Power speaking truth to power

03 gunAmerican business — big, small and in between — is rarely seen as a force of political liberalism. In fact, business interests are more often than not conservative, as political money given by both business executives and business entities demonstrates. Business helps itself by lobbying for less regulation and lower taxes and often contends these positions help everyone else as well — proverbial trickle-down economics.

That is why last week’s open letter by 145 chief executives of some of our nation’s best-known corporations to leaders of the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate gave whiplash to more than few Americans. The letter directly and urgently asked senators to support expanded background checks for all firearms sales and stronger “red flag” laws aimed at keeping firearms out of the hands of individuals considered potentially violent. The House has passed some gun control legislation, and the executives want the Senate to act on that legislation. Their letter suggests that requiring background checks on all gun sales is a “common-sense solution with overwhelming public support.”
What? Captains of industry urging gun-control?
Yes, indeed.

The business leaders, representing companies including Levi Strauss & Co., Lyft, Gap Inc., Royal Caribbean and a financial operation founded by Jared Kushner’s brother, wrote this to senators. “Doing nothing about America’s gun violence crisis is simply unacceptable, and it is time to stand with the American public on gun safety.”

The letter comes after 31 people were killed last month in about 24 hours in separate mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
Have we reached a tipping point on the issue of gun control?     
Recent polling indicates a high level — perhaps as much as 90% — of public support for increased gun control measures in the wake of last month’s shootings. But we have had such waves of public sentiment before, notably after the Sandy Hook school shootings almost seven years ago and the Las Vegas concert massacre, which took 58 lives two years ago with no congressional action taken. With mass shootings seemingly becoming more frequent and deadlier, are we finally ready to address them as a nation?
While American business interests have become more vocal during the Trump presidency on all sorts of issues including immigration, affordable health insurance, climate change and white supremacy, it is interesting to note which chief executives did not sign the gun control letter to senators. Among the absentees are CEOs of some of our nation’s largest and most influential financial and technology institutions, including Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Apple, Google and Facebook. Some companies acknowledge that their leaders discussed the issue internally, and some say they are simply sticking to their business duties, thank you very much.
Senators have been largely close-mouthed about the letter, so Americans of all political persuasions will have to watch and wait for a response — if any. If history is an indicator, the Republican-controlled Senate has been generally responsive to the wishes of business leaders, and business interests have rewarded Republican senators with generous campaign contributions. It has been a cozy and comfortable arrangement when dealing with business issues but less so when social questions arise.
Here again, if history is an indicator, not much is going to move Republican leaders on gun issues. Dead first graders, dead concert-goers, dead high school students and dead Walmart shoppers have not moved them. It remains to be seen if distressed Chief Executive Officers can make any difference.


Investing in our future is a no-brainer

02 PubnotesWill Fayetteville get a new North Carolina state-operated North Carolina Civil War & Reconstruction History Center? That’s a good question. Basic logic would dictate it’s a no-brainer for a community like ours that is working hard to attract business and industry to Cumberland County. As the General Assembly readies itself to approve $46 million for the Civil War Center, the appropriation hinges on Cumberland County and the city of Fayetteville both supporting the project with financial commitments of $7.5 million each. At this moment, both have tentatively committed their support. Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin is waffling, though, stating that more public input is needed and suggesting there may be more pressing needs to address as Fayetteville rallies to shake its Tier 1 status.
Education and awareness are essential for peace and tranquility. The proposed Civil War Education Center offers both. For those in the city who think the $7.5  million in tax dollars could be spent on more pressing needs, we ask: What can be more important than education and awareness to future generations?  Where is the vision? More importantly, where is the logic?
This is an $80 million-plus state-funded project for which the city and county would both invest $7.5 million.  That’s a 0.094% buy-in after the museum foundation has raised over $10 million in donations and $15 million in pledges. Using community support and donations to evaluate and monitor this mandate, I’d say the Fayetteville community is pretty much in favor of the project. So why the hesitation on the part of the city at this late date? Personal political maneuvering? Mind games? Who knows?  However, if it’s a game, it’s a gamble with stakes so high that a loss here would be so devastating that  the consequences to the Fayetteville/Cumberland County community would be felt for decades. 
Need proof? Look east of Fayetteville about 5 miles, where millions of vehicles travel both north and south along Interstate 95 each day, avoiding our community.  The interstate was predicted to be an economic boom for Cumberland County in the late 70s and early 80s, promising decades of growth and prosperity. Nearly four decades later, only one of the 11 Cumberland  County exits have been developed — exit 49. A bad decision made in the 70s has stifled, and continues to stifle, the progress and development of this community. Why? Because of political self-interest and a lack of vision. We can convene all the public hearings we want. The location of Interstate 95 was the topic of several such public hearings. Public hearings do not substitute for intelligence, logic or leadership. And, in the case of championing the History Center here is a project that would pay big dividends to the Fayetteville community indefinitely.
By the numbers:
1. The Museum is a state-funded operation. In other words, once it’s built, the state maintains it. There is no cost to local residents.
2. The Museum will create hundreds of new jobs.
3. It will have a $20 million annual economic impact on the community.
4. It will attract 100,000+ visitors annually to our community.
5. It will make Fayetteville a statewide destination point.
In closing, I know both our Fayetteville city councilmen and women and our Board of County Commissioners have a sincere and heartfelt passion for doing what is in the best interest of local residents. Escaping the grasp of our Tier 1 designation can only be obtained with honest, objective leadership and vision. We don’t need another Interstate 95 fiasco that has netted us zero over the past four decades. We need to partner with the state of North Carolina, this time, in building a highway to prosperity that leads directly to Fayetteville and  Cumberland County. The  N.C. Civil War & Reconstruction History Center is that master plan.
Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.
A History Center will bring millions of dollars to our community and create hundreds of new jobs.

Heartfelt thanks

World’s funniest Wilmingtonian, syndicated columnist Celia Rivenbark, recently published a column on — of all things — thank you notes. She is all for them. Celia says, “Point is, this is still the South the last time I looked and if you receive a gift, you need to say thank you with some pretty stationery and a stamp that has flowers on it.”

The gold standard of thank you notes is exactly what Celia says — nice stationery or note cards, with an engraved monogram if you are really fancy and schooled into traditional propriety. Notes should be handwritten with lovely and highly legible penmanship unless the writer is manually disabled and should touch all bases — how kind of the giver to remember the occasion and how much you appreciate the thought and look forward to using the special gift. Those are the basics, and beyond that formula, a creative thank you note writer will wax on eloquently, drawing connections among kith and kin, describing the gift as nothing short of the Mona Lisa itself, and the bond between giver and recipient is eternally forged.

Having written and received a zillion thank you notes myself, I do know that things have changed over time. I still have monogrammed — though not engraved — note cards, and use them for thank you notes, condolences and sometimes just howdy dos. Times have changed with technology, though, and I am not above a thank you email or even a text, especially to a younger person who might find a handwritten note card arriving by snail mail akin to a missive from Mars.

03 helloquence OQMZwNd3ThU unsplashBut there are definite limits to what passes as an acceptable thank you, and I have had a few of those myself.

Most notably was a preprinted fill-in-the blank card that read something like this. The filler-in-the-blanks was a recent bride. The card arrived in a computer-addressed envelope with meter bulk mail postage, no doubt from the meter in her parents’ office.

Dear ____,

Thank you for the lovely____________. Aloysius and I will enjoy using it/them for many years and will think of you every time. We are grateful for your thinking of us at this special time in our lives.



This thank you note was wrong in oh-so-many ways. I can only imagine Anastasia filling out cards as she watched “Orange is the New Black,” so no wonder she lost track of what she was doing. 

She thanked me for lovely napkins, when we had given the happy couple embroidered pillowcases. And Anastasia did not love me for a single second, as I am a friend of her mother’s and have not laid eyes on her since she was a baby. There was nothing personal or sincere about this assembly line thank you. The bride was merely checking the boxes of what she thought she should do, perhaps even knocking them all out during one great binge-watching session.

Times have certainly changed, and all of us are busy, busy, busy but not so much that a canned thank you note or group email or text mentioning only a “lovely gift” pass for genuine gratitude. The point here is not that the giver receives an acknowledgment of effort made and money spent but that the recipient expresses sincere gratitude that someone, even an old lady, long ago friend of her mother’s wished her and her husband well as they began their lives together.

Contrast Anastasia’s note with one I received from a young cousin to whom we gave a toy on an early birthday. The boy, about six or seven, wrote a note on lined paper with what could only have been a # 2 pencil. It read, “Thank you for the truck. It made me happy.” I know his mother made him sit down and write, but his note was simple and sincere, and those qualities will stand him in good stead all his life.

Celia put it this way, “It’s not about being thanked. It is about thanking. It’s about being grateful enough to spend a few minutes to reflect on someone’s generosity. That’s never a bad thing.”


The doctor will see you now

04 PlagueDoctorIt’s the most wonderful time of the year — the presidential election of 2020 has arrived full-blown, even before the pre-Halloween Christmas decorations show up at Walmart. As Frank Costanza once said, the presidential election campaign has risen like a Phoenix from Arizona into full mushroom-cloud status. Political ads are now looming everywhere above the fruited plains like a hangover from overconsumption of Mad Dog 20/20 Electric Melon wine. 

One of the hot topics in the coming election will be the future of health care in America. There is a wide variety of options from Democrats from the plan to outlaw private insurance and have Medicare for all to Biden’s improved Obamacare. On the right, the Republicans want to abolish Obamacare to bring back pre-existing conditions. They have a Double Secret Plan for as-yet-undescribed medical Vapor Care. Thinking about health care got me pondering the good old days when doctors made house calls. That thought drove me back to medieval times when doctors wore scary bird mask outfits to cure the Black Death. Precious memories. How they linger. 

As the Republicans haven’t proposed their replacement for Obamacare, allow me to suggest they resume making medical care great again with Vapor Care. Vapor Care sounds perfect in the abstract when Dear Leader tweets. Vagueness counts. Mix together some warm, fuzzy words like “lower premiums and deductibles,” “far less expensive and far better,” and “block grants” and pretty soon you have the basis for Dear Leader’s replacement for Obamacare — new, improved Republican Vapor Care. 

In returning to Medicine’s Golden Days of Yesteryear, what better place to start than to require medical providers of Vapor Care to wear the Plague Doctors’ bird-head black costume? Take a walk down Memory Lane to consider how these costumes will make medicine great again. When the Black Death was stalking Europe, no one knew what to do about it. The Plague Doctors’ Bird of Death costume was a humdinger. Plague Doctors’ — PD for short — jobs included treating and curing victims of the plague and burying them when the cure didn’t take. Being a PD meant you had to be around plague patients and the plague cooties that the patients gave off. The PD’s uniform was designed to keep the doc safe as he practiced Vapor Care. A dude named Charles de l’Orme is credited with inventing the Plague Doctor bird outfit in about 1619. Chuck was the Dr. Phil celebrity doc of his day, including three French kings and the Medici family in Italy as his patients.

The PD wore a black leather cowboy hat. Beneath that, he wore the well-known bird mask. There was some belief that the plague was spread by birds, so the giant bird mask might scare away the disease-carrying birds. The beak of the mask was stuffed with flowers and sweet-smelling herbs because another theory was that the plague was spread by bad air. With the PD breathing the sweet smell of excess in his beak, the bad air cooties could be warded off. This left the PD to heal the sick unafraid of getting the Black Death himself. The PD wore a long, black overcoat from his head to his feet to protect his skin from the plague demons. To keep the demons from sticking to the overcoat, the PD would slime the overcoat with animal fat. 

 Greasing up the overcoat was done for several possible conflicting reasons — the grease would keep the plague cooties away from the PD, or it might draw the plague gremlins away from the patient and onto the overcoat. If any yucky plague secretions oozed off the body of the patient, the gruesome juices would slide off the grease-covered coat, thereby protecting the PD. One can imagine the healing effect of a giant bird figure covered in smelly grease on a hot day in Italy on a patient suffering bubonic plague. If the patient lived, he would remember that event forever. To complete the outfit, the PD carried a wooden cane to be used for poking the patient during examination or defending the PD from the patient if the patient became freaked out by the appearance of a giant smelly bird messing with him during his death throes. 

The advantage of dressing people in Plague Doctor Bird Suits to apply Vapor Care is that the PD doesn’t need a medical degree. Just a bird suit. No expensive medical doctors need apply. No medical malpractice cases will exist because the patients will all die, and the PD can’t be identified because of the Bird Suit. This all keeps down the costs of medical care. 

 The late, great singer Warren Zevon predicted Vapor Care with his immortal lyrics in his song “Life’ll Kill You.”

“From the president of the United States/ To the lowliest rock and roll star/ The doctor is in and he’ll see you now/ He don’t care who you are/ Some get the awful, awful diseases/ Some get the knife, some get the gun/ Some get to die in their sleep/ At the age of a hundred and one/ Life’ll kill ya/ That’s what I said/ Life’ll kill you/ Then you’ll be dead.” 

Remember to vote early and often. The life you save may be your own.

What's going on in Hope Mills?

Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch Official PortraitA good question with no simple answer. However, better days are on the horizon. The Hope Mills political discourse is just a mini reflection of the crazy leadership style germinating in Washington, D.C., and negatively influencing governments at all levels. 

It’s the trickle-down effect from the nation’s capital to North Carolina to Fayetteville and yes, even to lovely and quaint communities like Hope Mills. Unfortunately, at all levels of government, communication and conversation has become cheap and mean-spirited. We are dealing with all this discourse instead of our elected officials serving the people, enforcing the law, solving problems, upholding the Constitution and protecting American values. 

Not to oversimplify this serious situation, but my theory is that it all comes down to incompetent and lazy leadership. It’s a toxic political phenomenon that has impregnated all political parties. In other words, political opportunists figured out the “how” to getting elected to office, but beyond that, they are ignorant and unqualified and have no idea what their responsibilities or obligations are. Nor do they care. 

As a result, instead of problem-solving, innovative thinking and civility, these political leadership posers have only one agenda and modus operandi — to remain in office by destroying their enemies at all costs. Logic be damned. Truth be damned. Humanity be damned. 

This reckless and inflammatory rhetoric is accelerated by the fact that too many of these political ne’er do wells and opportunists have no answers or solutions to the problems they are charged with addressing. Even more alarming is that they have no plan, vision or targeted objective except to get elected and reelected. And, that is exactly what is taking place in Hope Mills. 

Hope Mills Mayor Jackie Warner is one of the most respected, accomplished, competent, effective and transparent public servants Hope Mills and Cumberland County have ever seen. Her dedication to the Hope Mills community and success as a prominent public servant are all a matter of public record. However, a few of her political detractors obsessed with notoriety, vanity, power and control have declared war on Hope Mills’ native daughter —a  woman who, as a Hope Mills teacher and principal, was responsible for the education, character and moral development of thousands of local children.

These same distracters try to discredit and destroy this newspaper — the only media source that dares to celebrate the Hope Mills achievements and values they seem to despise. Yes, we push back. And we will continue to do so as long as they stand in our way of doing what’s best for the community. We support the Hope Mills community and support those who support the community. In addition, we will strive to adhere and operate as closely as possible to Associate Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch’s two main rules that he imposes on his freshmen law clerks: Rule No. 1 — Don’t make it up. Follow the law. (Tell the truth.) Rule No. 2 — When everyone around you is yelling at you and asking you to “make it up” (tell a lie) or condemning you for not making it up, refer to Rule No. 1. These are great rules to live by.

In closing, I have one final message to all the Hope Mills, Mayor Jackie Warner and Up & Coming Weekly newspaper distracters: Refer to Rule No. 1.

 Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.


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