Sunday, February 28, 2010

More Fun With "EOD"

Since my more-liberal counterpart, Bob Muller has reduced his blog output significantly, I find myself left with only EOD with whom to make some sport in the blogosphere. While I don't miss the flame wars that used to erupt in the early days of OBX political blogging, I do miss some of warning shots delivered across the bow of a blog from another blogger who disagreed.

EOD's current post is focused on Dare being one of four NC counties (we have 100 counties in our state) with a 1% local "food preperation" tax. EOD titled the post "Locals Dine Out Once in a While Too...". The post merely made note of the tax, but the comments that followed were amusing. Here is a sample:

$100 meals are not in our budget; and rarely are $50 meals; however we do tip @20%. :)
Working people and most retired people in Dare County cannot afford this kind of luxury. Perhaps a tax exempt card for locals would be in order, huh? :)

And another:

A tax-exempt card and off-season discounts for locals might generate some needed business for local restaurants.


No doubt times are very tough locally. And the libertarian side of me blanches at any extra tax funds flowing into government coffers unless its purpose is well-defined and provides some form of long-term economic benefit. But seriously, a 1% local meals tax affecting dining out?

I can imagine a conversation right now...

Wife: Let's go out somewhere special. How about Prime Only for a nice steak?

Husband: Well, you know a meal there costs almost a $100 for two. And we need $20 for the tip. But damn, that $1 extra for the local meals tax absolutely puts that restaurant out of our budget.

Wife: How about Mama Kwan's?

Husband: Last time we went there, it cost us $33. Can't afford the extra 33 cents either.

Wife: Sonic?

Husband: I think we can afford the extra tax there, as long as the bill is under $10. Even then, that's gonna cost us a dime.

Wife: Those damn politicians and their taxes. If we eat out once a month at Prime Only, we'd have to cough up $12 more dollars per year. I wonder if the owners of Prime Only recognize what this ridiculous tax is costing them and how much business they lose to Sonic each and every day?

Husband: I know. But EOD is looking out for us working folks who can't afford such luxuries. By the way, have you seen my $300 inline fishing rod? I heard the rock are running just off Mann's Harbour.

Wife: It's in the closet next to your LL Bean GORE-TEX® insulated/waterproof boots, which you will need. It's cold out there. And don't forget to pick up that deer head at the taxidermist.

Now, even I believe Prime Only is an extravagance. But smaller, less expensive restaurants like Kwan's, Barefoot Bernie's, and Captain Frank's Hot Dogs are in need of some economic stimulus.
Let's say every person in Dare County should be entitled to eat out once per month at a place like Kwan's for $17, and twice at Capt'n Franks, say for $10 without the added burden of a 1% Prepared Food Tax. That's $27 per month; add in the 1% prepared food tax, the result is .27 cents per month or $3.24 per year per diner. Assuming a population of 30,000, including infants and the infirm, the grand total is $97,200 paid by local residents for three dining trips per month. Now, some people eat out far less than three times per month and other locals dine out more often. But obviously, this tax is preventing more folks from eating out than would if the tax were absent. Thus, in the spirit of Obama and Bush, I propose a "Dare County Restaurant Stimulus Plan" that would cover the tax burden of two economical (hot dogs or Happy Meals) and one modest restaurant visit per month.

Thus, each resident from the newborn to the centenarian will receive a $3.24 annual rebate to cover the tax burden of three dining experiences per month. To insure that the money is not blown all at once, say on one trip to Taco Bell, I would stipulate the county distribute the rebate in twelve installments of 27 cents each.

I am sure when this is completed (which is what EOD readers are endorsing), Dare residents will no longer view dining out as a "luxury" and armed with that extra 27 cents per month, locals will be hard pressed to find a restaurant seat.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I’m A Canadian!!


Most of you probably missed it unless you stayed up very late last night. During the Olympics waning hours, a public service announcement appeared on behalf of the Canadian government urging Americans to defect, or check to see if they are actually Canadian citizens. Apparently, they are unhappy with the home team performance at the quadrennial athletic event, whilst American's are sucking up medals like a Hoover gone crazy.

So I went to the Canadian official immigration and citizenship website. There is an online test you can take. Did you ever renounce your Canadian citizenship? No. Was your citizenship ever revoked for fraud? No. Were you ever granted Canadian citizenship and failed to finish the process? No. Were you born between January 1, 1947 and February 14, 1977. Yes. Were your born outside or inside of Canada? Outside. Was one of your biological parents a Canadian citizen at the time of your birth? Yes.

"Congratulations! You are most likely a Canadian citizen!" Instructions on how to complete the process were given.

And I am going to do it! (Take note sis, you too are a "dual" citizen, although your advanced age means you only made the cutoff by the absolute thinnest of margins).

Why would I do this? Let me count the ways:

  1. I can actually join a viable political party called "Conservative" instead of the vague American versions of "Republican" and "Libertarian".
  2. I can continue to oppose national health care in the U.S. while clandestinely slipping across the border to Canada and getting treated for free (providing I get on a waiting list two to three years in advance of my procedure).
  3. I can get really cheap drugs legally. (The medicinal kind).
  4. I will share citizenship with Neil Young, even though I hate him for writing "Southern Man" anachronistically a century too late.
  5. I can obtain a Canadian passport and vacation in Cuba legally. The advantage? Really cheap hotels; authentic Cuban cigars (versus the fakes they often pass off in Mexico as "Cuban". The downside? "I Love Lucy" reruns and fake Mexican cigars.
  6. I'll be a member of "The Commonwealth", meaning I can get really good advance tickets to all those important cricket tourneys.
  7. I can waive my Canadian passport in New Zealand bars and get the obnoxious, anti-American patrons to cease hissing at me.
  8. I can emigrate more easily to Australia.
  9. If I am ever thrown out of a county for good, I can surrender the Canadian passport, retain my U.S. passport, and return in defiance of the ban.
  10. French girls don't hate Canadians the same way they hate Americans.
  11. The Toronto Blue Jays need more fans.


I'll keep you posted on my progress.

I wonder if Canadians fight about beach nourishment?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

More Fun With the Feds—Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System

Yesterday, I made the 120 mile round trip to Chesapeake, Virginia to be fingerprinted for the second time as part of the new national mortgage licensing system. I went there last week also, was "printed" at a "federally" assigned private sector firm (a Goin' Postal store) on a new digital machine. My appointment called for a ten-minute slot; it took that long just to get the machine to "take" one hand's prints. Fifteen minutes later they finished the other hand. You then call the NMLS number, give them your code and they "read" the prints on their computer, give you a thumbs up, and pass them off to the FBI. Of course, by the time I got back to Nags Head, an email showed up on my Blackberry informing me the FBI had determined the prints were illegible.

So, I called NMLS on Monday. The fee for the fingerprinting is $39. When I got to a human being, I explained my situation to a very pleasant young lady. She responded, "Oh, I can fix that.". If you've ever dealt with the IRS, you know nothing good ever comes from a regulatory employee offering to help you. "All you have to do is go back online to our website like you did before, fill out the 2 page form again, pay another $39, schedule a new appointment and get new prints done".

"Excuse me?" I responded (nicely). I paid $39 for the first test, traveled 120 miles round trip (when I could be out trying to get mortgage loans), used $20 of Al Gore's precious fossil fuels, bypassed seven perfectly good police departments that do prints for free, went to the unknown mail drop you assigned, where your trained people and your machine failed. And did I tell you, I already have fingerprints on file with North Carolina and Virginia, just last year, as well as the SEC for a stock brokers license I never finished?"

"And, how can I help you?" she said.

"I spend more than this on a freaking bottle of wine, so it isn't the money (I said nicely) but why do I have to pay again for your subcontractors incompetence?", said I, in a reserved tone.

"Oh, you only have to go through this process three times; if we don't get good prints then, the people at the store will take your height, weight, hair color and we'll mail you a card to take the police station where you live".

"I have to pay up to three times?"

"Yes"

"I know it's not your fault, but can you relay a message to your superiors for me?"

"Of course, and this session is also recorded for quality control. What is your license number again?"

"Forget it".

"Can I assist you with anything else?"

Click.

Knowing when I'm beat, I relented and repeated the process, paid the fee and scheduled a new appointment, but this time at a different mail drop in Chesapeake. When I pulled up, three guys were outside smoking, and a girl was on the cell phone. I knew they were mortgage brokers because they had holes in their shoes and their shirts had not seen a dry cleaners in some time. And, they carpooled. I had an 11:30 appointment. As soon as I stepped out the car, one of them quipped "You here for fingerprints? Machine has been down for an hour". Small world, I knew one of the guy's father from 30 years ago, I turned him down for a loan and later, his empire crashed (not because of me, some kind of scheme gone bad, made all the news in Tidewater). The nice lady at E-Z mail was an hour behind, and had to reboot the machine after she finished with every applicant, unplug and re-attach the digital scanner each time to the PC, and then take 20 minutes to complete each of our fingerprint schemes. The machine, made by a mysterious company called Fieldprint is very persnickety. And go to their website. Less information on them than you can find at www.cia.gov. Click on "About us" and you'll find---nada.

I left at 1:15PM. The girl was still waiting, and she was on her second retake. Her CEO called the NMLS and was basically told "tough luck", apparently he had paid for several retakes.

But rest easy America. My prints took this time, and I have a unique identifier that will follow me anywhere I go in the U.S. as a mortgage broker. Any and all consumer complaints, disciplinary actions or other administrative actions against me taken by any regulatory authority will soon be on a web site for you to see, along with my progress is continuing education, my test results from NC, VA and the Federal test, my unique national identifier and a whole bunch of other stuff. My identifier will now be on every letter I sign, my business card, fliers sent to Realtors, and stenciled into my boxers. But don't worry. If you want a mostly unregulated, non-tested, non-registered mortgage lender to handle your loan, just go to any commercial bank, community bank, savings and loan, credit union, or non-bank mortgage lender---like GMAC Mortgage or those mortgage lenders you find camped out in some real estate offices. They're exempt. Apparently, they either have very good lobbyists, or the one's at the National Mortgage Brokers Association suck. Take your pick.

As for me, I'm heading to a website called examcram (a course we pay for) to study for the national test (another thing we pay for and administered by yet another private sector company on the Federal and State gravy train).

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Free Speech--Cartoon by I.M. Wilde

Cartoon by I.M. Wilde


[click for larger view]


I have wanted to add political cartoons to the Outer Banks Voice, as I used to write a well received comic strip that actually was printed several times in the Washington Times on their op-ed page as a compliment to an editorial piece. The strip, called "Demockracy" was also well reviewed in Internet World, Yahoo World and others. Problem is, I can't draw. Our artist, a well known political cartoonist in Nevada, Steve Miller, eventually had to quit drawing since he suffered from macular degeneration. So I was left with text and no art.

I put out a local feeler and an artist who only wishes to be known as I.M. Wilde responded. The below is Wilde's work alone, but I suspect we will collaborate shortly on other projects. As Wilde has no outlet for the cartoons, I offer it above with the disclaimer that while I have written on this subject myself, these particular feelings represent I.M. Wilde and not Russ Lay. But I feel the cartoon deserves to see the light of day and its not so far off of my own concerns of late. They are further joined in Bob Mulller's recent comments here although in a different context. And, if I help with a caption, I'll take full credit.

http://jockeysridge.blogspot.com/2010/02/nags-heads-bad-decision.html

Let the flames begin, but remember, this is not personal guy and gals. You deserve to know how some folks feel, however.

Directtv Blimp


I saw this blimp first while heading north on Hwy 168 near Shiloh in Currituck County. It appeared to have just taken off from the TCOM airship facility in Weeksville, NC, which was a former US Navy blimp facility. TCOM still constructs airships there, but I am not sure the Directtv blimp is one of them. I do know it has been re-wrapped at TCOM from time to time as different companies take over the airship. This airship showed up later when I was near the Virginia Beach ocean front (where this picture was taken) and late afternoon hovering over the Military Circle region in Norfolk.

The Directtv blimp has a giant HD LCD TV screen, which if you click on the top picture is showing an actual TV program. I bet this screen is spectacular at night.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Welcome Back Bob

Glad to see Bob Muller finally blogging again, especially about local issues. Whether you agree or not, here is a link for some insight on Nags Head that is informative and provides a rare glimpse into how things work from someone who has been there.

http://jockeysridge.blogspot.com/2010/02/nags-heads-bad-decision.html

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

“What Warren Judge Did and Did Not Do”

An EOD blog of February 15th, called "Thumbing Noses" caught my attention. In it, as quoted below, the writer makes references to what occurred at the Dare County Board of Commissioners meeting on February 15th. After I read the blog post, it struck me that what was reported on EOD was different than what I heard, sitting there in the room. And so...here is what EOD writes, taken directly from the post:

Following the appearance of Nags Head Mayor Bob Oakes at today's board of commissioner's meeting, Judge appointed himself, along with Commissioners Jack Shea and Allen Burrus to be "liaisons" for the board in dealing with Nags Head regarding their request(s) for $20 million and other taxes for their beach nourishment project.

The reader could easily infer that Judge somehow stepped up and appointed himself to serve in this capacity in some sort of grand power grab. The post further states:

We have to ask Chairman Judge why he didn't think that the Shoreline Commission, with 6 municipal leaders and Commissioners Mike Johnson and Richard Johnson, as members, weren't good enough to be those "liaisons"?

Well, the truth is Warren Judge did neither the former nor the latter as EOD described. Splitting semantic hairs perhaps, but that's my opinion . Here is a word for word transcript from the meeting, which anyone can review by going to this website provided by Dare County. I have put time codes in so you can jump directly to the pertinent remarks, all made in reference to and just after Mayor Bob Oakes presentation:


48:55-Commissioner Richard Johnson:" Maybe the Chairman needs to sit down with the mayors and seriously talk about this…"

50:41: Commissioner Mike Johnson: "I think Richard made a good point, and if we could do that today, is to maybe have the Chairman sort of be our liaison to see how we can help in this process and to authorize Warren to do that if he would so volunteer…"

51:10 (After Johnson's comments) Commissioner Allen Burrus "That bus just ran over you Warren" (referring to the other Board members suggestion that Judge head up this assignment to deal with the mayors).

52:33 Commissioner Virginia Tillett: "I agree with my fellow Board members, Mr. Chairman that you need to either do it yourself or appoint Allen to represent you to get this project looked at".

53:14: Judge reminds Oakes that there are other "serious" problems with erosion on our northern beaches, in Hatteras, and that people on the beach may not "realize we have sound side issues on Roanoke Island and Stumpy Point".

53:43: Commissioner Judge: "It sounds like the Board is directing me to do something and as long as they give me latitude; I'll probably tap one or two of them to assist me. We certainly stand ready to meet with you and the other mayors to see where we can go".

59:15: Commissioner Judge: So Mayor (speaking to Oakes) we're ready. Between Richard and Mike's suggestion and no one has bailed me out so it looks like I've been tasked to work with you and the other mayors".


So there you have it. Chairman Judge was requested by three of the other commissioners to meet with all the mayors on behalf of the county. He did not appoint himself, and Commissioner Mike Johnson specifically stated that the Board should "authorize" Judge to undertake this task. Moreover, Judge never took it upon himself to bypass the Commissioners who also sit on the Shoreline Commission. In fact, in direct contradiction to EOD's story, Judge did not think the two Shoreline members "weren't good enough to be those liaisons"; the two members EOD mentions as being bypassed were the two who suggested that Judge take the job himself. Neither of the sitting members of the Shoreline Commission suggested they handle the task, nor did any of them volunteer to step forward. Nor did any of the other Board members suggest that the Shoreline Management Commission was better suited to the task. They, and I emphasize "they" asked Warren to work directly with the mayors, not the Shoreline Management Commission.

In fact, given Hatteras's position, most members seemed to feel Allen Burrus needed to be one of those tapped to insure Hatteras Island was represented in meeting with the northern beach mayors. Judge was asked and he offered to do as the Board intended. He did not "appoint himself" in the context implied on EOD, nor did he perform a disservice to the two Dare BoC members who serve on the Shoreline Management Commission.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Watching Joe Biden--The OBX Can Breathe Easier

Meet the Press featured Joe Biden today. Much was typical political posturing. We're fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan better than the Bush Administration (although he proffered no evidence). Blah blah...

On the economy? "Here we are 12 months later... we have stopped the hemorrhaging of jobs... where the housing market is stabilized, where no bank is in jeopardy, and now we're turning our attention to reviving small town banks, commercial banks so we can get credit flowing again".

That's right Joe. Houses are flying off the shelf. Here, in Hampton Roads, Raleigh, everywhere. Foreclosures are increasing, not decreasing across the nation and particularly in Dare county. I see builders swinging hammers every day (uh..NOT!). And no banks are in trouble? Then why does the FDIC continue to shutter them? Sixteen banks in ten states have been closed since January 1, 2010. Forty-five banks were closed in the fourth quarter of 2009, well after the stimulus package was supposed to be cushioning the economy. And credit flowing again? With 9.7% unemployment and housing in the tank, very few sane business owners are asking for credit, and those companies that are asking (and have good reason) are finding their banks otherwise distracted with bad loans and conserving capital. All of you Outer Banks business owners should now feel relieved. And Joe promised you'll be paying for government health care at some point, so you have even more reason to celebrate your businesses rosy future.


Gregory had Biden dancing with the apparent contradiction of the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed trial. Attorney General Holder has stated before Congress that if the decision to move "KSM" to the civilian court system ended in a "not guilty" verdict, said outcome would not mean "that person (KSM) would be released into our country, that is not a possibility" Gregory pounded on the fact that the trial appeared merely window dressing since it was obvious the Obama Administration has all but declared KSM will be found guilty and not released, at least not into "our country". Biden clarified this by assuring KSM would be convicted and if acquitted (what???) he would not be walking the streets of America (oops again--like Holder it sounds as though KSM might be shipped somewhere else were he can be locked up if found not guilty).

Like all the mainstream media, Gregory pressed his advantage with a Democrat on the ropes. His final question to Biden? Apparently, Gregory's son is a 7-year old hockey fan of the Washington Caps, whose primary stars are Russian's playing for the Russian national Olympic team. So, Gregory's son is rooting for the Russians. The MTP host asked Joe how he would handle such a situation. Way to go NBC...I've never seen anyone successfully mix hockey and softball before.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Oysters, Community Service and a Small Town


I arrived at the 2nd Annual "George Barnes Oyster Reef & Roast" a few minutes after 10 AM. George was the longest-serving superintendent of Jockey's Ridge State Park, serving there for 31 years. He retired in 2009 and in that year, the Friends of Jockey's Ridge, a volunteer group that works at the park and raises funds for the landmark-- commenced an annual volunteer project. Each February, they ask folks to come to the Park and put discarded oyster shells (collected from area restaurants and oyster roasts) in mesh bags that are placed in the sound behind Jockey's Ridge. The shells, once placed, perform two functions—they serve as seed beds to help revitalize our local oyster population, and they provide a breakwater to minimize erosion along the Park's shoreline.

It was pretty cold at 10 o'clock, the temp was about 34 and the wind made it feel more like 25. I wore fingertip-less gloves at first, and while shoveling was easy, tying off the bags was much harder with numb digits. The first shovel I picked up had "NCCF" marked on the shaft. North Carolina Coastal Federation. What an irony. If there is any group with which I have disagreed in this blog, the Costal Federation would be right up there with the Audubon and the Southern Environmental Law Center. But, I've invited the Federation's Coastkeeper, Jan DeBlieu to my Rotary Club as a guest speaker. And, we've been on the same field trip at Wings Over Water back in the early days. So today, I find myself on the same side of the fence as the Coastal Federation. And that's OK. Folks who live in small towns probably understand this better.

In a big city, political activists are distant figures. It's easy to dislike them for their politics when one is personally detached. It is much different here. You see these folks at Food Lion or Harris Teeter or Wal-Mart. Their kids play sports with other kids. They may attend the same church. Or serve on the same PTA board. When you know a person, it's much easier to separate the politics from the personality. In all my time here, I've only met one person incapable of such. But, for the other 29,999 of us, it's much easier to find common ground where you can and live with the fact that at other times you might be debating with them. Heatedly. But next week, you might find yourself shoveling oyster shells into the same net bag as them. That's life in a small town.

And now, some pictures from today's festivities.


Group photo


Early on. The oyster pile is on the right, the early bagged results on the left (the flatter pile).

The mountain under attack.



Organizers provide free local (and salty) oysters to re-energize the workers







Near end...the mountain is smaller, the bagged oysters (in the foreground) now number close to 1,000 bags


All ages pitch in...............



Let it snow!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Twitter

Not sure how it will work out and I have some learning to do, but click on the Twitter logo at the top of the page if you want to follow this blog (and me) on Twitter. For now, I am using it personally and for the blog, but don't plan to "tweet" personal stuff there yet.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Why I'm Heading to Tidewater..So give me your food order!!

It seems as though the closer I get to being a full fledged mortgage loan officer, the further away I really am. Right now, as of today, I can originate mortgage loans in VA and NC. This after 36 hours of class time, one long exam and two bouts of Federal background checks and two sets of fingerprinting. But not for long. I started recently but within 4 months...
... the Feds have commenced a national system of licensing for mortgage brokers, which negates everything I've done leading to this February. Under current law, I can only originate mortgages until June 2010 unless I pass a 100-question national exam and submit to a national police background check, including a third set of fingerprints So, I'm back to school, and back to fingerprinting.

Enter irony. Banks, as in your local corner bank are exempt. In a former life, we regularly promoted tellers and other non-lending staff to mortgage lenders. They spent two or three days at the bank's mortgage loan area, shadowing underwriters and such, then we turned them loose on the world. Ditto with what North Carolina calls "Mortgage Lenders". These are non-bank originators of mortgage loans. Unlike brokers but similar to banks, they fund their own loans. Think companies like the former Countrywide, or internet net lenders such as Ditech.com. They are all exempt from classes, exams, licenses, and any sort of audit trail that would follow them around the state or, for that matter, the nation.

To be a non-bank mortgage loan officer in NC, I had to take 24 hours of class time, pass a 50 question exam administered by the State Commissioner of Banks, obtain fingerprints from my local police department, and submit to a full background check (FBI, State, criminal). For Virginia, I had to submit my NC test scores, my 24 hours of NC class time, and take an additional 12 hours of VA specific state law classes, pass the class and submit transcripts and fingerprints. Your local bank mortgage lender could have been a file clerk the week before. Although I never took the classes, I also submitted to a full criminal investigation in my pre-licensing procdure for a Series 7 stock brokers license. My prints are everywhere and my criminality, dating back to 1974 has been vetted four times, plus whatever my prior bank employers did to obtain bonds and such. I've peed in more cups than I can count for drug tests over the years, and been polygraphed twice as part of the application process for certain banks.

But the story gets richer. The national system, known as the National Mortgage Licensing Service (NMLS), requires me to register, obtain and post my unique identifier on anything I mail, sign or solicit, and allows anyone to go on the Internet and check my performance, complaints, and any actions taken against me. It prevents me from being disciplined in one state and moving on to another. Even school teachers with child abuse records are subject to less scrutiny. And no one in a commercial bank or national mortgage lending chain is subject to this audit trail.

But the irony extends further. The fingerprints I obtained at the Nags Head Police Department, duly certified and submitted to VA and NC...they are worthless to the Feds. The criminal checks conducted by the NC and VA Commisioner of Banks...equally useless. I have to go to a Federal government approved office to get new prints. And after all this testing, required classroom training and police background checks and finger prints, where do you think the NMLS is sending me for fingerprints? The FBI? No. Homeland Security? Wrong again.

I won't name the company, but they are sending me to one of those places (in Virginia no less) that rents non-U.S. Postal Service "mail boxes". And, while you may not realize, anyone in the banking industry knows these mail drops are significant hosts to fraud schemes. They rent you a "box", but the mail goes to a street address, and while you can use "Box 150" as a further identifier, no one at these companies cares if you choose to utilize the term "Suite 150", making the non-wary think your credit card number stealing ring is actually a nice company with an office suite in some skyscraper.

This is NOT an opinion on the company that will take my prints next week. But, it just plays into the entire Federal morass. They created the mortgage crisis. Their attempts to rid the industry of "bad eggs" folded their cards to big lobbies--which is why banks and mortgage lenders are exempt while mortgage brokers are buried. And, this is how a police department or a state regulatory agency that already owns your prints and has run criminal checks on you gets bypassed so that "Joe's 24 Hour Mail Depot" can process your new fingerprint card.

If you think this wrong, let Rep. Barney Frank know. And locally, tell our Rep. Walter Jones, who sits on the House Banking Committee. If you just think it stupid, then send me your wine list or Sam's Club order. While in Hampton Roads, I can pick up your orders and deliver. Trust me. I've been vetted four times now by three regulatory agencies. Even your Congressman can't claim that much scrutiny.

Dare County Elections 2010--It's Still Early

Thus far, only one contested race has emerged in the Dare County Board of Commissioners elections. No one has filed to challenge incumbents Max Dutton and Virginia Tillett as of this writing. Incumbent Jack Shea (Republican) has one challenger from the Democrat side, Robin Mann.

If you check local blogs and bulletin boards, many bloggers with sizable followings are writing about Dare County government, usually in the pejorative sense. Those leaving comments also appear to be unhappy. While by no means "scientific" samples, there does seem to be some level of discontent out there in constituent land. Issues certainly exist--beach nourishment, county government spending, a real estate industry on life support and soaring unemployment. One might think a plethora of potential candidates would be signing up to leave their imprint on local politics.

So, is it apathy or do the bloggers, their readers, bulletin board discussions and letter-writers to local media represent simply a small-- yet vocal dissatisfied minority? It's hard to tell, and if incumbents remain unchallenged, it will remain even tougher to take a reliable voter pulse on these issues.

Candidates have until February 26th to file.

If the aforementioned situation remains the same, there will be no primary contests on May 4 and only one partisan race for the November 2nd general election. Let's hope there's some more action between now and the filing deadlines.

And, find a different version on the Outer Banks Voice.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Super Bowl 2010 Parts 1 & 2--OBX Style



I could write about Super Bowl XLIV in the intellectual, grandiloquent style of Sports Illustrated writers like Peter King. We could talk about the intense family drama within the Manning clan; Peyton as field general of the Colts, Archie, his father, the only shining star as QB of the Saints for ten years, commencing in 1971. The rest of his team was dreadful. And what about Drew Brees? All but shunned by the Chargers after an injury in favor of the younger Phillip Rivers, considered by and then passed on by the Dolphins, he came to the New Orleans Saints and helped build a contender.

And then there is New Orleans itself. Pounded by Katrina, the victim of an Administration that seemed incapable of rising to the disaster-at-hand and now, ever so slowly, rebuilding. All the time looking over its collective shoulder and praying another Katrina isn't in the cards. But New Orleans is a resilient town, full of life and full of fight. It is one of my absolute favorite places on earth, and I will be there again for the Jazz & Heritage Festival at the end of April. And this, I give you the "Who Dat" dog, sent to me from a high school friend who now lives on the bayou, her husband, ironically, works on an oil drilling platform. The "Who Dat" dog expresses the humor and attitude of The Big Easy. And now, NOLA has another reason to celebrate. No town deserved some good cheer more than they.

Part 2

So, how do we celebrate Super Bowl Sunday down here on "the sandbar". The first thing one needs to do is become friends with people who have the proper man caves. Last year I showed "J"'s outside tiki bar. This year, it was "C"'s home bar above his work shop. Some pictures can only begin to describe how perfect this location is for a small gathering.

And the food? Steamed oysters, right from the slough in Oregon Inlet. Beer bread with a cheddary dip. Grilled pork loins. Artichoke & spinach dip. Some concoction my wife made that includes beer and vodka and some lime. For me, PBR beer, because red wine and football absolutely sucks as a combination.

And now, enjoy Man Cave 2--the 2010 version:

Luckily, no one tried the pole....



Pool and pinball with TV #1 above



The "bar" and not pictured, TV #2 to the left...visible in the pole picture

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Saturday's Nor'easter Pix

Here are some images from the nor'easter yesterday. Click on any for a larger image. These are 12 mp files, so that are detailed when blown up.









Friday, February 5, 2010

The Taxman Cometh (And He's Packing Heat)




A friend of mine passed this tidbit along. At first I thought it was a typical internet hoax and he was pulling my leg. But I checked a federal website and wow...there it was.... In fact, even the mainstream media has picked up on it now. It seems the website changes dynamically as other auctions go online, so when you get to the home page, click on "opportunities" and type "Remington" into the search engine. The auction ends soon, so I have included the page below for posterity. Y0u can also search by the solicitation number: TIRWR-10-Q-00023

The IRS really is bidding on 60 Remington Model 807 Police RAMAC #24587 pump action 12 GAUGE SHOTGUNS.

If you think paying taxes puts a gaping hole in your wallet, you really got to wonder about the hole the IRS is planning on putting in your body if you don't pay.

My advice during this tax season? Don't be too aggressive on those deductions , even those which are legitimate In fact, don't take any deductions. Just lay low. Put extra postage on the envelope when you mail your return to the IRS, and pay a little extra for a return receipt. I guess when Obama said he was going to eventually balance the budget, he wasn't kidding.



Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Guardians--Raising Capt. Benny


No lives were at stake, nary a USCG rescue swimmer. But the Capt. Benny, iconic symbol of Paradise Golf sunk in "Lake Paradise" during the recent spate of rains. Louis Romero, working with another local icon, landscaper Jim Poulos (not pictured) is pumping out the water. Later, it was discovered there was a leak in the transom contributing to the problem.

Locals know Jim Poulos as the man with the most fantastic Christmas decorations in Dare County. His house won a national contest sponsored by a national network morning TV show. The rescue boat "Pop Pops Boat" in also known as Noah's Ark in Poulos' annual light show.

Click picture for larger image

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Nags Head Beach Nourishment

You don't have to wait until the weekend, or even Thursday to get the local news. Check out The Outer Banks Voice and make it a habit. Recommended for locals, tourists and out of town property owners. We don't take sides, but you get the news....

http://outerbanksvoice.com/2010/02/03/nags-head-oks-funding-plan-to-rebuild-beaches/

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Enviro Contradictions--Birdwatchers In Cars


As many of you know, I enjoy bird watching as a past time. It came as a byproduct of woods hiking and picture taking; I simply wanted to know the names of the birds I was seeing. Like many hobbies I like, I run hot and cold in my actual participation levels. But like those other hobbies, even in my down times I keep up on the internet, through magazines and journals.

Such was the case when I heard news on various internet "birding" groups about the appearance of an Ivory Gull at a dam in West Point, GA. West Point Lake is along the Georgia-Alabama border. Inland gulls are no longer rare, but Ivory Gulls are an Arctic species, and one considered endangered, at least in North America. The continental population is estimated to be some 500-600 birds in northern Canada, and a few thousand in Greenland. The birds also occupy territory in Russia, Norway and some other Arctic region countries, and the world wide population is estimated to be 25,000 to 30,000.

So, this bird doesn't belong in the subtropical southern netherworld of the United States. Birders love to keep track of the number of species they have seen. Software exists to track these species by sheer number, place of siting, country seen, even down to the county or back yard level. So lots of birders were excited at the chance to see an Arctic bird. A once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Here was one excited birder's account. Bold type added by me:

I left at 6:00am this morning, drove non-stop to West Point Lake Dam, saw the gull sitting on the bank about 6 feet from the water at 2:24 pm.  There were approximately 12 other birders already watching the bird. We arrived back at Litchfield Beach at 10:30 pm after an 898.9 mile round trip drive .  It was worth every mile!

Now this wouldn't be so bad except for one, tiny, little annoyance. This story was repeated over and over on bird lists all over the south. People drove from eastern Georgia to the mountains. From Florida north. From North Carolina and South Carolina. From points west.
So, what's the big deal?

Spend some time on a birding email list. Not only do posters tell us where the hard-to-find birds are, but they incessantly post comments about fossil fuels, climate change, the scourge of ORV's, and just about every other environmental cause they uncover. Our own NC list is the private media center for Derb Carter at S.E.L.C. to release twisted science and stir the pot about our situation in Hatteras. Trust me, we have few friends on these lists in regards to Hatteras Island's plight.

Yet, not one, single, solitary word on the Carolina list about driving 900 miles in a car, using fossil fuels to see one out-of-place bird (that was ironically attacked by a Bald Eagle and died a few days after discovery). The account is here: http://westpt.sam.usace.army.mil/

One fellow, posting on the Georgia list was the sole example I could find about this glaring contradiction in ecology and adding a new bird to one's "life list", as birders so fondly call their checklist. Here it is:

..at a recent gathering of birders an announcement was made and folks were
encouraged to drive 4-5 hours to see this bird at West Point Lake... ironically
it was later advocated at the same meeting that people sign a petition to stop
offshore oil drilling in FLA... evidently it is the burning of fossil fuels
(among other forces) that has created the climatic factors that is now limiting
polar bears from making seal kills (summer ice too thin and receding)... fewer
seal kills equates to less seal blubber / carcasses for a variety of wildlife to scavenge (Ivory Gulls included)... perhaps leading to increased vagrancy..

I have no idea if the act of running hither and yon in gas-fueled vehicles to view extralimital species presents a contradction in the minds of these sometimes sanctimonious nature lovers. But it's sure an issue for me!