Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Column for Dec. 29, 2011

About a month ago, I wrote about gun rights and the Town of Smithfield. Their police chief, Michael Scott, seemed to be very much in favor of keeping gun bans in place in the town park system. To me, this is just another example of a freedom hating, constitutionally illegal action and attitude. I wanted to compare that attitude and how the Smithfield Police Department handles media relations to that of another law enforcement officer.

Spartanburg County, South Carolina is where my brother lived before he passed away two years ago. Most of his children still live in that area. At one time I had considered pursuing a job opportunity there to be closer to my family, but recently I found a news story that would have made me glad to be in Spartanburg County. Their county sheriff has a real grasp of reality.

When asked why I often carry a pistol, my answer is simply, “Because cops are too heavy to carry around.” Police can not be everywhere at all times. The old saying holds true. “When seconds count, the police are only minutes away.” I have a t-shirt in my closet that has a graphic of a Smith and Wesson firing a shot, blood spattering, and the caption, “I don’t dial 9-1-1”. Sure, I have called 9-1-1 on several occasions, including for the removal of a drunken Mexican on my doorstep a few years ago. But in life and death situations, sometimes you can not wait for the police.

When a woman was sexually assaulted by a repeat offender in his county, Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright gave a spectacular news conference. He correctly referred to the offender as an animal. He criticized the justice system as being dysfunctional. He said that “our form of justice is not making it. Carry a concealed weapon. That’ll fix it...I want you to get a concealed weapons permit. Don’t get Mace. Get a firearm.” He also said, "Gun control is when you can get your barrel back on the target quick.” If Chuck Wright ran for sheriff here in Johnston County, I would vote for him instantly.

Compare that to Smithfield Police Chief Michael Scott, who said that the updated rules adopted by Smithfield (pursuant to a new state law that allows concealed weapon permit holders such as myself to carry in parks) are designed to keep as much of the original ban in place while complying with the new law. Though municipalities are prohibited from outright banning carrying in parks, there is an exception for “recreational facilities” like playgrounds, swimming pools, and ballfields. Smithfield is taking the approach of having as much government control over law abiding citizens as legally possible.

The other thing about media relations and the Smithfield Police Department that cheesed me off was how they handled the fight over their budget. From what I have read, the Smithfield Town Council set a budget for their police department. The budget has less money for fuel for police cars than the police staff wanted. When the department requested to be able to transfer about $30,000 from other areas of their budget such as for office supplies to the fuel budget, the request was denied.

I have to admit that I don’t understand why funds within the department budget can not be fungible, considering that the overall dollar amount would not change. However, that was the decision by their town council. That should end the debate right there. Elected officials did what they felt was correct, even if I find it incorrigible and inappropriate.

What did I hear as a news story shortly thereafter on a Raleigh radio station? The Smithfield Police Department was warning that without the requested fuel funding, they would not be investigating misdemeanor crimes, only felonious ones; and that they most likely would not respond to every call for service. Obviously that came from someone inside the department attempting to wage a war of public opinion by using the media. No names were given as a source and no direct quotes were given. Granted, the police department can not control how something is reported, but I found the whole media outreach to be whiny, childish, and insubordinate.

When I compare the courage by Sheriff Chuck Wright in South Carolina to go against the grain of convention during a press conference, the call for freedom, and personal responsibility in the midst of reality, and compare that to the whiny, controlling paradigm that I see coming from law enforcement in Smithfield, I am disgusted.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Column for Dec. 22, 2011

I can’t believe the piece of junk mail I got today. I get plenty of solicitations for credit cards, usually more than one a day. I get junk mail from my mortgage company, my life insurance company, travel agencies, car dealers, lawyers, and the list goes on. Today I got one that insulted my sensibilities.

My employer supplies me with a Blackberry, with which they expect me to use for work communications. I use it heavily for email and telephone calls. Several years ago I got another cell phone, which was a prepaid wireless phone. At the time I was dating a woman who loved to keep in touch by text messaging. Since I only had my work phone, I obtained another phone for personal use. Fortunately that relationship only lasted about three weeks. She was a liberal, non-practicing, Catholic who thought that Hillary Clinton was the greatest candidate for President ever. I am a right wing, conservative Protestant who thinks that Hillary Clinton is just about the Anti-Christ. For four years now I have kept that same prepaid phone going. My right wing, conservative, Protestant wife whom I met just one week after ending the relationship with the Clinton loving liberal carries that phone and has since we were dating.

Having a cell phone is not a constitutional right. I pay for my own Tracfone and have for years. If I want another cell phone, I will have to pay for it out of my own pocket. Most people I know, rich or poor, that have personal cell phones pay for them themselves. That is the way it ought to be. Though a great convenience, cell phones are not something to which anyone in America is entitled. For that matter, neither are automobiles, internet service, personal computers, or gourmet bread and ice cream.

For several years, I have frustratedly watched television commercials for Assurance Wireless. They provide free cell phones to people who are on Medicaid, food stamps, Supplemental Security Income, live in federal public (Section 8) housing, get free school lunch, get home energy assistance, or just plain have a low, qualifying income. The services are paid for by the federal government via the Universal Service Fund program. Make no mistake, you pay for this fund.

In researching the fund, I found “The Universal Service Fund (USF) was created by the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 1997 to meet Congressional universal service goals as mandated by the Telecommunications Act of 1996...As of the first quarter of 2011, the USF fee, which changes quarterly, equals 15.5 percent of a telecom company's interstate and end-user revenues.” If a telecommunications company pays the fees, you are the ones really paying for it, since fees are passed on to you, the consumer. Telecommunication fees are nothing new and consumers have been paying for them since the 1930’s.

The USF has been broadened to include internet access. Now we are paying to subsidize high speed internet to “under served rural areas” and for low income people. In reading, I found that “the FCC approved a six-year transfer process that would transition money from the Universal Service Fund to a new $4.5 billion a year Connect America Fund that will support the expansion of broadband services to areas that don't have broadband access yet.” So we will be paying for people who choose to live in the boondocks to have fast internet.

When my wife and I go shopping, we count the cost of groceries to make sure that we come within budget. It is infuriating to see a young, unmarried couple that have a toddler with another baby on the way pay for groceries with a food stamp card. We saw one woman get the most expensive bread in the store and a couple of gallons of milk pay for it with a WIC voucher, some of her other groceries with a food stamp card, and the remainder of the groceries with a bank debit card while talking on a cell phone. Here we were counting the costs of our own groceries still skimping on our own cell phone service, and paying full price for everything.

What is just as frustrating is that the companies who provide the free cell phone service make enough profit off from doing so to put on a full marketing campaign on national television and direct mailer solicitations. You and I are paying for it to happen, for people to get free groceries, and for people to have free cell phones. Is it just me, or is this not infuriating? How are people entitled to free cell phone service, which should be considered a luxury item, at our expense? Merry Christmas all year ‘round, I guess.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Column for Dec. 15, 2011

Recently my wife and I went to an American Heritage Girls ceremony for our niece. We had never heard of that organization prior to being at the meeting, so I did a little research. My first source online is usually Wikipedia, since from there I can usually find links to other sources. It said, “Christian Scouting organization founded in 1995 by...parents...who were unhappy that the Girl Scouts accepted lesbians as troop leaders, allowed girls to substitute another word more applicable to their belief for "God" in the promise, and allegedly banned prayer at meetings.” I found no local area troops, however.

This was particularly disturbing since I am involved in Cub Scouts with our oldest boy, have a two year old who may get involved in scouting, and we have another baby on the way and if it was a girl, we would have encouraged her to get into scouting, as well.

Shortly thereafter, I found a news article that had just been published and Tweeted (put on my Twitter feed) “I am done buying cookies, if our baby is a girl, she won't be allowed to join. "Girl Scouts Of USA Says It Will Accept Transgender Youth"”. I mean that. We have bought our last Girl Scout Cookie. The Girl Scouts have abandoned their core values and I will not contribute financially to their existence. (We have since found out that we are having another boy, so the Girl Scout thing is out for now, anyway.)

After my Tweet, I was accosted by a person claiming to be “transgender woman...atheist bordering on anti-theist” and an activist. He was obviously scouring the internet, looking for someone with whom to be offended and wanted to pick a fight. I was chastised repeatedly in increments of 140 characters or less on how I just don’t understand transgender people, how I am a religious bigot, how being transgender is not a choice, and that I must think that someone like him is outside the norm and therefore sinful or evil, and that that is ridiculous. I was called a hate filled religious bigot and, well...the final end of the digestive tract.

Since I have opinions and am willing to put them out there for public consumption, I tend to attract a lot of hate mail, whether from column readers or internet readers. I lamented the departure of the Girl Scouts from their core values, so I must be some Bible Belt, Bible thumping religious fanatic, right? Well, I had not even gotten into the religious implications before I was accused of using religion to pick on people for being transgender. Just as a matter of ontological makeup, I was lamenting the decisions by the Girl Scouts.

Personally, I find transgender people to be whiny, emotional individuals who can't accept reality and are looking for attention. They demand that the world accept their deviant behavior as normal, and claim that everyone else is the problem for their lack of acceptance. So far I have only run across Chaz Bono wannabes who can’t accept the fact that they either have XX or XY chromosomes and blame either nature or God for some colossal, cosmic mistake of trapping them inside the body of a sex with which they can not internally identify. Instead of being mature about it and accepting the hand they were dealt with in life, these people basically want to garner negative attention, giving themselves “victim” status. That seems to be a miserable existence to me.

I was told that people like I just described are not malevolent but rather just ordinary people feeling their way through life. No, they are deviants from societal norms screaming for acceptance. I have compassion for them, I truly do. I also have no problem letting them know the error and sinful nature of their ways. I have been praying for this “man” and will continue to do so.

I truly don’t care what someone does in the privacy of their own homes, whether it be opining and dressing as the opposite sex or the practice of homosexuality. I will treat people I meet with respect even if I strongly disagree with their lifestyle choices. I don’t debase those in my family or circle of friends who are homosexuals. At least they are honest about who they are and for the most part, realize that they are not the majority of society. Of course there are those who are more rabid about their ways, even flaunting them in the face of society.

I am sure that some transgender people are very nice folks who just want to get along in life. I have not run across any in all of my dealings thus far, though. I have mostly run across whiny deviants who scream for me to accept their decisions about life. Thankfully I have the freedom, nay the responsibility, to decline either my acceptance or support of such lifestyles and influence upon my children and society. If my wife and I ever have a little girl, I might just have to help found a local American Heritage Girls troop.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Column for Dec. 8, 2011

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” - Second Amendment to the US Constitution.

Recently, I got my concealed carry weapons permit renewed here in Johnston County. I have held such a permit for over a decade. That means that I had to take a class, prove that I am proficient in the use of a handgun, pass a criminal and mental health background check, and give my fingerprints for the state to have on file. A class costs time and money, gun range time costs money, ammunition costs money, and the application and renewal fees cost time and money every five years. I also hold a federal firearms curio and relic collector’s license. That means that I also got a thorough background check by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

Notice the text of the Second Amendment. There are no qualifiers on that statement. Is simply says that my right shall not be infringed. Unfortunately, many such qualifications have been placed on that right. I have to obtain and carry a permit for carrying firearms. I have to obtain a permit to purchase a handgun, and submit to a background check if I want to purchase a firearm. I am prohibited from carrying firearms through certain states. I am prohibited from carrying firearms in certain places.

There are several debates going on right now about compliance with a new state law that prohibits municipalities from restrictions on where one can carry a weapon such as in parks but allows exceptions for “recreational facilities”. Of course freedom hating gun control nuts will attempt to make those exceptions as broad as possible.

Close to home, Smithfield is still banning the carrying of weapons at the aquatics center and at certain parks. They want to keep as much of the ban in place as legally possible. The police chief in Smithfield seems to be in support of this, based upon his quotes on the subject. Then again, that is not surprising considering how whiny his department has been about their most recent budget and how they handled it, but that is another column for another day.

In Garner, the same battle is being waged. State level gun rights groups have gotten involved there in the fight there, as well as in Smithfield. Grass Roots North Carolina is a great gun rights organization, and while typing this, I am reminded to renew my membership with them.

There are a few exceptions to the control freak behavior. Down Highway 70 is the town of Havelock. Though the town’s athletic director proposed maintaining restrictions like Garner and Smithfield, two of their town council members are strongly opposed to the idea of maintaining any such gun restrictions. One councilman, George Liner, argued that concealed carry permit holders are law abiding citizens and have passed all the state requirements and expense outlined earlier. The other, Danny Walsh, said, “The problem is that for 200 years it has been understood in America, and one of the reasons no one has invaded us, is that everyone here has a gun and can use it. And the fathers of those 4-, 5-, and 6-year-olds have been going to war for that right and other rights. I don’t want to infringe on a right that the federal government gave us 200 years ago that is reasonable." Walsh is exactly correct with the exception that it was not a right bestowed by the federal government, it was seen as a God given right and the federal government was to preserve it.

These debates are an example of why I am no longer a member of the National Rifle Association. They have been known for a lot of compromise on gun rights rather than being rigid such as Gun Owners of America and Grass Roots North Carolina. The NRA will attempt to influence national level elections, such as for Congress, but will not get involved in local elections, even though they have local field representatives. They can pull local databases to solicit local people for donations but refuse to use the same database for helping gun friendly candidates get elected to public office. I know since I have been down that road with them personally. Ironically, the very week that the NRA told me that local elections were not their concern regarding gun control, they moved their annual conference to another city because of the original venue’s stance on gun control. What hypocrisy.

I hope that all elected officials at the county and municipal levels take heed that people are tired of their liberties being eroded. Freedom loving, law abiding citizens are just that. It is the criminal element that is the problem, not people like myself who went through stringent scrutiny in order to exercise their constitutional right. There are no qualifiers on that right, but we still underwent unconstitutional requirements in order to “legally” exercise it . If that right is infringed, it is no more a right and is rather a privilege beholden to the privilege granter. Had people like me been around and were armed on the campus of Columbine High School, Fort Hood, or Virginia Tech, the outcomes may have been very different and lives saved.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Column for Dec. 1, 2011

During recent a Republican Presidential candidate debate, Newt Gingrich was asked about his views on the killing of “enemy combatants” who are American citizens living overseas and actively fighting against America during a state of war (such as Anwar al-Awlaki). A member of the press tried to chastise Mr. Gingrich saying that the “rule of law” required a court of law to take the decision to kill an American “citizen”. Personally, I found Gingrich’s answer brilliant and on target (if you pardon the pun). Newt Gingrich is often one of the smartest people on stage during debates, but I don’t know that he will be a successful candidate and capable of taking The White House in the next general election.

I recently had the same conversation with a friend of mine from high school. I take the side of Newt Gingrich which is that someone who is actively pursuing war against America need not be convicted of treason before he can be a target of war. My friend, Roger, a career military man, takes the opposite opinion, in that he believes that the Constitution requires that a bad guy be tried and convicted of treason before we can whack him because he is technically an American citizen by birth, regardless of where he currently resides. With Roger’s permission, I am sharing the conversation.

Me: [sharing a video clip of the relevant part of the debate] “Gingrich gets it correct and this media hack moderator is a bonehead.”

Roger: “Troy, are you kidding me? Guilty under review? Where is that in the Constitution? The alleged (likely happened but we still have an obligation to try a US citizen before we execute them, especially when we have the capability to bring them to justice, as we did in the case of Awlaki) crime Gingrich describes is TREASON. Treason happens to be the only crime specifically outlined in the Constitution. Article III section 3:

“Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

“This is just populist drivel for him to get himself elected. Mind you, I'll vote for him if he is the nominee for one simple reason, HE IS NOT BARACK OBAMA.

“It really saddens me that the Constitution that I swore to defend and did defend for 21 years is so easily ignored.”

Me: “No, I am not kidding you. Where is it in the Constitution that someone who is actively engaged in war activity against the US (which is indeed defined as treason under the Constitution) and is resident in another country shall be captured, tried, and convicted rather than eliminated? The populist drivel is that he must be captured, tried, and convicted. When the individual is an active enemy, he is to be considered as such, regardless of his nationality. That is just common sense. If it means targeting someone actively involved in combat against the country, I do not see where the Constitution requires a criminal trial rather than an act of war during war.

“I am well aware of Article III Section 3. I taught on the Constitution and US history for about four years. Attacking your enemy in combat, regardless of the individual's nationality is not ignoring the Constitution. It would be different if we were no longer in a state of active warfare and the individual captured, or even that this scumbag was captured as a POW. THEN, we would have a case for a criminal case of treason and a reason for a trial. That is the nature of war. If a scumbag gets taken out during a wartime operation, c'est la guerre.

“If in the 1700's General Arnold was taken prisoner (and if the Constitution was in force then. But the Articles of Confederation did not have a provision for defining treason, only about extradition for, or as a reason to be able to inhibit freedom of speech in Congress) then there would have been a reason for a trial and a charge of treason. If he was shot and killed during an attack on the enemy, I can not fathom for one moment that there would have been a debate whether or not it was wrong to have put a musket ball through his head while engaged in warfare...”

The conversation was longer than this, but it is a relevant discussion about the future of our country and how we conduct our affairs. On the one hand, the arbitrary power of an executive to declare someone an enemy combatant and summarily execute them could lead to a slippery slope and the killing of American citizens at home or abroad without a court trial. On the other hand, it is also a matter of properly, efficiently, and swiftly conducting wartime operations in the case of scumbag terrorists plotting our demise.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Column for Nov. 24, 2011

I am looking at the charter for The Town of Selma,. I am looking for its general contractor’s license or business development license therein. I am also reading through NC General Statues Chapter 160A, which specifies how towns are to operate. I am not a lawyer and won’t drag through every jot and tittle, but I don’t see the power of a town to become a venture capitalist. The only thing I have read that even remotely comes close is “A city may contract with and appropriate money to any person, association, or corporation, in order to carry out any public purpose that the city is authorized by law to engage in.” That would be a very broad interpretation.

I do see the power of a town government to regulate certain business, just not to create or subsidize them. Towns are given the right to levy taxes for various purposes, including “to provide public auditoriums, coliseums, and convention centers”, the key word being public. One statute (160A‑279) says, “Whenever a city or county is authorized to appropriate funds to any public or private entity which carries out a public purpose, the city or county may, in lieu of or in addition to the appropriation of funds, convey by private sale to such an entity any real or personal property which it owns; provided no property acquired by the exercise of eminent domain may be conveyed under this section; provided that no such conveyance may be made to a for‑profit corporation.”

In last week’s “The Selma News”, I read with interest the article on The Rudy Theater. The article did not seem clear on the ownership status of the theater, though the verbiage did mention "the Rudy Theater will transition from your company to the Town of Selma..." That leads me to believe that the theater is privately owned by them, not the town. Thus, I checked with one of our elected officials on the matter and verified this. It also seems that the concept of Selma becoming a theater owner, partner, or builder was something sprung upon the Town Council, which makes me wonder about some of the politics behind this whole plan. I am wary of the idea of a town of only 6,100 (according to the town’s own web site) going into debt to finance a sizable private business venture.

If the property belongs to the theater production company, why would the town consider using taxpayer money to renovate/expand/rebuild a private business? Though The Rudy is a nice thing to have in the town, I have a hard time believing that we generate enough tax revenue from either the theater or its patrons to pay for the public expenditure for its expansion. If we are looking at building a new facility, why? If Rudy Theatre Productions could afford to buy The Rudy and even do some renovations, they can build a new facility more to their liking themselves. For the town to consider both building a new facility and taking over the old is a double cost in that we will pay for the new construction plus for any renovations and upkeep of the old facility.

Just on principle alone, I would have a problem with the concept of the town paying for a private facility. Why would we subsidize the leisure activities of a few people? First, the majority of Rudy patrons are probably not local townspeople. I see buses come in from all over for their quality shows, and I doubt seriously that they heavily patronize our local establishments. Especially since, we have no restaurants to speak of in downtown any more, so we are not getting sales or meals tax revenue from them. Next, if the people are from out of town, why would the town subsidize residents of other municipalities to partake of their chosen leisure activities like live shows?

This is my major quibble with the building of sports facilities for football, basketball, and baseball teams. A sports team owner decides that he wants a nice, new stadium and threatens to leave town if he doesn’t get one. The town, state, and county involved generally capitulate and either perform major renovations (a la Five County Stadium) or build something new (like Charlotte, Minnesota, or other major sports areas) and the taxpayers are on the hook for millions of dollars to support the leisure activity of sports fans and for the employment of professional athletes. At least with major sports teams, the local economy generally sees a big benefit for hotels, restaurants, facility rent, naming rights, concessions, sales, local employment, etc.

I personally like to go to the firing range, but the town does not supply a shooting range for my enjoyment. There are more people who own firearms in Selma than go to the Rudy, I guarantee. Why would we not enjoy taxpayer subsidy for our recreation? Is it fair to subsidize one activity over another? For what purpose? The prestige of having a theater in our town, even if it is of little economic benefit? If we are going to subsidize businesses, since Selma chose to become "The Antique Mecca of the South", why would we not subsidize privately owned antique business to attract more patrons and boost sales tax revenues and the occupancy rate of downtown businesses? Why this one niche of business over others?

Let’s ask the citizens of Roanoke Rapids and Halifax County how the public expense of building a performance theater worked out for them. I drive to Roanoke Rapids regularly for business and pass by the empty theater often. They had a tenant with some major backing lined up and even performing regularly. Millions of dollars and several legal actions later, the town has ended up owning the entire complex and is deep in debt.

Don't get me wrong, I am all for allowing The Rudy to expand their own facility and am in support of even using the designated revenues set aside for marketing through The Johnston County Visitors Bureau to promote the theater along with other attractions in town. I am just not in favor of the town building their facility for them at taxpayer expense.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Column for Nov. 17, 2011

I did not get to watch the municipal election results as they came in on television last week. I got home from vacation on Monday, and tried the best I could to catch up with all the stuff one has to do when coming back to work after a week off. I did manage to wade through some 600 or 700 emails, handle some communications, pack a suit case, go vote at my neighborhood polling place, and eventually head to Durham. After working there for the afternoon, I took off for Charlotte, which is where I am as I write this column. I watched the election results via my laptop computer and the County Board of Elections web site. That was good enough for me.

I read the vote count for the Selma mayor’s race and the town council race. I checked several web sites for local news outlets, as well. One local news outlet got the reporting wrong and it is still wrong as of this writing. It said that we have three seats on the Selma Town Council and the mayor’s position that were filled in the election. The last I knew, we had two of four town council seats up for election every two years and the mayor up for election every election cycle.

Personally, I was glad to see the outcome of the mayoral race. I have made no secret of my dislike for the methods of leadership employed over the past six years. I don’t like bullies or dictatorial leadership. I don’t like forced annexation, tax hikes, corporate welfare incentives, or wasting money on frivolity.

Congratulations to Cheryl Oliver, our new mayor elect. I believe in giving praise where praise is due. Mrs. Oliver ran a good campaign, which I expected after seeing her previous campaign for town council. She has been articulate, willing to listen, and laid out her views. I have not always agreed with all of her views, but I can appreciate that she has been able to articulate and defend her views. I can only hope that Mrs. Oliver serves with the same enthusiasm and slant on things as she has shared with me in conversation.

I know that Tommy Holmes was out campaigning this year, probably more than previous years. On a personal level, I like Tommy Holmes. I wish that his message was deeper, broader, and more articulate than “don’t raise taxes”, but that message apparently resonated with voters. When I ran for town council six years ago, I was relatively unknown, could do little campaigning, and Mr. Holmes got just 14 more votes than I did. I compare that to the latest vote where he garnered more votes than anyone else, including an incumbent and a long time public servant and former councilman. He seems to have worked harder this election. I know that Tommy came by my home while I was on vacation and he got to speak with my mother-in-law, who was house, dog, and babysitting while my lovely bride and I were out of the country.

In looking over the election results for neighboring Wake County and was sad to see that Heather Losurdo lost her runoff election for the Wake County School Board. The boldness of the school board in reversing the insanity of busing children across the county may eventually be reversed with a progressive, liberal majority again in Wake County.

As I wrote, I was stuck in Charlotte for the night of the elections. In Charlotte, Democrats swept a huge majority for town council and won the mayoral race. There looks to also be a shake up in the Mecklenburg County School Board. I don’t know what Charlotte and Wake County voters are thinking, but apparently they have not yet had enough of higher taxes, high spending, and Communist like social engineering.

There is one thing that I do know. There is another election coming up in just a few months for the Presidential Primary season. Also, there is another municipal election coming in another two years. Two years after that, every person just elected for town council and boards of education will be up for re-election. Every few years, we get the chance to change course and fix wrongs. That is the wisdom of our republican form of government.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Column for Nov. 10, 2011

I wrote about voting with your feet several weeks ago. I just ran across another such instance. My lovely bride too the family automobile to an automotive service establishment for its routine service. I tend to have this performed on regular basis. For years, we have been taking our personal and my company vehicles there for oil changes.

With this particular establishment, I had taken my company vehicle there just a week prior for service. I noticed that the management and staff seemed to have changed since my last visit. Certainly the demeanor of the personnel and level of service I got was less than to which I was accustomed. Still, when the family mini-van needed service, my wife and I figured that this place would be fast, even though it was slightly higher priced than I like to pay.

When the wife came home with a bill of over $130 for an oil change, my curiosity was raised. The company had performed unauthorized service on our vehicle. When I called them to inquire about it, I was informed that my wife had authorized the work, which is something she emphatically denies. Knowing that my wife is not prone to telling falsehoods, I had confirmed with her ahead of the phone call as to the details of the experience. Basically, the manager there called my wife a liar. Well, they just lost my business, my company’s business, and that of my family and friends.

By the time this column is published, the local municipal elections will have taken place. Whether I wrote this weeks or a day in advance, I would not yet be able to comment on the results because of publishing deadlines. I want to know that a candidate is well informed, has looked at the issues, and shares most of my values before I will consider voting for him or her. I wrote earlier about not having found any election guides yet on the internet, but I read the one for the municipal election in the October 27th edition of “The Selma News”. I must admit that I was disappointed in what I read there. How in the world does someone running for local elected office turn down the opportunity to have their views published in the local newspaper? Three candidates only had, “Declined to comment” listed by their names. I can only assume that someone running for office believes that they can do better than the current crop of representatives already in office. That means that you have to convince voters of that concept. I specifically look for local candidate interviews and responses to issue questions.

Some of the candidates that did answer slightly disappointed me as well. On the one hand, one candidate “would like to see more police officers on the street and more programs for the senior citizens.” Then the same person says “under no circumstances I feel taxes should increase. I feel taxes should be decreased.” Well, we can’t have it both ways without substantial cuts in personnel and services elsewhere. We get the level of services for which we are willing to pay. If we are not willing to cut some services for the benefit of other ones we deem as more worthy and/or raise taxes, we can not afford more police on the streets.

Just about every candidate mentions the high rate of rental properties in town. I often wonder if this is a real issue to some, considering the rental property interests of some on the Town Council, but that is another issue. I agree that we have a disproportionate amount of renters in town. However, that will not change unless we make living in our “Charming Place to Be” enticing to new residents who would purchase homes.

All but two candidates discussed the need to keep taxes on the low end. One danced around the issue, and the other only stated that any tax increase would correspond to increased expenditures.

So, what does any of this have to do with the recent experience at an oil change shop? I just hope that we citizens and taxpayers don’t ask for one level of service, get something other than what we asked, and have to pay significantly more than we wanted or expected. If we do, more potential businesses and residents will be dissuaded from coming to our town.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Column for Nov. 4, 2011

It is an odd numbered year. Signs are all over town for local candidates, whether they are large plywood ones, cardboard ones, or plastic ones. It must be municipal election season. This is pretty much an open letter to any candidate running for municipal office, in any town, but primarily my own.

I don’t know the position of every candidate running for office in my hometown. There are incumbents who have a voting record that I have followed. There is at least one candidate from whom all I have ever heard expressed for years has been, “Don’t raise taxes”. There are candidates with whom I am not familiar and have heard nothing about their views. As of this writing, I have looked for articles and questionnaires about candidates, but so far nothing has been found. I am writing this column a few weeks ahead of time, so I can understand why that may be the case.

The first thing I would say to candidates is to not be afraid to do what you were elected to do. If you were elected to stop irresponsible spending, then do just that. If you were elected to keep the tax rate down, lower utility costs, etc., then stand firm and do it. Do not let bullying tactics and political pressure keep you down. I was telling two candidates that I really want to see an end to dictatorial style leadership in my town. They were in full agreement.

As a citizen, I am interested in eliminating the superfluous spending on stupid stuff. I commented years ago about how the Town of Selma has Christmas lights on all year long and was criticized for my stance that it is tacky, a waste of electricity, and unnecessary. I stand by those comments, especially when I drive through town at night and see so many strands and bulbs that are burned out or non-functional throughout downtown. What a waste. Other wasteful things were the hiring of consultants for an unused “streetscape” plan, for a proposed new town hall, and for someone just to apply for a historic neighborhood designation. The historic neighborhood designation would realistically only benefit those who had older homes and have their personal egos stroked by having a house so designated. Those thousands of dollars could have been much better spent on fixing sidewalks, cleaning up the curbsides of town streets so they are not jungle-like, and many other projects.

I keep hearing one common theme from citizens and the couple of candidates with whom I have had the pleasure of speaking. That is about lowering the high utility bills in our public power community. I agree that something needs to be done, but it is probably more involved than just trimming rates. In reality, we need to divest ourselves of the electricity business and let private industry take it over. There would be more regulatory protections, lower rates, and we would get the exact same product. By and large, if a business provider can be found in the phone book, we probably should not have government doing the job.

I am a big proponent of personal freedom and property rights, unless those rights infringe upon my own. This can apply to forced annexation and the extension of planning jurisdictional authority. We do not need to greedily bring in more square miles in order to grow our town. We need to offer a better climate for growth. It seems that there are some sorts of businesses we can’t keep going in town. We do need a better approach to downtown development. I was opposed to the all antiques, all the time concept fifteen years ago and still am, as just one example.

Speaking of business development, I am not a fan of incentive packages for business. We need to be judicious if we are going to use them at all. I read about an incentive package the Town of Selma is giving to a Wendy’s franchise to build at Exit 97 off the interstate. Quite honestly, it is a good location and a serious business would be building regardless of an incentive, but at least the package offered was not a huge one. If it goes awry, or even well, taxpayers can get the short end of the stick, as with Dell, Verizon, FedEx, and other businesses that relocate to North Carolina.

Even Sysco was a successful failure as an “incentive”. Though Sysco came to Selma, the company calls the Selma facility its Raleigh Division, the facility has not necessarily employed a bunch of Selma residents or attracted hundreds of people to live in Selma. Even their vice president bought his house in Clayton, not Selma. There is so much more that I could write, but brevity is not my friend this week.

So, candidates for public office, know that citizens are looking for common sense, fiscally responsible, and freedom loving governance. Hopefully, the citizenry will hold you accountable to these standards.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Column for Oct. 27, 2011

One of the things I have opined about since moving to North Carolina is the paradigm I found here about relative disregard for the inconvenience that people cause others. Call me a Yankee if you want, I really don’t care. I realize that I have a French surname not often found below the Mason-Dixon Line. Then again, I was born farther south than most anyone reading this column. I was raised in the state of New Hampshire and moved to Raleigh after graduating college to take a job there.

I have been in North Carolina more than half of my life now, certainly about all of my adult life. If that makes me still a Yankee in the eyes of some, so be it. I have a few news flashes for all those Southerners who readily throw around the term Yankee. First, the Civil War has been over since 1865. Second, Reconstruction is over and nobody who was considered a “Carpetbagger” is still alive today. Third, Yankees don’t consider the term a derogatory one, so try as you might, you are not going to get anywhere tossing that term around.

So why do I preface my column this way? Well, I was raised with the Yankee ethic that you should put forth a little more effort so as to not inconvenience other people if at all possible. For an area that claims “Bible Belt” status and high morals, the non-inconvenience concept does not seem to be among high on the priority list. Whether it is regard for others’ time, money, or effort, I have quite honestly found such consideration lacking in The South. Nowhere is this more evident to me than in the willingness to close roads around here.

In a small town of only 3.2 square miles (if Selma were a perfect square, that would mean that each side would only be 1.788854381999832 miles long) I find a good many street closings all allegedly in the name of safety or for the convenience of a select few. There are a bunch of streets that plain stop at railroad crossings. We have endured repeated street closings at live crossings that seem to drag on for weeks on end, and there has even been a debate about closing yet another street at a rail crossing. I wrote my opinion on that matter a few weeks back.

The Clayton Bypass was just fine the way it was for traffic entering onto Interstate 40. The problem was not design of the interchange but rather the sheer volume of commuting traffic. But some well intentioned control freak that does not mind further inconveniencing motorists thinks that it is a good idea to shut down one of the two lanes of traffic merging onto the interstate, so we have another example close to home about which to rant. Someone could not leave well enough alone.

What really cheesed me off recently was that I was driving to Research Triangle Park one morning and saw a work crew nailing down wood forms in the road at the rail crossing on North Pollock Street. I thought “To be sure, they are not going to make a traffic island there.” Sure enough, when I came home later in the day and drove southward on Pollock Street from Anderson Street, there were concrete traffic islands on either side of the tracks. Some pinhead behind a desk somewhere probably thinks that this is going to be a great safety feature. I see it as a huge inconvenience.

October 31st for many people means Halloween. For me, it marks the ninth anniversary of the day I closed on my house inside the 3.2 square miles we call Selma. I found out that there are some traffic lights that are short cycled and that there are some traffic lights that really need a protected left turn signal installed. One such light just happens to be on my regular route of travel here in town. In order to turn left onto West Anderson Street from Pollock Street, I used to wait at the traffic light on Pollock. Before 7 PM, that can be a difficult thing to do, believe it or not. I found that it is much more convenient to catch a break in traffic just after the railroad track and turn left onto Railroad Street, drive past the backside of my house, and go halfway around the block in order to get to my house. It is usually faster and more convenient that way. For the nine years that I have been living here, I have taken that shortcut, even if it is longer in distance. But no more.

Just how many reported accidents do we have at that intersection and rail crossing that would warrant the expenditure of revenue and inconvenience to drivers? I can not recall a single one that I have witnessed in my nine years of living here, not to mention several years of working in Selma previously. I am not sure if this was a governmental expenditure or a railroad expenditure. Either way, it was entirely unnecessary but probably made some bureaucrat feel good about the existence of his job.

Why the inconvenience and expense? Why the disregard for revenue expenditures and the inconvenience to motorists? I just don’t get it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Column for Oct. 20, 2011

I wanted to take a quick diversion right at the beginning this week to share a chuckle I had from the front page of last week’s “The Selma News”. There was a headline that said, “Just in time for Halloween: Selma has a bat problem”. I chuckled when I saw that because I have known that Selma had bats since I moved here. No, I am not talking about some of the residents or even Town Council members, but I have heard bats at night in this town for almost a decade now. Sometimes when I am outside late at night walking my old, trusty dog, Barack Odaga, also known as Slime Dog (his given name), I will hear the screech of bats overhead or nearby. I just took it for granted that this town had bats in it. Now I read that someone is just now making it known to the Town Council that there is a bat problem in town. I chuckled and sarcastically said to myself, “Noooooooooooooo, ya’ think?” Anyway, now back to the regularly scheduled rant, already in progress.

A friend of mine who lives in Wake County and decided to home school his son said to me and a television audience that if Wake County Schools are not smart enough to take a compass or protractor, lay it on a map, draw a circle around a school’s location, and have the children that live within the circle’s radius attend that school, then he didn’t want them educating his child. That seems like a common sense thing to me. It made sense when I went to school that I would go to the closest, neighborhood school available.

Unfortunately, voters in Wake County seem to have lost their common sense in their election this past week. They fell prey to the progressive mantra about diversity. The very people who fought for the right to simply go to a neighborhood school during the civil rights era of the 1960’s were the very ones who argued that the act of letting neighborhood children go to a neighborhood school in this present day is racist and hateful. They were organized and unrelenting in their attacks and disinformation. Of course the left leaning media outlets lapped it up like my aforementioned dog slurps the leftover milk from my morning bowl of cornflakes. As a result, some courageous school board members have been voted out of office.

Men and women who stood for the common sense concept of letting children go to schools in their own neighborhoods rather than needlessly transporting them across the county for the sake of racial and economic diversity will be replaced by potentially snivelling control freaks who don’t think that parents should have a say in the education of their children. One dear friend of mine was rather upset by this election result and, well, I can’t print here what she had to say about it.

I am thankful that we do not have such issues here in Johnston County. If we did and we were going to truly follow the spirit of racial and economic diversity, we would probably have to bus in White children as well as students from wealthier neighborhoods from the other side of the county. White children at Selma Elementary, by nature of the town demographics, are the vast minority. Also, children not receiving government assistance in the form of free and reduced lunch prices are also a tiny minority. In order to balance this out, should children from perhaps the Cleveland community be put on school buses and sent clear across the county to help populate Selma Elementary? For that matter, should students with Hispanic surnames who live in Selma be bused to Polenta Elementary School? Of course not.

Here is one thing I will say about the lefties in this country. When they think that they have a cause, they rally behind it, however misguided it may be. One only needs to look at the “Occupy New York” and other similar “Occupy” rallies held across the country. They have no real coherent message other than to demonize those who hold wealth in order to force some of it to be appropriated for use by others. Redistribution of wealth makes as little sense to me as redistribution of students for the sake of diversity. Both have politically correctness and socialist indoctrination as part of their core.

How is that “hope and change” thing working out for you? I would say not so well. Yes, there can be change, but let us not continue the slide into socialism and government control. Keep that in mind this next election season, even when we have municipal elections next month.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Column for Oct. 13, 2011

Every once in a while, my thoughts in life seem to fall in direct order with something I will see or hear. I have had a few conversations recently with people and even written about my living in Johnston County and my involvement in public activities over the years. I believe in getting involved, whether at the governmental level, in Christian service, in a group like Cub Scouts, or even banging away on this keyboard for years. I endeavor to leave my impact on my town, my county, my state, and my nation in one way or another. It may be through my offspring or via my direct influence.

Sometimes I wonder if anything I write or say has an impact. Recently I had a conversation with a young man with whom I was engaged in a disagreement. Weeks later he came to me and told me that something I said during that less than calm dispute stuck with him. A seed was planted, took root, and bore fruit. This young man’s life was seemingly changed for the better.

Recently I had a conversation with someone who has stepped their foot into the local public spotlight. I was told that this person’s family reads my column regularly, for which I am grateful to hear. I have long said that I want to impact people’s thought patterns for the better, which in my opinion, would be the adherence to the principles I have been hammering away on and espousing here for the past five years.

Do I do it for the pay? (Snicker, snicker!) Good grief, no. My pay has remained the same for the past five years, which is the satisfaction of knowing that my ramblings are printed here each and every week and that people, whether they love or hate me, are reading. I do get a free copy of this paper every week, though, so I guess you could say that I do it for the satisfaction, the love of writing, and a $20 subscription. And for those, I am both very grateful and content. I am happy just being a small town newspaper columnist.

Many times I have listened to big name talk radio show hosts and known that I am better than what I was hearing come through the speakers of my stereo or streaming on my computer. Though I wonder why those opportunities come to some and not others, I am learning more and more to be content. I am striving to live out Paul’s admonition in 1 Timothy 6, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”

Just this Sunday, I listened to a sermon that dealt with our attitudes towards government officials. I admit that I often fall short on that topic, primarily because there is so much of which to be critical and I happen to be a rather outspoken individual, having no shortage of opinions. Those opinions have grown and matured over time to a place where I feel comfortable with what I believe. Ergo I am confident to and endeavor to be a beacon with a truthful, steady message. Anyway, the passage mentioned was out of the book of Jeremiah, in chapter 29. “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (CEV).

Sometimes I feel like I am in exile, maybe even Babylon. I never wanted to move to Johnston County. I was quite satisfied living in Raleigh with the exception of the ever increasing rent on a townhouse I was renting. It took God Himself telling me that he wanted me in Johnston County to get me to move here. I have often wondered why. I have now been a Johnstonian for about fourteen years and a “Selmite” for nine. Wherever I find myself planted, I endeavor to seek the welfare of the city where I was sent. I try to do so with this column, with my community involvement at various levels, it is why I ran for elected office, and why I will continue to plug away at what I know to do.

The Jeremiah 29:7 principle sums up my reason for being in this town. I need to pray more for our community. I am sure that we all do.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Column for Oct. 6, 2011

You vote with your feet. You vote with your wallet. How many times have you heard those two statements? Well, they are true, which is why those sayings are still around. Then again, untrue statements like, “It takes a village to raise a child” still linger in our vernacular. No, it takes committed parents to raise a child, but that is another topic for another day.

I vote with my feet. I decided to leave ineffective organizations, whether they were political parties, town advisory boards, church groups, civic organizations, or county government boards. I vote with my wallet, too. I currently have in place family boycotts on two restaurants and one grocery store. One restaurant boycott is in place because of political and ideological treason committed by its owner in 2010. The other restaurant boycott is against a Mexican cuisine establishment because they were closed May 1, 2006 in observance of “A Day Without Immigrants”. If you remember, that was a nationwide event in which primarily Hispanic businesses closed down for a day in protest against stances for tighter immigration policies and in support of illegal immigrants. I used to go to that restaurant almost every week because of their excellently priced dinner specials on Tuesday nights. The grocery store boycott is because of the obnoxious treatment I received from the store’s proprietor in 2005. For six years I have not bought any groceries at that one store despite its convenient proximity. For over five years I have not eaten at the Mexican restaurant. For well over a year, I have not taken my family to the other restaurant, and we used to patronize them regularly. These businesses have lost many thousands of dollars of my business as I voted with my wallet. The ineffective groups have not had my assistance or participation because I voted with my feet.

In a day when most politicians practice kissing babies while stealing their candy, and mortgage their futures with unsustainable debt, every so often one elected official does the right thing by voting with the wallet of his constituents and with his feet. I give applause to Johnston County Register of Deeds, Craig Olive, for his decision to withdraw Johnston County from the North Carolina Association of Registers of Deeds. That organization gets money from member county governments and has come under scrutiny for its activities behind closed doors and poor fiscal responsibility.

Mr. Olive was quoted as saying, “I fought against customer fee increases, membership increases, opposed the organization's secrecy, and pushed hard for the removal of personal identifying information that can lead to identity theft. When the statewide association wanted to close its meetings to the tax-paying public, I said no. They did it anyway. Last year, when the association wanted to raise customer fees and member dues, which come from county taxpayers, I said it was too much. They went ahead with them anyway. In an effort to cut costs in these dire economic times, I have reduced my office's budget significantly. Meanwhile, the statewide association continues to spend recklessly. Even after the recent newspaper expose, its leaders suffer an arrogant sense of entitlement. I can no longer contribute Johnston County tax dollars to support such a wayward association, so I will not be renewing our membership and our financial support of it.”

That sort of decision by Craig Olive took a bit of political courage to buck the current system, but it also took some common sense. Why continue feed the beast that is ravaging you? Why waste taxpayer dollars on causes that are antithetical to your charge as an elected official and your beliefs as a responsible citizen?

On a side note, I still cannot get past Craig’s elected title. Is not the Register of Deeds the official record of deeds whereas the person who oversees the register should be the Registrar? Who came up with the title “Register of Deeds” with which to refer to a person? That has never made sense to me. Nonetheless, my thanks as a taxpaying citizen and as one who voted for Registrar Olive. For what it is worth, Craig Olive has done a better job than for which I first gave him credit. I was willing to vote for him because he has always had an ambition for public service and because I knew his conservative ideology. He has been the exception to the rule, in my opinion, outperforming my personal expectations. Craig has fortunately voted with his feet and with our wallets on our behalf. Thank you, Craig.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Column for September 29, 2011

When will these people get it? Liberal tax and spend Democrats (and even some Republicans) don’t know what the word, “NO!” means or understand basic economics. I was reading a news story about a North Carolina State Legislator who wants to bring back a one cent sales tax increase for us citizens to pay. It did not take long to comprehend why it is being proposed again. Bill Faison is a state representative from near Berkley East, meaning liberal Orange County.

The plan that he has been pitching is to reinstate a one penny (1%) sales tax hike to fund state jobs that have recently been cut. His wants to rehire over 6,400 state employees that were laid off because of budget cuts. His claim is that the tax hike would bring in over a billion dollars a year. His slogan is “Give a penny, hire a state worker.” I will admit that a one cent sales tax would be nearly invisible to the average shopper. When I go to Wal-Mart and spend a few hundred dollars, I may never notice the increase in the tax. However, over a year’s course of time, that one penny sales tax hike adds up.

Several things occurred to me as I read the news story. First is that someone is actually proposing a tax hike in a down economy. That is abject stupidity. Of course that is exactly what is currently happening on the national level, not just the state level. The second thing is that state employees were laid off. Obviously they were not essential to the workings of the government, hence their dismissal. That tells me that they was extra baggage that was attached to an already bloated bureaucracy. I feel for the people who lost their jobs. We had to deal with it in our own household, too, as my wife used to be a government employee. I know first hand as a former state employee that there are more employees than are necessary for the efficient running of the government. I also know that some agencies are anemic on employees whereas other departments are employee laden and bloated.

On December 15, 1802, Thomas Jefferson said in his annual address to Congress, “...when merely by avoiding false objects of expense we are able, without a direct tax, without internal taxes, and without borrowing to make large and effectual payments toward the discharge of public debt and the emancipation of our posterity from that mortal canker, it is an encouragement, fellow citizens, of the highest order to proceed as we have begun in substituting economy for taxation...” Congress, along with the previous two administrations had instituted certain taxes. Jefferson decided to eliminate those taxes and instead allow the economy to grow. A growing economy with lower taxes actually eventually brings in an increased amount of revenue. John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush also knew this principle.

One oft overlooked portion of that quote is “avoiding false objects of expense”. This simply means cutting spending levels and unnecessary expenditures. Jefferson also endeavored to eliminate the public debt rather than allow what he considered a moral canker to affect future generations. In all of the presidential administrations from George Washington to George W. Bush, the national government accrued some $12 trillion in debt. Under the present administration alone, we have doubled that figure. Jefferson would have most certainly considered this more than just a moral canker.

The Town of Smithfield has not figured out simple economics yet, either. Smithfield is attempting to force new businesses just outside of their public utility boundary to use their services rather than allowing them to use the cheaper, equally available electricity provided directly from Progress Energy. It is all about bringing in more revenue into the town. It has nothing to do with fostering a business friendly climate under which a company can thrive. It is all about feeding the voracious appetite of government.

I have written of my views on public power grids and their detrimental affect upon citizens and business. It would be one thing if Smithfield offered rates the same as Progress Energy, but they don’t. Furthermore, it is unconscionable to me to force businesses to go with a higher energy cost just because a town wants to use its governing power to gain more revenue. Lower overhead costs like the cost of electricity will help foster a better business climate, not forced, punitive, higher rates. Anything higher than what the power company would charge is nothing more than a tax increase, and I doubt that Thomas Jefferson would find it to be anything more than yet another moral canker.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Column for September 22, 2011

As I write this week’s column, I am sitting in a hotel room along the North Carolina coast. I finally took a break from working on a project for my employer. I am a technician for a large multi-media and entertainment company. Sometimes I put in long hours, sometimes I travel, and sometimes during my travels, I have to stay the occasional overnight (or several nights).

It is part of my job to work long hours when needed. More than that, it is part of my ethic to do so. There are limits, though. I will have a life outside of my job and I will have extra-curricular activities. For instance, I volunteer with a local Cub Scout pack in Smithfield. There was a feeble attempt to start a new pack in Selma a few years ago, for which I offered to become involved in any needed capacity. Since that work never materialized, I became involved along with my eight-year-old son in the existing organization. I am sure that I will have to go through it all over again in four or five years with my toddler when he is old enough to get involved in Scouting. Then, when the “bun in the oven” is born and is old enough, he or she may well get involved in Scouting and Dear Old Dad will probably be involved then, as well.

Last week I had a weekend off from work. I got a phone call from a co-worker asking about a technical problem he was having. The technician on call had already been on the road that day and I was one of the few people who knew about the technology in question. So, I got drafted into working on a Sunday afternoon. In so doing, I had to blow off my commitment that day with Cub Scouts. That was the “season opener”, so to speak, for this year’s Cub Scout activities. I was not at all happy about it, but it was something that had to be done. After all, my employer supplies me with the job and salary that pays my bills.

On the way home, after working on my day off and missing my beloved Scouts, I had to stop by the friendly, local grocery store and pick up a few items. I took my less than twelve items to the express checkout lane, which was misnamed at this point. The young man behind the counter was obviously new. He had to constantly get help from other checkout staff no less than four times on one transaction. I don’t blame him for the problem and long wait. I do blame the company for putting such an untrained newbie at the register. I also blame something else.

As I was waiting in line for the incredibly long transaction, I could not help but notice that the couple getting the small amount of groceries and tendered the payment that caused the debacle most likely did not speak English as their native language and were probably from a land south of our nation’s border. They were using a WIC voucher as payment. It was the voucher processing that gave the young cashier such a problem, only because it was new to him. As I looked over at the next register, I saw a middle aged man paying for his cart full of groceries with a government issued food stamp debit card. I was less than thrilled to know that I was paying for their grocery purchases as well as my own.

In this present economy, I understand that a lot of people may be out of work. It is frustrating, however, to work as hard as I do and see my tax dollars supporting so many others who are not. I know people who have never worked in their lives but are collecting food stamps, Social Security benefits, disability benefits, or other forms of government subsidy. For those who do want to work, the government created the high unemployment situation with their own policies, and many just can’t keep up with the cost of living life with no job.

To make it worse, President Barack Obama is trying to push through yet another stimulus spending package and tax hike under the guise of a jobs bill. As I was explaining to a friend of mine the other day, this bill follows a pattern. I said to him, “Step one: institute plans that will financially injure the country and cause job loss. Step two: create a so-called solution to the problem just created with more of the same strategy that caused the problem to begin with. Step three: take an increasing amount of control over the population in the name of remedying the now increasing problem caused the solution to the problem originally created.”

I realize that this so-called jobs bill probably won’t pass through Congress, but I have a feeling that things are still going to get worse before they get better and I am going to see a lot more WIC vouchers and food stamps at my neighborhood grocery store. Maybe at least the nice but inexperienced grocery clerk will get better at what he does.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The next addition to the LaPlante family countdown

Column for September 15, 2011

Last week I wrote about the tenth anniversary of the attacks of September 11th, 2001. There were specials on television all weekend commemorating that anniversary and the events thereof. I have to admit that I was sufficiently busy that I didn’t get to watch any of them. However, on Sunday morning I was driving to worship services with other saints of God and I stated listening to the various memorial services that were being broadcast live on the radio. Live services were being broadcast from the Wold Trade Center site, the Pentagon, and the United Flight 93 crash memorial in western Pennsylvania.

As I started listening, I said to myself that I should turn the station, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. The more I listened, the more I recalled the events of that day. I recalled the innocent lives that were taken by acts of pure evil. I recalled the bravery of citizens aboard United Flight 93 and that of not only emergency response personnel in New York City, but of ordinary people who helped and gave their lives for others. I was literally moved to tears.

One thing that irritated me about the aftermath of 9/11 was that I predominantly heard about the police and firefighters who ran in to the World Trade Center buildings that day to rescue people and perished in their efforts to do so. Maybe I am biased, but I often thought more about those who were trying to run out of the buildings, not just those who ran into them. Don’t get me wrong, I am in full support of emergency service workers. I did it for a living, myself at one point in my life. It is the sheer bravery and sense of duty to their fellow man that drove men to run into burning buildings and save the lives of others. These were people who willingly put their lives on the line and they deserve every last shred of respect that they got. My perspective is slightly different in that this was indeed their jobs. Their jobs were noble and it takes a special breed to save lives and property. It is the untrained, average person that perishes that I weep over even more, especially in such numbers.

I cringe at the special legal and media attention given to “cop killers” sometimes. Again, don’t get me wrong. I have great respect for law enforcement personnel. They are often highly trained and professional. I guess that the difference is that they are just that. They are armed, trained, and are paid to risk their lives. For that they deserve our admiration and respect. It is when untrained, unarmed, innocent lives are taken by evil people and often given far less attention that steams me even more.

I think that my perspective is this way because I have done the emergency response career. I have worked for and with police officials. I expect others who do that line of work to be willing to put their lives on the line as much as I was. My wife is often the biggest critic of and is harder on restaurant wait staff than I am. The reason is because she was a waitress for years, herself. She expects others who do that line of work to be as dedicated to service as she was, and I comprehend that.

I started to weep Sunday morning over the lives that were lost, the evil that came upon people, the children who would grow up without a parent or loved one, and the husbands and wives who lost their life partners.

To top all of this off, I started watching the show “24” on DVD. I had never seen a single episode until about a month ago. I bought season one on DVD and then quickly bought seasons two and three as well. They are fairly inexpensive now on and this is how I often watch TV shows. I find a show I want to see and sneak in an hour of watching in between work cycles. I was watching season two the past few days. It sort of gives the show a different perspective right around the ten year anniversary of 9/11. Yeah, it is just a TV show. I see a lot of things that are very “Hollywood” and unrealistic in the show. I have to suspend disbelief in order to enjoy the show at times, but that is the case with most television shows. Watching terrorist plots destroyed by Jack Bauer does give just a little bit of a desire to cheer the good guy, I guess.

I did not plan on going in this direction in this week's column, but that is what has been on my heart for the past few days. I pray that we never have to endure another attack in this country, but I know that we eventually will. The terrorists only have to get it right once to succeed in an attack. We as a nation have to get it right each and every time in order to prevent one.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

World Trade Center

With the upcoming 10 year anniversary of Sept. 11th, I am sharing this photo. I found it shortly after the events of 9/11 and kept it. It is an artist's rendering of what the rebuild World Trade Center should look like. I am in full agreement. It sends a message to the ones who perpetrated the act. We are still here.

World Trade Center artist rendering

Monday, September 05, 2011

Column for September 8, 2011

This coming weekend will mark the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks on the United States. I remember well how I began my work day at my computer on the dining room table and had the television on in the next room. Since at the time I was in a small, rented, single wide trailer, the two rooms were open and near each other. I remember tuning to a news channel out of curiosity of the day’s events and caught a breaking story about a jet airplane that had hit The World Trade Center in New York City. I watched with astonishment as I observed live on national television, the second jetliner slam into the other tall building. There was no doubt that this was not a coincidence.

Just the day before, on September the 10th, I remember driving through Raleigh. I had an urgent feeling within me to pray. I had no idea why, but I had the burden. After a while, the Spirit of God said very clearly to me, “War is coming to your shores.” I had no idea that it would take the form it did the very next day.

I could sense the rising anger in America that day. It was almost palpable. Just as after December 7th, 1941, this nation heard of “a day that will live in infamy”, we had our own generation’s infamous day. Can you imagine during World War II the government issuing guidelines to minimize the role of Japan in the attack on Pearl Harbor? Ten years after the slaughter of thousands of innocent civilians and public safety officials, that is just what our government is attempting to do. The administration of President Barack Hussein Obama has issued guidelines to federal government managers admonishing them to minimize the role of Al Queda (i.e, radical Islam) in Sept. 11th. The guidelines state, “As we commemorate the citizens of over 90 countries who perished in the 9/11 attacks, we honor all victims of terrorism, in every nation around the world. We honor and celebrate the resilience of individuals, families, and communities on every continent...” Furthermore, the document states that with Osama Bin Laden dead, there is reason to “minimize references to Al Qaeda” and that “Al Qaeda and its adherents have become increasingly irrelevant.”

Look, I don’t care what sect or organization from whence the perpetrators of 9/11 came. I do know that they were adherents to a radical view of Islam. Lately I have been doing more study on Islam and I don’t find it to be “the religion of peace” like we keep hearing. I find that their definition of peace is having every person in the world in submission to their god, whether by personal volition or by sword.

On June 4th, 2009, President Barack Hussein Obama gave a speech in Cairo, Egypt that was meant to address Muslims about the relations between the United States and Islam. He said, “I know, too, that Islam has always been a part of America's story.” He is correct. If Muslims had not conquered Constantinople in the year 1453 and cut off the land trade route from Europe to India and China, Christopher Columbus would not have been sent to find a sea route to the Orient by sailing westward. In so doing, he found the North American continent in 1492.

Thomas Jefferson sent the newly founded navy and marines to fight the Barbary Pirates, who were Muslims that captured the ships of other nations. We built new ships for our new navy to serve not only in the Quasi-war with France, but also in The First Barbaby War. The USS Constitution was a frigate that served well against the weaker corsair ships that the Muslims had at the time. “Old Ironsides”, as The USS Constitution was nicknamed, is still in service today. I have personally stood aboard that vessel and hope to again soon.

Make no mistake that the attacks on the United States were about us, not other nations. Though there are terrorist acts all over the world, perpetrated by radical Islam upon us “infidels”, commemorations of 9/11 are about our own country being attacked by radical Islam. I can not imagine wanting to minimize the role of the responsible party. I believe in this so much that I have purchased and wear a ball cap with the word “Infidel” in both English and Arabic on it to make it easier for radical Muslims to spot this Christian patriot. I will never forget September 11th, 2001, who perpetrated the events of that infamous day, and why. May God bless America, the land considered by radical Muslims to be “The Great Satan”.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Column for September 1, 2011

How did you fare during Hurricane Irene? At our homestead, we fared the storm rather well. We still have not gotten around to picking up the storm debris as of the time I am sitting and writing this, but we will soon. Oddly enough, the yard at the house next to mine, which normally looks like it is owned by Herman Munster, looks better than mine. The house has been abandoned for years and the town regularly has to enforce the tall grass ordinance upon its owners, but a work crew came out just after the storm.

We have family and friends closer to the coast that had some flooding and power loss. I have family in New England that saw a lot of tree limbs down. I have a friend in New York state that had his entire house flooded up to the second floor, and he lost his car to Irene, as well. The Northeast is often prepared for blizzard conditions in the winter but is rarely prepared for events such as the recent earthquake and hurricane. Irene was just a category one storm when it hit North Carolina and moved up the eastern seaboard, but it still dropped a lot of rain and destruction in its path.

Long before hurricane season, we discussed purchasing a generator for emergency power. Just before the storm was coming, I found a decent price on a small generator that would have been more than sufficient to power my freezer and refrigerator. It figures that when I went back to the store, the only one left had been sold. Oh, well. Fortunately for us, we never lost electricity, telephone, cable television, or internet. We were able to keep in touch with others and current conditions.

The county’s Code Red system even called us when there were flash flood warnings issued. If you have not signed up for the county’s emergency telephone notification system, you can do so free of charge. Just go to the county’s web site and look for the Code Red logo. I was on the Local Emergency Management Planning Committee when this system was demonstrated for the county. It seemed to work well and should be able to suit our needs. It is a service provided at taxpayer expense, so it is not in reality “free” but it costs no extra money for us citizens to make use of it. If we are paying for it, we might as well use it. No offense to Greg Fishel and WRAL, but if the county is going to pay for an emergency service, I doubt I am going to pay to subscribe to another service.

Now there is yet another tropical depression that could become named storm number 12 and is predicted to come towards the east coast. As the east coast recovers from the Carolinas to Canada, I can only hope and pray for those who have suffered loss. There is that and I can help financially as I am able. I encourage you to do the same. My employer has set up a donation fund I am going to investigate. There are also some reputable charities out there that can take donations. Americans are some of the most generous people on the planet. We reach out to help earthquake and tsunami victims on the other side of the globe. We also tend to help our own. According to the CIA’s own web site, 76.8% of Americans are identified as professing Christianity. I tend to think that has something to do with the charitable ethos.

I have to be honest in that I don’t always understand God’s ways. I figure that I am not supposed to, since his ways and thoughts are higher than mine (Isaiah 55:9). I know of theological schools of thought that believe that God sends every hurricane. I know other opposing views that storms like this are of Satanic origin. I suspect that the truth is probably somewhere between the Calvinist and the hard core Arminian beliefs. I do know that God sends rain on both the just and the unjust alike and that the winds and the waves can obey His command. Does He give the command for tropical storms to develop? I have to be honest and say that I don’t have the answer to that question, but one day I hope to have an answer. What I do know is that I am thankful for God’s provision, the life that He has given, the tribulations that make us stronger, for the family he has given me, and the shelter he has provided from the storms of life, both material and metaphorical. May we all reflect upon God’s mercy and grace and be thankful for what we do have.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Column for August 25, 2011

Should a town be beholden to the State of North Carolina for every last decision? I say no. I was reading the article in “The Selma News” about about the Town of Selma’s desire to close the road around the railroad crossing on Preston Street by the old feed mill. I cringed when I read about how the Town Council decided to hold off on the vote until next month. I wish I still had the newspaper in front of me, but my two-year-old got to it, tore up the paper, and it got tossed in the recycle bin. I do recall that the town wanted to get input from the state Department of Transportation before taking a decision. I am all for having all the needed information before you prior to taking decisions, but that irked me a bit.

If Selma is an autonomous government agency, then it has its own jurisdiction and decision taking ability. I am told that Preston Street is a state road despite its length and termination points. It probably should be a town road, anyway. As much as I disagree with the proposed closing, I do believe that it should be Selma's decision to take, considering that the road is entirely within the town's jurisdiction.

There is a reason that each town has its own jurisdiction. I think back to when Selma was rezoning a parcel of land so that it could be used for industrial applications, specifically for an ethanol plant. I recall it vividly because I was on the town’s Planning Board at the time and was one of those who voted on that matter. I also went to the town council meeting about that decision. What irritated me about that meeting was that our neighboring town of Pine Level wanted to have a say in the matter. Speakers from Pine Level droned on for quite some time about their opposition to the ethanol plant. First, the agenda item was for a rezoning request, not for a debate over the merits of an ethanol plant. Second, this was a Selma matter within Selma planning and zoning jurisdiction, and not that of Pine Level. Selma can take its own decisions within its own jurisdiction, thank you very much.

As to the road closing request coming from a safety perspective, I do have experience in this area. Safety and risk management are part of my educational and work background. Sometimes there are acceptable levels of risk to take. Anytime you get into an automobile, there are inherent risks associated with travel of any distance. Yet we assume that risk regularly. How often are we going to shut down an intersection under the guise of safety? That railroad crossing has been decades and yet I don’t recall a single massive wreck associated with it in the news since I have been a Johnstonian. So to me, the safety issue is a non sequitur.

This safety claim reminds me of my very first column in this very newspaper about the Town of Selma spending thousands of dollars to take down an abandoned water tower for alleged safety and liability issues. The tower had been fine as it was for decades, but in a time of budget cuts and layoffs of town personnel, the town spent money needlessly at that point. It was reasonable, assumable risk at the time and could have been accomplished later in better financial times.

There are two more reasons that I personally oppose the closing of this railroad crossing. The first is freedom. I occasionally use this public road, for which I pay taxes for its upkeep. I despise the many roads that already dead end at railroad tracks in this town. How many more are we going to close? Shall we wait until only Pollock Street, Buffalo Road, Anderson Street, and Ricks Road remains as crossings?

Furthermore, I am not much for accommodating a railroad’s desire to close a road when they keep digging up our crossings almost every year, especially at Ricks Road. We have the worst crossing there now we have ever had. Another bad crossing is now near the train depot on East Anderson Street. Trenches with gravel tossed in them have been the norm now for quite a while and are simply horrendous. I can remember at least four times in as many years that the crossing at Ricks Road has been closed and torn up. Each time it’s never a quality job as was done on Peedin Road in Smithfield, on Buffalo Road, or even in the Town of Lillington.

Until all of our crossings are fixed nicely by all railroads that cross through our town and in a timely fashion, I would not be so willing to make accommodations for taking away more of our town’s access ways. As it is, I saw three signs on three different roads just this week warning of temporary crossing closures. Closing multiple crossings for construction has happened before, and I find that to be more dangerous in terms of cutting off emergency response by fire and ambulance equipment than any single crossing remaining open. It almost makes me want to see Railroad Days changed to some other type of festival. I can’t possibly be the only one who thinks that way.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Column for August 18, 2011

My wife and I bought a family membership to the NC Zoological Society about a month ago. We were planning a family trip to the NC Zoo in Asheboro, so we bought a membership for us and one more adult. We figured that since we make about one trip a year to one of the aquariums at our state’s coast and the zoo admission was sufficiently high that a membership that covers both places would make sense financially.

Had I known of all the animal sightings we were going to encounter in the coming weeks, I would not have gone to the zoo. Just this Monday we saw a vulture in front of our house. It was checking out a dead squirrel that had gotten run over in the street. When we came out the door, the startled bird flew away and I was a bit surprised to see a large bird taking flight at the end of my driveway. Then I looked to see what he was munching on and saw the dead, flat, gray rat with a bushy tail laying in the road.

Selma has an ordinance covering stray dogs. “It is unlawful for any owner or keeper of any dog to permit such dog to run at large within the town.” That is verbatim from the town code. It seems that we have a lot of them running around lately. I do take my dog outside, generally off leash since we pretty much cover from my house to the corner and back. My dog knows his territory and in general stays within it. When he has done his sniffing (reading the newspaper, as I call it) and relieved himself, we go back inside. My dog is always indoors, with me as we go outside together, or in my fenced backyard.

Lately we have been having issues with at least five different dogs wandering through the neighborhood. Three of them are habitually running loose. They especially become a nuisance when I attempt to take old Barack Odoga outside. Just last night a stray Golden Retriever came up to play with my dog, startling both him and myself. The dog got underfoot and I stepped on one of its paws. Whether I use a leash or not (and I occasionally do), these strays are a nuisance. My neighbor’s dogs have been known to be up at 2 AM barking at strays. That of course sets off the entire neighborhood alarm of barking dogs.

Selma has another town ordinance that has to be fractured in order to take care of the aforementioned one. One of the stupidest ordinances in town simply states, “Any person using an air rifle in the town shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.” There are no qualifiers for this ordinance. On my own property, I should be allowed to fire my Daisy Red Rider that I have owned since I was age ten. As long as I am not shooting anybody else or damaging the property of others, I should be allowed to have a BB shooting range in my back yard if I want. Besides, a BB in the side of a stray dog has been known to get rid of the nuisance. It is obvious that there are no real animal control efforts going on, so someone has to make the pesky critters leave the premises.

The last animal display that we saw happened within the last week. I took my wife and children out for an inexpensive family meal. The establishment serves up a pizza, salad, and soup buffet. It is fairly cheap, so we have been known to go there once in a while.

On Saturday afternoon we were grazing on the salad and attempting to find some normal style and appealing pizza on the buffet when a swarm of locusts entered the restaurant. I almost felt like Pharaoh after I refused Moses’ demand to let his people go.

An entire team of child soccer players came in while we were there. At first I said that they were going to be like locusts and pick the buffet clean. These children were all wearing uniforms that actually had a foreign company sponsor’s name in a foreign language on them. I don’t care from whence you come, but if you are going to enjoy the freedom in America and the relative prosperity that we have, at least assimilate to the language and culture.

While my wife and I took turns going up to the buffet to bring back plates of different kinds of pizza for our two children and ourselves, the locusts acted more like wild jackals. They pushed, shoved, and handled their buffet of prey. They picked apart the food with their bare hands, stepped on feet, ran into people, and never once apologized for doing so. They were loud, filling the entire restaurant with a buzz of foreign language, laughter, and the sound of silverware and plates clanging. We could barely hear each other above the din.

Who needs the zoo when we have wild dogs, vultures, cute gray rats, locusts, and jackals right here in Johnston County?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Column for August 11, 2011

I don’t know about you, but I don’t enjoy losing thousands of dollars overnight. Thanks to the Congress and President of the United States, that is exactly what just happened. Whether or not I recover that money remains to be seen. I am sure that there are others who lost a lot more than I did, but any loss like this is something I notice. If you are like me, you may have a 401(k) retirement savings plan or perhaps some other sort of arrangements. Maybe you invest in the stock market for income or to dabble and play. Whatever your status is, I am sure that you have heard the news of the falling stock market over the past few days.

Quite honestly, I am not a big time investor, but I have made a few investments over the years and am working on building a nest egg for my retirement years. For years I have been socking away money into my company’s retirement plan. Like all things economic, the market fluctuates. I took quite a hit several years back when my employer merged with another company and the company stock plummeted. I lost thousands of dollars in the value of my 401(k). Just since last week, my retirement fund has lost over $6000 and that does not include the downturn from today’s market. Still, I would rather put my money in the market and risk it than putting it in the government coffers and pray that the government can afford to give me back my own money with a far lower rater of return on investment than what I am still getting in my 401(k).

With the recent federal government’s “credit rating” being downgraded a notch, a lot of investors are having knee-jerk reactions. David Beers, the head of Standard and Poor’s (one of three key credit-ratings agencies) government debt-rating unit, got it right. He said, “Congress and the administration are jointly responsible for the conduct of fiscal policy. So, this is not really about either political party." Predictably, the ones most responsible for the financial problems have been pointing fingers at everyone but themselves. I have in front of me two news articles about blame shifting for the stock market and credit rating debacle.

Far left liberals have been branding Republicans as steadfast ideologues that were inflexible. Senator (and former Presidential candidate) John Kerry blamed the “Tea Party” followers for the downgrade. No, Senator, it was a problem with spending that led to the downgrade, not a particular group of people who stood in opposition to the irresponsible and reckless spending that we have seen over the past five plus years (and yes, I include some of the tenure of George W. Bush in this) that was the reason that the nation’s credit rating was taken down a notch for the first time in our history.

The sodomite Representative from Massachusetts, Barney Frank proffered yet another absurd explanation. He blamed our “spending too much money being the military policemen of the world." In all fairness, I am in agreement with Frank that we should pull back our military from much of the world and police our own borders rather than protecting those of other nations and supporting the economies of foreign countries. However, military spending is not the problem alone. The problem is with entitlement spending that is eating up the majority of our budget. We spend far more on wealth redistribution than we do on the military. Barney Frank has had his hands involved with the Fannie Mae and Freddy Mack scandals, which were costly to the American taxpayers. The policies that he does support and fight for cost Americans far more than our military ever thought of costing.

I recently heard a Christian book publisher speak in Wilson, NC. He seemed fairly naive when it came to political issues. He stated that Democrats were too far to the left (I agree with that) and that the Tea Party was too far to the right. He was way off with that last part. The so-called Tea Party folks simply want a few things such as a return to fiscal sanity and the restrictions imposed by the US Constitution. There is nothing “far right” about wanting to adhere to our founding document. The ironic thing is that the person who coordinated that speaking engagement is a leader in the local Tea Party movement. I could feel the tension in the room after he made that inane statement.

In the interest of disclosure, I am not a registered Republican, nor am I a member of any Tea Party organization. As far as I am concerned, both are way behind the times. I don’t consider the GOP to be conservative any longer and I was preaching constitutional government and fiscal sanity long before the Tea Party Movement came about.

Here is what I do know for sure. It is the irresponsible policies of Congress and the President that have seriously affected my personal wealth and that of millions of other Americans. The leaches who depend upon government handouts and like the current reckless spending notwithstanding, let’s all remember who has been affecting our personal finances when we go to the ballot box in 2012.