Thursday, June 28, 2012

Column for June 28, 2012

Even if we have a flawed system of government, it’s possibly still the best one in practice.  That is, of course, only if moral men and women are in charge of the government.  In 1776, John Adams, our second President of the United States and signer of the Declaration of Independence, was quoted as saying, "Statesmen, my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand."  Within the last two weeks, we have seen great lapses in morality in our governments at different levels, but it is all linked together in purpose and in poor judgment.

Locally, the Wake County School Board voted to return to a “diversity based” student assignment plan beginning in 2013.  After so much controversy about going to a “neighborhood schools” based assignment plan that is only one year into that plan, the school board is reversing its previous stance on the issue.  In a retreat from morality and common sense, students will be shuffled around yet again rather than being allowed to stay in a school closest to their homes.

The immorality that comes with this decision is astounding to me.  So-called “reverends” (ordained clergy) spouted specious claims of racism and segregation in the courageous decision to return to a neighborhood school policy.  The idea of being able to send your child to the school that is nearest to their home was a moral one, being responsible to the taxpayers who are paying the bills for public education, to the students who will spend less time being shuttled around the county, and to families that will have more time together.  All of those ideas are being tossed out the window in the name of diversity.

Diversity is nothing more than a liberal utopian concept meant to falsely display concern for others whom you secretly disdain and treat with condescension.  The idea that poor or minority children cannot perform well in public schools unless they are seated next to allegedly richer Caucasian children is nothing short of sheer racism and sells minorities short of their potential.  It is a modern form of enslavement of the mind and body.

Linked to this concept is the recent decision by the Supreme Court of the United States that struck down three provisions of Arizona’s SB1070, an anti-illegal immigration law.  SB1070 was a state law that mirrored the federal statutes on illegal immigration.  Arizona acted because the federal government would not enforce its own immigration laws and, being a border state, Arizona was paying a heavy price because of it.

Just within the past two weeks and prior to the SCOTUS decision, President Obama unilaterally decreed that the federal government would not enforce some provisions of federal immigration law, bypassing Congress and the legislative process.  This is nothing new to either Obama or even Presidents.  We are a nation of laws, and yet potentates decide by fiat that some laws are not to be enforced display yet another abrogation of moral obligation.  Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly.”  If indeed the Arizona law or even national immigration laws are bad laws, then the best way to get rid of them is to enforce them, not ignore them.

So, what does the Supreme Court’s aberration of a decision on Arizona’s immigration law, President Obama’s decision to refuse to enforce federal law, and the Wake County School Board’s utopian stupidity have in common?  First, they all demonstrate that elections have consequences.  Second, if states cannot protect themselves and their sovereignty against illegal immigration or any other threat because of allegedly contradicting federal law (even if none are technically being contradicted, as was the case in Arizona), then states must sit back and take whatever garbage is handed them by the federal government’s actions or inaction, as the case may be.   Because the federal government refuses to enforce its own laws (in self-contradiction), then the states are helpless to fend off any problems caused by illegal immigration.  States are the ones paying the bills for the costs of illegal immigration, including for education of illegal immigrant children. 

Wake County would not have to be so worried about achieving diversity, about budget constraints, or about political correctness regarding race issues if illegal immigration could be seriously curbed by enforcement of current federal law and enactment of appropriate state laws.  The moral failure of refusing to follow the law, refusing to allow states the right of self-determination, and of failing the students of local public schools is but a sign of the times in which we live.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Column for June 21, 2012

Interestingly, every five years or so, the calendar repeats itself day for day.  June 21, 2012 falls on a Thursday just as it did in 2007.  Every so often, I like to look back over some old columns I wrote and see what the topic of the week was.  The more things change, the more they stay the same sometimes.

Five years ago, Selma was dealing with an upheaval and restructuring in its fire department.  There were some ungrateful, selfish, and childish individuals that did not want to relinquish their good old boy system, being opposed by some people who wanted to reform the old system for the benefit of and accountability to the town.  I would say that five years later, Chief Phillip McDaniel seems to have done a stellar job with what he has to work with in Selma.  There seems to have been an improvement in response and in our ISO rating.  I have heard no major rumblings about the department other than seeking to raise the fire tax in the unincorporated areas served by the department.

The crux of that column was about maintaining rational thought rather than being blindly ruled by emotions.  Ironically enough, I dealt with that concept a bit just within the last few weeks.

Five years ago, gun control legislation, backed by the occasionally spineless National Rifle Association, was being rammed through Congress under the guise of providing better background checks for gun purchasers.  Holy flaming dog poo!  I just dealt with that same sort of topic two weeks ago.  Gun control is a constant battle.  Freedom lovers have to be vigilant in order to keep resisting this incessant nuisance.  We have to say, “No, No, No, No” every single time it comes up.  If we say, “Yes” just once, we have lost that freedom, most likely forever.

Five years ago, school funding was a battle of irrational fear versus level headed common sense.  Wouldn’t you know it?  I dealt with that some just last week.  The subject of taxing internet gaming establishments for the purposes of school funding came up, “for the children” and the emotional hype that comes with educational claims of need.  Freedom hating liberals are going to try to fund school systems in which we attempt to prepare students to enter the world with ethics and fairness with unfair taxation upon what some consider to be a vice.  The problem is that once the government claims to despise an activity such as gambling and attempts to eradicate it but instead taxes it as a vice, it becomes dependent upon its very existence for a revenue stream.  It is the same paradox that exists with taxing tobacco to fund public health care systems.  Legislators want to curb a behavior by taxing it.  That taxation works somewhat to discourage the behavior, which drops tax revenue, so they raise the tax rate to raise revenue.  It is a vicious circle.

Five years ago, the Congress of the United States was attempting to mandate insurance companies include prescription drug benefits for RU-486, often called the abortion pill.  Just recently, we have seen the Obama Administration unilaterally require insurance companies to provide birth control pills at no cost to subscribers, even if it violates the conscience or religious values of plan administrators, employers, and benefit providers.  Again, the constant “NO” vigilance is required in order to preserve our freedom from government incursion and usurpation.

Five years ago, the county was being asked to fund a private therapeutic horse riding center.  This is a classic case of “just because it is a good idea does not mean it is something we should be doing with public funding”.  Just within the past few months, the Selma Town Council had to take some tough decisions on whether or not to continue using public funds for charities.  I realize that these charitable line items in the budget have traditionally not been huge, and there is actually some benefit to the people being served by the agencies.  However, the Council had to consider whether or not it was appropriate to spend taxpayer funds on nice endeavors.

I could go on, but you get the idea.  Sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Column for June 14, 2012

It isn’t often that I agree with Governor Beverly Perdue.  I think that the last time she and I agreed was when she thought she should not run for re-election.  When we do agree, I usually comment upon it.  This time, Bev Perdue and I agree on internet sweepstakes operations and casino gambling.

I have long been baffled by the outcry in North Carolina against video poker machines, casinos, lotteries, and gambling in general.  I am not a gambler, myself.  I rarely play the lottery, I have only played a few slot machines and spent only chump change on them, and I have visited one of those internet sweepstakes places just once while visiting relatives in Florida.  I have been to casinos in The Bahamas and on cruise ships, but have never done any gambling in them.  I would someday like to visit Las Vegas for the sights, the hotels, the live shows, and just the experience of going to Vegas.  As long as I don’t end up like the movie “The Hangover”, I might enjoy the place.  I grew up in the state with the first modern state lottery, so it was common place for me.  There were lotteries in the days of George Washington, so they are nothing new to this country.  I was not opposed to the lottery coming to North Carolina, but I was very opposed to the underhanded way that it was passed by the state legislature and the false promises that were made to encourage its passage.

Many people have ethical and/or religious convictions on the subject of gambling.  I have done research over the years and again even before writing this column.  I have yet to find any answers from any theologian that satisfactorily show me that gambling is inherently immoral or Biblically prohibited, but I am willing to learn.  I am not going to just take someone’s opinion for it.  I want to see it in the Bible for myself.  Every explanation I have seen thus far is an extrapolation on some conceptual.   I take it as a matter of stewardship in that I am not to waste my (ultimately God’s) money, so I don’t spend a lot on the activity.  Just as the admonition in the Bible is against drunkenness, not the consumption of alcohol, I see gambling much the same way. 

Perdue was quoted as saying, “I’m opposed to sweepstakes.  I want to run them out of the state, but we have been unable to do that so far.  As long as they are here, we should regulate them, tax the heck out of them and use the money to fund our schools.”  This is where she and I differ yet agree.  I have no problem with taxing winnings earned at a gaming business.  I do have a problem with heavy regulation and the specious promise of more money for schools.  I don’t think that we underfund schools.  I think we seriously mismanage the tax dollars that we already use to pay for education.  I am also weary of the old, tired mantra of doing everything “for the children” or “for education”.  It is merely a ploy to play upon your emotions rather than sensibilities.

I see internet gaming as an expensive video game proposition.  Look, we already have purchased video game software for our personal computers, a small gaming console for portable use, and a PlayStation gaming system for the home.  I have spent far less on internet sweepstakes and the lottery than I have ever spent on gaming systems in my lifetime.  The difference is that at least with the sweepstakes parlors, I may walk out with some cash if I win.

Based upon my position on this, you can probably surmise my take on Governor Perdue’s decision to sign a bill that modifies gambling laws in North Carolina to allow live dealers at the casino owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.  I thought that they were supposed to be a sovereign nation and could set their own laws.  If so, we should respect that and they should not need North Carolina’s approval, but I am sure there are other considerations of which I am not aware.  The addition of live dealers will add a lot of jobs to that economically depressed area, so I am all for it.  

When it comes to gambling, I am firmly in favor of personal freedom and responsibility.  I don’t believe that we need the government getting involved in telling us how we can spend our money in a free society.  I also believe, on the other hand, that the government should not be bailing you out because you spent all of your grocery, mortgage, or gas money on a gambling addiction of your own choosing.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Column for June 7, 2012

Why is someone from New York City that is worth an estimated $22 billion trying to affect gun rights in North Carolina?  Because some people just can’t stand not being able to control your life.  They think that they know more about how to properly run your life than you do.  Then again, Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City, already thinks that he knows more about health, public safety,  and what is right for New Yorkers’ diets than they do.  Now he is working to force his whack job, leftist, totalitarian views on us here in North Carolina.

Once I heard about the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman incident in Florida, I predicted that gun Nazis would attempt to use that incident to repeal gun rights legislation everywhere.  Sure enough, here comes the deluge.  Michael Bloomberg, along with the NAACP and other leftist (remember, the Nazis were leftist socialists, not right wingers) groups are working with a group called “Second Chance on Shoot First”.  According to that group’s own web site, they are “committed to raising awareness about Shoot First and other unsafe, reckless gun laws”.  Of course there are no such things as “shoot first laws” in North Carolina and 25 other states that have enacted The Castle Doctrine or Stand Your Ground laws.  Liberals are attempting to mischaracterize laws that allow you to reasonably defend yourself against intruders.

Keep in mind that the Trayvon Martin killing is still fresh in the news, now that George Zimmerman has been arrested with his bond revoked.  I am not a supporter of either Zimmerman or the Martin followers.  I am a supporter of the truth, regardless of what it is.  Florida does not have a problem with its laws.  It had an incident with either a teenage punk that attacked a zealous community watch volunteer, or a community watch zealot that inappropriately shot a teenager.  There was nothing inherent to the Florida law that caused the shooting.  If Zimmerman is at fault, then let him have his day in court and let the legal system takes its course.  If he was a victim then let the legal system take its course and stop crucifying him in the court of public opinion.  Above all, let us not have a knee jerk reaction to and incorrectly represent the law.

Aside from the idea of protecting the public against non-existent vigilante acts, Michael Bloomberg et al are simply trying to curb your personal freedom.  The more freedom you have, the less control government has over you.  This is the same Mayor Michael Bloomberg that has already made sure that New York City maintains strict gun control laws, has banned the use of trans-fats at restaurants, and is attempting to ban all fountain soda cups larger than 16 ounces.  This is all in the name of protecting the public against their own stupidity and promoting health.  The ideas of personal liberty and responsibility have been forsaken.  Limiting the size soft drink one can buy?  Really??  If that is not the epitome of intrusive government control, I don’t know what is.  If control freaks like that want to limit how much sugar you are allowed to consume by law, where does it end?  It certainly will extend to your right to keep and bear arms, since that right was under assault long before limits on soda consumption.

I have ceased to be amazed by people telling outright lies in order to curtail our rights in this country.  I watched the Trayvon Martin case get politicized by race, poverty, and gun control pimps since the incident happened, mostly with the use of slander, hyperbole, and false information.   We are now seeing this same case being used against responsible gun owners in North Carolina by a billionaire mayor 500 miles away.  Sorry, but my right to defend my life is worth far more than any right that some criminal thinks he has to take my life.  

Unfortunately, at least fourteen representatives to the NC House have signed on to HB1192, which is designed to repeal the Castle Doctrine in North Carolina.  The Castle Doctrine is a common sense law that allows people to reasonably use deadly force when defending themselves inside their own homes.  Not surprisingly, the Democrat leadership seems to be on board with this bill.

Why do politicians think that they know so much more than you do, are better at deciding how you should lead your life than you are, and have to protect you from yourself according to their own whimsical dictates?  When did we lose the idea of personal responsibility and personal freedom?  I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want some wealthy politician that can afford armed security guards telling me how to defend myself, much less how much soda I can order when visiting The Big Apple.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Column for May 31, 2012

Last week, I wrote that I am “hoping to share them [my library] and knowledge with my progeny”.  Interestingly enough, I ended up having one of those conversations with my third grade son just a couple of days after I wrote the column.

My son, being in the third grade, just had his first end of grade (EOG) tests.  I certainly have no objection to having EOG tests.  The concept is nothing new.  I had plenty of tests when I was in school.  The EOG is just one more comprehensive test that is administered.  If a child paid attention in school all year long, taking an EOG test is nothing to be feared.  The way I see it, testing measures achievement, both by the student and by the pedagogical staff.

That, however, is not the point of my rant today.  What came out of the EOG testing that I found curious and led to a discussion about reality, economics, government, and life was the topic of breakfast.  Our nine-year-old informed us that he wanted to eat breakfast at school on the days the tests were being administered.  Not only was it encouraged by the teachers at the school that the students should have a good night’s rest, but also a decent breakfast in the morning.  I am in agreement with both ideas.  The interesting thing was that the school would be offering breakfast to all students, not just those who were “economically disadvantaged” on test days.  I was informed that breakfast was “free”.

Personally, I understand the need to serve a cafeteria style lunch at large schools.  At Selma Elementary School, 90% of students get either free or reduced price lunch.  We don’t qualify for free or reduced pricing on lunch, nor would we accept it if we did.  A full priced lunch is only $2.  If you can’t afford $2 a day for lunch, you either need to rethink the priorities of your budget or you probably should not be having children.  When I was in elementary school, I remember taking a metal lunch box with a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich, some cheese puffs, and a bit of milk in a thermos.  I was happy with that, and it was what my family could afford sometimes.  We send our son with a home packed lunch every day, not out of necessity, but out of choice.

School lunch is heavily subsidized by the federal government.  The average school lunch costs $2.66 to prepare, according to the research I just did (and those are outdated figures).  Add to that the costs of running a cafeteria, staff, electricity, and water (and I am sure there are many other costs) and it is a significant amount of money.  The federal government subsidized $2.47 for every free lunch (again, probably an outdated number).  Ironically, full priced lunches are only subsidized $1.90, so schools get more federal funds for free or reduced lunches.  Besides tying the amounts of free and reduced lunches to Title 1 federal funds, you can now see why schools push so hard for as many students to get on the free and reduced lunch programs at your local public schools.  In 2011, the federal government spent $14.3 billion just on the school lunch program, not that the Constitution allows for such expenditures.  Politicians, however, never let that stand in their way.

Obviously, free lunches are not free.  Someone has to pay for them, and that is the US taxpayer.  We pay for the school lunch program at the federal level, the state level, and the local level, so we are on the hook for the cost one way or another.  If I pay full cost, we pay more at the local levels of government for lunch.  If we get reduced or “free” cost lunch, we pay more at the federal level.

A gallon of milk costs approximately $3.50 right now.  A box of Wal-Mart store brand cereal can be as cheap as $1, maybe $2 if you get a larger box of a more popular variety.  I know, since I do my own shopping.  A box of cereal will certainly last at least a week for one child.  That means breakfast will cost as low as $4.50 per week.  At less than $5 a week, I still cannot fathom the need for a regular school breakfast program in addition to a school lunch program.  If you can’t afford $5 a week for your child to eat breakfast at home, you need to either rethink the priorities of your budget or you probably should not be reproducing.
I had the discussion with my nine-year-old that the breakfast was not actually free.  Taxpayers are picking up the tab for his newly found breakfast.  Regardless of how many times he insisted that the meal was free, I corrected him on that concept.  I am paying for his breakfast one way or another, and I hope that he grasped the concept.

We all love our children, but there are no guarantees of equality of outcome in either one’s ability to provide meals or even in test scores.  Children can still live on a simple, home provided meal, and be happy.  To be honest, I wish that more parents took the personal responsibility to provide for their own children more seriously and the school cafeteria trash cans were overflowing with brown paper bags from home packed lunches and even breakfast items rather than letting the taxpayers pick up the cost.