Monday, September 25, 2006

Columbus County Commissioners Take a Collective Stupid Pill

Our grand bunch of commissioners got together the other day and in a closed meeting, unamimously voted themselves a very generous health insurance benefit. The plan was included in the county personnel manual by commissioners Godwin, McKenzie and Jacobs. The News Reporter stated that they requested a copy of the manual before the vote, but that county Manager Jim Varner wouldn't allow. After the benefit was made public, some of the commissioners said that they thought it was a grand idea, that their constituents would want them to have this token of appreciation, other counties have similar benefits, I didn't know it was in there and no comment. Board rebel James Prevatte, stated that he didn't read the manual word for word and must have overlooked that section. Everyone I've spoken with has said that that was no excuse and wondered what else he might have overlooked since taking office.

The benefit would pay 50% of the health insurance for a 1 term commissioner, 75% for a 2 term and 100% for a 3 term. They would recieve the benefit regardless of their antics while on the board. The News Reporter published the following chart showing what some of the surrounding counties have like this. Just to make it clear, the Columbus County plan is the best of the bunch, even better than counties that have 5 times the tax receipts as Columbus.






























































County Benefits after one term Benefits after two or more terms
Columbus County Pays 50% Two terms: county pays 75% Three terms: county pays 100%
New Hanover Commissioner pays 100% Two terms: county pays 25%
Duplin None After 10 years county pays 50%
Anson None None
Bertie None After 20 years county pays 100%
Richmond None None
Scotland None Life insurance at $14 per month
Pender None Two terms: commissioner pays 100%
Hoke None Two terms: county pays 100%
Bladen None None
Wake At age 62 county pays 50% At age 62 county pays 100%


What board members fell to realize is that they are public servants, not employees. They are there by our grace and deserve no benefits when their terms are over. The board said that they will meet Friday at 3pm to discuss this matter farther.

Updated 2006-09-29

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posted by David at 10:13 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (24) ::

Friday, September 22, 2006

Busy Busy Busy

I've not stopped posting, I've just been very busy the last week or two. I hope to be back in full swing either the middle or end of next week.

Just a few thoughts I've had lately:

1) NC needs a zero point budget. Take this year, our state collected more tax money than expected, so what did our people in Raliegh do? They expained the size of our state government. Why? Was that the smartest thing to do? In my opinion, no! What happens if for the next year our economy drops just a little? The tax money will not be there to support the growth in government forced on us. So then what happens, Raliegh will raise taxes, create new user fees or impose more "temporary" taxes that just never seem to go away. With a zero point budget every penny would need to be justified as needed before it is given out each year in the budget.

2) I don't like the UN. I've not liked it for a long time now. I believe that America should withdraw our membership and then have them withdraw from our soil.

3) What is it about South Carolina crazy people and bunkers and dungeons? Scary stuff going on across the border.

4) I heard on the radio the other day that a proposed bill in Washington would pay for a border fence if Mexico agreed to it and that it didn't detract from the landscape. What?!? Someone must have took a stupid pill that day.


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posted by David at 7:21 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (2) ::

Monday, September 11, 2006

West Virginia Man Can't Afford Free House

MyrtleBeachOnline

LAKE LURE, N.C. - Donald P. Cook, who won HGTV's 5,700-square-foot Dream Home on April 29, plans to sell the house because of the high taxes and maintenance costs.

Cook, an auditor for the state of West Virginia who has been disabled since childhood by multiple sclerosis, said the electricity bill is more than 10 times what he now pays.

"I don't think there's any possibility I could afford to live there," Cook, of Alum Creek, W.Va., said in an interview posted on the Home & Garden Web site. "What we plan to do is live in the Dream Home for about three weeks, then sell it."

The home overlooks Lake Lure in Rutherford County and has been assessed at slightly more than $3 million with an annual tax bill of $19,396.64.

Cook, who was one of 40 million people who entered the Dream Home contest, plans to retire in October and stay in West Virginia. He said he'll use the money from the Dream Home's sale to buy another house.

"It's a dream that anyone would love to have - owning a house like the Dream Home," he told HGTV. "But then reality sets in."


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posted by David at 3:37 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (37) ::

Earn An Extra $1200 Just For Speaking Spanish

MyrtleBeachOnline

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. - Employees for Hilton Head Island who know Spanish will soon make an additional $1,200 a year.

The program, which goes into effect later this year, is meant to help people ranging from emergency crews to building permit officers better communicate with the region's growing Hispanic population.

Critics of the program say it eliminates another reason for immigrants to learn English with some of the harshest detractors asking why the town is catering to illegal immigrants.

But Hilton Head Island officials said the policy is pragmatic.

It wouldn't be worth it to have to hire an interpreter for code-enforcement officers needing to tell someone they were cutting down a tree improperly, officials said.

Also, emergency workers can't refuse to treat someone who doesn't speak English, and state law requires interpreters in courtrooms, Mayor Tom Peeples said.

"I don't think you can stick your head in the sand (and say), 'We're not going to give you service if you're here dying of a heart attack and you can't explain to us what your symptoms are,'" Peeples said.

Peeples does agree with the critics who say the program shouldn't have been extended outside of emergency workers. Beaufort County has a similar program only for law enforcement officers.

But the mayor said Town Council doesn't like to micromanage the operations of Town Hall.

Municipal governments often are forced into short-term solutions to deal with growing populations who speak a different language, University of South Carolina political science professor Blease Graham said.

The program has generated a lot of interest in the community. At a Town Council meeting last week, Fabia Kendall, who said she didn't know a word of English when her family came to America from Italy, told council members her family didn't expect to encounter government workers speaking anything other than English.

"Your incentive plan treats this issue with little or no respect for the obligations that come with legal immigration, and completely sidesteps the issue of illegal immigration. It is just plain wrong and an insult to all of those who came to this country legally and properly to improve their way of life," Kendall said to applause.


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posted by David at 3:26 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (2) ::

NC Localities Fighting Over DHS Funding

The News & Observer has an article about the fight between the state and local agencies on how to spend the money allocated to the state from Homeland Security.

North Carolina's allocation has shrunk from $54 million in 2004 to $30.5 million this year. About one-third is already earmarked by the federal government. State emergency officials are deciding now how to spend the rest -- and taking heat as they do it. The dwindling grants have touched off a spat between state and local officials over how to slice the smaller pie.


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posted by David at 3:16 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (1) ::

Thursday, September 07, 2006

What?

WRAL

MOORE COUNTY, N.C. -- Pinecrest High School has only 25 varsity football players, well below the average for most 4-A schools.

"It's heartbreaking," said Pinecrest senior Jay Heimrich.

School officials confirmed that Heimrich is one of only four seniors on the Patriot football squad.

"Obviously, every kid is out here giving his all," he said. "We've been here all summer."

Because of the low participation at the varsity level in recent years, school officials said that only junior varsity and freshman schedules might be played this season. School leaders, coaches, and parents will meet to discuss the future of the team early next week.

The school's principal, Joel County, said it's the numbers not the talent level that might cost the team its season.

"We've got some skilled participants," said County. "It's the number that concerns us."

Because of low participation, players would have to play both offense and defense for the entire season, with very little substitutions available. County said he fears for their safety.

"Our concern is putting kids out on the field and incurring more than you'd expect from playing football," County said.

If the varsity season is cut short, the school could face fines from the conference and seniors like Heimrich would likely see their high school careers come to a disappointing end.

"The kids looking forward to scholarships," Heimrich said. "It's just a heartbreaker, it's not looking too good."

So what? What does it matter if you only have 25 players. When I played at WCHS we where lucky to have that many players. As far as playing both offense and defense, many of us did that every game of the season. Let the kids play.


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posted by David at 11:03 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (1) ::

Public Education In LA

Here is an excerpt from the OpinionJournal about the sorry state of public education.

In L.A., the district has squelched school choice for children in failing schools by evading deadlines for notifying families of their transfer options; burying information in bureaucratese; and encouraging families to accept after-school supplemental services (often provided by the same district employees who fail to get the job done during the regular school day) rather than transfers. Still, the district insists that the reason for the low transfer numbers is that parents don't want their kids to leave failing schools.

That explanation rings false because, well, it is. The Polling Company surveyed Los Angeles and Compton parents whose children are eligible to transfer their children out of failing schools. Only 11% knew their school was rated as failing, and fewer than one-fifth of those parents (just nine out of 409 surveyed) recalled receiving notice to that effect from the districts--a key NCLB requirement. Once informed of their schools' status and their transfer rights, 82% expressed a desire to move their children to better schools.

I'm a strong proponent for school choice. I believe that putting capitalist competition between schools will make them strive to perform better or risk locking their doors. I support school vochers and open enrollment in public schools. I'm also a strong opponent opponent to NCLB. I feel that it's a bad law that only makes our schools worse. The US is lagging behind other nations in education and that is something that we can't afford.


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posted by David at 9:05 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (1) ::

Missing Man Found

The Ohio man that was missing since Friday was found last night. He had fell about 50 feet from the Martin Luther King Parkway near McRae St.


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posted by David at 2:56 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (1) ::

New Tax To Watch For

According to the Winston-Salem Journal we can look to a TV/pc monitor tax next year. Senate Bill 1030 would create a tax that would be paid when you purchase these goods and would go to NC counties to help pay with recycling costs. And why not, the state taxes us on almost every thing else we buy or enjoy. I just find it hard to believe that this one has slipped past our state legislature this long. If we don't get a change in Raliegh soon we will be taxed based on the amount of carbon dioxide we exhale.


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posted by David at 2:38 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (2) ::

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Honest Criminals?

The News & Observer

Four months ago, convicted sex offender Antonio Davon Chance gave his father's Garner address to the local sheriff's office when he moved from Chapel Hill -- except his father said he never lived there.

Advocates say Chance's lie illustrates a common flaw with sex offender registries across the country -- their reliance on convicted criminals to participate and to tell the truth.

Chance, 29, is charged with the Aug. 22 kidnapping of Cynthia Moreland of Wendell. Police say Moreland, 48, was abducted from the Progress Energy parking deck in downtown Raleigh on Aug. 22. Her car was found several hours later in Southeast Raleigh, and her body was found Friday in Harnett County.

What do we expect when we ask a violent criminal to do something honest. We need to lay off the victimless crime arrests and save room to keep violent dangerous people like this off the streets.


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posted by David at 11:33 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (1) ::

Tax Us To Teach Us

RockyMountTELEGRAM.com

N.C. consumer agency recommends rate hike for conservation

RALEIGH, N.C. — The agency that represents North Carolina utility consumers is supporting an increase in electricity prices to pay for energy efficiency and conservation programs.

The Public Staff of the North Carolina Utilities Commission recommended that the state consider using the proceeds of a rate hike to create a public benefit fund. The fund would promote efficiency and conservation or even pay rebates for energy-saving measures such as added insulation in homes.

The idea emerged from a workshop last week that included the Public Staff, the state's utilities, trade groups and environmental organizations. Industry groups remain wary that such programs can be wasteful if not closely monitored.

Public Staff executive director Robert Gruber acknowledged that a conservation program could end up paying people to waste energy, if done the wrong way.

"What if I give you $200 to go to Sears and buy yourself an energy-efficient refrigerator, and you put the new refrigerator in the kitchen and move the old refrigerator out to the garage to stock it with soda and beer for the weekend?" Gruber said. "What you want to do is what they call 'market transforming' things — like building codes — because that has a long-term effect."

At least two dozen states have programs that finance energy saving programs through added charges to customers.

A study would help show precisely how much such a program would cost in North Carolina. Monthly charges in other states usually amount to a few dollars or even less than a dollar, Gruber said.

Part of the increase would be used to compensate the utilities for lost revenue.

State officials are taking a close look at options for producing electricity as North Carolina's two biggest power producers make plans for new, multibillion-dollar power generators.

About 95 percent of the electricity generated by Progress Energy and Duke Power now comes from coal-fired and nuclear power plants.

Duke Power plans to build two coal-fired plants in Rutherford and Cleveland counties, and a nuclear plant in South Carolina. Progress plans to apply for a federal license to build a new nuclear reactor at the Shearon Harris plant in Wake County.

Cutting electricity consumption would alleviate the need for new power plants.

The state utilities commission already has ordered a separate study that would analyze the costs and benefits of requiring utilities in North Carolina to get part of their power from renewable resources, such as solar, wind, water or biomass. Such a program would also have to be financed by a public utility fund.

"Anything that can reduce the need for new plants can help the consumer and help the environment in the long run," Gruber said.

But large industrial customers oppose fee increases that would subsidize improvements in homes or offices. The newly recommended study would investigate whether those large customers could be exempted from the rate increases, Gruber said.

I don't think so. A few people may learn to conserve but not enough in my opinion to support increasing taxes rates.


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posted by David at 11:33 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (2) ::

Easley Violated State Constitution

WRAL

Gov. Mike Easley and others violated the constitution in 2001 by intercepting $225 million headed for state pension funds to help cover a budget shortfall, a Superior Court judge ruled Wednesday.

Easley has defended taking the state's contributions to the pension funds, saying it was his legal duty to balance a budget that was off by $850 million. Some of the money was repaid by the end of the 2001, but $130 million wasn't returned.

Fourteen current and former state workers sued in June 2002, arguing that the decision hindered the financial soundness of the North Carolina Teachers' and State Employees' Retirement System. The transfer didn't delay any pension checks, but opponents worried it set a bad precedent and threatened future cost-of-living raises.

After hearing oral arguments in the class-action lawsuit in February, Superior Court Judge Joseph John agreed that the Easley administration and other state officials violated a state constitution provision requiring that retirement funds be used only for their intended purpose.

You can read the rest in the extended section.

"Our primary goal has been throughout this is to establish as a matter of law that this money is off limits to state government once its been appropriated" for pension funds, said Hardy Lewis, the employees' attorney.

But John rejected requests by the employees to force Easley to return the money he didn't return and permanently bar a governor from appropriating retirement funds for other purposes. Going that far may raise questions of separation of powers between branches of government.

The ruling could be appealed once it's final, possibly in a month or so. The Attorney General's Office said it will review the case once complete. Easley still believes his decisions, the result of a budget emergency, were justified, a spokeswoman said.

"North Carolina has one of the best funded pensions in America, and Gov. Easley will continue to make sure that every retiree gets the benefits that they have rightfully earned," spokeswoman Sherri Johnson said.

The General Assembly has made annual payments to the pension funds to replace the money that Easley took. A $30 million installment _ the fourth of five projected payments _ was included in this year's budget. There still could be $83 million outstanding when interest is included, Lewis said.

Other defendants included State Treasurer Richard Moore, controller Robert Powell and the state retirement system. John declined to force Moore, who runs the pension fund, to penalize the state for failing to hand over the withheld money, as required by law.

Dana Cope, executive director of the State Employees Association of North Carolina, whose group filed a similar lawsuit, said the legal fight isn't about Easley, with whom the group has had a strained relationship.

GOP Gov. Jim Martin also withheld pension money during a 1991 budget crisis.

"It's about establishing a precedent," Cope said.

The retirement systems overseen by Moore's office cover 700,000 active and retired state employees, teachers and local government employees, with assets of $70 billion. Public employees contribute up to 6 percent of their salaries to the retirement system, with the state often matching or even surpassing that amount over the years.

The state constitution says that retirement system funds "shall not be applied, diverted, loaned to, or used by the state, any state agency, state officer, public officer, or public employee."

The money in question was taken before being put into the pension plan.

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posted by David at 11:23 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (6) ::

Hillsborough Deputy Called A Hero

WRAL

HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. -- When the sounds of firecrackers and gunshots pierced the air at Orange High School last Wednesday, the school's resource officer, Corporal London Ivey, moved into action.

The deputy told WRAL he knew right away something was wrong.

"I looked and saw a hole in the window and said, 'That's a bullet hole,'" said Ivey. "I knew someone was shooting. I walked out and I saw Castillo in the parking lot."

First, Ivey and drivers education teacher Russel Leblanc hustled students inside the building. Then, they headed straight for 19-year-old Alvaro Castillo. The pair had to cross 75 yards of open pavement to reach the armed teenager.

During his 12 years with the department, Ivey has rarely pulled his gun. Last Wednesday, he didn't hesitate.

"I told him to lay down his weapon," said Ivey. "He laid down the rifle, he let the shotgun slide down his body. Then I told him to get down on the ground and he got down on the ground."

I can go along with that. He did his job in the face of danager. You can read the rest of the article in the extended section.

Ivey admitted that he was scared.

"Well, yeah ... I mean, anybody who says they weren't scared would be lying to you," he said. "But, at that point, I couldn't let being scared get in the way. His objective was to hurt the kids at the school and I wasn't about to let him reach his objective."

Ivey said being called a hero is not something he's entirely comfortable with. However, that's exactly how people think about him around the town of Hillsborough.

"(Ivey) did his job and he did his job in the face of danger," District Attorney Jim Woodall told WRAL. "I truly believe (Leblanc and Ivey) saved lives last week."

Ivey insisted he was doing what any good deputy would do.

"I'm paid to protect and serve those kids, teachers and that school," he said. "I just happened to do it good that day."

Castillo is currently at Central Prison on suicide watch. He is scheduled to be in court again Sept. 11.

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posted by David at 11:20 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (18) ::

Discrimination Is Good!

I read this article today by Walter E. WIlliams at WorldNetDaily

What's discrimination?

Posted: September 6, 2006
1:00 a.m. Eastern

There's so much confusion and emotionalism about discrimination that I thought I'd take a stab at a dispassionate analysis. Discrimination is simply the act of choice. When we choose Bordeaux wine, we discriminate against Burgundy wine. When I married Mrs. Williams, I discriminated against other women. Even though I occasionally think about equal opportunity, Mrs. Williams demands continued discrimination.

You say, "Williams, such discrimination doesn't harm anyone." You're wrong. Discriminating in favor of Bordeaux wine reduces the value of resources held in Burgundy production. Discriminating in favor of Mrs. Williams harmed other women by reducing their opportunity set, assuming I'm a man other women would marry.

Our lives are spent discriminating for or against one thing or another. In other words, choice requires discrimination. When we modify the term with race, sex, height, weight or age, we merely specify the choice criteria.

Imagine how silly, not to mention impossible, life would be if discrimination were outlawed. Imagine engaging in just about any activity where we couldn't discriminate by race, sex, height, weight, age, mannerisms, college selection, looks or ability; it would turn into a carnival.

I've sometimes asked students if they believe in equal opportunity in employment. Invariably, they answer yes. Then I ask them, when they graduate, whether they plan to give every employer an equal opportunity to hire them. Most often they answer no; they plan to discriminate against certain employers. Then I ask them, if they're not going to give every employer an equal opportunity to hire them, what's fair about requiring an employer to give them an equal opportunity to be hired?

Sometimes students will argue that certain forms of discrimination are OK, but it's racial discrimination that's truly offensive. That's when I confess my own history of racial discrimination. In the late 1950s, whilst selecting a lifelong mate, even though white, Mexican, Indian, Chinese and Japanese women might have been just as qualified as a mate, I gave them no chance whatsoever. It appears that most Americans act identically by racially discriminating in setting up marriage contracts. According to the 1992 Census Bureau, only 2.2 percent of Americans are married to people other than their own race or ethnicity.

You say, "All right, Williams, discrimination in marriage doesn't have the impact on society that other forms of discrimination have." You're wrong again. When there is assortive (non-random) mate selection, it heightens whatever group differences exist in the population. For instance, higher IQ individuals tend toward mates with high IQs. High-income people tend to mate with other high-income people.

It's the same with education. To the extent there is a racial correlation between these characteristics, racial discrimination in mate selection exaggerates the differences in the society's intelligence and income distribution. There would be greater equality if there weren't this kind of discrimination in mate selection.

In other words, if high-IQ people were forced to select low-IQ mates, high-income people forced to select low-income mates, and highly educated people forced to select lowly educated mates, there would be greater social equality. While there would be greater social equality, the divorce rate would soar since gross dissimilarities would make for conflict.

Common sense suggests that not all discrimination should be eliminated, so the question is, what kind of discrimination should be permitted? I'm guessing the answer depends on one's values for freedom of association, keeping in mind freedom of association implies freedom not to associate.


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posted by David at 11:08 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (6) ::

Columbus Is Considered For Road Improvement

Triangle Business Journal

The North Carolina Department of Transportation will consider about $31.6 million in highway development projects at its monthly meeting on Thursday.

None of the proposed projects involve road work in the Triangle.

Among the proposals is a Buncombe County project to resurface 4.4 miles of Interstate 40 east of Asheville.

The DOT is also considering four other road improvement projects in Greenville, Morganton and Hyde and Columbus counties. Three bridge replacements in Burke, Cumberland and Martin counties will also be proposed.


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posted by David at 12:01 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (9) ::

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A Look At The New Face Of Politics

Charlotte.com

Politics spins a new web
Hopefuls turn to interactive sites to click with new voters
JIM MORRILL
jmorrill@charlotteobserver.com

When Democrat Larry Kissell started running for Congress a few months ago, he'd never heard of a couple of guys called "Anglico" and "Targater," or their new project, BlueNC.com.

Tech-savvy Republican Vernon Robinson hadn't heard of YouTube when he launched his congressional campaign.

And Thomas Ravenel, a GOP candidate for S.C. treasurer, never had a MySpace profile.

Now those sites are helping each of the three tap into money and support, and in some cases, build a national following.

Though e-mails and Web sites have become common, a growing number of Carolinas candidates are finding new, interactive ways to use the Internet. They're riding electronic networks like surfers swept along in rushing currents.

"Social networking sites are ways for young folks to connect with each other," says Phil Noble, founder of the Charleston-based PoliticsOnline. "What smart candidates are doing is injecting their campaigns into ongoing conversations of millions of people."

Bloggers like those on BlueNC helped bring Kissell to the attention of activists across the country. Now donors come from far beyond his 8th District, which runs from Charlotte to Fayetteville.

A recycled TV ad that gained new life online brought Robinson nearly $200,000 in two weeks for his race in the 13th District, stretching from Greensboro to Raleigh.

MySpace has helped Ravenel reach a new generation of supporters in South Carolina. His profile includes his astrological sign (Leo)and sexual orientation (straight).

Few candidates are as sophisticated about the cyber-possibilities as Democrat John Edwards, North Carolina's former U.S. senator and probable 2008 presidential candidate.

His site features podcasts, blogs and chat rooms. Average citizens upload video questions. Supporters soon will get mobile alerts on their cell phones.

"We're seeing a change in the way people are engaging," says Julie Germany, deputy director of the Washington-based Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet. "People are engaging online. And they're taking that activism offline."

Spreading the message

Running for Congress two years ago, Robinson aired a TV ad called "The Twilight Zone." To the soundtrack of the old TV show, it blasted homosexuals, illegal immigrants and supporters of abortion rights. It even showed Jesse Jackson in a police lineup.This year Robinson put it on his Web site. Bloggers picked it up. So did Rush Limbaugh. "Hardball" host Chris Matthews found it on YouTube, a nine-month-old Web site that has 20 million visitors a month.

"If you're an indistinguishable candidate that has the same blow-dried hair and the same indistinguishable message ... you won't do very well in this medium," says Robinson. "Conservatives want somebody to take a stand. Liberals want somebody to take a stand. And they're frustrated when candidates don't."

Like Robinson, Kissell also has a YouTube following. His video shows people in his hometown of Biscoe lined up for $1.22-per-gallon gas, which he subsidized to call attention to rising prices.

The Montgomery County teacher has become popular with liberal bloggers. He's one of about 20 candidates nationwide endorsed by Netroots, an alliance of leading Democratic-leaning blogs. So far that's helped him raise more than $42,000 online. His own blogs appear on national sites such as the Daily Kos.

"He's exactly why the Netroots say they're in business ... to bring people to the table who otherwise wouldn't be there," says U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, an Alabama Democrat who campaigned with Kissell this month.

That's why James Protzman, a Chapel Hill writer whose screen name is Anglico, has helped Kissell both online and by hosting a fundraiser at his home. Protzman helped found the blog BlueNC.

"Larry's definitely caught a lot of interest because, quite frankly, we don't think the media has done a very good job covering him," Protzman says. "The light's not shining on that race yet, so we're trying to shine it there."

21st-century `soda fountain'

To widen their appeal, S.C. consultant Rod Shealy urged clients Ravenel and Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer to sign up on MySpace, a two-year-old site popular with young people.

"It's the soda fountain of today," says Shealy. "Young people of the '50s congregated at the soda fountain. Today they're congregating at MySpace and YouTube."

MySpace boasts profiles on more than 50 million people. Other S.C. candidates -- including Ravenel's 83-year-old opponent -- have entries in Facebook, a similar site that caters to the young.

Some politicians use the Net for quick feedback. Robinson tests messages online before sending them out in direct mail or conventional ads. "In 36 hours you know whether you did a good job," he says.

Robinson's opponent, Democratic Rep. Brad Miller of Raleigh, also is Net-friendly. Less so is Kissell's rival, Republican Rep. Robin Hayes of Concord. Asked if he knows much about blogging, Hayes said, "I know it's something on the Internet."

Noble of PoliticsOnline says politicians are using only a fraction of the Web's potential.

"The great power of the Internet is its power to reform politics by finding ways to put people back in charge, and that goes around power-brokers," he says. "That's its radical potential. It's democracy with a little `d.' "


Users Online

A look at two who are involved in the political arena on the Internet.

THE BLOGGER

Screen name: "The Southern Dem." Slogan: "Sometimes leaning right... Usually leaning left... Always with an opinion."Who she really is: Charlotte mom Betsy Muse, 44.

Affiliation: Democrat.

Where she posts: On her own site, The Southern Dem, on BlueNC and other blogs.

A recent post: "Saturday was the first day that Larry Kissell and Robin Hayes attended the same campaign event. I've been working much of the afternoon doing my best to write a serious piece ...My plans were to do a mature piece devoid of snark, sarcasm or silly photoshop pictures. Yeah....Like that's gonna happen."

Why she does it: "Probably what we do best is connect people with like ideas. ... We fancy ourselves as people who can have a little more freedom probably than a corporate journalist. We don't have an editor who says we have to balance the story. It isn't necessarily about being fair and balanced. I feel like I'm digging for the truth."

Why Democrats appear to be more active bloggers: "Unfortunately it's easier to rant than to rave," says Phil Noble of PoliticsOnline, himself a Democrat. "We've seen Internet activism organized and directed more effectively against things and candidates than for."

THE CANDIDATE

Name: Thomas Ravenel, 44.

Affiliation: Republican.

Running for: S.C. state treasurer.

Internet niche: MySpace.

What it says about him: He's single (but in a relationship), straight, has an athletic build and is a Leo. It also has his platform and brief bio.

How it differs from his official Web site: "It's a little hipper."

Why he does it: "We want to stay ahead of the curve. I think South Carolina, in its policies and adherence to the status quo ... is one reason we're behind the other 49 states. I'm all about new approaches."

What the site has done for him: It's helped recruit new volunteers. Two of his county campaign chairmen were people who signed up as "friends."

People who've signed to be his "friend": As of last week, 160, including one purporting to be South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier.

Ravenel's rules: "Friends" have to be 18 or older. No bathing suit pictures allowed.

Caught on the Net

Several politicians have felt the sting of Internet politics this year.

• In Connecticut, thousands of people saw YouTube replays of President Bush appearing to kiss U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman during the State of the Union. In last month's Democratic primary, it was a kiss of death. Net activists helped Ned Lamont defeat Lieberman.

• At a rally in Virginia, a video camera caught Republican U.S. Sen. George Allen referring to a dark-skinned man in the crowd as "macaca." To critics the remark was racially insensitive. The resulting furor -- fed by thousands of replays on YouTube -- forced him to apologize.

• In South Carolina, Republican Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer's MySpace page included "friends" who submitted scantily clad pictures and it linked to a racy discussion group called "Matt's Mom is HOTT." The photos and link disappeared after a story about it in the Greenville News.


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posted by David at 10:51 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (4) ::

Good Bye Crocodile Hunter

I guess you've already heard that Steve Irwin died after an encounter with a stingray yesterday. Just in case you haven't here's an article from Environmanet News Service

CAIRNS, Queensland, Australia, September 5, 2006 (ENS) - Steve Irwin, the Australian conservationist and television personality nicknamed the Crocodile Hunter, was killed Monday by a stingray barb during filming off the Great Barrier Reef. He was 44.

Irwin was filming for a series called "Ocean's Deadliest" off the coast of Queensland near Port Douglas when he swam too close to a stingray, said his friend and colleague John Stainton.

"He came on top of the stingray and the stingray's barb went up and into his chest and put a hole into his heart," Stainton, who was aboard Irwin's boat at the time, told news reporters.

Stingrays have a serrated barb, or spine, loaded with toxin on top of their tails. The barb, which can be up to 10 inches long, flexes if a ray is frightened.

Irwin pulled the deadly stingray barb from his own chest before blacking out and dying. He was pulled from the water by a cameraman and a crewman, put aboard an inflatable and taken to a nearby support boat.

Crewmembers said Irwin was still conscious in the moments after the sting, but died as his production team transported him to his vessel, "Croc One," and to an island for emergency treatment.

A charter dive boat crew tried to revive him on the beach, but he was pronounced dead shortly afterwards by Queensland Rescue Service officers, who arrived by helicopter.

Film of the death has been handed over to Queensland police, who are preparing a report for the coroner.

"The world has lost a great wildlife icon, a passionate conservationist and one of the proudest dads on the planet," Stainton told reporters in Cairns. "He died doing what he loved best."

Irwin became world famous his television program "Crocodile Hunter." First broadcast in Australia in 1992, the program was picked up by the Discovery network where his trademark exclamation "Crikey!" was part of the show's appeal.

But it was Irwin's dedication to wild animal conservation that was the heart and soul of his work.

He used his high profile to promote the cause of conservation, becoming owner and manager of the world renowned Australia Zoo in southern Queensland, the wildlife park that his parents opened.

He also established the Steve Irwin Conservation Foundation and International Crocodile Rescue.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said he was "shocked and deeply saddened" to learn of Irwin's sudden death.

The Prime Minister called Irwin "a passionate environmentalist who used his television programs and his award-winning Australia Zoo to promote a serious conservation message. He made an extraordinary contribution to creating a widespread appreciation of the value and uniqueness of Australian wildlife."

Australian Environment Minister Senator Ian Campbell said, "While the world knew him as the 'Crocodile Hunter' and as a colorful, quintessential Australian character, Steve Irwin was driven by an enormous and deeply held commitment to the environment and specifically Australia’s unique wildlife."

"He was so successful because he believed passionately in his life’s work - the protection and conservation of our planet and its creatures and the promotion of our nation’s natural wonders," Campbell said.

Irwin's wife Terri rushed to Queensland from a holiday in Tasmania after being told of the tragedy. She is now at the couple's family home on the Sunshine Coast with their two children, Bindi, 8, and Robert 2.

An outpouring of grief from across Australia and around the world was triggered by news of Irwin's death. At Australia Zoo at Beerwah, flowers laid by mourners are massed at the entrance.

On an Irwin weblog on the MySpace.com website, the majority of posters yesterday respected his non-religious stance, sending condolences to his family and wishing that the conservationist "rest in peace."


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posted by David at 10:42 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (4) ::

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Town Of Bolton Blocks Strip Club

The News Reporter

Bolton’s board of aldermen approved a 60-day moratorium on adult businesses Monday.

More than 20 people attended a public hearing on the proposal. More than half in attendance spoke against allowing topless dance clubs and similar businesses in town.

“They don’t belong here,” said Mason Matthis. “They don’t produce revenue for the town. They don’t produce jobs for our residents. I don’t think we want our town associated with places like that.”

Aldermen called for the public hearing at an emergency board meeting Aug. 18. The town was approached that week by two women reported to be associated with the Whispers club, an adult dance club in Delco.

Whispers and another club, Magic Moments, were closed in a raid by sheriff’s deputies Aug. 3. Six women were arrested on a variety of drug and sex-related charges. The clubs were raided due to violations of the county adult business ordinance. The clubs have remained closed since the raid, pending the outcome of a civil trial. The management of Whispers has kept the club closed voluntarily since the raids.

Town Attorney Harold “Butch” Pope explained the moratorium procedure to those attending Monday’s meeting, and detailed the town’s options. He also emphasized that there is virtually no way to completely forbid such establishments.

“Whether we agree with them or not,” he said, “the Supreme Court has ruled erotic dancing to be a freedom of expression in some cases.”

Pope said the town’s best hope lies in regulation.

“These places are hard to keep out,” he said, “but you can control where they go, and what times they can be open.”

One unidentified speaker suggested allowing topless clubs only on N.C. 211 south.

“There’s a lot of swamp and mosquitoes out there,” he said.

Several people attending Monday’s meeting asked if the town could hold a referendum on adult clubs. Pope said he didn’t think that was necessary.

“You voted for the people on this board,” he said, “and they will vote on what to do about these businesses. You elected them to do this for you.”

Mayor Frank Wilson asked for a show of hands from those attending who would support a moratorium. Every resident in the room raised his or her hand.

Wilson told the crowd that the town’s planning board and aldermen were working on a draft ordinance “as we speak,” and hoped to have something ready shortly.

“The purpose of this moratorium is to give the town time to research and assemble a possible ordinance, “ he said.

On a motion by Mayor Pro Tem Mae Neil, which was seconded by Alderman Pearl Mills, the board approved the moratorium. Alderman Geraldine Jenkins did not attend Monday’s meeting.

The issue is expected to be discussed further at Tuesday’s regular meeting of the board.


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posted by David at 1:30 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (4) ::

Church Leaders Oppose County Strip Clubs

This is from the August 24th edition of the News Reporter

Church leaders are at the forefront of a movement to keep the doors of two adult entertainment businesses in Delco closed and prevent others from opening in Columbus County.

Several preachers from the area asked county commissioners to keep Whispers and Magic Moments closed and toughen existing ordinances concerning adult businesses at a Monday county commission meeting.

The Columbus County sheriff closed both establishments on Aug. 3, citing violations of local ordinances enacted in October 1977 and modified in February 2000 that forbids such establishments within 3,000 feet of a residence or other sexually oriented businesses, and 5,000 feet of churches, daycares and schools. Six employees and a manager were arrested on a number of charges.

The Rev. Charles Hester of Riegelwood Baptist Church commended commissioners for amending the ordinances in 2000 and thanked Sheriff Chris Batten for the raid on the clubs. He urged officials to continue “until establishments have no place to land” in Columbus County and “do whatever” could be done to strengthen the laws pertaining to the adult businesses.

“We’ve contended with Magic Moments for more than 10 years,” Hester told commissioners. “What begins on the borders –it won’t be long before it is at the county seat.”

Pastor Eddie Watts of Riegelwood thanked officials for “progress made,” telling commissioners that he had been trying to encourage people to pray and seek the Lord’s power. “I don’t want to see our county become a reproach,” Watts said, quoting Proverbs 29:16 and 18:3 that read in part: “…when the wicked are increased, transgression increaseth …”

Thurston Calvin Malpass of Red Hill joined other church leaders in asking what was being done to review the ordinance.

“This is a top priority,” Commissioner Bill Memory said.

“We are looking at it,” said Steve Fowler, county attorney, adding that it was being tweaked “more into compliance.”

Donald Melvin Lawing of Faith Baptist and Faith Christian in Delco said the unsightly businesses were frequented by passersby traveling from Charlotte to Wilmington. “It doesn’t benefit the county,” Lawing insisted. He said the illegal money floating about the establishments was money the county “would never see.” Urging commissioners to make laws and ordinances “as strong as possible,” Lawing said, “Wouldn’t it be great to get that big sign down across from our church?”

Wednesday, the county attorney issued a press release in reference to the ordinances. The release states that the 1977 ordinance is focused primarily on massage parlors and that the county would like an ordinance that is “as up to date and contemporary as possible.”

The county attorney’s release goes on to state that, “the county is looking at ways to strengthen and tighten this ordinance while, at the same time, obtain balance within the law to the judicial rulings as determined by the United States Supreme Court in what constitutes free speech.” Fowler explains that the office is “aggressively reviewing the current county ordinance but wishes to be cautious in making sure that what is presented to the commissioners can be adequately enforced and reasonably upheld by judicial authority.”

In several highly controversial rulings, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld in 1986 and 1991 that sexually explicit speech or actions are not necessarily obscene. That means local church leaders’ and residents’ desire to keep such establishments out of the county are likely to be met with the defense that the operations of adult businesses often are protected as free speech under the U.S. Constitution.

The next hearing regarding Magic Moments is set for Aug. 28 at 10 a.m. at the Columbus County Courthouse. The case had been continued to that date due to one of the club’s owners Donald Mercer’s notice of hearing being returned “unserved” and defendant Gabriel Spence Mercer being given adequate time within the law to respond to his notice .

Meanwhile, the Town of Bolton, recently approached by individuals looking to open a club there, is reviewing the town’s ordinances that do not specifically address adult businesses. A meeting is also planned for Aug. 28 at 7 p.m. at the town hall.


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posted by David at 1:28 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (2) ::

Friday, September 01, 2006

War Between The States Documents Stolen

Myrtle Beach Online

A thief snatched two rare Civil War documents from a public library exhibit last weekend, an unusual theft that librarians said could force them to limit future exhibits.

The documents, on loan to the library, were taken from a sealed display case in the main branch on North Tryon Street.

Library officials and Walt Hilderman, the owner of the documents, say they believe the theft was planned. Police are investigating.


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posted by David at 2:32 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (0) ::

Donovan Still Missing

Myrtle Beach Online

Autopsy results have determined that human bones discovered Wednesday morning in Brunswick County, N.C., are not Alice Donovan.

Donovan is the Galivants Ferry woman presumed dead since being carjacked and kidnapped from Conway four years ago.

Investigators from the Conway Police Department on Wednesday were brought in to the wooded area near the N.C.-S.C. border to assist the Brunswick County Sheriff's Office.

Forensic tests later showed, though, that the bones are actually those of a 5-foot-5-inch to 5-foot-7-inch black male, 30 to 40 years of age.

Along with the bones, detectives also found articles of clothing, including dark blue jogging pants with blue and yellow stripes on the legs, keys, coins with the dates 1995 and 2001 and a diamond-studded earring.

Authorities believe the man has been dead for over a year.

Donovan disappeared from the parking lot of Wal-Mart in Conway in 2002. She hasn't been found.

In 2004, two men, Branden Basham and Chadrick Fulks, were sentenced to death in federal court for her death.

Investigators from the Brunswick County Sheriff's Office canvassed the field off McLamb Road, a short distance from the N.C.-S.C. border, where the remains were discovered by workers from a Conway timber company Wednesday morning.

Numerous searches for Donovan have not turned up any clues. She was last seen alive with Basham and Fulks near Winnabow, N.C., which is north of the area where the bones were found.

Anyone with information about the bones that were found is asked to contact Lt. David Crocker of the sheriff's major crimes unit at (910) 253-2754.


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posted by David at 2:30 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (0) ::

Bomb Found In Myrtle Beach

Well not quite.

Myrtle Beach Online

What turned out to be a weather device caused a temporary bomb scare at a Myrtle Beach pier this morning.

Myrtle Beach police closed a 600-yard radius of the beach at Pier 14 after someone walking on the beach reported seeing a metal box strapped to a pilon under the pier at 14th Avenue North, Myrtle Beach police Capt. David Knipes said.

Horry County's bomb squad blew the top off the box to reveal its contents: a device from the U.S. Geological Service that measures wave height and frequency, and storm surge.

Dozens of onlookers gathered along the beach to watch the scene unfold.

A worker said the Pier 14 restaurant was evacuated temporarily, but the business was open again by lunchtime.

Opps. I guess the USGS should have informed someone about the device.


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posted by David at 2:24 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (4) ::

Elections Board Drops Complinat Filed Against GOP Group

WRAL

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The State Board of Elections dismissed a complaint Wednesday against a Republican group accused of using mailings to attack GOP House members who had allied with Democrats at the General Assembly, determining that the group barely avoided breaking the law.

By a vote of 4-1, the board determined that Republican Legislative Majority of North Carolina, a so-called "527" group, didn't violate the state law that requires disclosure of donations and expenditures for mailings that advocate expressly for a candidate.

One particular set of mailings with a baseball motif urged recipients to "call out" legislators, but didn't directly call for their defeat in the May primary, even though the lawmakers were named in the flyers, a majority on the board decided.

"Under the current status of the law, I believe they have operated within that law," board chairman Larry Leake said at the close of two days of hearings.

The board also unanimously found no evidence that the group coordinated its work with the incumbents' challengers or the state Republican Party.

The complaint had been filed by House Speaker Pro Tempore Richard Morgan, R-Moore, one of the five incumbents targeted by the group and one of two along with Rep. Rick Eddins, R-Wake, who lost their primaries.

The series of mailers had highlighted their voting records on taxes, redistricting and a power-sharing agreement between Morgan and House Speaker Jim Black, D-Mecklenburg.

Morgan's complaint to the board marks another clash between moderate GOP members and conservative Republicans who believe Morgan and his political friends betrayed the party by allying with Democrats.

Morgan alleged the committee hid contributions and crossed the line into express advocacy, enough to earn a fine and an order to return any unlawful donations. He said after the ruling that he would consider appealing the decision to the courts.

The group was bankrolled by the family-owned businesses of Morgan's political rival, former state Rep. Art Pope, and Morgan said he took "offense at a Wake County CEO millionaire trying to buy up legislative seats.

"The best thing we can do is let people know about that," Morgan said.

Pope, who testified earlier Wednesday that the group took care to follow the rules and only educate voters about their representatives, said he was pleased with the decision and said Morgan was trying to blame him for his election defeat.

"It's a vindication of the Republican Legislative Majority," Pope said. "We fully complied with the law."

Leake said after the meeting that the board probably would have sided with Morgan if the federal courts hadn't already blocked enforcement of one state election law. The law would give the board more leeway to explore other activities of the Republican Legislative Majority as it decided whether the mailers were legal.

Pope and his lawyers said the "call out" mailers were designed to urged voters to confront a candidate on the issues, not to defeat one.

"It comes so close to the line of being express advocacy," board member Genevieve Sims said.

Bob Cordle was the only member to vote against dismissal of the accusation, saying the group crossed the line and should have been ordered to pay an $18,000 penalty, the cost of the ads.

Pope's family businesses gave at least $186,000 to the Republican Legislative Majority this year, generating more than 300,000 pieces of mail to the targeted districts, according to records and Morgan's attorneys.

Republican Legislative Majority is a so-called "527" group that can receive unlimited amounts of corporate money. Recent state laws attempt to require more disclosure from these independent political groups.

Morgan testified during the two-day hearing that he filed the complaint to reduce the power of 527 groups and corporate influence in elections.

Pope told the board his group modeled its organization after a similar 527 group begun in 2004, the Republican Main Street Committee, which supported Morgan and other Republicans who had cooperated with Democrats in the state House.

Republican Main Street was disbanded before the 2006 elections.


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posted by David at 2:22 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (5) ::

Duke Lacrosse Rape Update

WRAL

DURHAM, N.C. -- Attorneys representing three Duke lacrosse players charged with rape filed a motion Thursday seeking additional notes and reports from investigators, including the results of a toxicology test performed on the accuser.

The motion _ filed jointly by attorneys for Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans _ seeks notes and e-mails outlining activities of Durham police officers involved with the case and a report outlining statements made by the accuser in a meeting with District Attorney Mike Nifong and investigators in April.

It also seeks results of a toxicology report discussed by attorneys during a meeting last week with Superior Court Judge W. Osmond Smith III. Nifong said the report found the accuser's system "was negative for the presence of any controlled substances," though the report has not been provided to the defense, according to the motion.

In a past motion seeking such toxicology reports, defense attorneys have cited a story published in Newsweek in May that said Nifong "hinted" such tests would reveal the presence of a date-rape drug. The accuser told police she was raped by the three players at a March team party where she was hired to perform as a stripper.

The motion seeks handwritten notes from at least 11 Durham police officers regarding their activities in the case; e-mails to and from officers regarding the lacrosse case; reports from labs that performed DNA testing for the case; and an order allowing defense attorneys to view items in a sealed rape-kit box.

The defense also renewed its request for records from the facility where the accuser was taken for involuntary commitment in the hours after the party and where she first said she was raped. The accuser interacted with at least three staff members and was there for 40 minutes, but there is no "substantive report" about her presence there, according to the motion.

Nifong did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment Thursday.


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posted by David at 2:20 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (8) ::