Wilmington StarNews recently printed a letter from a local environmental activist attempting another smear on the Carolina Cement Company. Opponents of the company’s plan to rebuild a cement plant near Castle Hayne, N. C. have deliberately and persistently tried to mislead the public about its intentions and distort facts related to the government processes to which it must conform to receive permits to operate. The N. C. Coastal Federation leads the “Stop Titan Network” group of radical environmental organizations.
Tracy Skrabal wrote that a company announcement published in the StarNews might be “believable” but for several reasons. She said that the company “returned” government “incentive” money to “circumvent a comprehensive and public review process.” But Carolina Cement never received any government funds. The incentive was based on assumptions about future performance should the company be permitted to operate. Further, company officials have consistently and openly vowed to follow all state and federal mandates.
A company information chart clearly shows that whether state or federal review, they must submit to every environmental element required by law—reasonable people wonder why the company should be subjected to two laws that duplicate the process.
Ms. Skrabal raises the issue of a judge’s decision to stall a state air quality permit based on public incentive funds being offered. The company refused the incentives to help reduce the costly and time-consuming litigation instigated by Skrabal’s network. Her group uses environmental legal activists as subvention to prevent land use and make it difficult for natural resource development businesses to operate.
Skrabal tries to discredit Carolinas Cement CEO because his trade association is “currently suing EPA.” This rogue federal agency plans to mandate unnecessary, draconian restrictions on industrial emissions that could put our energy and resource production plants out of business—part of radical environmental strategy that will damage our economy and force costly life-style changes on our citizens. Environmental leftists desperately hope for this “change” using the unfounded scare tactic that it will “save lives and improve air quality”—a twisted perversion of the truth.
Finally, Skrabal claims that Carolinas Cement strategizes to “exclude public participation and divide and conquer permit agencies,” and that it is a “heavily polluting” company; ridiculous statements both in substance and tenor.
Ms. Skrabal’s misleading and diversionary statements may serve to energize the radical wing of her network, but they can’t short-circuit the facts and reality.Read full article » No Comments »
Hey, you moonshiners out there. Don’t try to compete with state government, you’ll lose. N. C. Alcohol Law Enforcement agents will sniff you out, take your property and destroy your equipment—not because they care about alcohol production and sale, but because you don’t pay tax on your product.
Michael Biesecker, reporter for the Raleigh News & Observer wrote a pre-Christmas story about an ALE and sheriff’s raid on a Benson home. The “public-service” officers seized “255 gallons of non-tax-paid liquor” and destroyed nearly 4,000 gallons of corn mash. In other recent busts agents seized 294 gallons of liquor, three vehicles and $1,289 cash in Warrenton. They took six gallons of hooch and a shotgun from a home in Hollister. Charges included possession of non-tax-paid alcohol and possession of non-tax-paid alcohol for sale.
What with all the government hype about “jobs” one would expect the moonshiners to be eligible for “stimulus” money rather than targets of revenuers. But, alas, they failed to pay taxes on their product. Don’t even think about possessing “non-tax-paid” alcohol—state officials won’t tolerate it without a payoff.
Possession and sale is legal only through local Alcohol Beverage Control boards. Here’s my version of how the system works: The local ABC boards allow certain politically-connected individuals to set up and operate liquor stores, presumably under state “control.”
These God-fearing folks pretty much establish their own rules and employee perks. They run a monopoly and, thus, can charge higher prices than an otherwise competitive market would justify. They operate without much oversight as long as they split the take with local officials. State control, high profits and excessive taxes make liquor possession and sales legal; and lucrative—for greedy officials who see this as easy money.
It’s a win-win-lose system.
Politicians win more money scammed from consumers; ABC administrators and employees win profits without any risk; and customers lose because they have no choice but to pay the higher prices. It’s always the case when government tries to operate in what should be private markets—police-power wins and individual freedom loses.
Still, a few courageous entrepreneurial moonshiners will take risks to evade paying homage to government with the fruits of their labor.Read full article » No Comments »
Merriam-Webster dictionary editors named it Word of the Year for 2010, according to a wire service report published in the Wilmington StarNews this week. “Austerity” by my American Heritage dictionary defines this “14th century noun” as “The quality of being austere.” What does it mean to be austere?
Actually, there are three meanings: 1) “Severe or stern in disposition or appearance; somber and grave.” 2) “Strict or severe in discipline; ascetic.” 3) “Having no adornment or ornamentation; bare.”
Why did this word touch off more than 250,000 M-W online searches? Mostly “debt crisis” sent prose readers and writers to seek meaning. The wire report cited the Greek government’s “strict austerity measures, including tax hikes and cutting public sector pay” that “incited a rush” to define the word.
Much of this, in my opinion, involved press reporters searching to add a doomsday effect to their oft-used word “crisis”—an unstable condition caused by political “change” (my definition).
Of course, the “protests, strikes and riots” by Greek public employees showed that they wouldn’t tolerate the discipline of fewer subsidies—and more independence. Accounts of their immoderate behavior and excessive government, unquestioned by the primal press, now define a more frugal government as strict, stern and severe. However, “austerity” is not a newly popular word.
William Safire in his book “Safire’s Political Dictionary” (Random House, Third Addition, 1978) mentions “austerity” as the “vogue word” in England after 1945. A British author wrote: “The Conservatives turned ‘austerity’ into a dirty word.” According to Safire, “‘affluence’ took the lead in 1958”—no time or space here to investigate the historical relevance of these words, but remember that all words have meanings.
Those who craft words can use them to enlighten and delight, or to confuse and mislead. We can be more aware citizens and make better decisions if we learn what the words mean and, equally important, discover who crafts them for what purpose.Read full article » No Comments »
Wilmington StarNews editors ran a long report in Sunday’s paper headlined, “Area loses black voice in Raleigh.” It implied that, for unknown reasons, there is something missing in a legislative district without a black representative—somehow a requirement to accommodate “African-American” sensitivities.
In past decades voting districts have been gerrymandered to ensure more Democrats would be elected in predominately black populations because they nearly all vote for Democrats. That changed in the last election. “No black candidate made it on the final ballots for the county’s seats in the state House or Senate,” writes StarNews reporter Patrick Gannon.
A Supreme Court decision forced the breakup of a heavily black district to a “more diverse constituency.” A white woman, Susi Hamilton, won against a black man in House District 18 in this area. Although she’s a Democrat, some racial activists believe that she can’t represent blacks. According to “advocate” Peter Grear, black people need “representation by people that are sensitive to their historical needs.”—whatever that means.
Ms. Hamilton protests. Not only does she vow to “very, very seriously” be responsive to blacks in her district, she’s spent “a lot of time” with them during her campaign. Further, Hamilton “intends to remain in close contact with them throughout her two-year term.” She’s even scheduled a meeting with leaders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People next month to assure them that “their voices are heard.”
Incidentally, based on this pandering, one wonders whether she will have the time, or inclination, to represent the other people in her district.
Racial activists and advocates should explain what they mean by a “black voice.” Mr. Grear says that the past election has muted “the political voice” of African Americans in New Hanover County. No American voices have been muffled. However, some racial agitators have distorted the dialogue. Local NAACP representative, Harold Beatty, called the lack of black representation to the state legislature “tragic.” Indeed, this is tragic, but not in Mr. Beatty’s meaning.
I doubt that many black people share the views of those who promote racial tensions. Ironically, the “advocates” demean black people by giving the impression that they can’t think for themselves and lack good judgment. Moreover, they contribute to cultural divisiveness by spreading the misguided notion that blacks can properly be represented only by people of their own color. In my opinion, those voices should be mute.Read full article » 2 Comments »
The Brunswick County Commission has attracted some interesting attention from the StarNews. Their editorial makes an interesting assertion/observation. The short version of the story is this, the commissioners were making as much as $40+k a year by billing the citizens $50 for meetings and phone calls. They then decided to stop the policy, but doubled their salaries and now they’re ridding themselves of having to attend meetings saying it constitutes a “conflict of interest” per federal guidelines.
. . . maybe the new policy is a way to pare down the number of meetings the commissioners have to attend, now that doing so isn’t so lucrative anymore. Either way, it seems to be an unnecessarily broad policy that in essence allows board members to shirk their duties. . . Not long ago, the public pressured them into abandoning an ethically questionable policy that paid them $50 extra for each meeting they attended, plus mileage. . . Could it be that the board saw an opportunity, with the conflict-of-interest clause in the stimulus funds, to wiggle out of a number of now-uncompensated obligations?
Hadn’t thought of it that way, but who knows? Sadly, because of their actions, the public can easily believe it could be true. That’s a serious problem for the commissioners who lose more credibility for their leadership as time goes by.
They also took a pass on “construction and demolition” landfill that isn’t dangerous to the environment or smelly to the citizens. They even “hired a consultant” to tell them what every county commissioner in the state already knows about such landfills. One can always hope that leadership will someday return to Brunswick.Read full article » No Comments »
2010, The Year of the Great Obama Recovery where VP Biden told us that passing the stimulus would keep unemployment “around 8%” is nearing its end. And with it, some surprising corporate demises. Here’s the abbreviated list from Yahoo news:
A&P, the grocery chain
Affiliated Media, published the San Jose Mercury News and the Denver Post
Ambac, biggest bankruptcy of the year, bet you never heard of ‘em
American Media, tabloid kings, no longer royalty (National Enquirer and Star)
Blockbuster, well you know, rentals ain’t what they used to be
Hummer, oh boy! The Terminator couldn’t save them or the California economy
Innkeepers USA, property owners of things like Hampton Inn and Residence Inn.
Jennifer Convertibles, sofabed sellers close 50-stores
Loehmann’s, maybe the second time will be the charm for discount clothing
Mesa Air, flying and a tough economy, grounded
Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer, maybe a film about their bankruptcy will help
Mercury, Ford may have recovered, but Mercury is going away
Movie Gallery, see Blockbuster above
Newsweek, sold for $1 to a billionaire. Even that didn’t help.
Penton Media, haven’t heard of them, might be the reason, enter digital age
Pontiac, the people save GM, GM dumps Pontiac
Swoozie’s, stationery, down to seven stores
Uno Restaurant Holdings, no more deep dish in NC, but they linger on.
Urban Brands, all 200 plus of the plus size store operating well. Plus sizes still abound in the recessionRead full article » No Comments »
Not since Aaron Burr challenged Alexander Hamilton to a duel in 1804 have we heard of such a contest between politicians. Hamilton fought Burr’s run for governor of New York State because he, and others, believed that Burr wanted that state to secede from the Union to form a northern confederacy with New England states (and you thought secession was only a Southern idea). On July 11 Hamilton deliberately missed his shot at Burr in their duel. The less gracious and forgiving Burr mortally wounded Hamilton.
Here, now, on the banks of the Cape Fear River the Wilmington StarNews set the stage for a “good old-fashioned duel” between two of the “region’s more vocal elected officials” during a Transportation Advisory Committee meeting this week. Here’s how it might have gone:
New Hanover County Commissioner Jason Thompson: “Take back what you said about me having a conflict of interest over land proposed for the Sky Way Bridge project.”
Leland Mayor Walter Futch: “Nuts to you. You should have had the guts to stand and say you have a conflict instead of resigning from the TAC with a whimper.”
Jason Thompson: You’d better be able to back that up with facts, boy!”
NH County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield: “Who you callin’ Boy?”
JT: “I was talking to Futch.”
Walter Futch: “I’m not going to apologize. I still think that you and Saffo stood to profit from this scheme.”
JT: “Apologize or we’ll go outside and settle this.”
WF: “I’m not going to fight you in an uncouth manner.”
JT: “OK, then meet me at noon on Friday in the center of the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge. I’ll bring a set of dueling pistols. We’ll settle it that way.”
We’re still waiting for a StarNews report on the outcome of the duel.Read full article » 1 Comment »
North Carolina leads the nation in job losses. Yet another sign that the state and its policies, tax incentives and leadership have been headed in the wrong direction for some time. From WRAL:
RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina’s unemployment rate is up as the state led the country in the number of jobs lost in November. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says North Carolina lost 12,500 jobs in November, the most in the country.
Job losses were worse in trade, transportation and utilities (a drop of 5,200) and leisure and hospitality (down 5,200). Construction and manufacturing jobs also fell by 2,300 and 1,600 respectively.
It’s simply hard to believe that those in power adhered so long as they went further and further along a path that has cost our citizens so much. The economy of our state is worse for their having served, not better. Incentive policies that propped up businesses that should have failed long ago, tax policies that cost us millions also cost us jobs and legislative leaders were more interested in power than leadership. Here’s hoping that those about to take power will have learned something. Otherwise, they will find themselves at home come 2012.
Let’s not forget, Gov. Easley was “victimized by the media” according to the media. Methinks his legacy is starting to speak for itself.Read full article » No Comments »
The ongoing struggle by the CFPUA to achieve some semblance of public popularity continues. Absent past mistakes, the current salvo launched by local activist Chad O’Shields alleges that the authority has been raising rates outside legal boundaries. The following appears on his Cape Fear Watchdogs’ blog:
The CFPUA was created under NC General Statute 162A. NC General Statute162A-9(a) reads as follows: 162A‑9. Rates and charges; electronic notice; contracts for water or services; deposits; delinquent charges.
“(a) An authority may establish and revise a schedule of rates, fees, and other charges for the use of and for the services furnished or to be furnished by any water system or sewer system or parts thereof owned or operated by the authority. The rates, fees, and charges established under this subsection are not subject to supervision or regulation by any bureau, board, commission, or other agency of the State or of any political subdivision.
Before an authority sets or revises rates, fees, or other charges for stormwater management programs and structural or natural stormwater and drainage system service, the authority shall hold a public hearing on the matter. At least seven days before the hearing, the authority shall publish notice of the public hearing in a newspaper having general circulation in the area.”
His assertion is that the authority didn’t inform the public pursuant to this statute. The authority’s answer is that the statute only pertains to “stormwater” and that they actually did inform the public even though it wasn’t required by law. Stormwater, you see, is a city set rate collected by the CFPUA as delineated by the Inter Local Agreement.
O’Shields does a great service by constantly staying on top of the authority’s actions. And many of his ideas (flat water rates, monthly rather than bi-monthly bills, and more transparency for a start) are good ones. Even some on the authority will say so.
The devil in this instance is really the city of Wilmington. The ILA was written by city lawyers. More than a cursory read reveals the city’s true lording over the authority. Here are some of the TRUE problems:
1) Water Rates: O’Shields is spot on when he says the rate should be flat rather than tiered. Multiple rates are confusing and do nothing to encourage conservation for the first 9,000 gallons of water. Nor does it reflect the true cost of water. Flat rates work, combined with a monthly bill, the more you use, the more you’ll pay. The authority can fix this.
2) Board Composition: The board is unwieldy at 11 members (2-from the city council, 2-from the county commission). The ILA spells this out. Reducing it to 5 would make it more pro-active and responsive. One from the commission, one from the council, one appointment each and one approved by both for the chair. Simplify. City and county need to address the ILA here.
3) Water/Sewer/Trash: Most folks aren’t aware that the CFPUA is charged with collecting money for the city on stormwater and trash. It is even more confusing when city council members assert that the CFPUA must pay them FIRST. In other words, even if customers don’t pay the bill, the CFPUA must pay 100% of city owed money out of what is paid regardless. This is an imperial attitude and shows the weakness of the ILA. The city should fix this. It should also consider collecting for its own services so that customers know who to blame if the service is substandard.
4) Age and Money: Some of the pipes in the system are well over 100 years old. Some are supposedly wooden from that era. When created, the system was already broken. Some of the public perception is the legacy of that transition, some of it is due to the billing problem created by the city with bad data given for an expensive collection system that failed with the bad data leaving over $1m in outstanding bills. The city needs to accept some responsibility for this as well. The CFPUA is still bearing the brunt of this legacy and will for some time.
5) Back Bills: The city seems to have lost the ability to understand their own ILA (yet more proof that it needs to be revised). The authority, for better or worse, is trying to use a bill collection agency to collect those past due bills. They asked the city to pay for the portion related to BILL COLLECTIONS for the trash and stormwater which the city summarily balked at thus far. That’s just wrong! Again, the city created this beast and wants to act as if they have no responsibility for it now. As said above, over $1 million owed.
This list is by no means exhaustive. It does point out that there are serious problems needing to be addressed. In the end the county commissioners seem to be more than willing to address the shortcomings of the CFPUA and the ILA. The city, however, seems to be stuck in mud once again, most content to pursue Skyway Bridges and Convention Hotels than dealing with a SERIOUS issue that affects everyone.
The CFPUA is by now means innocent, but they are handicapped in trying to address issues by a city that treats them like an unwanted child.Read full article » No Comments »
On Dec. 21, the powers that be at the FCC will be determining the future of Internet usage. Robert Gibbs, Obama’s press secretary, in responding to the WikiLeaks nightmare, said that the country and administration had nothing to fear from “one man with one computer” but this endgame with the FCC speaks to the contrary.
The Federal Communications Commission will vote on Dec. 21 on whether to adopt regulations that ban the blocking of lawful traffic but allow Internet service providers to ration Web traffic on their networks.
The proposal laid out two weeks ago by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski was met with concern from the other members of the FCC, putting in question the likelihood of winning over a majority of the five-member FCC.
Net neutrality rules would determine whether high-speed Internet providers should be allowed to block or slow information or charge websites for a “fast lane” to reach users more quickly.
This is BAD news for ANYONE that appreciates the amazing success of the Internet over the past twenty years. Its proliferation has provided the most innovative access to goods, services and information in the history of mankind. It has done so without the interference of government and it needs it even less now.Read full article » No Comments »