Showing posts with label planning. Show all posts
Showing posts with label planning. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Now Here's My Plan:

When in a difficult situation ("sticky wicket"), it's always best to plan ahead.

My favorite graphic depiction of the planning process is in this Shel Silverstein cartoon: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Nowplansilverstein.jpg

Professional planners will get the point.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Small Wars In US History

Current media attention is focused on the war the United States started with Iraq a decade ago.

I'm reading an interesting book I picked up a couple of weeks ago at the Marine Corps Exchange at Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station: Just and Unjust Wars by Michel Walzer. The book's subtitle is "A Moral Argument With Historical Illustrations."

Just war theory focuses on two aspects of warfare: 1) was there a just cause (as in, was it justified or moral to initiate military action or respond with military action) and: 2) was the war conducted in a just manner.

I would say there is another aspect of war that does not strictly fall under just war theory, but it relates: was the war wise?

In the United States we have a fourth recurring question: was the war constitutional? Specifically, critics of particular wars often claim that the war is not legitimate, because Congress did not declare war as specified in the Constitution.

On this latter point, I recommend reading a really interesting military manual: Small Wars Manual United States Marine Corps 1940. The manual is available here. It is a clearly written guide to planning and conducting small wars in all of their variety.

Just read the introduction and it will be clear that what I have written elsewhere is true. Up to the time of World War II, most of our military interventions were conducted by the Department of the Navy. That included some very substantial military undertakings, including our Quasi-War with France during John Adams' administration. In no case was there ever a declaration of war when the conflict involved only the Navy Department.

Only when the War Department was involved in the conflict did the United States ever declare war. That has happened only five times in our history.

The fine line between conflicts involving only the Navy Department and categorized as "small wars" and the more substantial conflicts involving the War Department disappeared with passage in 1947 of the Armed Forces Unification Act.

That act created a constitutional muddle that we have never resolved.

We would be better off to return to a time when the Navy/Marine Corps team did small wars. They knew how to do it. A number of our military interventions would have been more competently planned and conducted if they had followed the 1940 Small Wars Manual of the Marine Corps.

It would save a lot of money, too.   

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Pamlico County Commissioners March 18, 2013

Last night's County Commissioner meeting dealt mostly with the County Planning Board's draft ordinance covering possible wind farms. They scheduled a public hearing April 1 by a vote of 4-1 (Chris Mele against) with two absentees (Pat Prescott and Carl Ollison).

The draft ordinance has not yet been posted on line.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Seventy Years Ago: Hanging In The Balance

Mid August 1942, Guadalcanal. US Marines have a tentative toehold. August 17, Henderson Field, originally started by the Japanese but completed by the marines, became operational. August 20, USS Long Island, the navy's first escort carrier, delivered 19 Grumman F-4-F Wildcat fighters and 12 SBD Dauntless dive bombers to a point 170 nm SE of Guadalcanal and launched them enroute to Henderson Field. These 31 aircraft formed the nucleus of what was later known as the "cactus air force."

Air resupply and evacuation flights using R-4D's (the navy version of the C-47) began the same day.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/ca/Cve1a.jpg

USS Long Island proved the concept of conversion of merchant ships to what was referred to as a "baby flattop." CVE's like Long Island would prove to be a great force multiplier in both the Atlantic and Pacific fleets.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Seventy Years Ago: Wasted History?

Someone once observed that history is wasted on the young.

I was seventeen years old when I first learned something of the history of the Navy's fiasco at Savo Island. I was a Midshipman Fourth Class, United States Naval Reserve, taking my first course in Naval Science. It was called Naval Orientation and History.

The textbook showed neat diagrams of the action of August 9, 1942, like the chart below:

http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/USN-CN-Savo/maps/USN-CN-Savo-3.jpg

The lessons I took away from reading about Savo Island nearly six decades ago had to do with equipment and training. US Ships (some of them, at least) were equipped with radar, but they were defeated by Japanese ships with no radar - only superb optical systems and sailors well trained in night engagements.

Of course it wouldn't occur to a seventeen year old that the problem wasn't poor watch standing by  radar operators or lookouts, but problems at the highest levels of leadership in the navy.

President Roosevelt was furious and losing patience ten weeks after Pearl Harbor, when the navy had no triumphs to proclaim. He ordered Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox to give him the names of the forty "most competent" Admirals in the navy at the time. Knox appointed a board to do the job.  Last year the US Naval Institutes' Naval History magazine published the recently-discovered list of the forty names the board provided.

Even more surprising than the obscure names who appeared on the list was the omission of two admirals most responsible for success in the Pacific: Chester Nimitz and Raymond Spruance. Neither was a member of the most influential and powerful cabal in the navy. That cabal is often referred to by the shorthand designator: "battleship admirals." That's a misnomer, though battleships figured largely in their careers. They were admirals whose seagoing tours (mostly in battleships but also in cruisers and destroyers) alternated with tours in the Bureau of Ordinance (BUORD). They were often referred to in the rest of the navy as "the gun club."

Neither Nimitz nor Spruance belonged to the gun club. Neither was Halsey, for that matter. Nor were Admiral Leahy, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during World War II and Roosevelt's closest military advisor, or Admiral King, Commander in Chief of the US Fleet. But from the Chief of Naval Operations (Admiral Stark) on down, the navy in 1942 remained dominated by the gun club.

None of the "gun club" admirals was promoted to five-star fleet admiral rank.

More later.




Thursday, July 19, 2012

Capabilities Vs Intentions And South Avenue

In matters of military intelligence, a common admonition is that evaluation should be based on capabilities rather than intentions. For example, rather than guess that in late 1941 Japan would attack in southeast Asia, we should have known that they had the capability of attacking Hawaii and prepared for it.

I have a problem with that concept. At least in the short run, the only thing that matters is intentions. We assumed, for example, that Great Britain had no intention to attack the United States, though they had the capability. Same with France. So we wasted no time and resources planning to defend against their forces.

We focused our intelligence gathering on countries that might plausibly become enemies. And we did our best to find out the specific intentions.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, we succeeded beyond expectations at uncovering specific plans, schedules, order of battle, and other details. And we used the information. That's why our forces were in the right position to succeed at Coral Sea and Midway. It helped us track down German submarines. It helped win the Battle of Britain.

In some contexts, though, it makes sense to focus on capabilities rather than intentions. Intentions change. When planning for the future and developing policies, it makes sense to focus more on what CAN be done rather than what WILL be done.

This is especially so when developing public policy.

When writing laws, drafting regulations, putting policies in place, it does not matter what the present intentions of office holders may be. Elections may change who is in office. In this context it makes no sense to ask how incumbents plan to use their authority.

My advice: always assume that if law and regulation allow something to be done, then at some point it will be done.

That's why I oppose Oriental's effort to exchange the South Avenue right of way which can't be sold for a waterfront parcel owned in fee simple which can be sold. Assume that if it can be sold, at some point it will be sold. Once the waterfront is in private hands, the public will never get it back.

So the public's interest in any such acquisition must  be protected.

Yes, I want to tie the hands of future town boards.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Arms Export Control Act

Interesting and somewhat disturbing article in today's New York Times reporting alleged refusal of Apple store employees to sell iPads and iPhones to Iranian Americans because of concern that such sales are the same as selling to Iran. Apparently Apple employees have been spurred by US government efforts to increase enforcement of the US embargo against Iran.

Apart from the injustice of abusing Americans who just want to make a purchase, the allegations remind me of some of the dumbest decisions made during the Cold War.

The two examples that come to mind are the decision to prohibit export of the Intel 80286 or any computer products made using the chip. The 80286 at that time (early 1980's) is what powered the central processing unit (CPU) of the IBM AT-class computers and their clones.

We also prohibited export of Xerox and other photocopiers.

I thought these particular uses of the Arms Export Control Act were foolish in the extreme. What made more sense to me was to flood the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe with as many 80286 computers and copy machines as we could smuggle in.

These very subversive machines in the hands of freethinkers would have allowed engineers, economists and other researchers to crunch their own data. Hierarchical organizations have a hard time dealing with independent sources of analysis.

And copy machines? Oh, my!

Russian and East European intellectuals and dissidents had to exchange prohibited books by laboriously typing them on mechanical typewriters with many layers of carbon paper. This was known as "samizdat" from the Russian for "self-publishing.)
Copy machines could have speeded up distribution of subversive works by daring men and women.

Eventually, someone in Washington apparently saw the light. When Lech Walensa led the Solidarnost uprising in Poland, organizations willing to upset the status quo received substantial material help against communist regimes in Eastern Europe. It was said that US labor unions contributed computers (including AT-class), copy machines, satellite TV receivers, digital still and movie cameras and other embargoed electronics to Solidarnost in large quantities. This wouldn't have happened without US Government help.

The floodgates were opened. And not long afterward, the wall came down.

Modern telephone communications, internet, twitter, facebook, etc. were essential tools for the Iranian "Green Revolution" of two years ago. The pro democracy movement didn't succeed, but sometimes such efforts need time to take firm root.

And they need tools. IPhones and iPads among them.

I hope our government is flexible enough to see this.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Roads And Conveyances

I've been thinking about the ferry toll issue. Why is it so hard for some people to think of a ferry as an integral element of a transportation system, properly funded out of the system budget?

One reason, I believe, is that people have been accustomed to thinking of the road as one thing and a conveyance as another.

But not always. What would have happened to major cities if elevators were viewed as a conveyance rather than a component of the building? And concluded we have to charge for using the conveyance? We would still be walking up stairs and skyscrapers would never have happened.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Sea Level

It turns out that North Carolina's legislature isn't the only one trying to prevent the sea level from rising by fiat. Virginia's right up there. Saves a lot of money on scientific and engineering studies, designs and construction. Just pass a law. Or better yet, just redact "global warming," "sea level rise," "climate change" and "subsidence" wherever they appear in state documents.

Might be a bit harder to edit the Navy's studies as they grapple with the problem of Norfolk.

Hey, we've got plenty of time to deal with it. Maybe another thirty years.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

More South Avenue Considerations


This will probably be my last post on this subject for awhile, unless something really alarming happens. 

I recommend the town board be very clear in their guidance to the town attorney.

If the central issue is, as I believe, whether the proposal by Mr. Chris Fulcher offers equivalent or improved public access to public trust waters in the town's harbor, we need to compare relevant facts. And our attorney needs to have command of all of the facts as he negotiates details.

Some issues:

Legal:
  1. South Avenue was dedicated to public use of the citizens of Oriental by the principal landowner, Mr. Robert P. Midyette, in 1900 – providing public access to the water;
  2. Avenue A was dedicated by Mr. Benjamin Wallace O'Neill in December, 1917 by the sale of lot 1 of the Oriental Bulkhead Improvement Company – Avenue A never led to the water;
  3. The town may not sell a dedicated and accepted right of way either for money or any other valuable consideration. An exchange of ROW for title to property looks like a sale. I have said before and still believe, it would be better if Mr. Fulcher dedicates the property to the town for purposes of public access to the water than for the town to receive it in fee simple as a proprietor. It would be more clearly legal and provide better protection to the public.

Dimensions of South Avenue:
  1. The South Avenue Right of Way is 60 feet wide;
  2. Because of the angle at which South Avenue intersects the Raccoon Creek, the waterfront is approximately 90 feet long;
  3. Because of the direction of the riparian boundaries, the width of the water to which the town owns rights is 85 feet, more or less, in a direction parallel to Mr. Fulcher's existing piers;
  4. Mandatory (15 foot) CAMA buffers at the edges of the riparian area reduce the width of riparian area available for constructing piers or docks to 55 feet;
  5. The parcel Mr. Fulcher proposes to donate to the town is 55 feet wide at the water's edge – he proposes both parties waive mandatory CAMA buffer: even so, with a mandatory CAMA buffer at the Toucan Grill end, that leaves only 40 buildable feet, even with the waiver.

What Can Be Built:
  1. It is often asserted that we can build NOTHING on a right of way, “not even a gazebo!”
  2. Not necessarily - we build stuff in rights of way all the time;
  3. The rule is that we can build no permanent structure, even in unopened sections, that would prevent eventual use for ROW purposes;
  4. In Town of Oriental ROWs, we plant trees, construct water mains and Sewer mains, utility poles and other encumbrances;
  5. Yesterday a truck delivered a rest room facility and placed it in the ROW at Lou-Mac;
  6. Other communities build shelters for bus riders, including public school students in their ROW (some shelters might even resemble gazebos);
  7. Each year during Croaker Fest, large tents supported by pipe frames are installed on South Avenue near Lou-Mac Park, even involving some degree of damage to pavement;
  8. During some large public events in the past, such as bicycle events, etc. organizers have placed trailers on the right of way for participants, including shower and rest room facilities.
  9. In short, obstacles to providing public facilities for visitors and event participants in our ROW are not insurmountable. It might require a bit of imagination. [I am indebted to Kathy McIlheny, who gave me the trailer idea]
  10. The proposed parcel is unbuildable for 50' from the water's edge Neuse River Buffer), the next 25' is in a CAMA area of environmental concern, and the last roughly 30 feet will probably be used for parking and other requirements to comply with our GMO, as well as ramps to meet ADA requirements for access to any building constructed on the property.

Advantages of The Proposed Parcel:
  1. The site has been dredged and bulkheaded and a pier is under construction;
  2. Sewer and water connections already exist;
    3.  Fewer building restrictions than a right of way.
Disadvantages of The Proposed Parcel:
  1. Narrowness of the parcel and riparian area constrains visiting boats;
  2. Some say the pier is unsuitable – too industrial for recreational boats;
  3. Some say the projected pier is in the wrong place.
Conclusions:

The decision should be based on what is best for the town.

Avenue A only provides public access to Mr. Fulcher's property.

It is not correct to say that rights of way "are of no value." In coastal North Carolina, nothing is more valuable to the public than public access to the water.







Friday, May 4, 2012

South Avenue - This Isn't Personal; It's Business

Five years ago, when I first realized things were going badly awry with the town's lawsuit over South Avenue, I determined to pursue the cause as vigorously as possible. What was the cause? It was public access to public trust waters. It was also, more generally, pursuit of the Town Board's obligation to protect and defend public assets.

I was not motivated by any animosity toward Mr. Henry. I don't know Mr. Henry. Neither in the present case concerning the Town's response to Mr. Fulcher's proposal for what amounts to an exchange of routes of access to the harbor, am I motivated by either hostility or warm feelings toward Mr. Fulcher. Any such feelings are neither here nor there. A few years ago, I set forth my views about the suit here.

The bottom line now, as it was for more than a decade, is: The Board of Commissioners has a duty to protect the town’s assets. South Avenue has been a public right of way for at least ninety-five years and arguably for a hundred and twelve. It extends all the way to Raccoon Creek. The Board would be remiss if it didn’t continue to defend the public’s right of access to public waters, which has been provided by South Avenue.

We know that if we lose control over public access to the harbor in the vicinity of South Avenue and Avenue A we will never get it back. Future generations will never be able to use that access to public waters unless it is defended. 

We are now faced with a proposal from Mr. Fulcher which, if accepted by the town, may consolidate his holdings in a way that will enhance the value to him and to his "successors and assigns." 

Any benefit to Mr. Fulcher should not be the focus of our deliberations. Our focus should be on whether the proposal provides the public with equivalent or improved access to public trust waters in our harbor.  

We also have the issue of whether the proposed deal, as negotiated, is legal.

More later.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

South Avenue Update

Last night at the regular Oriental Board of Commissioners meeting, attendees were shown a detailed survey of the area surrounding the intersection of South Avenue and Avenue A. The survey was done in support of the contract being negotiated between the town and Mr. Chris Fulcher. The contract itself has apparently not been completed, but some provisions can be deduced from details on the survey. Here is the survey:



I see several potential problems with the proposal as reflected in the survey.

Oriental's Parks and Rec board met this morning at 8:00 to review the plans. There is a brief account here at Town Dock. The main issues were summarized as follows:

"Like some of the public — such as Oriental resident and long-time sailor Art Tierney — who were at the meeting, a majority of the Parks and Rec Board questioned whether the town was getting adequate land and water rights and maneuvering room for visiting boats in the exchange.

"One issue: how savvy were town officials when they negotiated the deal. When asked this morning why the town hadn’t done a real estate appraisal on the land that Chris Fulcher would gain in the land swap, Town Commissioner Larry Summers dismissed the idea and reiterated his position that the right of way land was worth nothing to the town."

I will address these issues over the next day or so.



Friday, April 27, 2012

Oriental Comprehensive Plan

Next Tuesday night, May 1, Oriental's Long Range Planning Committee will unveil its draft of a comprehensive plan.

I haven't completely digested the plan, but there are features of it that I like. Here is a link to the Town Board agenda. Click on the second item to see the 24-page draft of the comprehensive plan.

A second item on the agenda that may make attendance worthwhile is that the town attorney, Scott Davis, will provide an update on South Avenue.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

More On The South Avenue Deal

Today's Parks and Rec meeting was good, because attendees asked a number of probing and worthwhile questions. Those interested in taking another look might want to review some earlier observations I made here.

I think my previous post covers most of the issues. I'd be happy to answer any questions anyone may have. Contact me at: cox.d.r@att.net.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Rents Are Too D**n High

We keep hearing charges that "Oriental needs to be more friendly to business."

The truth is that the biggest obstacles to businesses in Oriental are:
1. Real estate is too expensive, resulting in business rentals that are too high;
2. We don't have enough customers - a permanent population of 900 just doesn't support many businesses.

Still, one of our present commissioners has emotionally charged a previous board with failure to adopt "the one thing" that would allow us to recruit more businesses, namely conditional zoning.

Balderdash!

Actually, when I first read the provisions in North Carolina General Statutes about conditional zoning, I thought it was worth investigating. We arranged to have a professional urban planner from the Easter Carolina Council brief us on the purposes and procedure. All of his examples came from larger towns and cities.

It pretty quickly became apparent to me that conditional zoning may be a good thing in towns with a number of specialized business districts with restrictive zoning categories. That isn't characteristic of Oriental.

We have only five zones, three of which are residential and two multi-use zones, with both business and residential uses. Scrutiny of the allowed uses within MU and MU-1 reveals that neither is very restrictive. For that matter, neither are our three residential zones. We allow business use in residents, so long as the use does not exceed 400 square feet.

So why the push for conditional zoning? The only possible use of such zoning would be to convert some portion of our residential zones to commercial use. Do we have such a critical shortage of commercial space that we need to expand into our residential zones?

I just rode my bicycle up Broad Street to the town limits. back down Midyette Street to the water and across Hodges. That route takes one along most of the area set aside for MU and MU-1 uses.

What did I find? At least four dozen properties for sale or lease and vacant lots. We seem to have no shortage of places to do business.

What we need are more customers. And lower rents.

http://www.townoforiental.com/vertical/Sites/%7B8227B748-6F08-4124-B0ED-02789B9A2F82%7D/uploads/%7BFCE657D6-9A99-4A8F-AB8D-BF73A767CEA7%7D.JPG

Long Range Planning For Town Of Oriental

About five years ago, the Town of Oriental's Board of Commissioners established a Long Range Planning Committee. I suggest that it is time to abolish the LRPC. Or, perhaps rename it the Long Running Planning Committee. Or perhaps the Interminable Planning Committee.

It may be time for the Town Board to declare the LRPC victorious and return all of its functions to the Town's Planning Board, to which they properly belong, anyhow.

It has been two and a half years since the original Long Range Planning Committee (of which I was a member) created its Long Range Vision Statement. The Town Board approved it October 9, 2009. A summary of the vision statement is posted on the wall at Town Board meetings. It is fine, as far as it goes. In fact, it is a good basis for planning, though I think it leaves out a thing or two.

What was supposed to happen next is that the town would work from the Vision statement and prepare a Comprehensive Plan.

North Carolina General Statutes stipulate that the town must have a comprehensive plan, but does not spell out exactly what that is. For at least one statutory purpose, the town's Growth Management Map meets the requirement for a Comprehensive Plan.

The effort for a more elaborate Comprehensive Plan has evolved into a kind of search for the Holy Grail of planning.

More than two years ago, Planning Board member Jim Barton made an excellent start to the preparation of a Comprehensive Plan. That effort fell apart for reasons that have never been entirely clear.

What is clear is that recent efforts of the LRPC II have detracted from planning efforts that need to be undertaken. For example, the Town needs to replace its decades-old Thoroughfare Plan (which is certainly a component of the elusive Comprehensive Plan) with a Comprehensive Transportation Plan. The reason is, that a CTP is necessary should the town seek Department of Transportation funding for bicycle paths, pedestrian pathways, etc. It would be best to task the Planning Board with development of a CTP (in conjunction with the DOT transportation planning department) and get on with it.

I think a long range plan without any specific mention of annexation does not meet the planning needs of the town.

What the town doesn't need the LRPC to do is to keep bringing up certain solutions in search of a problem as, for example, "Conditional Zoning" and "Smart Growth." Neither makes any sense without a plan for growth through annexation.

I'll have more to say about Conditional Zoning in the future.




Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Three Weeks' Training For Thirty Second Attack

Seventy years ago, while my father's outfit was being organized in Mobile to be shipped overseas, a smaller group was preparing at Eglin Field Florida (about a hundred miles to the east) for a different overseas movement.

Under command of LCol Jimmy Doolittle, a small group of US Army aviators was learning how to take off from an aircraft carrier. Twenty-five B-25 medium bombers, each with a crew of five, were put through their paces by a Navy lieutenant. The task: launch fully-loaded B-25's with a 2,000 lb bomb load on a 2,400 mile mission.

Details to be disclosed later.

All of the aviators were volunteers. The training began three months after Pearl Harbor.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Follow The Money

That was the advice of "Deep Throat" in the movie, "All The President's Men" about Watergate. It's actually good advice most any time. It helps answer the questions "who benefits" and "who pays."

Take energy policy. Discussions in that arena tend to generate more heat than light, but the heat is against exploring alternative "green" or other sources of energy and in favor of relying more on increasingly expensive (and difficult to recover) petroleum.

Most recently, the US Senate rejected a one-year extension of a tax benefit for alternative energy, including wind energy. The ostensible reason: oh, that's a subsidy. And we have to pay for it.

Well, we already subsidize oil to the tune of $4 billion per year. World wide, oil companies are subsidized about $409 billion annually.

One way to cover most of the cost of alternative energy would be to do away with the existing US subsidy of the petroleum industry, which clearly doesn't need it. But every time progressive legislators try to take away that subsidy, we see an outcry from Republicans and the few remaining oil state Democrats.

Could that have anything to do with the fact that the Koch brothers (who got their wealth the old-fashioned way - by inheritance) are the principal funders of conservative Republican candidates, think tanks and movements?

A frequent objection to subsidies for solar, wind and other non-fossil energy sources is that they are more expensive than oil and natural gas. Beside, global warming was made up by Al Gore. Pay no attention to the melting ice caps and resulting sea level rise.

But costs of wind and solar are coming down. Quickly. Partly because China is investing heavily in alternate energy.

Here is an analysis in Scientific American of recent developments in the field of solar energy. In short, we may be within three years of equality between the cost of coal-fired and solar power generation.

But the sun only shines about half the time. Wind, on the other hand, can blow any time of the day or night.

And North Carolina has the best location on the entire East Coast of the United States for offshore wind generation. A serious effort to develop our wind power resources in Pamlico Sound as well as offshore could provide a major economic engine for Eastern North Carolina.

It might also contribute to slowing global warming and sea level rise.

This would be a win, win, win for Eastern North Carolina.

Monday, March 12, 2012

White Man's Burden II?

I spent my adult life in defense of democracy. Not because our own democracy is perfect, but because it has the chance of standing up to various forms of authoritarianism and despotism. I was not an anticommunist crusader. I did support the late George Frost Kennan's approach of defending American interests by containing Soviet power.

At the same time, I agreed with the late Marshall Shulman's view of the Soviet-American conflict as a "limited adversary relationship," not an apocalyptic one.

Through all of the Cold War period, I never thought the United States had an obligation to establish democratic regimes in other countries. Not our job. Beyond our power.

My entire life has been spent against a backdrop of war and rumors of war. But the most important efforts in defense of democracy have been right here in the USA.

Authoritarianism and despotism continually lurk in the wings. And they have deep pockets.

The overwhelming question was raised by Abraham Lincoln: can a nation "of the people, by the people and for the people" long endure. The "existential threat" so frequently mentioned by the G.W. Bush administration, comes not from abroad, but just as in 1861, it comes from ourselves.

These thoughts are pondered in the somber light of the actions by an American sergeant in Afghanistan. That sergeant's systematic murder of sixteen Afghan citizens in their beds for no apparent reason highlights the tensions between our servicemen and local residents in Afghanistan.

Here, in an article by David Rieff, is one of the most thoughtful and thought-provoking examinations of our proper role in the world I have seen recently. It's worth reading and pondering. 

Maybe it's time to bring our forces home.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Throwing Eastern North Carolina Under The Bus?

Today's article in the News and Observer about possible tolls on I-95 should be a wake-up call. Tolls for Pamlico County commuters may be just the beginning.

Is there anyone out there who thinks tolls on I-95 won't shift traffic across North Carolina further inland? Say, through Raleigh and Charlotte?

Will that be good for business in Eastern North Carolina? Not likely.

I know that I-95 is projected to become congested along its entire link by 2030. But toll booths are likely to increase, rather than alleviate, congestion.

Contributing to the problem is that both the US Department of Transportation and the North Carolina Department of transportation are really just the same old highway departments of old. They love pouring concrete and building bridges. They don't yet (and may never) address transportation as a system. The function of the system is to move goods and people from where they are to where they need to be.

Roads and highways aren't the only way to move people and goods around. Rail, for example, is much more energy efficient than trucking. Most energy efficient of all is water transport. We have lots of water here in Eastern North Carolina. Here's a plan to use it to alleviate congestion on I-95.

Let's have no tolls on any North Carolina highways.