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.