Thursday, July 28, 2011

Column for July 28, 2011

“As I read the Constitution, the Congress writes the laws and you get to decide what you want to sign.” That is what Speaker of the House of the United States Congress told President Barack Obama recently. He is exactly correct. I am not a huge fan of Speaker John Boehner so far, since he has sold us out on a few issues, but at least he is taking a stand on this issue. It is true that the President of the United States does not write legislation. The context of this comment was about the debate over the debt limit and budget.

For weeks we have heard about possible debt default by the US government. We have heard a bunch of Chicken Littles running around predicting that the sky will be falling on August 2nd. Of course that is nonsensical. All the government has to do is stop spending money in non-essential areas. Furthermore, even if we did default on a few debts, the rest will not also be in default. We do still have a monthly revenue stream.

When we run short on funding in our home, we end up spending less in areas in which we can cut spending. I have to admit that ever since the Town of Selma hosed us by changing the due date on our utility bills that we have had to dramatically cut back spending during the latter half of the month. We have to cut back also because of increased debt that we took on by necessity. Cars broke down, our air conditioning system broke down, and unexpected medical bills popped up. As my French relatives would say, c’est la vie. We just spend less on groceries and luxury items, eat out less, and now have things for supper that normally sit in the back of the pantry and we don’t want to fix unless we have to roll pennies in order to buy a gallon of milk. The government must do the same.

Here is another quote. See if you can guess who said this. “The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the US Government cannot pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here.' Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.” That was Senator Barack Hussein Obama in March of 2006. It is ironic that he is the one who is leading the charge to raise the debt ceiling yet again, claiming that it is irresponsible not to do so. I wish that he would take his own advice.

In our home, we are faced with two choices. We can cut spending and refuse to use any of our credit cards or we can apply for more credit and keep borrowing. I fully realize that unforeseen circumstances can happen to anyone and emergencies arise. There are times when borrowing is necessary. In our household, when our air conditioning system died, we elected to put the repair on our Master Card rather than sit in a sweltering house. One of the greatest inventions that God gave man was refrigeration, whether for environmental comfort or for food preservation. When my dog was too feeble to walk and incontinent, I could either take her out to the country and put a bullet into her or take her to the veterinarian to have her put out of her suffering and pay for it with my Master Card. Since I did not feel like shooting my own pet (her name was not Old Yeller) we chose the plastic route.

In my analogy, I understand that America will have times in which we do need to borrow. During the crafting of the US Constitution, this topic was debated. The founders knew that there may come a time when we have a need to borrow money, such as wartime. Borrowing is how we obtained The Louisiana Purchase.

However, bank bailouts, automobile industry bailouts, welfare programs, foreign aid, cowboy poetry festivals, teapot museums, bridges (or roads and tunnels) to nowhere, extended unemployment benefits, early childhood education programs, prescription drug benefits, socialized medicine, USDA loan programs, and the like are just unsustainable costs and not worthy of borrowing trillions of dollars. Like we do in our household, government must stop spending in some areas in order to take care of the essential obligations. Just because something is a good idea or a nice thing to have does not mean we can or should afford it.

This same principle applies to state, county, and town governments. Whether you are running for Congress, County Commission, the state legislature, or Town Council, take heed. The constituency is growing weary of unsustainable debt, reckless spending, and we simply cannot take it any more.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Column for July 21, 2011

It is hard to believe, but this column marks the five year anniversary of my first column in The Selma News. When I first got the opportunity to write for the paper, I had run once for Selma Town Council, I was an active blog writer on the internet, and had an active interest in community affairs. I don’t blog anywhere as near as much as I used to for a number of reasons and I don’t attend all town council meetings like I used to. There have been a good may changes in my life since my first column here. The topics have varied from town affairs to state and national ones, and have included politics and religion. The people and events that have been the subjects of my commentary have changed over the years, but my core values of freedom, faith, and conservative values have remained constant. For that, I make no apologies.

I had one of those “no apologies for my views” brief exchanges just today with one of our County Commissioners. He was critical of those in Congress who seemingly refused to compromise. He quoted an unknown (to me) news source that quoted an unknown (to me) individual which said, "What lawmakers lack in congress is the courage to compromise, therefore they do not do anything." I, on the other hand, applaud those who do not compromise. Personally, there are many things on which I don't want compromise. Compromise is not always a virtue, it can be a weakness. It is when Congress does something that we get hosed with more regulation and freedoms eroded. It is when they do nothing that we are the safest from intrusion in our lives and wallets. Sometimes the best thing for the citizenry is gridlock. There is no founding document, principle, speech, or precedent that government has to constantly pass some sort of legislation (doing, doing, doing) in order to be effective or viable. Inactivity is often the best thing, especially in Washington, D.C. I feel that same way about our towns, counties, and states, as well.

As I mentioned, I have an interest in public affairs and even ran for town council twice. I was tempted to run again, but quite honestly, I don’t know if I can devote the time to a campaign or the position, so I stayed out of the running. Some of my extra-curricular activities have died down lately, which is causing me to ponder my next media exploit. On the other hand, my work schedule has been hefty. I had a 15 hour day today, and I was about to go to bed when I realized that I had not banged away on my keyboard to write this week’s column. Before my generic brand version of Tylenol PM kicks in, I figured that I had better type something and get it in before deadline. I have come up with a fresh column each and every week for five years. It would have been shameful to miss the five year anniversary column.

By the way, I have each and every column I have written still on my computer and have also put them online. You can find every single previous column I have written for The Selma News through my web site, I even have LaPlante’s Rants t-shirts, if you want one. Nobody has bought one in five years, but I still have them available. I do believe that I have the only one in existence until someone buys one. Yes, I made t-shirts available, and I make no apologies for that, either.

It is hard to believe that it has been five years already, but it has. I would like to thank Rick Stewart, the publisher of this fine hometown newspaper, for the opportunity that he gave an opinionated nobody like me to be able to write my inane babblings in a newspaper. I would like to thank everyone for their feedback whether positive or negative. I love both, believe it or not, especially when the criticisms are civil. I also want to thank you, the readers. I do not take it for granted that you actually read my unintelligible musings. I am grateful for the opportunity and will endeavor to continue being faithful in the work.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


This week marks the five year anniversary of writing "LaPlante's Rants" in The Selma News. It is hard to believe that it has been that long, but it has. I am grateful for the opportunity and will endeavor to continue being faithful in the work.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Column for July 14, 2011

Recently I started playing a game on the internet (on Facebook, to be exact). I am not much for games. I have tried a few over the years. Some have interested me for a brief period of time, others not at all. This one, however, has kept my interest for a couple of months now. Quite honestly, I have learned a lot about the “ins and outs” of the game, and can see many parallels to real life.

The game is called “Glory of Rome”. It is a war game set in ancient Roman times. In it, you establish a city, build it up with various buildings, farms, quarries, and other sources of supplies needed to build up armies. The more buildings and armies you create, the higher the glory level you attain. One can attack enemy encampments, other cities, join alliances, work together with other players, and make it as much or as little as you see fit.

How is this relevant, you might ask? There are some things I see that pertain to real life. The first is that you have to start out small and take responsibility for your own growth. If you grow in this game, it is your own fault. If you stay small, it is your own fault. The same applies to one’s career and family. Sure, we all have opportunities that others do not. There are some people in life that seem to have opportunities handed to them and it seems unfair. In this game, however, you are directly responsible for your own growth and destiny, as are the vast majority of people in this world.

In the game, I choose to associate with an alliance. I have been a part of three alliances so far. An alliance is merely a group of people acting together as friendly people and the strength of the whole outweighs that of the individual. In any alliance, there are new players and more experienced players. There are players with a high level of proficiency, and there are those with a low proficiency level. There are those with a high availability of resources at their disposal and there are those who struggle with basics like food and building supplies.

When I did not like how the alliance was going in my first association, I quietly left. They were a weakening alliance and some players were leaving. Sometimes that is by necessity, sometimes by choice. I have the duty to myself to associate with those who would help improve my situation. My freedom of association is entirely of my choosing, provided that they choose to reciprocate and associate with me. I chose to better myself by associating with a better group of people. I was invited to join another group and they were much more like family. We all shared game strategies, resources, troop reinforcements, and did battle together. As I learned the ways of the game, sometimes at great expense, I grew in stature and power. I have always taken the time to help newer players learn what I have learned and share my bounty with them. In return, others have done the same with me. The third alliance came out of a merger between ours and a former enemy alliance with whom we were in a bitter war. Together, we are stronger and work well together. We can look over world and even American history and see the parallel. That is basically how the colonies became the United States of America.

I notice that all people who choose to help others do so at their own discretion. Nobody is forced into helping others, but those who do typically are the bigger players. Their success trickles down to other either less fortunate or less successful players. They are able to share their abundance with others without the need of a governing official requiring that we each give a certain amount of money to be redistributed to others. The benevolence proves the adage, “a rising tide raises all ships”. The same applies to the real world and our economic system.

In my cities, I am the dictator. I set tax rates in order to extract money from my citizens. I choose what and how many facilities I can build. I am ultimately responsible for the citizens in my cities. If I tax too heavily, the number of citizens will decline, happiness will decline, and my production of currency will decline. This hurts my troop support, the availability of fresh population for troop development, and hurts production on my farms, in my quarries, in my iron mines, etc. There is a basic economics lesson there.

If I produce the troops and population, I am responsible for feeding them. I don’t ask some government chancellor to feed my own population. If I birthed them, then I have make the upkeep happen, or they do not get fed. Why should anyone else be responsible for the population that I created? For my houses? For my transportation? If I take poor decisions, why should others be forced to pay the price to fix my mess? Others may give willingly to do so, but that is their prerogative. See the parallel to life and good governance?

Just from something as simple as a game on the internet, I can glean nuggets and parables of life, so to speak. By the way, if anyone wants to play the game, hit me up on Facebook. Just search my name and you will find me. Freedom of association is a beautiful thing.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Column for July 7, 2011

In last week’s edition of “The Selma News”, it was announced that Councilwoman Cheryl Oliver will run for mayor instead of re-election for her own seat on the Town Council. If Charles Hester follows through with his announced intention to run for re-election, that will make for an interesting race. The town politics rivalry between the Baptists and the Methodists should be very interesting. For years I have heard about the unofficial rivalry between the congregants of the Selma Baptist Church and Edgerton Memorial United Methodist Church.

One thing that I will say for Cheryl Oliver is that she had a well run and polished campaign when she first ran for town council. Ms. Oliver has been one of the most responsive individuals whenever I have had a comment or concern. I may not always agree with her decisions, but kudos belong to whom they are due.

Cheryl Oliver said that she wants to promote and implement a higher level of teamwork between our citizens, elected officials, town staff, committees, merchants, etc. Also, to increase the level of community involvement in critical matters affecting the town. I am in full agreement, though I don’t see those as two different items but one and the same. I have not much cared for the dictatorial, bullying style of management that I have witnessed over the past six years or so. I let my term expire on two town committees since they were either never utilized or rarely heeded, and did not appreciate the indifference that resulted in frustration and wasted time.

One other issue that Ms. Oliver raised is ensuring “a high level of fiscal responsibility that addresses the realities of today and the possibilities of tomorrow”. Ms. Oliver’s marketing background obviously shows in all of her points, especially this one, but again, I am in agreement. We are in times of tight budgets. There have been high calls for fiscal responsibility at all levels of government, and people are growing weary of the freedom and resources that have been taken from them in order to support the opulent spending of government and power grabs over the last 60 plus years. We have to look no further than next door to the Town of Smithfield and the recent spending issues they encountered with unauthorized, hefty pay increases for an example.

In the same vein as fiscal responsibility, I look again to “The Selma News”, this time from two weeks ago when the town looked (yet again) at the idea of a new town hall building. I am a huge proponent of taking care of the facilities that we have rather than acquiring new ones. I am not saying that I am in favor of doing anything at all with facility improvements, since inaction in this case is indeed a very viable option. However, when faced with the two options of renovation of the existing building or erecting a new edifice elsewhere, I can only look at the numbers and location. The numbers show a difference of $400,000 betwixt the two options. To a small town like ours, that is significant, so renovation gets my choice as the lesser of two evils. The present town hall is right smack in the middle of our downtown district, which is where a town hall ought to be.

I have a problem with the argument that the existing building does not meet building code as a reason to build a new one. I have found that officials or consultants will throw out generally ambiguous and often specious “code requirement” arguments in order to affect a desired result. I have my suspicions on this report and the direction it points. Perhaps things have radically changed since I got my NC State Building Code class certificate years ago. Perhaps not.

As to the desired “future growth” for town hall, why would we need to grow? I don’t want any government growing, especially that of the town. Town governments are often the most overlooked but can be the most impacting. Towns affect how and where you can build, how you use your property, affect trash collection, electrical use, the roads on which you drive, and your tax rates. And yet people often dismiss local elections and government as being unworthy of their time or effort. I certainly don’t see it that way. If a government grows, it means that it is taking in more revenue in order to feed that growth. With said growth often comes erosion of liberty.

I have already edited out much from this column and have so much more to say, but I have to wind it up for the sake of brevity. I am not endorsing any candidate for the mayoral race. The filing period does not close for another week, and I am anxious to see who else may file for not only mayor, but for town council as well. One thing is for sure, though. I am looking for fiscal responsibility and teamwork from any candidate who may be running for office in my town.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Column for June 30, 2011

Governor Beverly Perdue plays hypocritical politics with no real logic sometimes. I have come to the conclusion that she is not looking out for the best interests of the citizens of North Carolina but is rather looking out for the interests of herself and those who may keep her in power. I realize that this is not exactly a newsflash, but though I disagree with Old Bev on a good number of things, I have been trying to give her the benefit of the doubt. There were a few things that she did that gave me a glimmer of hope that she may be better than I originally feared, but she has been choking off the hope I was holding.

When 75% of your electorate support something, you had better take notice. Three quarters of North Carolinians (so I have read) were fully in support of the idea of having to prove your identity when casting a ballot in the state. The last I checked, we were still a sovereign state (at least the last time I read the 10th Amendment to the US Constitution we were, anyway). As a free state, we can decide how we wish to run elections.

Governor Perdue has vetoed a bill requiring people to show official photo identification at the polls. She said, “North Carolinians who are eligible to vote have a constitutionally guaranteed right to cast their ballots, and no one should put up obstacles to citizens exercising that right...This bill, as written, will unnecessarily and unfairly disenfranchise many eligible and legitimate voters. The legislature should pass a less extreme bill that allows for other forms of identification, such as those permitted under federal law.”

You see, that is the problem. People who are eligible to vote should have to prove that they are eligible. I have to show a photo ID when I cash a check, use a credit card, purchase alcohol, apply for a passport, open a bank account, request government documents, get stopped by a police officer for speeding, apply for a job, or any host of different activities. Why should voting be any different?

The argument that we would unnecessarily and unfairly disenfranchise eligible and legitimate voters is a specious one and quite frankly, you can use that argument to fertilize your garden, if you know what I mean. I do not buy the idea for one minute that a legitimate voter would have any problem producing a valid photo ID, whether it is a passport, driver’s license, or a state issued ID card. The only possible reason to not want a photo ID requirement is that you actually support election fraud, non-citizens voting, and are hoping that people who have no business voting for your overly liberal ideals will cast multiple ballots for you under fictitious, fraudulent, multiple, illegitimate, or unverifiable names.

As to the argument that we should scale back any proposed law to meet federal law requirements, I again point to the fact that this is North Carolina, not the federal government. We set up our own laws and are not required to merely duplicate some other guidelines. Anybody who thinks that federal government regulation should trump our own autonomy has either lost touch with how our government should and can operate or is completely ignorant thereof.

The hypocritical part is that at the same time, Old Bev did sign into law a bunch of bills that make her appear to protect North Carolina residents. Bills signed include tougher DWI penalties, the creation of a task force on fraud perpetrated against the elderly (not that a task force actually does anything but have meetings), mental illness care provision, new building code requirements, and the like. She just does not want to protect us against financial crisis and election fraud.

I mentioned that she sometimes does things with which I agree and that occasionally give me a ray of hope. Gov. Perdue signed a bill that improves existing gun laws (not that I am a fan of gun laws, but these provisions are at least providing more freedoms) and establishes the castle doctrine for home defense. That is a huge positive in my opinion. She also signed “The Founding Principles Act” requiring the teaching of US history in high school, and the “Government Reduction Act” which is intended to reduce state government by abolishing certain state boards, commissions and committees.

The blatant contradiction and hypocrisy here is hard for me, since I see the good, the bad, and the ugly in the decisions taken by our governor. I recognize the good decisions and want to have hope. But I have also seen the stupidity in action and that sort of cancels out the hope I had.