Friday, November 20, 2015

On Being Free

“Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”

― Benjamin Franklin

We'll Always Have Paris

From our village in southern Belgium to downtown Paris was about a three hour drive. About the same as from Oriental to Raleigh.

Two decades later, we lived in Paris and my office was in the Marais (third arrondisement). It was a  ten minute walk to Boulevard Beamarchais for lunch near some of last Friday's shootings.

It was pleasant to stroll around the streets, sharing Paris with a diverse populace of Parisians and visitors.

I take exception to the MSNBC reporter recently describing the events of last Friday 13th as having "devastated Paris."

Paris is not devastated.

Parisians are back at their outdoor cafes. They gather at Place de la Republique and hug each other. They lay flowers as a memorial to victims. Life goes on much as before.

Vive le France!

Yet we must not forget that the terrorists who attacked Paris were themselves French men and Belgians. Not Syrians. Not refugees.

The France that was so welcoming to African Americans like Josephine Baker and James Baldwin has not been so welcoming to Algerians and Moroccans. I have seen it with my own eyes.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

May Day, 1960

May Day, 1960, CIA pilot (former Air Force officer) Francis Gary Powers, flying alone at more than 70,000 feet, was on his 27th U-2 mission, flying over Sverdlovsk in the Soviet Union. The CIA estimated the altitude of the U-2 was above the reach of any Soviet missile or aircraft. That estimate proved to be too optimistic, and Gary Powers was shot down on one of the biggest Soviet holidays.

Contrary to the CIA's expectations in such an event, Powers survived and was captured.

Stephen Spielberg captures much of the drama of that time in the Cold War in his new movie,Bridge of Spies, starring Tom Hanks. The main hero of the story is a New York lawyer who negotiated the eventual release of Powers. A second important character is the Soviet spy, Rudolf Abel, who was offered in exchange.

It is mostly a true story, with some embellishment for effect. Here is a useful comparison of the true events with the fictional movie version:

Go see Bridge of Spies.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Oriental's Exciting Election And Casey Stengel's Lament

Early voting turnout for Tuesday's municipal election in Oriental has been below that of recent years. Only four voters showed up Saturday, the last day of early voting.

I voted last week. I found this year's election exciting for two reasons:

1. We have a woman candidate for mayor, who is unopposed and who will change the atmosphere at Town Board meetings for the better;

2.  We have two new candidates for Town Commissioner who have never served nor run for commissioner in the past, who bring a new perspective. They will also improve the board.

I did not vote for any incumbent. I cast three write in votes for citizens who have served in the past and can be counted on in the future.  I wish more candidates had filed.

Liz and I attended last Thursday's agenda meeting at Town Hall. Maybe it's because of the World Series, but the meeting called to mind Casey Stengel's lament about the brand new New York Mets: "Can't anybody here play this game?"

A few specifics:

1. Mayor Johnson informed the Board that, based on the documents on file at the Pamlico County Register of Deeds, it is impossible for anyone to walk to or from Town Dock 2 without going through the private property of Chris Fulcher or of the Toucan. None of the commissioners seemed interested, even though this means the Town Attorney did not do his job two years ago;

2. The Town's official binder of minutes of closed sessions of the Board is still missing. None of the commissioners seem interested;

3. The commissioners made a joke of the fact that one of the commissioners had never made a motion in nearly two years as a commissioner. Certainly there is no requirement for commissioners to make motions or even to second someone else's motion, but still....

4. There was much discussion of Midyette Street (traffic calming measures, speed limits, patrol schedules, tickets, etc.) with no awareness of what the Town had done in the past to amend ordinances and to experiment with solutions. After two years in office, this suggests a previous lack of interest in such issues.

5. The Board seems a bit unclear that the Town Attorney works for the Board and not the other way 'round. I suggested to the Board eight years ago that the Board needs to understand the attorney,s legal theory and approach to litigation in order to provide guidance to the Attorney - since it is the Town, not the attorney, who is a party to the case. Still dissatisfied after I was elected to the Board, I initiated the following discussion on July 31, 2008:

"Commissioner Cox then voiced his opinion that Scott Davis has not fulfilled his professional
responsibilities to this town and that he has made egregious errors in a number of ways and
should be replaced. Commissioner Inger concurred with some of Mr. Cox’s comments and added
that she is disappointed that we are not a priority to him. She also suggested that the Board
should be more specific and ask to see documentation when he says things off the top of his
head. She asked that Mr. Davis be informed of the Board’s concerns. Mayor Sage suggested that
Mr. Cutler check to see what other law firms are available."

So far as I know, in the intervening years, the Town Board has never evaluated the Town Attorney's performance, as the county board does every year. This should be done.

Vote Tuesday! 

Think twice about voting for any incumbent! 

Send a message!