Roger Carlton articles

Roger Carlton lives in Robbinsville, NC. He writes for the Graham Star newspaper. He is a man I admire and believe he should have a voice here.    Let me know your views on his articles.
gcbmountaingirl@gmail.com 



Predictions for 2022

Please answer this question. Will 2022 bring the end of democracy as we know it?

It is clear that we have become a nation of angry people polarized and paralyzed by an inability to compromise, egged on by opportunistic influencers who are enabled by an unregulated devil we call social media.

Sounds awful but, there is hope. Winston Churchill said, “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing, after they’ve tried everything else.” My first prediction for 2022 is that we will try everything else because nothing we have tried in the past five years has worked. Ending the filibuster might be an example of something to try.

On the subject of the economy, inflation will continue until the supply chain problems of 2021 resolve. Supply chain problems will resolve when the oligarchs of industry realize that more product in times of shortage means more profit for the long term.

Income inequality will worsen which means the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer. The “dignity of labor” will become a rallying cry for both major parties during the mid-term contests for Congress, governors, and state legislatures. The evidence is already in. People are quitting jobs in droves and others are demanding fair compensation and respect. Unless management figures this out, we will see a renaissance of the labor movement.

The environment and climate change will become top of mind for an expanding group of people. We cannot ignore fires in the west, tornadoes in the mid-west, and floods in the east. We will stop arguing about the cause of these ever-intensifying disasters and start finding solutions. That trend is why Elon Musk’s Teslas have made him the richest person in the world. He is providing a solution.

Public health concerns will remain top of mind

More and more vaccination hesitant holdouts will come to the realization that the risks of denial are far worse than the rewards of social responsibility. Unfortunately, the loss of loved ones and the sanctions imposed by the government and employers will be the two main causes of this epiphany.

Despite the efforts of many agony profiteers who thrive on controversy, we will ask ourselves, “Why are we here? To what end are we arguing?” As author Phillip Roth questioned years ago, do we want to become a land where everything goes and nothing matters?

Said another way, are wedge issues like regulating assault weapons, creating a vigilante system to regulate abortions, limiting voting rights, leaving financial markets unregulated, and allowing drug companies to addict our young people, solvable issues only by spite legislation or can we develop compromise solutions?

This columnist is an eternal optimist. The challenges we face are enormous. My glass is neither half-full nor half-empty, but it is getting closer to full all the time. We will find new leadership in 2022 and beyond. The perfect leader will emerge, and he or she will combine the attributes of Lincoln, Reagan, Kennedy, Truman, and Roosevelt. We will move toward regaining our common vision and purpose in 2022.

My best wishes to all the Graham Star readers and people who put the paper together weekly for a healthy, prosperous, and peaceful New Year.





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December 2, 2021 

Hartville and Robbinsville

What would happen if you had a scale large enough to hold the 331.4 million people in the U.S. exactly balanced? Where would the midpoint be? In Hartville Missouri which is a metropolis of 594 people located in southwest Missouri. The midpoint has been in Missouri since 1980 gradually moving south and west just like the people of our great country.

When the first Census was completed in 1790, the center of population was about thirty miles from Baltimore. The entire US population was 3.9 million. Waives of immigration as people fled tyranny or sought economic security grew the population. So did internal movements like the California gold rush and Oklahoma land giveaways. The Dust Bowl was an environmental reason people moved. Today we end up 22 censuses later with the center of population in Missouri.

Hartville has a history. Missouri was the 12th state to join the Confederacy. The Battle of Hartville took place for three days in January 1863. There were 111 casualties for the greys and 78 for the blues. Despite these numbers, historians awarded victory to the greys because the blues left town after the confrontation was over.

Hartville is not a lot different from Robbinsville and yet it is. Somehow the population grew by 12 percent between 2019 and 2020. I guess the good citizens realized the Census count was important or maybe there was a wave of immigration. Basketball is the big sport in town. The Hartsville Eagles beat the Kickapoo Chiefs 48 to 45 in a division championship game last year. The FFA has 80 members.

What is there to do in Hartville? Trip Advisor had to broaden its analysis beyond the 425 acres within the city limits. Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum is 10.8 miles away. LJD’s diner gets four stars and advertises “a cheap all you can eat lunch buffet” on their website. If you are seeking a more adult experience, the Frosty Mug is 15.7 miles away next to a place called Fun City. There are no local prohibitions on alcohol sales in Missouri. The legislature decided this debate was theirs and theirs alone many years ago.

Like many small cities in rural America, Hartville’s downtown is struggling. One of the largest employers is the Dollar General store. Taxes are pretty low. A farm with 308 acres is available for $1.3 million. Property taxes are $790 per year. A very nice home with 58 acres is available for $515,000. It gets an agricultural tax exemption because 150 round bales of hay are produced annually when the grass is cut.

Is Robbinsville different from Hartville? Probably not. Just a good old American small city where life goes on despite the craziness around us. Besides, all you get for being the center of the US population is a bronze monument provided by the National Geodetic Survey which is a division of NOAA. Being the center of population rather reminds me of Atlas carrying the entire planet on his soldiers. All he got for that effort was a backache and usurpation by Hercules as the strongest person on the planet.

   





























October 7, 2021

The Most Important Decision In 70 Years

Starting in a few days and continuing until election day on November 2, 2021, the voters in Robbinsville will have the opportunity to set the stage for a better future or to continue a downward spiral that has been 70 years in the making. 

A “FOR” vote on all seven items on the ballot will allow our restaurants and retail establishments to sell beer and wine under limited circumstances. A “FOR” vote on all seven items on the ballot does not include the opening of an ABC store selling hard liquor.

The ballot language is complex. That is not the fault of the Prosperity Committee or the Revved-Up organizations supporting the ballot item. The language is required by State law. So, let’s not waste any time thinking that the wording of the ballot is intentional on the part of supporters.

There will be economic benefits. The tax money raised by the sale of beer and wine will be directly helpful for the people of Robbinsville. To be honest, the revenue should be allocated to mitigating all the real and imagined impacts of a positive outcome of the election. If we need additional security or expanded addiction programs, we need to trust the elected officials of Robbinsville to do the right thing. They showed the courage to put the issue on the ballot and they will have the wisdom to handle any problems that might occur.

The real economic benefits arrive quickly after a “FOR” vote. Our restaurants will be able to stay open longer and become profitable. This means we will serve our visitors and potential new residents with a quality of life that will bring to an end our population decline. Our young folks will begin to reverse their decisions to move away. With population growth comes opportunity. With opportunity comes investment. With investment comes economic betterment for the entire population of Graham County. Economists call this the multiplier effect which means that one dollar spent turns over at least seven times.

If real and demonstrable evidence of the success of allowing beer and wine sales in a small town will help you become a “FOR” vote, consider Saluda, North Carolina. 

This village was in bad shape in the 1980s. Very few storefronts remained open in the downtown area. The voters supported a BYOB program in the late 1990s. In 2008, the voters supported allowing beer and wine sales. The population grew to 891 in 2019 from 713 in 2010. That is an increase of 178 people or 25 percent. Downtown has become vibrant and quality reasonably priced housing is being built throughout the community. With thirteen years of positive experience under their belt, the voters of Saluda passed by 77 percent in 2019 an expansion of the 2008 “FOR” vote to include cocktails in restaurants. Just like Saluda, Robbinsville is responsibly taking small steps.

We need a renovated or new Ingles. There is no hope without allowing the sale of beer and wine. Folks who might move here are used to more modern stores. That is why so many of our residents drive to Murphy to shop for food and leave their tax revenue in our neighboring county. A positive vote will show the Ingles decision-makers that an investment in our store will be a wise decision.

This column would not be complete and I would be a coward to avoid acknowledging the faith-based opposition to allowing beer and wine sales. The New Testament in Galatians 5:19-21 does warn that drunkenness and orgies will cause the sinner to “not inherit the kingdom of God.” Ephesians 5:18 states “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.” Both of these passages deal with irresponsible levels of consumption by using the words “drunkenness” and “drunk.” These are words of excess and not moderation. They are words of the failure of self-control and self-determination. Yet the Old and New Testaments are replete with references to the use of wine as an element of the celebrations of life.

If those words of excess are motivational to the opponents, we need to respect their “AGAINST” vote decision. My own faith in human nature to overcome self-inflicted excesses is my motivator. We need to move on to the greater good and not let the fear of excesses of a few control the destiny of our community.

There is a great unfairness that may be resolved when the voters of Robbinsville make up their minds. Some folks are blessed with the economic well-being to spend $50 or more per person to enjoy a beer or wine with their meals at the many places already allowed to serve alcohol in Graham County. When Joe or Jean working person wants to have a few beers while watching a sporting event over the weekend, he or she must drive at least 50 miles round trip to purchase the requisite sixpack. That is fundamentally unfair to our hard-working folks who cannot afford the luxury establishments. The voters of Robbinsville can end this unfairness by voting “FOR.”

A few thoughts to close out this column. Thanks to the Robbinsville Board of Alderman and the Mayor. They believe in democracy and put this matter on the ballot. They first asked the Graham County Commissioners to place it on the county-wide ballot and were denied.

Thanks to the leadership of everyone involved in economic development and advocacy for the beneficial future of our community. Let us all remember the words of Malala who won the Nobel Prize as a teenager “We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.” Come out to vote. That is our responsibility as citizens of this great democracy.

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September 23, 2021


Lake Tahoe on Fire

My wife Beth and I had the pleasure of visiting Incline Village, Nevada, for two weeks in late August and early September. Bring up a mental image of the Michael Corleone mansion in Godfather II or the Cartwright’s Ponderosa ranch in the long-running Bonanza and you will understand the stunning beauty of the 8500 feet above sea level incredibly steep Sierra Nevada mountains covered with 200-foot-tall sugar and ponderosa pines.

The trip to visit our friend Carole had been planned for months. The tickets were bought and paid for. Then the news of the Caldor fire exploding to thousands of acres with more than 1000 structures destroyed and approaching the Town of South Lake Tahoe less than 30 miles away from where we would be staying became top of mind. We decided to risk it and leave early if necessary. We also decided to make sure if we left early, Carole would come with us no matter how resolute her desire to remain.

Lake Tahoe is a pristine body of water 72 miles around.

It is located in the crook of Nevada and California. The lake is fed from winter snows caught by the mountains as the Pacific storms move west to east. On the west side of the mountains are dense forests where winter snows can reach 14 feet in depth. On the east side is a desert with very little rain.

The long-term drought in California and other states has made these verdant forests tinder dry. The state and federal forests have been closed to the public to reduce risk. The skill and bravery of the many agencies fighting the fires and the strategies used are extraordinary, yet, a change in the wind direction can cause the fire to voraciously consume the forest and set back containment percentages without any warning. If you think the effort to control our 2016 fires was an example of the work in the west, that is a classic under-estimate of what is happening.

The impact on tourism and the local economy over Labor Day week was clear. It was easy to get reservations in normally crowded restaurants. Hotels, resorts and casinos were closed. Great historic destinations like Carson City, Reno, and Virginia City were very quiet. Traffic moved quickly where congestion was the norm. The smoke was so thick from nearby fires that the Air Quality Index ran as high as 171. The view across Lake Tahoe and to the mountain peaks was obliterated entirely on some days.

Being so close to danger got me thinking about the many natural disasters happening this year. Floods in the Northeast, hurricanes in the Gulf, fires in the West and flash floods not many miles from where we live are becoming the norm. California is the home to nearly 40 million people. Record drought is causing reservoirs and rivers to dry up. Lack of water for agriculture will show up eventually in the cost of produce and canned goods in our Ingles. Robbinsville gasoline price just went up by 10 cents per gallon because of hurricane-related well and refining issues.

I don’t want to get all preachy about climate change. The fires in the West are no accident caused because careless campers did not listen to Smoky the Bear. The hurricanes become more intense in warmer seas and the floods occur because sea level is rising. Our local flash floods are happening because we are receiving consistently more rainfall than is usual. These facts come from real science. Not the bought and paid for science that we have seen from tobacco companies in the past and the fossil fuel industry today.

There are solutions but the window is closing. If you don’t believe at least don’t obstruct. Some day your children and grandchildren will be glad the climate problems we are currently experiencing did not get worse due to our inaction. There are always naysayers in a democracy. Do you want to be one of them?

 

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September 9, 2021 Column


Census Results Define the Challenges

Adopted 231 years ago, Article1 Section 2 of the US Constitution says “Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states…according to their respective numbers…” The Census numbers decide who loses or gains seats in the House of Representatives and in the Legislature. The Census results impact funding for federal programs desperately needed in Graham County.

The 2020 Census was complicated by anti-immigration questions being tossed by the Courts, COVID limiting access to certain sites and fear that answering questions would somehow expose our rugged individuals to government scrutiny. Thanks to the extraordinary last-minute efforts of the Dogwood Health Foundation with help from Reverend Eric Reece and others, the dismal Census results for Graham County were kept from being even worse.

Graham County’s population shrank by 9.4 percent in the past ten years. That is 831 people whose futures would be here if we had just held even. All other counties but one in Western North Carolina grew.

There is more data to be released next week. These socio-economic statistics are updated more frequently. Data as recent as 2019 include Median Family Income of $39,571 and 17.05 percent Poverty Rate.

A declining population is a sign of a poor prognosis for the future of the place we all love. 

Young folks leave because they don’t see a future or want a different lifestyle. New full-time residents - the Census doesn’t count summer residents - don’t come here because the lifestyle they seek is unavailable. Potential employers can’t attract the managers and employees they need because the many factors that define the quality of life are missing.

Communities die for many reasons. A major employer leaves town. Weather disasters like the Dust Bowl cause people to move away. Lack of vision from leaders both public and private, a paucity of nearby specialty and trauma medical care, and young people being turned off to the nasty business of politics all add to the demise of a community.

There is hope. The Corridor K decision at least from Wolf Creek to downtown Robbinsville has been made. We need to keep going and accelerate the process to plan the road from Robbinsville to Andrews.

The lack of broadband is not an economic issue. It is a pure issue of the lobbying power of the big broadband providers to keep competition from local government from happening. There needs to be a coalition of statewide rural officials who say enough is enough. Federal money is available in the COVID relief legislation and more will come in the infrastructure bill. The industry protecting barriers bought by political contributions needs to be knocked down to solve this barrier to a good future for Graham County.

The November 2, 2021, Robbinsville referendum on ending the 74-year-old beer and wine prohibition holds the greatest promise for quickly moving Graham County forward. A positive vote will remove a major barrier to a future renaissance for Graham County. For those of us who answered the Census questions, pat yourself on the back. For the rest, the results of lack of participation are clear.

                          






















August 26, 2021

What is a real man?

A column entitled “Accepting responsibility” appeared in the Graham Star last week. The column, after criticizing President Biden for blaming President Trump for the recent tragedy in Afghanistan, then goes on to blame Marxist-inspired feminism for the decline in masculine virtue.

Somehow a great leap of faith was made that prohibition came about because women and children were left destitute by the crisis of manhood with drunken men not accepting their responsibility. That logic is a lot to unpack.

Karl Marx had nothing to do with the rise of feminism. He was about class warfare pitting capitalists against workers and the disparity of income that he saw 150 years ago and we see today. He predicted that if nothing was done to remedy the disparity a revolution would occur. Czar Nicholas II certainly discovered that truth in 1917 long after Karl Marx died in 1883.

Accepting responsibility is not a gender-related virtue. It is a universal truth that the human mind, regardless of any physical body that encloses that mind, has something called self-determination. We all get to choose the right or wrong course of action and reap the benefit or suffer the consequences.

The column got me to thinking about gender roles in our modern society. The term “Barefoot and pregnant” was coined by a Kansas doctor Arthur Hertzler in the early 1900s. He said that keeping women barefoot and pregnant would end divorces. Meanwhile the divorce rate today is nearly 50 percent of marriages.

The truth is that a real man does not view a woman as a reproductive vehicle to perpetuate the species or to maintain the household for which he provides financial needs. 

A real man looks upon his mate as a partner of equal dignity and rights in the lifelong quest to meet the challenges we all face in a modern world. There are also plenty of real men who don’t share the view in the “Accepting responsibility” column to play the dominus to their female relationships.

  • Real men realize that the term “real men” could just as well read “real women.” The gender is different, but the virtues are the same.
  • A real man does not blame others for his own weaknesses.
  •  A real man finds solutions. When he is done fixing the problem, he then determines causality to avoid repeating the mistakes.
  • A real man does not measure his power by the decibels of his muffler or the length of his barrels. A real man measures his power by the achievement of good for all members of society.
  • A real man guides his life by a multiplicity of sources. The Golden Rule, Ten Commandments, Sermon on the Mount, and the Bill of Rights come to mind. 

The NRA, Q Anon, and buffalo-horned Jake Angeli do not.

 

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Vaccines: COVID, Polio and Rabies

July 29, 2021 

 Pandemics are nothing new. The Middle Ages saw bubonic plague. 

Nearly 100 years ago the world saw the Spanish flu. AIDS/HIV plagued us in the 1980s. We have seen Legionnaires’ disease, Ebola, Polio, and most recently COVID and its variants. In modern times, these plagues were discovered and science created a vaccine. Society had faith in the researchers and took the vaccine. In all cases, the beast was tamed and in some cases like Polio, the beast was eliminated.

My purpose in writing this column is not to beat the non-believers or the vaccine cautious upside the head with a baseball bat. Some of these folks are my friends and I worry about them and their families from the bottom of my heart. So, we need to have a conversation about the resurgence of COVID and the highly contagious Delta Variant.

Let’s start with Polio. 

This disease crippled or killed mostly young people. President Eisenhower was in office. The minute Dr. Jonas Salk developed a vaccine, the former World War II hero determined that all children would receive the vaccine. No one railed against the vaccine. In fact, all elementary school children were vaccinated. This concerted program resulted in the eradication of the disease. This doesn’t mean that the cause of the disease goes away. It means that its deadly impact is eliminated.

COVID and its variants are a different story. The miraculous creation of highly effective vaccines in a short period of time happened despite denials by our leadership, misleading or sensationalist reporting and politically motivated social media blitzes. The attacks on Dr. Fauci and threats to have him arrested are shameful.

Graham County has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the State of North Carolina. While we don’t have a large number of cases, that is because we have a low population. The economically necessary relaxation of restrictions for certain businesses was implemented before we knew much about the dangers of the highly transmissible and fast-expanding Delta variant. What we do know is that of the 157 million American people that have been vaccinated, there have been only 186 (.003 percent) that have suffered severe symptoms. 

Vaccines are not perfect. But the odds of a negative outcome from being vaccinated are so low as to be negligible.

A few nights ago, Beth and I and our granddaughter Claire attended the season final concert at Stecoah. There was a wonderful rendition of the Crosby Stills and Nash 1970’s song Teach Your Children. This song is really about teaching your children and your children teaching you in return. Think about the lyrics and your legacy to your family.

Teach your children well

Their father’s hell did slowly go by

And feed them on your dreams

The one they pick’s the one you’ll know by.

And you of tender years

Can’t know the fears

That your elders grew by.

And so please help them with your youth. They seek the truth

Before they can die.


This columnist does not want his family to remember that he put some amorphous right to object to anything above his love and hope for the future of his family. 

Bear with me for just one more thought. Why would I vaccinate my dogs against rabies but not my family against COVID? Hmmmm?   


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A day that will never be forgotten

  June 24, 2021 was a day that will never be forgotten.
 At 6 a.m. my ritual of reading newsfeeds began. The weather was a cool 60 degrees, while I awaited Beth’s arrival with our morning cup of coffee. We love the view of Lake Santeetlah and discussing current events. 

Before Beth arrived, the story about the collapse of Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Fla. appeared. The horror of the situation became clearer as every major newsfeed began coverage. My phone, e-mail, and texts began a cacophony that could be summarized as a parade of “did you hear about the collapse?”

 Why would so many contacts occur?

 Because I was Town Manager of Surfside from 2010 until retiring in 2013.

Surfside is a lovely one square mile town located between Miami Beach and Bal Harbour. The 136-unit Champlain Towers South was completed in 1981. This means that the 40-year certification process is underway. The need for certification evolved more than 30 years ago because older buildings where beach sand was used to make concrete were failing repeatedly, as the high salt content eroded the structural steel.

The 1970s and 80s buildings did not use modern techniques like driving piles to bedrock, cathodic protection, hurricane windows, and doors and sealants that last. The steel rusted and the concrete spalled (broke away as the rust expanded), and salt air and hurricanes did their damage. Further, the design criteria did not consider the vibratory impact of nearby, newer-building construction using piles driven to bedrock more than 100 feet below the surface.


The certification process requires an engineering/architectural study, review by the local jurisdiction and the development of a plan. 

The condominium board must develop a financing methodology which usually entails the use of reserves if they exist and an assessment on the owners. The Champlain Towers South study was done in 2018 by MC Morabito Consultants. The nine-page report documents many major maintenance needs, costing an estimated $110,000 per unit.

There are two statements that should sear into our memories. 

The first is that “MC could not get access into the soffit areas to observe the extent of the deteriorated soffit framing as CTS maintenance was too busy to assist us.”

The second is even worse.
   “The failed waterproofing is causing major structural damage to the concrete slab ... Failure to replace the waterproofing in the near future will cause the extent of the concrete deterioration to increase exponentially.” 
  

 Every catastrophe – whether man-made or natural – has a process. 

The first step is the rescue of survivors and/or recovery of remains followed by realization, acceptance, grieving, funerals and memorials. We are still in that dreadful first phase, with hope dwindling for any of the 159 unaccounted for people.
   This number is more than a statistic or a body count. These are friends and loved ones. The grief is palpable and the gloom is beyond measure. As a community of decent people, our love and sympathy should go out to our neighbors to the south.
   Next will come the forensics. There are so many questions that need answers. The committee will be appointed, the study will be completed and then action will be recommended. Rest assured that the lawsuits will fly, some heads may roll or retire, insurance companies will want to settle and new procedures will be proposed. Perhaps a Grand Jury will be convened.


   In closing this column, some heroes need to be recognized. 

Miami Beach Rabbi Elliot Pearlson has been the spiritual leader. He is providing comfort to the survivors and the families and loved ones of the victims. His words help the entire community to understand “When Bad Things Happen to Good People,” which is the title of a book written by Rabbi Kushner when his young son died.
   Rabbi Pearlson’s faith provides strength to the entire South Florida community. Pearlson began his career in Asheville at Temple Israel. His congregation in Miami Beach includes 12 missing victims.


   The first responders – and urban search and rescue members of the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department – are heroes who are risking their lives to locate survivors or human remains. 

The County sheriff and police teams providing security in a chaotic situation are extraordinary. Surfside staff and other agencies are helping the displaced and grief counselors are there as well. 

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava is a friend whom I greatly admire. Her press statements are from the heart, provide confidence that everything possible is being done and there is no political motive.

   The news cycle will move on. The next disaster will happen. But right now, let’s pause for a moment and share in the grief and suffering resulting from the Champlain Towers South tragedy.


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This is a rebuttal to another Graham Star Reporter's recent article.

Enlightenment trumps darkness.

From my standpoint, this column should be the last in a series of four very different columns by two very different authors. 

Two brilliant philosopher scientists have been maligned in previous columns so, it was my duty to come to their defense.

Thomas Malthus (13/14 February 1766 – 23 December 1834) predicted overpopulation. While his overpopulation limits were too aggressive, there are people starving in many parts of the world today. Suggesting anything different shows a callous lack of concern for the suffering in overpopulated areas.

Margaret Sanger was a nurse who took a different view of the overpopulation issue more than 100 years after Malthus.

She believed that the solution to overpopulation was in education regarding family planning and birth control. She practiced obstetrical nursing in the poverty-stricken Lower East Side of New York City. There she witnessed the terrible correlation between poverty, uncontrolled fertility, and high rates of infant and maternal deaths from illegal abortions.

She devoted herself to removing the legal barriers to publicizing the facts about contraception.

In 1916, Margaret Sanger was indicted for mailing materials advocating birth control. The charges were later dropped due to something we call the First Amendment. She was also jailed for opening the first birth control clinic which was branded a "public nuisance" by the local authorities. Eventually, her organization morphed into Planned Parenthood centers.

Margaret Sanger's critics focus on her early belief in eugenics which means selective breeding. She is branded to be a racist as a result. Many great people made mistakes in their early thinking. To quote her writings on eugenics in a column without giving credit to her reversal on the subject is patently deceptive.

Further to use Margaret Sanger's work to alleviate poverty and educate people on family planning options as a linkage to a personal belief about abortion is a leap too far. She died in 1966 at the age of 86.

Her active career ended many years before the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. All she tried to do was to save lives lost by desperate women. The Age of Enlightenment began in the early 1700s in Europe. The ideas included individual liberty, leadership by reason and evidence as the primary source of knowledge. The philosophers at the time wrote about advanced ideals such as the pursuit of happiness, progress, tolerance, constitutional government and separation of church and state. The Enlightenment followed the Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution. All of these periods ended the Dark Ages. 

Most periods of progress for humanity end quickly. Our American freedom began with a revolution that was philosophically based on the Enlightenment, not the Dark Ages.

Democracy emerged for some Americans unless you were a slave or a woman. The Civil War began an era of freedom for Blacks that was nearly crushed by the Jim Crow laws including massive voter suppression. Suffragettes won the vote for women. Teddy Roosevelt began the National Park System. FDR began the New Deal. Ronald Reagan crushed Communism. Private entrepreneurs with disruptive technologies make our lives mostly better every day.

In closing, the French philosopher Voltaire was a key voice of the Enlightenment. Voltaire is credited with saying "I may disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

Please remember, the opposite of enlightenment is ignorance. Thanks to Kevin Hensley and the Graham Star for printing different views.

 

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Cancel the Cancel Culturists      May 15, 2021


Cancel Culture is a phrase that we are hearing more and more. Politicians accuse each other of canceling. Advocacy groups and lobbyists try to win over politicians by canceling opposing lobbyists and advocacy groups. Deranged people or just plain haters cancel people in mass shootings. Have we become the victims of these cancel people and organizations? What should we do to return to a decent and safe culture in our democracy that is based on the pursuit of happiness?

Cancel Culture is a modern form of ostracism.
When you get canceled, you are thrust out of a circle of people who communicate online, on social media, or in person. Some religions practice "shunning" when you don't conform to the norms. This columnist believes that conservatives, liberals, progressives, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents cancel and get canceled in roughly equal numbers. Cancel culture is not the sole province of any group.

U.S. Representative Marjorie Greene was canceled when she lost all her committees due to espousing crazy conspiracy theories. Now she roams the halls of Congress with nothing better to do than stand outside Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's office yelling for her to come out. Reminds me of Jem and Scott trying to get Boo Radley to come out in To Kill a Mockingbird.  Interestingly, AOC has been canceled herself by being branded a socialist, a communist, and an environmentalist. What about Liz Cheney? A true conservative got canceled by her own party because she wanted the truth to be told by her colleagues. What a shameful way to behave.

History gets canceled as well. The effort to remove Confederate statues, anything honoring Christopher Columbus, misogynistic abusers of women, and an ever-expanding variety of politically incorrect words are a form of cancel culture. Should we cancel these actions or symbols that are painful to the victims or descendants of victims of cultural misbehavior like slavery, mistreatment of native peoples, abused women, and brutes who cannot control their language?  

Canceled history is a tough one. 
Should we obliterate the past with alternate facts or should we remove anything that offends somebody? Should we learn by what these offending acts were and find a way to teach our young people right from wrong with a balanced approach to learning? Whatever the answer, don't let the legislature determine what should and should not be taught in public tax-supported schools. Leave that to the professionals within the limits of our Constitutional rights.

Cancel culture is here to stay. 
The great purveyor of terminological inexactitudes, Twitter, stopped allowing Donald Trump to tweet incendiary statements that led to people being killed in the January 6th Insurrection at the Capital. Sports, arts and media stars are canceled for the aberrant behaviors and stupid blurting out of their normally suppressed beliefs. Wayne La Pierre's crooked administration of the NRA and the organization's subsequent bankruptcy will result in his being canceled.

None of us are so dumb as to buy a bridge in Brooklyn. So, analyze the reality of a tweet before you pass it on. Consider the veracity of the source. Give yourself a few seconds to think before you click. When you want to cancel someone or what they believe, put yourself in their shoes and then make up your mind. 


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ENDING WARS                                         April, 2021

President Biden announced last week that we would withdraw from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021. Twenty years ago, this date was seared into our memories with four hijacked planes. Two toppled the World Trade Towers. One crashed into the Pentagon. The last was heroically brought down by passengers confronting the terrorist/hijackers before it could crash into the White House.

The American public demanded retaliation. President Bush responded with bipartisan Congressional support by attacking Afghanistan to remove the terrorist training ground. Bin Laden was the leadership that needed to be taken out. Twenty years later, Bin Laden is gone, Al Quada is essentially neutralized, thousands of US soldiers are dead or wounded and billions have been spent. So, has the goal of the Afghanistan War been achieved? Should we end it and move on to new objectives?

President Biden respectfully listened to the advice of his military leadership. As Commander in Chief, he chose a different path. We do not have the intelligence data that our leaders have so it is difficult to agree or disagree based on facts. Here are a few things to consider.

  • America never won a war without the will of the people behind the effort. That will has waned after 20 years and the panoply of new challenges including mass shootings and the pandemic grows by the day.
  • The objectives of the war have been essentially accomplished. The leadership of this enemy has been removed and his organization reduced to a small band of Taliban. Perhaps no war ever ends with unconditional surrender unless you use the nuclear option like we did in Japan. Heaven forbid that the nuclear option is ever used again.
  • Most of the major wars we have fought conclude with the enemy becoming our ally. Germany, Italy, and Japan are our staunch allies. Vietnam has become a capitalist society. If we truly believe in nation-building, we try to leave a war zone with a more democratic government that believes in a capitalist system.
  • A global War on Terror cannot be won in the traditional sense of a clean and decisive closure. The terrorists are like a balloon. If you squeeze them in one place, they just move to another. Vigilance with pinpoint targeted responses as needed is the appropriate action to protect us from the threat. 
  • We do not dishonor the sacrifice of life and limb suffered by our veterans and their families if we leave Afghanistan. All we do is add to their ranks by extending the conflict. There are much better ways to honor their service.        
My son-in-law, Andy Goehring, is a West Point graduate who was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for Valor in the Iraq War.   When I discussed this column with Andy, he responded with great wisdom. He suggested that we reframe the question about the right and wrong of leaving Afghanistan from "Should we leave? to "Should we stay?" Think about that my friends.


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Everyone Likes Infrastructure 

The second phase of Biden-omics was announced last week. Just like Roosevelt's New Deal which had an enormous positive impact on Graham County, so will the infrastructure legislation which includes billions for clean drinking water, broadband expansion, roads, public schools, and community colleges, and workforce housing. All of these projects are needed in Graham County just like the TVA flood control, Rural Electrification and WPA/CCC projects were during the Great Depression. 

Phase 1 of Biden-omics was the COVID Relief legislation. By now most people in Graham County will have received their $1400 or more if they have dependent children. Added to the $600 from the previous Administration, this is a lot of money to spend as you see fit. Just remember as you use this much-needed money, that not one Republican voted for Biden's initial contribution to the betterment of life for our Graham County.

On the subject of infrastructure, everyone, regardless of political party, seems to agree we need it. How our elected leaders at the County and municipal level work out the priorities if the legislation passes, is the subject of a future column. The real debate in Washington will be how to fund the costs. 

Let's dispel a few myths already being created by the opponents. 
This is a ten-year program which means that the $2 trillion dollar cost will be roughly $200 billion per year. Still a lot of money, but, manageable. Second, the deficit hawks say it will explode our budget which will lead to inflation. This is another myth that simply isn't true. What causes the deficit we are currently experiencing is the 2017 "tax reform" that benefitted the rich and corporations. 

You know that when the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wants higher gas taxes and toll increases to pay for roads, that isn't good for the common person. 

You know when the 400 richest Americans pay a lower tax rate than the bottom half of wage earners, that isn't good for the common person

You know when Archer Daniels Midland, Dish Network, FedEx and Nike paid no federal taxes last year on $8 billion in income that isn't good for the common person. 
In fact, these giant corporations got more than $500 million in tax refunds last year. 

Come on, swamp dwellers in Washington, drain this swamp that makes the rich richer and the common person pay the bill.

The way to pay for these needed programs is with equitable tax reform. Just one equitable change would fund the infrastructure program. It is called a wealth tax. An annual tax of 1 percent on wealth over $50 million and 2 percent over $1 billion would generate $2.75 trillion over the next 10 years. There are many other ideas to end loopholes and make the federal income tax fairer across all income levels. For instance, why should the dollar you earn from the sweat off your back be taxed at a higher rate than the dollar "earned" from a hedge funder's capital gains? 

Remember, the American Revolution was over "taxation without representation." As the debate over Biden-omics Phase 2 begins in Washington, don't fall for the usual spurious deficit and inflationary fake arguments. Let your elected representatives know simple stuff like your kid is failing in school because you don't have internet access.   

Roger Carlton lives in Robbinsville, NC. He writes for the Graham Star newspaper. He is a friend of mine and a former writing student. Let me know your thoughts on his articles.
gcbmountaingirl@gmail.com 



March 20, 2021

Not too far away from Graham County is a casino that provides entertainment, food service, lodging, and gambling. Total revenue from these operations exceeds $500 million annually. The entire resort is packed with masked-up, socially distanced and temperature ok folks having a good time. The casino is owned by EBCI and operated by Caesars Entertainment which is a company with $10 billion in annual revenue. 

A bit further away is another casino known as the New York Stock Exchange. The 226-year-old institution lists approximately 2400 companies with a market cap approaching $35 trillion. That is 18 times the recent $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill passed by Congress. There are hundreds of millions of shares traded daily.

To keep this simple, the NYSE is a casino of extraordinary proportions. Thirty years ago, this columnist attended a breakfast sponsored by Northern Trust Bank. The speaker prophesied that the Dow Jones Industrial Average daily closing, which was then just breaking $1000, would be $30,000 in our lifetime. We all scoffed and laughed. Well, guess what. The DJIA closed at nearly $33,000 a few days ago. That gamble paid off if you could risk a lot of ups and downs along the way.

Most of the serious downs were not caused by the fundamentals of our capitalist system. The financial crises which led to the greatest drops were caused by a diminished regulatory authority. We ignored the causes of the savings and loan crisis until banks started to fold. Did the same thing with mortgage bundling wherein garbage loans were wrapped up in a few good ones. 

Here's the rub.  Until recently, when the stock market casino goes bad, members of Congress of both political parties join together in a bipartisan way to save the day allegedly for the common folk. Trillions of taxpayer dollars are allocated to save jobs, stave off bankruptcies, avoid evictions and keep food on the table. This is called socializing losses.  It means that taxpayers eat the cost of the bailout. Yet, when the stock market inevitably recovers, the owners of those stocks reap the gains and pay nowhere near a fair share of taxes. This is called privatizing gains. It is how we have allowed ourselves to be governed over the past four years.

Maybe that's why so many people are angry about everything. No one they support at the polls has stepped in to socialize their losses. In fact, they were unanimously opposed.  






































































March 14, 2021


 Sadly, a column that appeared last week in the Graham Star denigrated H.R. 5, The Equality Act. The critique began with blaming the Democrats for the 1964 Civil Rights Act. That is political, partisan, and grossly inaccurate. In fact, the Senate Republicans were in favor 27 to 6 and the House Republicans were in favor 136 to 35. 
The statement "in every line you will find a direct correlation between women and the LGBTQ group" can only be made by someone with chauvinistic views of women bordering on misogyny. Women are not given a "high honor of being wives, mothers, and co-laborers." Being wives and mothers is a matter of choice and perhaps that "co-laborer" wants to be a supervisor or maybe even a boss someday.

The reference to "The Equality Act is an attack on the created order" fails to acknowledge how demagogues abuse and co-opt well-meaning concepts.  Just like the ancients sought to understand the inexplicable by creating characteristics for the constellations, the original advocates of created order tried to make sense of life by prioritizing family, church, state, and the economy. The concept originated in Germany in the 1700s by religious philosophers and was 230 years later used by the Nazis to justify Aryan superiority leading to the Holocaust. Homosexual males were made to wear inverted pink triangles on their sleeves and sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. They underwent horrible tortures too vile to mention in this column.

The Equality Act does add protections for disabled workers and no longer requires that transgender people must be undergoing a medical procedure to be protected. 
The Amendment expands protection against harassment and violence, reaffirms the equal protections of the 14th Amendment, and makes sure that women don't have to pay more for products and services that are similar to products and services used by men. 

The column in question is unnecessarily hurtful to the LGBTQ community. It is inciteful to those who perpetrate violence because of how one looks or acts. It ignores the contribution to the arts, medicine, faith, economy, entertainment, military, politics, and sports made by members of the LGBTQ community.

To turn this into a learning experience, let's consider Coach Vince Lombardi's wisdom as seen in an advertisement appearing in the same edition. "People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses or the problems of modern society."

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