Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Conservative Viewpoint
- Freedom Of Speech Isn’t Free

Article by Bob Steinburg
- Edenton, North Carolina: Cradle of the Colony

The first amendment to the U. S. Constitution guaranteeing freedom of speech was adopted law on December 15th 1791. It is the most important freedom we have in America for without it we would be unable to defend the other constitutional freedoms, such as our right to bear arms, due process and the right to a trial by jury.

Americans over the centuries have fought and died to preserve the rights that most of us take for granted - like the freedom of free speech. Just think how frightening it would be to have something important to say and not being allowed to say it without the threat of immediate arrest. Few of us will hopefully never have to face such a scenario. But I know of one man who did.

Public meetings take place by the thousands across America every day, at town councils, boards of education and planning commissions. These meetings are designed to conduct the people’s business in an open forum with time reserved for public presentation, concern, comment, adulation and even criticism.

Anyone who has ever served on a board or as an elected or appointed official knows that serving can be an exhilarating experience as well as perhaps a burdensome assignment. Much like writing a political column for a newspaper, one is put on the front line, but hoping for a more thoughtful discourse among your readers. For elected officials, voters’ response to their actions is measured immediately through such meetings and ultimately at the ballot box in the next election.

Back to the man. He was attending a planning commission meeting in Virginia. He listened to two very thoughtful presentations on a potential health and safety issue about the proposed building of homes near at least 210 probable coal mines. He was surprised that the commissioners didn’t seem to be paying very close attention to the speakers, and in fact in some cases was disrespectful. He and others in the audience found the presentations riveting. This was serious stuff but there appeared to be little concern from many of the commissioners.

The chairman asked if anyone else would like to speak and something inside of him said he really didn’t want to get involved, but certainly the commissioners should be challenged for their apparent indifference to what the first two speakers were saying.
This man knew he was moving to North Carolina in several weeks and this wasn’t really his problem anymore. Yet he could not allow himself to walk away from the perceived indifference on the part of the commissioners. How could he live with himself if he later learned that a life was lost simply because he didn’t want to be inconvenienced?

He got up from his seat and approached the microphone. He introduced himself, and asked why the commissioners appeared to be giving the two previous speakers mere lip service. He criticized one of the commissioners in particular and was reprimanded immediately. Although his remarks were brief he found he was spending his allotted time defending his right to speak and unable to cut to the heart of the issue.

He was told to sit down immediately or risk arrest. He couldn’t believe it. He could sit down and avoid what he knew would follow or he could stand up for his rights under the first amendment to the U. S. Constitution and finish his thoughts.

He was never afforded the opportunity. He was arrested, handcuffed, and charged with disorderly conduct. The charges eventually were dropped and a civil lawsuit followed alleging a breach of his constitutional rights.

Imagine the pain and embarrassment. No wonder every day many Americans cower when faced with standing up for what they think is right and choosing instead not to get involved. Justice isn’t always easy and it’s never free. It is often cost-prohibitive to seek judicial review for ultimate justice. Opposing the government or anyone with deep pockets is daunting and why most will shy away from ever becoming involved in the first place. I’m certain the founding fathers never envisioned a judicial system that discourages rather than encourages Due Process in certain cases by limiting access to only those who can afford to pursue it.

So was this man courageous or was he a fool? That will ultimately be for others to decide. I’d rather think he’s just an average guy who overcame his fear of being arrested and followed his instincts to defend his right to free speech.

Was it all worth it? Well since the man filed a federal lawsuit against the county for denying his right to free speech two significant changes at their public meetings have occurred. The county planning board removed their prohibition against personal criticism (personal attacks) and have implemented a time period at each meeting where citizens can speak about whatever they choose without prior approval, which was previously required.

I know the individual who two-and-one-half years later still finds himself in the midst of this costly judicial battle for the right to free speech. It is I. Would I do again? Yes. Many have already died to insure all Americans are afforded the right to free speech. My sacrifice pales in comparison.

Bob, this is the most important article that you have ever written. Here in Eastern North Carolina the tendency to never be controversial is a part of our culture. However with the growing abuse of power from one party rule here in North Carolina, it is time we stopped avoiding controversy and got in the battle. Thank you.

Updated 4/1/2008 - Here is a hot link to the video mentioned in the comment below.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Conservative Viewpoint
- Education- The Civil Rights Issue Of The 21st Century

Article by Bob Steinburg
- Edenton, North Carolina: Cradle of the Colony

With “March Madness” upon us, much of the nation’s attention will drift, albeit temporarily, from political combat to the world of college basketball.

Our son, Bobby, is the head men’s basketball coach at Motlow State University, a junior college located in Lynchburg, Tenn. His roster is comprised of stellar athletes, the bulk of whom are blacks from low socio- economic backgrounds. They are recruited in part because they were unable to qualify for admission to Division 1 schools.

Many of these young men arrive with significant academic deficiencies that require remedial study. Most will go to summer school in order to graduate and become eligible for consideration for four-year institutions hoping to recruit them. But at least they’re getting a chance to follow their dreams.

How many inner city young black men and women will have a similar opportunity? Because of our many failing public schools, children are being conditioned to accept failure and poverty as the norm. For black America, education is the civil rights issue of the 21st century. Ill prepared for life, in many cases these children unwittingly become part of a socio-economic nightmare. Finding a cure for this epidemic may prove to be a catalyst for reducing this nation’s unemployment, crime rate and the continued tragic decay of one’s mind, body and spirit.

Many public schools are not failing because of a lack of money but by who controls the money. Under the Bush administration, there has been a 38 percent increase in overall spending on education. Through the “No Child Left Behind Act” there now must be accountability for student performance. No longer can schools simply push students through who can’t adequately read and write. Yet many of these schools still expect federal money to keep flowing into their coffers regardless of achievement levels not being met. This is one of the reasons Democrats are urging blacks to reject NCLB. They don’t want the scrutiny.

Two facts jump out: the vast majority of inner city schools are failing and those schools are located in areas that have long been controlled by Democrats. The irony of this travesty is that blacks continue to re-elect the very people who are insuring they will never escape the chains of poverty. The Democratic Party of today views minority opportunity as a threat to the power structure they created in the mid-‘60s when most inner city blacks became Democrats.

“Education is the key to freedom,” said Frederick Douglas, an American abolitionist who was the son of a black slave and a white father. Yet with 25 percent of poor blacks living in urban areas and their children trapped in failing public schools, the Democratic Party continues to march in lock step with the National Education association, which opposes school choice and vouchers. The NEA also opposes charter schools.

Charter schools are one option for parents faced with having to send their children to a failing public school. Charter schools are nonsectarian public schools of choice that operate with freedom from many of the regulations that apply to traditional public schools. They provide increased opportunity for learning while creating choice, innovation and accountability.

Research in 2005 by Dr. Caroline Hoxby, a Harvard University economics professor, showed that students who attended charter schools in inner cities had test scores that were five percent higher in reading and three percent higher in math compared to local non-charter public schools. In states with stronger charter school laws the results were even more impressive.

Another option would be school vouchers which would cover the cost of a child’s education at a school of the parents choosing that meets pre-specified minimum standards for instruction and accountability.

Well educated blacks and whites tend to have better jobs. They often become active in the political process, own their own homes and businesses and maintain two-parent households. They are less likely to engage in self-destructive behavior like crime, drug abuse and at-risk pre-marital sex. They do not view themselves as victims, a role that especially has been cast upon many blacks and fostered by secularist Democrats who blame the system and racism for their failures.

Having been involved in athletics most of my adult life, I have had the opportunity to work with children and adults of all races, color and creed. I’ve witnessed first hand the difference that a good education can mean to young men and women, who without it may never fully realize their potential.

Parents need to have a choice. They should not be forced to send their children to attend schools that are failing miserably, simply to be sacrificed for a political agenda that is ripe with promise but often short on results. It’s time for black America to demand school choice and vouchers for their children so they may have an equal shot in becoming full participants in the American dream.

The Republican Party supports school choice, school vouchers and charter schools. The Democratic Party does not. African Americans need to decide which political party really has their best interest at heart. By being provided a choice in education many blacks will finally have the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty, despair and government dependence that has been their yoke for decades. May they seize the opportunity.

I recently had the opportunity to have two conversations with a friend who is black. The first was in private. The second was in public. In the fist we talked about how important it was for the black community to embrace “opportunities” that were anathema to the education unions but which would encourage black kids, especially males, to get the education that would allow them to succeed in our work oriented society. He was encouraging and claimed to be supportive. At the next meeting I turned to him for support on a point I made and he was totally hostile. He claimed I was blaming the victim and said “Teachers are doing a good job. We don’t need ‘choice’ like that.”

When I asked him about this privately, he was annoyed that I had asked him to “publicly” support what he privately supports. His claim is that I had not prepared the other people present to understand and support my proposal that Charter Schools would help some children. Until they agreed, he would not “lose their support” by agreeing with me.

I think Bob is right about the need for more options to assure black kids get an education. However I don’t think either Bob or I will get any resonance on this in the African American community. The African American leaders who are listened to have intimidated any who disagree to the point they are afraid to speak out. As a result, nothing will change.

That makes me sad.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Rally In Raleigh Against OLF

Gates County Citizens Against OLF held a Rally in Raleigh on Thursday March 13 PM to get the attention of our Governor.

Their Press Release stated:

"Gates County citizens (and a tractor or two) will be in front of the Administrative Building letting our Governor's Working Office know we need his support to take us off the list for a NAVY OLF.

An OLF in Gates County would destroy generational families and farms, our history and heritage, wildlife and natural resources. Northeastern NC would not receive any economic benefits or attributes for our communities or our state. The pursuit of an OLF has already cost over $25 million. Construction of an OLF is estimated "at least" $280 million. This is a gross waste of hard earned taxpayer money."

Several local dignitaries spoke at the event, including Gerry Cohn with American Farmland Trust, Anita Earls with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, Kathy Hartkopf from Freedomworks, Amina Turner, executive director for NC NAACP and Senator Ed Jones. Two Candidates for public office, Jim Neal running for U.S. Senate and Dean Stephens running for U.S. Congress, also spoke in opposition to the OLF.

Go to the web site to find out more about how to oppose this mistaken effort by the Navy.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

A Conservative Viewpoint
- North Carolina Politics

Article by Bob Steinburg
- Edenton, North Carolina: Cradle of the Colony

Absolute control breeds scandal and corruption

The Democratic Party has been in charge of almost every level of state government for what seems like forever. It is no truer than in eastern North Carolina where Democratic Party dominance reaches down to the proverbial local dog catcher. Even in non-partisan local elections, Democrats have been guilty of political favoritism, cronyism, nepotism and gerrymandering.

In the last 40 years, North Carolina has tended to vote conservative on a national level. Our current two U.S. senators and six members of our congressional delegation are conservative Republicans. Only twice since the mid-‘60s has North Carolina defected from the Republican candidate in a presidential election: in 1964 when they went with Lyndon Johnson, and in 1976 when the Tar Heel state supported Jimmy Carter.

Support for Republican congressional representatives and some statewide GOP candidates followed. In 1984 and 1988, when first Ronald Reagan and then George H. W. Bush swept to huge victories in the south, former Republican Congressman and then North Carolina gubernatorial candidate Jim Martin rode their coattails to victory.

When Republican presidential candidates do well here, there generally is a significant degree of success by Republicans all the way down the ticket. A big win by John McCain in 2008 could bode very well for the North Carolina Republican Party. That would be good news here for Republicans and Democrats. Here’s why:

Government at every level generally functions better with a two-party system. In Washington, the Republican majority in Congress was ousted in 2006 when it lost sight of its conservative roots, became reckless spenders, and had its own share of scandals. When one party holds the reigns of power with absolute dominance for a prolonged period of time, they’re ripe for unethical behavior and corruption. With minimal representation from the opposition, the party sitting on the throne of power can do as it wishes with only a muted response from the other side of the aisle.

Parliamentary procedure is often used to stifle voices of those with a dissenting view, enabling the majority to ram through its legislative agenda. There is little chance for a veto or an override to defeat a wasteful spending proposal or an excessive earmark. The minority party that could provide the necessary checks and balances of good government is emasculated by the party holding absolute power.

Nowhere is this truer today than in the North Carolina General Assembly. Democrats hold a 12 seat advantage over Republicans in the Senate and a 16 seat advantage in the House. In fact the only time in 100 years the Republicans have controlled the House was from 1994-98. In that same period of time Republicans have never controlled the Senate. As a result many of those from the “ruling party” have become lazy. Arrogant. They have little fear of being challenged. Their jobs are safe. It’s the people they purport to fairly represent that suffer. Contracts are given to cronies.

In Raleigh, a handful of Democratic politicians set the agenda and control how, when and where tax dollars are spent by keeping their fellow legislative minions in tow. For those counties without powerful representation in Raleigh, well, they get what’s left over – maybe.

And still the misconduct continues.

In January, three North Carolina Department of Transportation employees were convicted of accepting kickbacks from contractors. Former Democratic House Speaker Jim Black is serving five years in prison for political corruption and was ordered by the court to pay $1.1 million in fines and restitution charges. Former state Democratic Rep. Frank Balance is serving time for conspiracy, mail fraud and money laundering.

Former Democratic Secretary of Agriculture Meg Scott Phipps, daughter of former Democratic Gov. Bob Scott, was released from prison last year after being convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice charges, including fraud, conspiracy and witness tampering. State Rep. Thomas Wright, a Democrat from Wilmington, faces six felony charges, including accusations that he took $9,000 from a charity he founded, claiming it was repayment for his “sweat equity.”

Conservative values that the majority of North Carolinians want represented in our state legislature are being tossed aside for personal political gain. Conservatives, both Democrats and Republicans cannot afford to let this cancer continue to go unchecked.

Polls have shown that fiscal restraint, traditional family values, smaller and more transparent and efficient government and above all honesty are what the voters of North Carolina expect from their elected officials. In November we’ll have a choice. We can either continue to reelect a majority of the incumbent Democrats whose absolute control of the General Assembly has led to corruption and scandal, or we can elect the best candidates from both parties to help insure that the interests of all North Carolinians are advanced and implemented with fairness and integrity.

While some may debate whether the two party system of government in America is still relevant and effective, there is one thing on which there should be no debate. One party rule has been bad for the people of our state depriving us the quality in government that honest tax paying citizens deserve.

This November let’s bring control of our state government back where it belongs – to the people.

The other result of this overwhelming control of government by one party is the bizarre reaction of people who believe the criticism by the party in power when it constantly blames the party out of control. Four years ago there was a gentleman on TV who was asked about our school system. His response was that we had to elect a Democrat because "the Republicans have destroyed our schools".

How can he think that? How did a party that has had only two governors and one 4 year period of control of a single house during the last 100 years do anything of significance to cause our numerous problems? Schools are politicized beyond belief by being dominated by Democrats. The problems in schools are caused by Democrats overwhelming support of the education unions. Yet many in the populace believe what this man believes. Somehow, without ever being in control, Republicans have caused the problems. Bizarre is the only word I can think of.