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The Daily Dispatch

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Editorial Board:

James Edwards, Publisher jedwards@hendersondispatch.com

Don Dulin, News Editor ddulin@hendersondispatch.com

304 S. Chestnut St./P.O. Box 908 Henderson, N.C. 27536 PHONE: 436-2700/FAX: 430-0125

Daily Meditation For it [is] the jubile; it shall be holy unto you: ye shall eat the increase thereof out of the field. In the year of this jubile ye shall return every man unto his possession. And if thou sell ought unto thy neighbour, or buyest [ought] of thy neighbour’s hand, ye shall not oppress one another: According to the number of years after the jubile thou shalt buy of thy neighbour, [and] according unto the number of years of the fruits he shall sell unto thee: According to the multitude of years thou shalt increase the price thereof, and according to the fewness of years thou shalt diminish the price of it: for [according] to the number [of the years] of the fruits doth he sell unto thee. Ye shall not therefore oppress one another; but thou shalt fear thy God: for I [am] the Lord your God. Wherefore ye shall do my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them; and ye shall dwell in the land in safety. And the land shall yield her fruit, and ye shall eat your fill, and dwell therein in safety. Leviticus 25:12-19

Our Opinion

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The things we do for fame December is not even halfway over, but I already know the big story of the last 12 months: 2009 will be remembered as the year we sold our souls for fame. There was the Octomom, whose thirst for attention led her to auction her life — and her 14 children — to the cameras and the Web. There was the Balloon Boy family — so obsessed with securing a reality TV series that they faked a disaster involving their own son. There were the State-Gate Crashers, who, with cameras chronicling them right to the door, weaseled their way into a White House dinner. And we can’t begin to list all the pseudo, wanna-be and semi-celebrities who shamelessly threw themselves into the limelight, from the Gosselins to the endless stream of Michael Jackson mourners to the gyrating, guy-kissing Adam Lambert, who seems to grow in stature with each show that cancels him. Lambert, an “American Idol” runner-up, is one of Barbara Walters’ most fascinating people of the year. Really? For what?

Goodbye modesty Doesn’t matter. We’ve reached the point where the “what” is superfluous to the “wow.” So people flock to learn more about the cocktail waitress who last week claimed to have had a long affair with Tiger Woods, and while Woods is chided for his alleged infidelity, no one seems to question why this woman chose to get involved with one of Mitch the most Albom famous

married people on the planet. Does it shock you to learn she’s a minor figure on a reality TV show herself? Why isn’t the lust for a headline as decried as the lust for flesh? It’s as if fame for fame’s sake is now an accepted motivation. And this is where the world gets dangerous. Because right now, there are still some people left who remember when modesty and shame kept you from certain behaviors. Still some people Tribune Media Services

who recall when you wouldn’t endanger children, risk security or soil your family name with unflattering attention. But those people are getting gray and old. And young people today see fame as not only everything, but the only thing. So YouTube is stuffed with a million videos of people hoping to become household names. And entities like TMZ and RadarOnline, instead of being criticized for invading privacy then peddling the results, are growing in popularity with each salacious story. “American Idol” is now, incredibly, almost seen as wholesome, instead of a packaged, calculating money-making machine. And people we once respected for their accomplishments now seem hell-bent on landing a “Dancing With the Stars” appearance. Hello narcissism Once, as an experiment, I walked around a major sporting event with a camera crew. There was no purpose to the filming except to see how people reacted differently when you had a camera. I remember looking at the footage later and seeing people’s expressions change, their smiles widen, their eyes grow interested when the camera caught them.

It was like being under the water when Narcissus caught his reflection. I found it scary. And now I really find it scary. Because we’re heading towards a time when nobody shakes a head or clucks a tongue at this stuff anymore, where today’s kids are tomorrow’s adults who will never have known a world without Perez Hilton or Jon and Kate, where you wouldn’t do anything for five minutes of attention. Just as this country was once a place where working people explained unenviable jobs with “I have to feed my family,” now the thinking is “I have to feed my fame.” And that can lead you to almost anything: faking your son being trapped in a balloon, giving birth to a flock of babies you can’t take care of, or crashing the security at a presidential dinner. It’s the Story of the Year. When the Gatecrashers were exposed as posers, Michaele Salahi told the “Today Show”: “Our lives have been destroyed, everything we’ve worked for. ... For me, 44 years, just destroyed.” But she was talking into a TV camera. How’s that for irony?

Putting brakes on recidivism The Clean Up Henderson Committee continues to plug away at addressing appearance-related issues that put a blemish on the city and its neighborhoods. Last Wednesday’s meeting provided a forum for city officials to shine a light on the unfortunate circumstance of vandals destroying street signs by painting on them, stripping them from their poles and, in some cases, pulling them the signs and poles and tossing them aside. Those signs include a few stop signs, according to Linda Leyen, the city’s Public Works director. As parents, we’ve preached to our children about proceeding with caution through an intersection even when they have the right-of-way for passage. Just because there’s no stop sign at the intersection, it doesn’t mean that someone else won’t be running that stop sign intentionally or accidentally. It’s very scary to think that someone would be pulling up stop signs around town. Motorists would be wise to exercise extra caution when traveling through unfamiliar intersections. The police chief was at the meeting, and the talk at the brief session took on a more philosophical tone as he offered a law enforcement officer’s perspective on vandals, thieves and criminals in general. The biggest challenge for police, Chief Keith Sidwell told the committee, is the “recidivist.” Those are the folks who have a tendency to lapse into a previous pattern of behavior, especially a tendency to return to criminal habits. They are the people who are charged with crimes and then continue to commit crimes again and again after they have made bail, the chief said in an exchange with the Clean Up Henderson Committee chairwoman Juanita Somerville. Recidivism is a situation that his department has brought to the attention of local judges. “We are hoping to get some relief from that in the future,” he said. With the downtown of the economy cited by the committee chair as a contributor to local crime, Sidwell offered his opinion that, “If you have the ability to work, and everybody at this table does, then you should work. If you cannot, assistance is here for you.” “You do have to apply for it,” he continued, whether in reference to the assistance or to a job in general, “but coming from meager upbringings myself, it was never an excuse.” Some people simply don’t have the upbringing, education or determination to move forward. Instead, Somerville offered, they look for excuses. The chief countered that the jails are there for those folks whose excuses include criminal activity when times are tough. We think the chief is on the right track. It’s time for the revolving door for criminals to slam shut. Henderson’s surely not alone with these issues of unemployment and crime, vandalism and break-ins, but that’s no reason that we can’t solve these problems. We’re hoping, too, that the police – and law-abiding citizens – get some relief from the judicial system. To continue to tolerate this revolving door of criminal activity is like driving through an intersection without looking either way – or considering that someone may have pulled up your stop sign.

Now it’s Obama’s Afghan war Generals are notorious for fighting each new war the way they should have fought the last one. President Obama seems to have picked up that tendency as he orders a troop surge in Afghanistan, a strategy that he rejected in Iraq until it worked. Experience is the best teacher, but every war is different. As we became bogged down in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, I was one of many critics who called for the George Aiken remedy. The late Vermont Republican senator famously suggested as early in the Vietnam War that we declare victory and bring our troops home. In Iraq, a troop surge, which then-Senator Obama opposed, turned the tide. It gave Iraq enough stability and Americans enough breathing room for our troops to begin our pullback and withdrawal, which still continues. Now Obama is employing a surge of his own in Afghanistan. I hope it works. Afghanistan is very different from Iraq. Yet Obama’s long-standing support for the Afghan war as “a war of necessity” moved him to give the war and the government of President Hamid Karzai another chance. He called for 30,000 more troops in Afghanistan before beginning a withdrawal, depending on “conditions on the ground” 18 months later. What if the Taliban simply fade back and bide their time until Obama’s deadline arrives? No problem, a high-ranking White House official said in a briefing with columnists before the speech; the top priority of the surge is

to break the Taliban’s momentum long enough to grow the Afghan military from its current strength of 92,000 to as many as 260,000. If the Taliban take a break, so much the better. Obama could have taken the Aiken route, declared victory in Afghanistan based on our rout of al-Qaida and begun an immediate withdrawal. Instead, he is making the war his own at a time when public opinion, especially among his fellow Democrats, has soured on it. They have good Clarence reasons: The war’s Page original purpose of chasing Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida after the Sept. 11 attacks has faded. Al-Qaida’s leaders fled, apparently to neighboring Pakistan, where our CIA has been picking them off with high-flying robot Predator drones. The Karzai government is infested with corruption. While the U.S. was focused on Iraq, the Taliban have reemerged to pose a possible threat to the Kabul government, which has little control of its own nation outside the capital city of Kabul. And, back home, Americans feel more pressing matters such as jobs, the economy, deficits and the health care debate. Obama took all that into Tribune Media Services

account in a notably sober, yet internally conflicted Afghanistan policy speech at West Point. This is still a war in which “the common security of the world” is “at stake,” he said. Yet, he also said, if it’s not working in 18 months we’re going to start packing up to go home. In classic Obama fashion, he tried to include everybody’s views. The result was one of the least stirring speeches with which any commander-in-chief has sent troops to war. Still his surge could work, which would be a blessing. AlQaida must be denied a safe haven that the Taliban might restore if they topple Karzai’s shaky government. The same is true of Pakistan next door, which also poses a potential nuclear threat. Obama’s deadline sends a signal to Afghans that we don’t plan to stay long, which tends to be OK with them after fending off centuries of imperial invaders. A deadline also puts Karzai, who won reelection amid widespread vote fraud, on notice to clean up his act and his government. Nothing concentrates the mind like a firm deadline, especially with the prospect of being hanged in a Taliban takeover. Whether this surge works or not, America’s larger war against al-Qaida-style terrorism is being fought less like Gen. George Patton than James Bond. Beefed-up human intelligence collection has resulted in Predator strikes that have killed at least a dozen al-Qaida leaders in recent months, the Pentagon says. Obama’s Afghan surge

includes an expanded CIA drone program in Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas, the New York Times reports, to target hideouts of Afghan Taliban leaders. Like his surge, Obama’s secret war on terror, including drones, has stirred protests on his left for taking out civilian casualties. On that sad score, at least drones are preferable to, say, B-52 bombers. A smart “war against terror” is fundamentally a big international police action against ideologically driven criminals. Before we deploy our military, we need to employ science and good detective work. When the enemy is always looking for new weapons, so must we. (E-mail Clarence Page at cpage@tribune.com, or write to him c/o Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207.)

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The Daily Dispatch - Tuesday, December 8, 2009  

Newspaper covering Vance, Granville and Warren counties in North Carolina

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