Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Column for March 31, 2011

Every so often, I see some encouraging signs in business. I have been reading about a new day spa that has opened in Selma. Also in our own town, Foodies at Heart has been open for a little over a month and has seen some good success in its opening days, as well as some positive news coverage. I have had the pleasure of dining there with my family for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as to grab an occasional cup of coffee. Keith’s Cookin’ on Ricks Road has picked up the mantle of the town’s barbecue restaurant and has made a great effort at customer service and quality. My family has been eating out most every day as of late because our kitchen has been torn apart for remodeling for several weeks now.

On the flip side, I have run across a bad experience in the search for another automobile. We actually own a second car, but my mother-in-law has borrowed that vehicle and we are most likely never going to see it returned. I have often wondered why she doesn’t just buy a new broom and ride it instead of borrowing our car, but she is family and we love her. Yeah, I love mother-in-law jokes and she knows that I love her dearly.

I had searched for a car online at several automobile sales web sites and found one or two cars at one particular local, independent used car dealership. I checked out the car I had in mind. It seemed to be in good shape. It looked nice, was clean, and was about what we wanted for a second car that would be seldom used. Considering our family needs and our upcoming activities, it seemed a perfect fit. But I wanted to do my homework before buying.

I checked the three major web sites that offer used vehicle appraisals and retail values. All looked good. I then took the vehicle to my mechanic, and I am glad that I did. The car, though the dealer claimed that it had a clear title and collision history, was obviously damaged from a wreck. Either the dealer was hiding something or the vehicle history report was lacking in details. My mechanic showed me a broken bumper held on by duct tape and bungee cords, frame damage, leaking freon in the air conditioner, and several other things unseen at first glance. My mechanic saved me from a costly mistake.

I compare that to two dealerships I have also visited. Both had an eager to help manager who was very accommodating. Both had at least one vehicle that really interested me. One had a cheaper car that was probably a good deal, and although I liked the sedan, it was probably something less than first choice. The other dealership had four cars of interest to me, one of which we may end up purchasing. The manager there was friendly, up front, and encouraged me to take the vehicle to my mechanic for an inspection prior to purchase and offered a 30 day guarantee on his vehicles.

When I was contemplating a used vehicle, I had figured that I might find a decent, perhaps older vehicle that would suit my needs. Do you know what hindered that concept? It was the Cash for Clunkers program by the federal government about 18 months ago. Cars that were otherwise in good shape had to be destroyed instead of making their way back onto car lots for resale. In talking to car lot owners, Cash for Clunkers was a boon to new car dealerships but generally hurt the used car dealers. Many used cars I found were much newer and more expensive than I wanted to pay. The “new to me” vehicle I am probably going to drive home this week is almost $5000 than I really wanted to pay. Then again, I wanted a quality family vehicle with plenty of cargo space. Instead of a mini-van like I had imagined, I am most likely getting one of those evil SUVs that are causing global warming. OK there is no global warming, and especially none caused by mankind.

There is something to be said for keeping government out of the business world and good old fashioned customer service by business owners. Good service has kept us going back to a few local restaurants and has possibly made a customer out of me for an automobile purchase.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Column for March 24, 2011

Jesus said “You will soon hear about wars and threats of wars, but don't be afraid. These things will have to happen first, but that isn't the end.” (Matthew 24:6). That was true when it was first spoken; it is still true in today’s day and age. I constantly hear from various groups declaring that the end is near. One particular group is saying that May 21st of this year is going to be the end of the world and that they can prove it Biblically. Yeah, good luck with that one. There will be a lot of disappointed people on May 22nd when they are still here.

For several weeks now we have heard of wars and fighting, especially in northern Africa and the Middle East. It all seems rather orchestrated to me, though I am not much for conspiracy theories.

I was on a camping weekend outing with my son this past weekend, so I never got to hear the news that America had joined with France and England in the military actions in Libya until Sunday evening. I find it amazing that many of the same liberals who decried our use of the military in Iraq and Afghanistan suddenly find it to be acceptable to use the military when it is “their” President who is in power at the time. I love the hypocrisy.

Oddly enough, I find myself agreeing a lot (but not totally) with The Nation of Islam’s “Minister” Louis Farrakhan in his chastisement of America for our actions in Libya. He whined about how America is acting in an imperialistic fashion. He brought up the fact that we are supposedly helping the military efforts in Libya on humanitarian grounds and yet we as a nation never stood up for the humanitarian needs of Darfur or The Sudan. Though I truly dislike and distrust Farrakhan, he is exactly correct about the blatant hypocrisy on the part of America.

I was opposed to our involvement in Iraq for the simple reason that I believed that we should have had a formal declaration of war prior to the invasion of that country and that there was no compelling interest of American national security. I feel the same way about Libya. Barack Obama is getting criticism from a few within his own party, such as Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who contend that a declaration of war is necessary for the President to use military force. Kucinich has gone so far as to declare that President Obama has committed an impeachable offense by employing US military air strikes in the efforts against Libya. Kucinich, though consistent (since he railed against George W. Bush also) is very ignorant of the role of the President as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. The military is his to command, not that of Congress.

I was happy to see President Obama doing almost nothing while the Middle East was imploding. I was happy to see him on yet another vacation and not proposing our involvement in Egypt, Libya, or Tunisia. These are not our struggles and there are no compelling US interests there that would warrant our military’s involvement. Many on both the right and left wings of the political spectrum were criticizing Obama for his inaction. I was happy that he was inactive until now, since it meant he could not entangle us in yet a third wartime front.

Though I believe that Moammar Gadhafi is a whack job that needs to relinquish power in Libya, I also believe it is not the role of the United States to facilitate that power shift. Unlike our new Congresswoman Renee Ellmers, I don’t see any compelling reason for our involvement. I do agree with Mrs. Ellmers, however, when she said, “The President needs to let us know what the mission in Libya is, what goals he has for the mission and what the plan is to achieve those goals. We must have a sound political and military strategy for our action in Libya and that needs to be communicated to the American people.” So far, we have not seen anything that has been clearly so defined.

As I stated concerning Iraq years ago, whether we properly invaded Iraq or not was a moot point once we took the country. From that point forward, we had to follow through. We will most likely have the same hypocritical posture in Libya. I do believe that the violence in their nation is horrid, as it was in other nations. However, it is not our fight. We have more babies dying in the womb on a daily basis in our own nation than there are dissidents and soldiers dying in Libya. I do wish that we would focus more on our own nation’s problems than that of other nations.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Column for March 17, 2011

While writing this column, I have been thinking a lot about life and death. I have three family members who’ve had cancer scares this week alone. I am writing this on a Friday afternoon. After I finish writing, we will be packing to head to Florida for the funeral of my cousin’s husband, who died of cancer last week. On top of that, the big news lately has been the earthquake in Japan that has killed hundreds of people and sent a tsunami that has also killed hundreds thus far.

After writing the column I did last week about proposed legislation on abortion and miscarriage, the wife and I have been talking about life, about family, and about where we would like to go with both. I do hold life sacred, and lament its loss. I will be doing so with my cousin within 24 hours of my typing this and I am heavy hearted for the Japanese people killed in a huge earthquake. I lament the loss of so many babies to abortion and natural causes, which believe it or not, did not sit well with some people.

People from all over the country and sometimes the world read my columns, since I also publish them on the internet, but only after they have been published in print here, first. I have gotten some hate mail from internet readers already about last week’s column. I was informed that it is hypocritical of me to be supportive of “making abortion illegal but then offering little to no aid to mothers who have need to financial aid/public aid...people who are pro-life and want children to be born regardless of circumstance should be pro-welfare, too.”

My retort is “that it is not the purpose of government to provide your food, your housing, or your health care. A government that can provide your means can and should therefore be able to dictate your procreation activity limitations. It is in no way incongruous to say you are not allowed to kill a baby but then not supply you the means by which to raise a baby. There are plenty of adoptive parents waiting in line to have a baby (the discussion of adopting has just recently been ongoing in our own home). Why is it the responsibility of the populace to provide financial aid to a woman who did not exercise proper judgment, restraint, or birth control methods? Her decision as to whether or not to accept the responsibility of parenthood was taken the moment she opened her legs to a man. It is not hypocrisy to tell an individual to accept personal responsibility for their actions and procreative activity. Nor is it hypocrisy to tell a woman that either she takes care of her own offspring or allow someone else to love, care for, and raise that child.”

While Governor of Minnesota, Jesse Ventura was confronted by a single mother. She screamed at him about how she was left with children and bills by a man who decided he no longer wanted to support her or her children. She demanded to know what he was going to do for her in terms of college tuition so that she could get a college degree at taxpayer expense and a new job. I sympathize with her, I truly do. I have family members who have had the same situation, whether because of disability, divorce, or death. I am going to visit one such relative this weekend, as stated. Ventura’s answer to this woman was blunt and honest. I am probably slightly paraphrasing here, since I have searched extensively on the internet and have found neither the video nor the transcript of the exchange in question, but I remember watching it several years ago. Jesse said, “Why is it the government’s responsibility to take care of you and your children because you married a loser?” That seems harsh, but it is entirely correct.

Is life fair? Of course not. If it was, people who want to have babies would not have sterility issues or miscarriages while crack heads and high school girls still wouldn’t get pregnant or at least would not be able to slaughter their young. If life was fair, people wealthy enough to support dozens of children would not be sterile by either nature or choice, and the poverty stricken that don’t desire children would bear sterility, instead. Nevertheless, we have a God given responsibility to embrace life and provide for those under our charge.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Column for March 10, 2011

I recently read of a new bill introduced into the North Carolina General Assembly that would “punish those who commit violent crimes against unborn babies and their mothers.” The bill is called "The Unborn Victims Of Violence/Ethen's Law". Currently, there is no law creating a separate charge for harming or injuring a fetus when a pregnant woman is attacked and that attack results in the death or miscarriage of the baby. Obviously, one would find such an attack heinous. There are exceptions included for acts of abortion, stillbirths, and miscarriages.

I have long believed that abortion is an immoral act amounting to murder of the unborn. I did not always believe that, however. I made my share of mistakes when I was young and stupid. With a newly found Christian world view, I changed my perspective on the act twenty years ago. But even from a civil government perspective, I look at our founding documents and find things that would similarly persuade me. For instance, in our Declaration of Independence, I read “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The “Life” portion is where I diverge from the Libertarian Party and most Democrats. I find it difficult to comprehend how anyone can believe in the sanctity of life, the right to life, or protection of the innocent while at the same time advocating a woman's right to wantonly commit infanticide. Regardless of how the pregnancy occurred, whether from negligence in employing birth control, or even cases of rape or incest, I firmly believe that the right to life trumps a woman's so-called right to choose. The ironic thing is that most (not all, but most) people I know that are “pro-choice” are against the death penalty. They are willing to slaughter the innocent for the sake of personal convenience but want to let the guilty live. Where is the logic in that?

From what I read about "The Unborn Victims Of Violence/Ethen's Law", it is better than the bill proposed by Republican Bobby Franklin of the Georgia State Legislature. He has introduced House Bill 1 that would “classify the removal of a fetus from a woman for any reason other than to produce a live birth or to remove a dead fetus as "prenatal murder." Mr. Franklin, like myself, finds abortion abhorrent. However, he goes way too far in his bill. Though he would not place criminal penalties upon natural, spontaneous fetal miscarriages, his bill would require the issuance a fetal death certificate for miscarriages that occur within medical facilities. Miscarriages that occur outside of a medical facility would require an investigation by the government.

Thankfully, this is not proposed in North Carolina, and I do not live in Georgia. As much as I support the choice for life, I would have some rather unpleasant words for Mr. Franklin if he was my representative. In the name of his Christian values, he wants to protect the unborn to such a degree that he wants parents to give account for their due diligence in protection of the fetus.

Franklin's bill states "The State of Georgia has the duty to protect all innocent life from the moment of conception until natural death". With that, I agree. However, to require a full investigation into any miscarriage that does not take place in a medical facility is intrusive and absurd. This is where it gets personal for me. My wife and I went through two miscarriages in 2010, one on June 1st at a medical facility, and one at home just this past Christmas Eve. It was heart wrenching enough for us both to endure in losing our children. The last thing we would want or need is a government official knocking on our door inquiring if we did all we possibly could to keep our embryo/fetus from being miscarried.

With a Christian world view, I realize that we live in a sin cursed world. Sickness, disease, and tragedies occur as a result. That is our inheritance here on Earth as a result of the fall of Adam. As a joint heir with Christ, I look forward to life eternal where there is no sickness, disease, or miscarriage. I don't like the fact that our earthly existence has such things with which we must contend, but that is life. I don't have all the answers, but I do know that I disagree strongly with my libertarian minded and even my Christian brethren when they go to the polar opposites of either allowing the wanton slaughter of the unborn on the one hand or highly intrusive and unnecessary measures to “protect” the unborn on the other.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Column for March 3, 2011

The United States Constitution in Article IV Section 4 states, “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government”. Not to be confused with the GOP (Republican Party), it simply means that we have a representative republic for a national government. We don’t have a democracy, an oligarchy, a monarchy, or a dictatorship. We allegedly have the rule of law, division of branches of government, and a system of checks and balances. That seems to be lost on our current Commander in Chief.

There were three decisions by the Obama administration that directly affect some or all of us, depending upon your status, all of which are beyond the constitutional authority granted to the executive branch of government. Over-reaching power is nothing new. As a matter of fact, as of this writing (Monday afternoon), I will be teaching in a few hours on a huge power grab by the Supreme Court in the Marbury vs. Madison decision of 1803.

The Obama administration has determined that they will continue to enforce the so-called Obama Care health care reform legislation even though two courts have ruled it as unconstitutional. In another instance, the Obama administration has refused to allow the re-importation of historic military surplus rifles back into the United States, thus violating the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. Thirdly, the administration has decreed that the Defense of Marriage Act signed into law by then President Bill Clinton is unconstitutional and therefore will not enforce its provisions.

In the instance of Obama Care, it is sheer arrogance to continue to ram down a defeated and unwanted agenda. The government and the American people have bought into the principle of judicial review, a power never granted the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) or judicial branch yet was usurped anyway. That power was specifically debated and denied the judicial branch during the Constitutional Convention of 1787. If the judicial usurpation is accepted, then it applies regardless and we can not cherry pick what laws they can declare null. Either the court’s decision stands or it does not. If the law is indeed unconstitutional, then its continuation must also therefore be considered as such.

In the case of rifle importation, the Obama administration has simply decided to disallow the return of what General George Patton termed “The greatest battle implement ever devised”, the M1 Garand rifle. It served us brilliantly in World War II. During the Korean War, we left nearly a million M1 Garands and M1 Carbine rifles with the South Korean government.

I am a federally licensed Curio and Relics firearms collector. That means like thousands of other collectors in the nation, I went through a background check with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Many freedom loving, law abiding Americans, and/or shooting and history enthusiasts would also love to own an M1. This right is being denied by Barack Obama under the guise of not wanting the guns to “fall into the wrong hands”. Somehow I doubt that criminals will be engaged in using a long gun designed in the 1930’s that only holds 8 rounds when handguns are the preferred weapon of your average criminal. It is sort of hard for gang members to conceal the rifle, to carjack a car with, or for burglars to carry an M1 Garand during a break-in. This ban on the re-importation of historic rifles made by Americans for Americans is ridiculous.

Believe it or not, I tend to agree with Obama that the DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) is unconstitutional. However, the opportunity for the executive branch of government to declare it as unconstitutional rested with President Clinton. A later President can not simply declare something as unconstitutional and therefore not enforce the laws of the country. If you find the law repulsive, repeal it. We have a process set up for that. If we really want DOMA to be the law of the land, we should make it an amendment to The Constitution.

I have a copy of the letter sent to the Speaker of the House by the Attorney General’s office. The reasoning that DOMA “violates the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment” is preposterous. Not only is the Attorney General in error (the equal protection clause is not in the Fifth Amendment, it is in the 14th), but the amendment was designed to provide equal treatment under the law to people regardless of their skin color. Homosexuals have the same right to marry someone of the opposite sex as I do, so there is therefore equal protection under the law.

For the executive branch to simply deem a law unconstitutional and therefore refuse to enforce the law is a dangerous precedent, not to mention that ironically is in itself unconstitutional. What if a future president decided that the Civil Rights Act was unconstitutional and therefore refused to enforce it? This sort of thing can cut both ways.

We are supposed to be a representative republic, but if we allow things to continue, we are well on the way to becoming the very sort of dictatorship that President Obama has recently condemned in Libya, Egypt, and the Middle East.