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Senator Burr must resign now

05 BurrOfficialPortraitI emailed the office of Senator Richard Burr after he voted in favor of impeaching former President Trump. This came after the NC GOP Central Committee unanimously voted to censure Senator Burr (https://www.nc.gop/central_02_15).

Not surprisingly, our local newspaper did not find this to be newsworthy. His belated reply follows:

Dear Mr. Goldstein:

Thank you for contacting me regarding my vote to convict former President Trump on the article of impeachment presented against him. I appreciate hearing from you.
January 6, 2021 was a grim day in our nation’s history. The attack on the U.S. Capitol was an attempt to undermine our democratic institutions and overrule the will of the American people through violence, intimidation, and force.

Seven lives were tragically lost as a result of that day. Law enforcement officers, outnumbered and overwhelmed, sustained debilitating injuries as they bravely defended Congress against an angry mob. We now know that lawmakers and congressional staff came dangerously close to crossing paths with the rioters searching for them and wishing them harm.

When this process started, I believed that it was unconstitutional to impeach a president who was no longer in office. I still believe that to be the case. However, the Senate is an institution based on precedent, and given that the majority in the Senate voted to proceed with the trial, the question of constitutionality for a former president is now established precedent. As an impartial juror, my role was to determine whether House managers had sufficiently made the case for the article of impeachment against President Trump.

I listened to the arguments presented by both sides and considered the facts. The facts are clear.

The President promoted unfounded conspiracy theories to cast doubt on the integrity of a free and fair election because he did not like the results. As Congress met to certify the election results, the President directed his supporters to go to the Capitol to disrupt the lawful proceedings required by the Constitution. When the crowd became violent, the President used his office to first inflame the situation instead of immediately calling for an end to the assault.

As I said on January 6, the President bears responsibility for these tragic events. The evidence is compelling that President Trump is guilty of inciting an insurrection against a coequal branch of government and that the charge rises to the level of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Therefore, I voted to convict.

I did not make this decision lightly, but I believe it was necessary. By what he did and by what he did not do, President Trump violated his oath of office to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.

My hope is that with impeachment behind us America can begin to move forward and focus on the critical issues facing our country today.
Again, thank you for contacting me. Should you have additional questions or comments, please do not hesitate to let me know or visit my website at http://burr.senate.gov.

Sincerely,
Richard Burr
United States Senator

Pay particular attention to what Senator Burr (or one of his staffers) wrote:

“However, the Senate is an institution based on precedent, and given that the majority in the Senate voted to proceed with the trial, the question of constitutionality for a former president is now established precedent.”

In other words, Senator Burr, you hold that a "precedent' set by the Senate is an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which you were obliged to support per Article VI. The U.S. Constitution provides for the impeachment of the president, but not a former president no longer in office. That is sophistry as well as impeachable conduct.

This “impeachment” was also a bill of attainder. That is an impeachable offense under Article I, Section 9. For that matter, every representative and senator that voted to impeach the former president is also a participant in this unconstitutional act.

Now, I'm not a constitutional lawyer, but it does not take legal genius to read what is in the U.S. Constitution. The language is plain. But just to be sure, I asked an old friend of mine from college, who is a lawyer, for his opinion on Senator Burr's reply.

“His response could have come directly from CNN. I’m not aware of this precedent notion to create law by non judicial procedural fiat. The blather justifying his vote seems no more valid than sports banter. Precedent is established by a court which is subject to evaluation by other courts up the jurisdiction train. This senate choice seems misuse of process or contrived authority to increase its power, just what the President was accused of.”

It is now obvious that Senator Burr does not represent all of the North Carolina voters, both Democrat and Republican, that voted to reelect President Trump.

The vote of censure was a vote of no confidence. Senator Burr has demonstrated that he will place his own agendas, whatever they may be, over the will of his constituents. For this reason he should resign immediately.

— Leon A Goldstein, Fayetteville

Murder in Mayfield?

11 Pitt IMG 6130Things are not always what they seem. The surface may be bright and sparkling but beneath may lie a pool of unremitting darkness. “Leave It To Beaver” is one such example. Being a person of the retired persuasion, on most mornings I have settled into a Rona induced rut. The alarm goes off at 5:45 a.m. Taking a tip from the Baha Boys’ greatest hit, I let the dogs out. I can catch the last 15 minutes of “Dragnet” on ME TV which means I get to watch Friday and Gannon exchange meaningful glances and walk without moving their arms. This is just in time to watch them bust the Bad Guy. The announcer intones in a voice that predates Morgan Freeman by saying “Trial was held on such and such a date. In a moment the results of that trial.” I always hope that just once the Bad Guy is found not guilty. It does not seem too much to ask. But alas, the Bad Guy never hires Perry Mason or even Matlock. He is always found guilty. He is still serving time in San Quentin. Then comes the sweaty arm that pounds Mark VII into a metal plate. The show is over. The coffee begins to kick in about the time the dogs begin scratching at the door.

Next up is “Morning Joe” who was much more entertaining when the Former Guy was President. Recently it was Boring Joe. I changed channels to watch “Leave It To Beaver.” That particular episode involved Beaver switching a birthday present. Naturally, he got caught lying about the old switcheroo. Ward called Beaver into his study for a good talking to. Beaver learned his lesson like he did in all 234 episodes. All of this was standard “Leave to Beaver” stuff. But the episode suddenly took a hard turn into the “Twilight Zone” when Ward and June sat down to discuss Beaver’s faults. Ward was reading the Mayfield newspaper which had a giant headline that had the word MURDER in all caps.

Murder in Mayfield? This went against everything known about Beaver’s hometown. Previously the most exciting thing that ever happened was when Beaver got stuck in a giant coffee cup on a billboard. I was so startled I backed up the TV to see if I had been mistaken. Sure enough, the last word in the headline was MURDER. Realizing that no one would believe this without proof, I took a picture of the Cleavers and the headline which appears with this column. Who was murdered? Was there a serial killer loose in Mayfield? Had Eddie Haskell finally slipped the thin veneer of civilization that coated him in a thin candy shell like an M&M candy left in a hot car in July and gone into a homicidal rage? Had Lumpy Rutherford flipped out because the gang kept calling him Lumpy instead of his real name Clarence? Was Miss Landers actually a North Korean Spy who tired of indoctrinating fourth graders and went on a killing spree at the VFW Lodge? Had Principal Cornelia Ray gone “Full Metal Jacket” and finally killed Eddie Haskell herself? These questions went unanswered as just the last word of the headline was visible in Ward’s formerly nicotine-stained hands.

Perhaps the MURDER headline was just an inside joke some screenwriter put into Ward’s hands thinking no one would notice it. Wouldn’t you think that Ward would be discussing a murder spree in Mayfield with June rather than the birthday party incident? Unless Ward was trying to divert June from the article by discussing birthday trivia rather than a gruesome murder in Mayfield. Look at the way Ward is holding the paper so that June can’t see the headline. Does Ward have something to hide? Is Ward the Mayfield Murderer? Was Ward sitting on the couch reading about the murder, chuckling because he had committed the perfect crime when June unexpectedly finished the dishes and sat down beside him? Had Ward finally snapped under the incessant pressure from his boss Fred Rutherford to sell more insurance? Had he hired Eddie Haskell to whack Fred? Having watched many episodes of “Dragnet” I have been trained to look for clues. The seeming nonchalance of Ward carefully folding the paper to conceal the headline from June can mean only one thing. Ward did it. Ward is the Mayfield Murderer. Friday and Gannon would have cracked this case wide open in thirty minutes. Ward would spend the rest of his days in San Quentin.

Due to the pressure of Ward’s impending trial Beaver turned to drugs to escape. Kinky Friedman chronicled that sad result in his great song “Somethin’s Wrong with the Beaver” which describes the fateful morning that June went to get Beaver ready for school. Ponder these words: “She climbed the stairs that morning/ Found him rather pale/ His eyes they were the color/ Of half-drunk ginger ale/ Faithful as a Magnavox/ Hung up on a song/ She cried down to the breakfast nook/ Ward? There’s something wrong/ Somethings wrong with the Beaver/ The Beaver I believer is gone/ Beaver was a dreamer/ Never got it right/ Died in living color/ Lived in black and white. “

So, what have we learned today? Sadly, once again nothing. I apologize for wasting your time.

The deadly fast & furious

06 crashOmg! Watch out! Fayetteville and Cumberland County's streets have gotten much more dangerous and deadly in the past few years.

I know what you are thinking: Fayetteville has always been a problematic town to drive in because of how our streets and roads are laid out, and the myriad driving styles. These things added to the fact that drivers are often unfamiliar with the streets makes our city and county a pretty dangerous place to drive.

I've been driving in Fayetteville for over 50 years, and the very first rule that was instilled in me was: Whenever I'm stopped and waiting at a traffic light: "DON'T go on the green!" That's because this community is notoriously known for ignoring signals and running red lights.

Now, in the last couple of years, it seems we have a much bigger and treacherous problem on our hands and our streets. The problem is caused by the fact that hot-rodder’s and lawless "fast and furious" twerps riding four-wheelers, crotch rocket motorcycles, and mini cars with roaring obnoxious tailpipes and exhaust systems have taken over our city streets.

And, in their wake, they leave telltale signs of their destruction and contempt for the law. If you travel around the city regularly as I do, seldom a day goes by when you don't come upon two or three accidents involving personal injury, loss of life, or property damage.

Telltale signs are everywhere. Look around and pay attention as you casually drive along the streets of Fayetteville and Cumberland County.

Notice the 25-100 yards of tire skid marks on the surface of the street where sudden braking became a matter of life or death. Notice the tire tracks in the medians, traffic signs run over, the orange barrels and pylons marking the spot where someone lost control and hit a guardrail. Last and one of the most blatant indications of motor vehicle lawlessness is the mounting number of donut-style burnouts in the middle of the road. When a motorcycle driver locks his front brake and spins his bike in circles burning up his back tire, it creates dense smoke while leaving huge black circular tire marks in the middle of the street.
Also, have you ever wondered why you see all those damaged plastic bumpers alongside the road? They didn't just far off a car. They were knock off when that vehicle collided with an inanimate object, most likely a concrete curb.

Here are a few other signs that speed and traffic law defiance are causing community concerns. Pay attention to the makeshift memorials, crosses, and flowers of street side memorials dedicated to victims who have died from vehicle negligence. Just look around. Pay attention. These disastrous signs are just too numerous to ignore. And, it will only get worse unless our leadership takes direct action and does so soon.

Several factors compound this problem. First is the "fast and furious" trend promoted and idolized in recent movies where young people are going out and buying small cars and installing loud, boisterous and obnoxious exhaust pipes that get louder as the vehicle accelerates. So, go figure. The race is on! The faster they accelerate, the louder the pipes sound.

Then comes the adrenaline rush when they realize they are exceeding 100 mph on city streets. Then comes the panic, loss of control and the crash. The evidence is everywhere. With the city down about seventy enforcement officers, our streets are becoming lawless racetracks. Traffic laws are not enforced, no tickets are written, and many officers feel it's not worth the hassle since they are not supported with most of the empathy going to the violator. Sad but true. Law and order are what defines our civilization. Right now, what is taking place in our community is only the tip of the iceberg of what we are in store for if we allow people to ignore the rule of law in our community intentionally.

I write this because I am worried and afraid of the consequences we will have to endure if we cannot get this situation under control. I'm worried about that van of young children being driven home from the daycare. I'm afraid my employees won't arrive safely to work. I'm worried those two early morning joggers won't be able to get out of the way of that speeding car, losing it on the "high side." I'm concerned that my wife may leave the house on a simple trip to the grocery store, and I'll never see her again because we neglected to enforce the traffic laws that were designed to keep us safe and protected. I don't foresee our current leadership addressing this problem anytime soon. However, it is on other people's radar. So, in the meantime, please, please, please be careful on our city streets, county roads, and interstate highways. Drive extra, extra defensively, and take nothing for granted. At Up & Coming Weekly, we love our readers and don't want to lose any! Thank you for reading our community newspaper.

To filibuster or not — that is the question

07 Dodo BritLet’s be bluntly honest with ourselves. Americans have become so polarized with our politics that it is as if we speak different languages and are unable to communicate with or understand each other
at all.

This polarization is so acute that Congress is no longer functional. It struggles to pass important legislation, and dealings among members, once congenial, are so toxic they have taken to name calling and posting signs about each other. Several have expressed fear for their personal safety because of other members. Most state legislatures are functional to some degree, but Congressional-style gridlock remains a threat in some places.

Pundits will debate for generations how we got to this dangerous place, but one truth is obvious now. The U.S. Senate tradition of the filibuster is antiquated, frustrating and destructive to
democracy.

What exactly is a filibuster? It is a delaying tactic never mentioned or apparently contemplated in the Constitution. It developed in the mid-1800s as a way to stave off a vote on legislation a Senator opposed by allowing him—and in the early days, it was always him — to slow proceedings to a crawl by talking ... and talking ... and talking. It has been used by both parties, notably by Southern Democrats in the 20th century to oppose various civil rights legislation.

In 1957, Strom Thurmond, a South Carolina Democrat, talked for an astounding 24 hours and 18 minutes in opposition to just such a bill, eventually reading from law books to pass the time. More recently, Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas yapped for more than 19 hours in 2013 against the Affordable Care Act, at one point reading Dr. Seuss’s “Green Eggs and Ham” on the
Senate floor.

Along the way, Senators figured out that they do not actually have to talk for days on end. They just have to threaten to do that, and such a threat is generally invoked by the opposing party to stop popular legislation put forward by the other party.

Current Senate rules call for 60 of 100 votes to end a filibuster, which in a closely divided chamber as most have been for decades, it is almost impossible to get those 60 votes, so actual filibusters rarely occur and significant legislation is exceedingly difficult to pass. Right now, two critical pieces of legislation, another COVID economic stimulus package and a sweeping voting rights protection measure, face exactly this filibuster threat from Senate Republicans, even though both are popular with voters of both parties.

No matter what one’s party affiliation or views on any particular legislation, few of us elected our Senators to stonewall the process. We elected him — and in recent years, some hers — to inform themselves and then to vote on our behalf.

Sometimes one side will prevail, and sometimes the other will, but it serves neither party nor the American people for the business of our legislative branch to be held hostage by procedural rules.

Both Democrats and Republicans have toyed from time to time with amending the rules regarding filibusters, sometimes referred to as “exercising the nuclear option.” Most legislative bodies, including the U.S. House, operate on a simple majority principle, except on special votes such as veto overrides. The U.S. House has long since limited filibuster privileges and does not suffer the stalemates that beset the Senate.

It makes increasing sense to many Americans that the filibuster go the way of the dodo bird, so that decisions can be made. Failing that, it also makes sense that if the Senate is going to allow filibusters, its members should actually suffer through them, 24 hours, “Green Eggs and Ham,”
and all.

Help Wanted at City Hall: serious leaders needed

13 use for bio boxLeaders are supposed to make the hard decisions and embrace the mantle of responsibility, or so I learned in my 20 -year Army career. For too long, the current Fayetteville Mayor and City Council have shirked their responsibilities and avoided making the hard choices that come with their positions. This vacuum has resulted in the waste of taxpayer money, destruction of public and private property, a rise in crime and a decrease in morale within our city's police department. My heart breaks for the city that I have made my home and grown to love. In the past few years, this wonderful town took a turn for the worse due to failures at City Hall. I owe it to my children, grandchildren, friends, family and neighbors to turn Fayetteville into a safe and prosperous city for them.

For these reasons, I, Jose Alejandro "Alex" Rodriguez, have decided to become a City Council candidate for Fayetteville District 1. This city is in dire need of leadership, and I am more than capable and willing to provide it. As a retired soldier, a middle-school teacher and police officer, I have served my country and community. I will continue to do so should the citizens of my district bless me with the opportunity to serve them.

For too long, the mindset in City Hall has steered this city in a destructive direction. Excessive spending and the waste of taxpayer funds are plaguing the weak members of the current City Council. Their lack of knowledge and inability to ask the difficult questions has made them ineffectual at being proper custodians of taxpayer dollars. The same weak-willed City Council enabled the burning and looting of our Market House and Downtown District. Those same "leaders" ordered the police to stand down, allowing the rioters to destroy property and failed to protect the livelihoods of residents and business owners alike. As I watched this occur, I was disappointed at the lack of respect that City Hall has for Fayetteville's citizens.

Change is also needed at the very top of the Fayetteville Police Department. The current leadership is failing at serving and protecting the citizens and property of this city. Morale continues to decline because of the toxic climate and failed indecisive leadership within the department. As a result of this command climate, the decline in personnel willing to serve in the department is growing with early retirements and officers leaving for other agencies. The men and women in blue serve to protect this city's citizens; they need leaders that will serve and protect them.

Our city can be better with leadership that is serious, committed and decisive. Leaders willing to make the hard decisions, expose the ugly truths, and have the courage to accept the consequences regardless of the outcome. I need your help and support to help Fayetteville live up to its title as an "All-American City." I am Alex Rodriguez, and I am running for Fayetteville City Council in District 1.

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