Soap Box

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Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Tax Exempt Status for churches

Posted by eemilla on March 5, 2011

While I agree with the recent Supreme Court decision in favor Westboro Baptist Church’s right to be completely disgusting and abhorrent and absolutely hateful and disrespectful, it firms my opinion against tax exempt status for churches.

The IRS requires organizations claiming tax exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code to refrain from being action organizations, which prevents them from supporting or working against both legislation and political campaigns; however, we all know that churches participate in the political discourse in this country and tell their memberships how to vote.  However, “churches” like Westboro Baptist stick to their message of hate and refrain from ever mentioning legislation or candidates; therefore following the letter if not the spirit of the law.  The Family/The Fellowship enjoyed tax exempt status until 2009 while they posed as a church; the home on C Street (which was considered a church) provided highly subsidized lodging to both Republicans and Democrats (including Representative Heath Shuler) all the while actively influencing legislation in this country and abroad.  Recent research has validated the Church of Latter Day Saints involvement in passing Proposition Eight which altered California’s constitution to restrict marriage to one man and one woman.

Many argue that churches deserve the special tax status for the charitable works that they perform in the community, and while I would regret to see modest churches that actually do good works in the community suffer, I wouldn’t mind at all seeing mega churches with huge ostentatious buildings contribute to the tax base.  If they truly follow the words of their holy book then they don’t need the tax incentive to perform these good works, and driving around any town or city in this country most churches have way too much money in their building funds.  Furthermore, our First Amendment provides for a separation of church and state, and frankly, I do not see the need for taxpayers to enable churches to proselytize anymore than James Madison did.

Our current budget concerns are bringing some important programs to the chopping block, but we cannot cut our way out of the deficit; revenues will have to be increased.  Federal heating oil assistance is being cut, teachers are being laid off, and projects for mass transit are mouldering, but churches like Westboro Baptist don’t have to pay a single cent in taxes on their assets?  Much like defunding NPR and PBS, removing churches’ tax exempt status will enable them to fully enter the political arena rather than secretly participate.

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Oil spills and more roads

Posted by eemilla on June 19, 2010

From Governor Perdue’s weekly email:

North Carolina’s Response to the Gulf Oil Spill

Gov. Perdue on Tuesday joined officials from the N.C. Department of Crime Control and Public Safety, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the U.S. Coast Guard to discuss the state’s ongoing preparations in the event oil were to reach North Carolina shores.  A briefing in Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh was held for state legislators and another session for local elected officials, local government managers and public safety officials from coastal counties.

Gov. Perdue stressed that experts, including the Coast Guard and U.S. Environment Protection Agency, believe there is only a remote chance that any oil will reach North Carolina shores.  If any oil were to reach North Carolina, the state is prepared.  North Carolina had a plan in place to deal with an oil spill long before the situation in the Gulf, and that plan is being updated to handle the current situation.  Gov. Perdue reminded participants that North Carolina beaches are clean and open for business this summer season.

“I believe North Carolina has the best emergency management team in the country. We have proven over and over we can handle whatever emergency comes our way,” said Perdue.  “No matter how small the chance that oil could reach North Carolina, my goal, as always, is for us to be prepared.”

Additionally, the N.C. Department of Crime Control and Public Safety has launched a web page dedicated to providing information and useful links regarding the Gulf oil spill.  The page is located at the department’s home page at www.nccrimecontrol.org and can be reached by clicking on the Gulf Oil Spill tab.

Support Grows for Mobility Fund

Broad-based and bipartisan support for Gov. Bev Perdue’s proposed Mobility Fund continues to grow across the state, as evidenced by the number of resolutions passed by local municipalities and other organizations. Twelve groups have already signed resolutions supporting the innovative transportation funding legislation, while four others are pending. They include the:

·         City of Goldsboro
·         City of Charlotte
·         City of Concord
·         City of High Point
·         Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization
·         Durham Transportation Advisory Committee
·         Greensboro Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Org. Transportation Adv. Comm.
·         NC Joint Regional Forum (League of Municipalities and the Assoc. of County Comm.)
·         Centralina Council of Governments (nine counties in the Mecklenburg area)
·         Cabarrus-Rowan Metropolitan Planning Organization
·         North Carolina Regional Councils
·         North Carolina Turnpike Authority

The Carborro/Chapel Hill/Durham Metropolitan Planning Organization and the cities of Archdale, Rocky Mount and Thomasville have approved resolutions and expect to have them delivered soon.

The Mobility Fund was proposed by Gov. Perdue in her budget as a new way to finance projects of statewide or regional significance to help reduce congestion and improve mobility. It sets aside funding for priority projects, the first of which would be widening I-85 north of the Yadkin River bridge on the Davidson/Rowan County line.”

The fund is being considered by the General Assembly as part of the FY 2010 budget.

For more information about the Mobility Fund, visit www.ncdot.gov and click on “Governor’s Proposed Mobility Fund” under “Latest News.”

While North Carolina may have a disaster plan in the event the  oil or tar balls from BP’s spill heads our way, Governor Perdue doesn’t mention anything about offshore drilling off the North Carolina coast .  Many North Carolina residents still support offshore drilling, even after the BP fiasco.  However, Governor Perdue hasn’t issued a press release committing herself to any position either for or against.  In September 2009, she signed Executive Order 23 to study offshore energy (which to Governor’s Perdue’s credit does support wind energy), but since BP’s Gulf spill her press releases have been isolated to the response if any of the spill comes ashore in North Carolina.

The irony comes in the next paragraph were the “mobility fund” is once again promoted; as I stated last week, I have no problem with the increase in vehicle registration fees, but the emphasis on where the funds will go is my problem.  Building more roads eases congestion for a few years, but as long as the population grows the decreased congestion will quickly return to its previous levels just across more roads.  I haven’t spent much time in Raleigh and its outward belts, but I did live in Atlanta for a year in which I witnessed eight lanes congested on I85 and I285 as well as the local roads (e.g. Ashford-Dunwoody, Peachtree, Hammond Dr, Roswell Rd) from 7 am to 9 am and 4 pm to 6 pm every weekday.  The long term solution is to decrease the number of single occupant vehicles.  Mass transit provides that option as well as providing jobs that cannot be exported.  I’d love for Buncombe County and the City of Asheville to support Governor Perdue’s Mobility Fund with the caveat that public transit receive priority over increasing the road supply.


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Strive Not to Drive 2010

Posted by eemilla on May 17, 2010

Although I don’t recall if last year’s Strive Not to Drive challenge began on a Saturday, I was perplexed by the decision to begin on a Saturday considering Sunday is the one day of the week that Asheville Transit does not run.  Are the organizers trying to encourage participants to think about options other than transit, or is their goal to highlight the absurdity of thinking of our transit as a viable alternative to a vehicle when its coverage (both in time and territory) is severely limited?  Regardless, I joined the pledge.

Sadly, I repeated last year’s mistake by oversleeping (Sunday nights at the Hanger rock!)  My plans are to walk to work tomorrow and Thursday; for Wednesday, I’ll forgo the car for both the morning and evening commutes, and on both Friday and Saturday, we will both forgo the car.  Last’s year event pushed me into more morning bus commutes; even though I feel ridiculous riding the bus for all of a mile, it saves me much sweat and allows me enough time to change into work attire before the office opens.

Wednesday night is our main issue; the last run from downtown to our bus stop is at 5:30.   Route 36 runs much later, but it stops about five miles short of our stop (I think I may have mentioned a few times about the lack of sidewalks especially south of I40).  While it is true we could bike it, my fitness level would render me a bit unsafe.  I understand that bus fares do not provide a significant source of revenue, but our household would be more than happy to pay more money for evening rides to help fund expanding service.

Get on the bus!

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Shame on you, Congressman Shuler!

Posted by eemilla on November 11, 2009

Abortion is legal.  The best way to stop abortion is to prevent unwanted pregnancies.  Before Roe v. Wade, well heeled women went out of the country to have their abortions performed, and less well off women went to illicit abortion providers who may or may not have been medically trained.  As a result, women died.  It is infuriating that Congressman Shuler (and the other representatives) would vote to restrict a right that is so intensely personal.  Every child born should be a wanted child.  How many children have you adopted or fostered Mr Shuler?

Congressman Shuler issued a press release stating that HR 3962 doesn’t provide enough reform or control enough costs.  However, if that were the case why bother with voting in favor of the Shupak amendment that would restrict access to abortions for ostensibly less than wealthy women.  Why didn’t Congressman Shuler present anything to the Small Business Committee that would have provided better cost controls or more reforms?  What reforms are Congressman Shuler looking for?

His press release states that he supports “many of the provisions in HR 3962”, but other than cost control he doesn’t specifically state where the bill’s reforms fall short.  On his Small Business page he points that healthcare costs have almost doubled since 2001 and that businesses are facing the decision of whether to pay for health insurance or lay off employees, but his solution on that page is to allow businesses to band together to create coops which would work within the existing system that Shuler says is “laden with waste, fraud and abuse” (from today’s press release).

The Senate is next so pick up your phones and call your Senators daily to remind them how you feel about our healthcare system.  I’ll be reminding mine that unlike them I don’t have free healthcare.  I don’t get to choose my doctor because my health insurance company does that for me.  For my annual physical, I have to schedule my appointment about six months out, and then I should expect to wait one, two, or more hours to be seen by the doctor.  Due to the huge price difference between the group and individual market, my employer choses my health plan.  If I were on the individual market, my only real option for health insurance company would be Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC; although they are not considered a monopoly BCBSNC collected over 96% of individual health insurance premiums in North Carolina in 2008.  I’ll also be sure to mention the millions of uninsured (like our friends who work forty plus hours every week, but still cannot afford health insurance) that the private market has failed.  I’ll voice my support for moving away from the fee for service paradigm and moving towards the rewarding healing the sick one; I’ll also share my dream of taxing the hell out of those prescription drug ads that harass me constantly to ask my doctor to please give me a prescription which might help the selectively fiscally conservative get on the bus.

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Recycled or Reclaimed

Posted by eemilla on October 25, 2009

This week’s Change the World Challenge from Reduce Footprints is to purchase the recycled option of a product you don’t normally buy the recycled version of, or if you don’t have an item that fits the bill discuss using reclaimed materials.

I have no problem with recycled paper towels or sandwich/bulk item bags, but I do not like recycled paper toilet paper.  It irks me because its manufacturers have the audacity to make it less soft and cost more than conventional toilet paper.  However, I will succumb to peer pressure and give it another go.  Which brands are cushier?

Posted in fun, politics | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

Forty-Five Weeks!

Posted by eemilla on July 9, 2009

We are at forty-five weeks with the one car household, and we are going strong.  We are now trying to decide how to celebrate the upcoming one year anniversary, and this week’s Change the World Wednesday Challenge from Small Footprints at Reduce Footprints is to park the car for twenty-four hours.  With our household, the car normally doesn’t get parked that long unless we are out of town.  My hope is that we can both use alternate means of transportation at least three times in the upcoming calendar week.  The humidity and no showers at work make this difficult, but if we ever hope to have a better public transportation system we have to use what we have and demand better.

Change The WorldButton

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Happy Fourth!

Posted by eemilla on July 4, 2009

Please take the time (or some extra time) this week to contact your elected representatives about an issue you care about or to thank them for a vote well done.  I’ve called Senator Kay Hagan, Senator Richard Burr, and Representative Shuler to voice my support for a public healthcare option.  Governor Purdue, Senator Nesbitt, Representative Whilden, Representative Fisher, and Representative Goforth all received thanks for their support of the Healthy Youth Act.  Next week I guess I’ll bug someone about more sidewalks and bus service.

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Change the World Wednesday Challenge from ReduceFootprints

Posted by eemilla on June 25, 2009

This week the challenge is to be a locavore for at least three (or one full day if you eat min meals) of the twenty plus meals that make up your dining week.  In this town many a restaurant makes it easy; Laughing Seed Cafe has a farm that they source many things from, and many other restaurants either do the same or use local farmers.  Even though my fair city makes it much easier than other places, it is summer, and I love mangoes, which don’t grow in zone 7.  I am embarrassed to say that I don’t know exactly what is in season throughout the year, but thankfully, Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project has a friendly chart for the area.

Many a critic of eating local will argue that it is too expensive, and I agree that it can be pricey; however, the trick is to grow it yourself or make friends with someone who does.  My co-worker rents, and she still grows zucchini, red peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, basil, parsley all in containers.  Although this year some unexpected family emergencies gave us a pass on planting our victory (against corporate agriculture) garden, we have big plans for next year.  Alternatively Community Supported Agriculture shares are a great thought for those without the time or the inclination to grow their own vegetables (or the space to raise chickens, cows, goats, etc).

I will post some photos of our local meal, as its content will depend on what Mom has ready for harvest and what the Coop has in stock.

Posted in food, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle

Posted by eemilla on June 24, 2009

Last week’s Change the World Wednesday challenge from Reduce Footprints really got me thinking about how many plastic bags I use without even noticing them.  I hate getting them at the store but only at the checkout line; when I’m in the produce or bulk section I think about how much I need to get reusable bags, especially for the mushrooms, but week after week I use one or two new bags.  I do save and reuse the old ones, but those thin produce bags tear if you look at them wrong so I usually only get one or two uses.  I do better with the zip top sandwich bags that I put herbs in, and for the heavy bulk (rice, beans, tofu, etc) I bring some plastic storage containers.

Single use bags are just plain bad.  Americans waste about 12 million barrels of oil annually in the production of plastic bags, and if you use paper, we harvest about 14 million trees each year.  Aside from being a waste of a valuable, finite resource, plastic bags are here to stay.  Like the bag scene in American Beauty, they float and fly and land in trees and in the water.  Once in water they can resemble prey causing some obvious issues for the unlucky predator.  Even if the bags don’t retain their original shape, once they get into the water they flock; the Northern Pacific Garbage Patch is bigger than Texas.  To help protect their seascapes, several coastal North Carolina counties are thinking of joining the growing global ban (as reported on Morning Edition last week or so).  A few of the local green grocers (Earth Fare, French Broad Food Coop, and with Greenlife leading the way) began to charge for plastic bags this year, and even if the stores didn’t want to charge, couldn’t they give a credit like Earth Fare used to that the shopper can donate to a charity (which both decreases single use bag usage and gets the company a tax deduction).

Paper at least breaks down when thrown away, and all of our textbook covers were repurposed grocery bags.  However, paper still wastes plenty of resources.  Some of those trees may be old growth stands while others could be from GMO tree plantations, but either way a whole bunch of trees go down.   The GMO trees for paper production are being selected for less lignin which makes them easier to process.  The issue is that lignin makes trees strong (literally it fills the spaces between the cells’ walls), and it also helps the tree conduct water efficiently (sounds like a recipe for more less efficient water usage and increased pesticides).  On the carbon side, it also plays an important role in carbon sequestration.  Even if you recycle your bags a great deal of energy is used to do so (in both transporting and processing).

My organic cotton bags have another one up on plastic and paper: they hold pounds more.  Two bags can easily handle a week’s worth of groceries (I usually keep the delicates, like bread & fruit, in their own bag).  On the downside, baggers at the Ingles are so used to flimsy plastic bags that might hold ten pounds, I bag my own groceries which saves Ingles on labor costs (I avoid the stupid robo-checkouts) as they will invariably use half the bag then resort to plastic.

This weekend I will make or buy some reusable bags for my bulk items so I cut the plastic bags out all together.

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Do state legislators really deserve free healthcare?

Posted by eemilla on June 13, 2009

With the budget crisis looming for counties, cities, and states across the country, cuts are being proposed to mental health services and education among other things.  To their credit they did cut their own pay just like the state employees down the chain, but in the middle of this crisis our state legislators are wasting time with bills to amend our state’s constitution to deny rights.  

As healthcare isn’t that important for the weakest members of society, I bet the state legislator’s could save much more money by cutting their own health insurance.  Most of them are older and are probably prescribed a plethora of pharmies, which as well all know (especially those without health coverage or with only basic major medical coverage) cost a lot. Additionally, being a state legislator isn’t even a full time job, and how many of their constituents have health coverage working either a full or part time job?  I have never worked a part time (or even a full time job) in which my health care was provided free of charge.  Even if one does have health coverage, it certainly isn’t free, and I would wager one month’s premiums that it isn’t as good as what the legislators provide for themselves.

I’ll be sending this to my elected officials, and I hope you will join me.  I will also bring them to task for wasting time on a stupid Constitutional amendment to deny citizens’ rights and trying to break down the proud tradition of the separation of church and state.

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