything. I stashed the newspaper in my luggage to carry with me on the trip.

I have written several times about the evils of having an ETJ and the injustice that will be perpetrated upon those within an ETJ expansion. My position has not changed on that. The extending of the Selma ETJ two miles into the unincorporated areas of Johnston County is just plain unethical. Just because the town is empowered to do so by the state legislature does not mean that they should do so. There are many freedoms and abilities that I have in life, but just because they exist does not mean that I should exercise those abilities and freedoms.

Upon reading the article, there are a few things that jump out at me. First is that though I work with technology and am fully in support of the employment of technology, I do not always support its use when it comes to representative government. What I mean is that this business of phoning in to a town council meeting, as done by Mr. Eric Sellers for this past meeting, should never be allowed. I understand that people have their own lives, schedules, and obligations in life. If you knew my schedule and how I have to use technology instead of being physically on site, you would know that I am not opposed to conference calls, web meetings, and the like. However, when a member of a legislative body is casting a vote, the onus should be upon the representative to be physically present. When I cast a ballot, I have to be at the polling place, I can not just phone in my vote. When a Congressman is not going to be able to be in Washington, D.C., he can not just telephone his vote into Congress. A Town Councilman should be required to be present in order to participate in an open, public meeting.

The next thing that jumps out at me is that the town really needs to examine whether or not this vote is legally binding. The Town of Selma has not historically done well in compliance with a state law that requires a 60% affirmative vote in order to enact an ordinance when it is introduced for the first time. Since there have been changes since the last time the town tried to snooker the public with an ETJ expansion, I don’t know whether or not they have met this requirement. If not, they need to take another vote at another council meeting.

The last thing that jumps out at me is the “Big Brother” mentality. The Orwellian thought that was expressed by Councilwoman Cheryl Oliver that the town needs to ensure that ETJ residents are “good neighbors” to Selma residents is just plain specious and nothing short of a soft tyranny. There is absolutely no reason why a town that is less than two miles across in its corporate limits should be able to extend its tentacles of power further than its breadth into the outlaying areas. That is not only unethical, it is as I have deemed it, regulation without representation. That is contrary to the very concepts of the founding of this nation. The excuse that we have to make sure that those outside the town are good neighbors to those within is merely a lame justification for an unjust act. Governmental oppression often comes under the guise of good intentions or flowery sounding excuses.

I have heard many people exclaim how much they detest the direction of our town in these sorts of affairs. Instead of attracting people into Selma, the town may very well be driving people out. I have heard from people who worked to get some of the people in office who voted for the expansion exclaim their displeasure with this ETJ expansion vote and paradigm of control.

Though I have appreciated the candor and responsiveness of both Council Members Sellers and Oliver and like them personally, I am very disappointed in their support of bigger government and unjust exertion of local government control. Thank you Jackie Lacy and Debbie Johnson for your votes for governmental sanity. I never before thought I would ever type that last sentence.

Column for July 22, 2010

I hate racism in any form. I don't care from whom it comes or in what direction it is aimed. Racism comes with a huge amount of hypocrisy, and we have been witnessing it to a huge degree on the national political scene. When racism is alleged, it is something against which there is pretty much no defense. Just the accusation, even if it is erroneous, brands someone with a label from which there is often no coming back. But I guess that depends upon who your political allies are. Politics does make strange bedfellows, as the saying goes.

In December of 2002, United States Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott made some kind statements about Strom Thurmond at his 100th birthday party. He praised South Carolina Senator Thurmond for his long service, which included a bid for President in 1948. Thurmond ran for the presidency on a platform of racial segregation. He also voted against the Civil Rights Act and against making Martin Luther King Day a federal holiday. The latter I do not see as racist at all, but that is another topic for another day. These comments, which did not particularly support Thurmond's racist views, were met with scorn from left wing hacks and media. Within about two weeks, Trent Lott resigned his position as Senate Republican Leader.

Just recently, fellow politicians honored another stalwart of Congress. West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd recently passed away. Byrd was another man who had a serious problem with racism and segregation. Byrd actually recruited 150 men to start a new chapter of the Klu Klux Klan. Byrd is recorded as having written, "I shall never fight in the armed forces with a Negro by my side...Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds." Byrd also filibustered against passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Byrd did eventually renounce his views, but that was well into his adult life.

I believe that it is hard to refute that the quote and actions of Byrd were overtly racist. And yet former President Bill Clinton excused Byrd's Klan activity as just something that Byrd did "trying to get elected". If you are willing to sell out your soul like this, it is not merely "trying to get elected".

Current President Barack Obama, a man for whose color Byrd's activities tended to show disdain, eulogized Byrd as a "distinguished gentleman" and a "Senate icon" that "climbed to such extraordinary peaks".

I guess one can be forgiven for being overtly racist but not for praising the career of one whom was overtly racist. Then again, that all depends upon the side of the political spectrum from which you come. I find that incredibly hypocritical.

When we hear something overtly racist such as the recent comments by the leader of the New Black Panther Party, "Minister" King Shamir Shabbaz, why does the same press that lambasted Trent Lott not snow up and cloud all over Shabbaz? Shabbaz expressed his abject hatred for Whites saying, "I hate White people. All of them. Every last iota of a cracker I hate him…You want freedom you’re going to have to kill some crackers. You’re going to have to kill some of their babies."

Why have the same political hacks that skewered Senator Lott and gave a pass to Senator Byrd not come out against such hate filled evil rhetoric? Instead, the Obama administration has dropped pursuing a case against Shabbaz and his group for voter intimidation. It was a "slam dunk" case against these men for standing outside of Philadelphia polling places during the Presidential Election of 2008, carrying weapons.

A Department of Justice attorney even resigned over that case because the Department of Justice would neither prevent nor allow him to testify on the case. In his words he "was told by Voting Section management that cases are not going to be brought against black defendants [for] the benefit of white victims."

Had the defendants been sheet wearing Klansmen, their actions would have been equally despicable, but I bet they would have been prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law by the Department of Justice run by a Black man who reports to a Black President.

Folks, again, I don't care from whom racism comes or in what direction it is aimed. It is wrong, it needs to stop, and we should not tolerate it in our government, our churches, our community, or our families.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Column for July 15, 2010

I enjoy celebrating Independence Day here in America. Some consider July 4th as Independence Day, but I actually consider it to be July 2nd. On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress passed Richard Henry Lee's Resolution to adopt a declaration of independence. This resolution began "Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved." The actual declaration was signed on July 4th.

I had resolved to spend the evening with my family in Uptown Selma. Over the years I have been to several of our town's July 4th celebrations and enjoyed them. Last year I did not go since I had some friends in town from Canada. These folks had never been to an Independence Day celebration since they are from out of the country, eh? When given the option of going to the town's celebration or to the countryside to play with my personal fireworks collection, they opted for playing with fireworks rather than observing them.

There was quite a choice of Independence Day celebrations from which to choose in Johnston County. When other towns had to either cancel their celebrations because of budget reasons or because of contractor availability under new, stringent state regulation. Kenly had a celebration on the real Independence Day, July 2. Clayton had theirs on the 3rd. Selma had theirs on the 4th, and Smithfield on the 5th. I had fully intended to go to Selma's celebration, since it is within walking distance from my home and Selma is my hometown.

As fate would have it, I got stuck working that Sunday evening. I was hoping I would get home in time to see the fireworks with the family and only miss the festival activities. Instead, I got stuck working on a stubborn computer in the booming metropolis of Roxboro and did not get home until about 11 PM. While working in that little concrete building, I had a few select words about the situation that I certainly will not type here, and was in a very foul mood as a result. I really did not want to have to explain to a seven-year-old why I could not fulfill my promise to go to the Selma celebration and fireworks.

Nevertheless, we figured that we could easily slide over to Smithfield for their "half priced, day late" celebration. We were hoping for some good, happy family time. Boy, were we in for a disappointment.

I wish that the Continental Congress had declared independence from Britain in October or April instead of July. Maybe they were cranky in Philadelphia because of the high temperatures and discomfort of July, and declared independence then because of it.

Temperatures were sweltering in Smithfield. The gnats were something out of a Mosaic plague. We could not take a bite out of our high priced festival food without eating a gnat. There were only three vendors at the Smithfield event, so we ended up spending $18 for the worst steak and cheese sandwich I ever ate, a hamburger, a hot dog, an order of French Fries, and 3 drinks.

Since we were dumb enough to get there around 6:30 and the fireworks were not going to be "bombs bursting in air" until 9:30, we had plenty of time to promenade on the River Walk. That is, until my lovely wife got tired of the hike and wanted to turn around. Add to that one bored seven-year-old and a squirmy almost one-year-old, and you have some quality family time.

Finally we found our spot on a hill, heard "I'm bored" about a thousand times, and stayed on the grass trying to rest until darkness overtook Smithfield. A few more thousand "I'm bored" declarations later, we finally got to see a few bursts in the night sky…right behind the tree directly blocking our view.

We moved up the hill some more to get a less obstructed view and waited for the grand finale, which only took eleven minutes to hit. The half-priced, day late fireworks display in Smithfield certainly resembled a half off clearance sale display.

Next year I hope to be able to just have the day off, relax, and enjoy the "pretty darn good for a small town" Fourth of July celebration that Selma puts on ever year. Either that or I will have to make a trip to South Carolina for a personal stash of some home spun fun. In the words of Jack Nicholson in the movie "As Good As It Gets", "Good times, noodle salad."

The fireworks I missed:

All American Festival Fireworks - 2010 from Lewis Mullen on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Column for July 8, 2010

I got a phone call from a polling agency asking me four simple questions. The first question was simply whether I approve or disapprove of the job performance of President Barack Obama. For me the answer was a no-brainer. I obviously disapprove strongly of his job performance. I also disapproved of the job performance of George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George H. W. Bush. Each had their strong points (yes, even Clinton had a few good points). Each had their negative points (Ronald Reagan had a few negative points, as well).

At the risk of being branded a racist for any criticism of Obama by those rabid, blind fools who drank the progressive Kool-Aid, it is hard to find much positive about the Obama presidency in my view. I have an adverse reaction to actions that are entirely antithetical to the Constitution and the nation's founding principles. With massive bail outs, nationalized health care, increased size of government, quadrupling the federal debt, unnecessary moratoriums on offshore drilling, the taking over of corporations, support of environmentalist whack job policies towards non-existent climate change, bowing to foreign dignitaries, and the soon coming massive tax increases, it is hard to find anything of which to approve. To be fair, the foundation for some of these things was laid before Obama took office.

The more I have read behind Thomas Jefferson, the more I have mixed feelings about him. However, from time to time I do find some quotes by Jefferson that are poignant. "A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned - this is the sum of good government." That does not describe American government today at the national, state, county, and municipal levels. It sums up my views and my answers to the survey.

The second question was whether or not I supported the health care system passed by Congress and President Obama. My answer was obviously that I do not and can not find anything constitutional about it. To quote James Madison, who was one of the biggest influences on the writing of our Constitution, "I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents."

That same quote can apply to the next question I was asked. Do I think that government is doing too much or too little to solve the crisis type problems in our nation? This is a paraphrase, since I do not remember the exact wording. Madison's quote in context was about the proposed expenditure of public money towards assisting people after a natural disaster. It also applies to private medical expenditures, welfare, public housing, food stamps, and the list goes on.

My answer was pretty much in line with Madison's quote. I did not find the constitutional empowerment for the government to get involved in a lot of its present activities. Therefore it is doing too much, in my view. The private sector and economy should be left alone.

The one exception I currently find would be the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, though it was not in the scope of the telephone survey. I have no problems with the government acting to secure our coastline from calamity. I see that as part of ensuring domestic tranquility and promoting the general welfare. I also believe that the financial burden should ultimately be upon the parties responsible for the incident in question.

The final question was simply that if the upcoming election was held today, whether I would support Elaine Marshall or Richard Burr for United States Senate? That was also a no-brainer to me. There are many things I have seen Burr support that I had misgivings about but many that I was happy about, as well. Elaine Marshall is a known progressive/liberal and I certainly have no love for progressivism or liberalism.

When thinking about issues of government action or inaction, always keep in mind the Constitutional requirements and purpose of government. The state and federal constitutions outline the scope of powers and limitations of government and are supposed to be our supreme laws to follow. I just wish governments would indeed follow them.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Column for July 1, 2010

Those of you who follow me on the internet know that I have become a fan of Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey. The more I see of Governor Christie standing up to political correctness, special interest groups, and labor unions, the more excited I get. When I see him being responsive to the reason he was elected, i.e., cut the budget, decrease spending, and restore the state of New Jersey to fiscal sanity, the more I love what I see.

One recent video had Chris Christie speaking at a town hall type meeting in which he was confronted by a school teacher. The teacher chastised the governor for cutting the education budget in New Jersey, much like we are facing here in North Carolina. The teacher, who asserted that she loved what she did for a profession was informed that if she did not like the pay scale, she could go find another job and that teachers know the wage scale before ever taking the job. I absolutely loved that answer and applaud him for it. Will we ever see that sort of bravado here in North Carolina? I seriously doubt it.

Public schools are a product of government. Since government has been bloated and allowed to grow unchecked over the years, I wholeheartedly suspect that school budgets are no different. Here in North Carolina, we have seen the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) complain about budget cuts. We have seen the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Crazy People) unfoundedly whine about "resegregation" when Wake County and now Wayne County have been moving to community based schools to not only save money but to restore common sense to school administration.

In Charlotte, there is debate over the merits of public pre-kindergarten education. Whatever happened to parental responsibility? Why is it the job of the populace to supply a babysitting service to four-year-olds? We have Smart Start, More at Four, and various other failed programs with a huge price tag. Why should anyone want his or her four-year-old placed a publicly funded education program other than to take advantage of free daycare?

Do you want to know what government thinks about looking after toddlers? The State of North Carolina wants to make it a crime to: "serve sugar-sweetened beverages to children of any age; serve whole milk to children two years of age or older; serve flavored milk to any child; serve more than six ounces of juice to any child regardless of age or how long the child is cared for." This is how government wants to intrude into private daycare center operations with House Bill 1726, which has already passed one vote. How much worse would it be in a public institution? Is this the sort of government control you want over your children? Is this the sort of government you want to live under?

I was intrigued by a news story I read about neighboring Wake County. That school district is in search of a new Superintendent of Schools after their old one whined about the direction of the newly elected school board. What I found interesting is that the county may not hire someone with an education background to be the next superintendent. The next leader there may be a businessman or former military leader.

As Governor Christie said in an interview, it is not the educators in his state that hate him, it is the education labor unions. They have created a society of entitlement for their constituency under the guise of being "for the children" in order to pad their membership roles. This of course leads to more union income. It is precisely that mentality that has been rampant in our school systems and why I would love to see someone with a background in business hired to run schools with a much higher degree of efficiency.

I work in private industry and we have to run with efficiency every day. We deal with budget and manpower cuts regularly and still produce for our customers and shareholders. We the taxpayers are the investors and shareholders in our public school system. We should expect a high rate of return on our investment. In order to cut down on public expenditure, I have openly offered to take the job of Superintendent of Schools in Johnston County for half the pay we are currently giving someone with a background in "education".

Think about this for a moment. Do you really want the "milk police" controlling what your child drinks? Do you want a law that regulates how much fruit juice your toddler is allowed to have? Do you want the same government controlling our children's education at age four or at any age?