Constitution can’t restrain all overreach

By William R. Toler

As we make our way through Constitution Week, we will undoubtedly hear the parchment’s praises, how it is the document that gives us in the U.S.Stock Photo of the Consitution of the United States and Feather Quill of A. our freedom.

First off, the Constitution doesn’t give people any rights, but is supposed to guarantee them.

I used to consider myself a constitutionalist, being especially fond of the First, Second and Fourth amendments.

But over time, through lots of reading, I’ve begun to see how it’s been used to stifle liberty rather than secure it.

Nineteenth-century lawyer and abolitionist Lysander Spooner once wrote: “But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain — that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case it is unfit to exist.”

Those were the closing words of his 1869 essay “No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority.”

Although the American people are ultimately to blame for not standing up to the creeping incrementalism of tyranny, Spooner is correct in observing that words on paper have been powerless to prevent it.
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The Bee Gees, government and the myth of property ownership

By William R. Toler

70s disco icons The Bee Gees aren’t usually considered to be a source of libertarian thought. brunswickcounty_Seal

But a line in the band’s 1977 hit ballad “How Deep is Your Love” recently struck a chord with me: “…we’re just living in a world of fools, breaking us down, when they all should let us be.”

Unfortunately, a lot of those fools wind up in government and think just because some words on paper give them “authority,” they can steal from and force their neighbors to do things they wouldn’t otherwise have any right to do.

Ingrid Larsen is dealing with people like that now.

She was recently handed an eviction notice from a Brunswick County code enforcer for living in a tent in her own yard, as reported by WECT-TV.

10 years ago, Larsen’s Southport home was destroyed when a county pipe burst and filled it with more than 10,000 gallons of raw sewage.

Since then, Larsen settled with the county sanitation district for more than $100,000.

Larsen would like to rebuild but isn’t keen on rejoining the municipal system. She would rather hook up to the existing septic tank on her land.

After filing an exemption to do so, those neighbors in government turned her down.
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A journey to the Capitol

By William R. Toler

[Note: The following is a metaphorical retelling of my trip to Raleigh to cover the General Assembly.]

In my trade as a scribe, I was selected to travel to the dark city to document the ceremony of the gathering of the great priests.temple

Each year, the priests gather in the Great Temple several days per week for months on end to engage in battles regarding the wording of spells to subjugate the people of the land.

They call these spells “laws.”

The priests are divided into two Chamber Halls and two sects.

I awoke earlier than usual Wednesday morning to make the journey.

To begin my day, I participated in a ritual cleansing.

Since the priests have decreed that I have to be robed in garb similar to theirs, I sifted through my wardrobe to find the “appropriate” garments.

To protect myself from their evil, I attached the sigil of the sage Mises to my coat.

After loading my wagon with my equipment, I set off on the road to the Capitol. Continue reading

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Another year down as another dawns

We’ll readily admit that it’s been a slow year for content, especially the second half of the year.

Photo by Heather K. Millis

Photo by Heather K. Millis

Not to make excuses, but it’s partly because Corey Friedman and William R. Toler have been keeping busy working at the Richmond County Daily Journal in Rockingham, N.C., and it’s hard to come home and write when that’s what you do all day.

Nevertheless, stories on issues we find important have been posted, albeit, sporadically. As a result, readership has dropped.

Despite that, this sparsely read blog has seen several posts over the past year reach more than 1,000 hits, which to us is quite an achievement.

The most read story from this year was about now-former Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown and how several blunders in his department could cost him his tin star. We can’t say if the things we wrote about had anything to do with it, but the long-term lawman was defeated several months later in the primary.
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Ordinance: No single beers, dancing without permit

By William R. Toler

I, myself, am often amused by life’s little quirks.

Photo by Carlos Miller

Photo by Carlos Miller

Earlier this evening, Carlos Miller of Photography is Not a Crime posted a picture to his Facebook wall regarding the sale of beer.

Miller, staying in Hazelwood, Missouri to cover ongoing protests in the area, ventured over to the 7-11 next to his hotel.

While in the store, he took a picture of a sign reading:


Some convenience store.

But it’s not their fault. If you want to blame someone, blame the local government.

If you just want one beer to take the edge off, and only have enough for one, you’re out of luck.

While searching online for the town’s ordinance, I stumbled upon a St. Louis ordinance that, among other things, regulates the sell of alcohol.

It’s pretty lengthy, so I’ll just hit a few highlights.
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Court: No barber pole without license

By William R. Toler

A recent decision by the N.C. Court of Appeals shows no signs of letting up on the protectionism levied by occupational licensing and the ridiculous waste barberpoleof resources enforcement entails.

In Kindsgrab v. State of North Carolina Barber Examiners, the appellate court ruled that the board was right in issuing Hans Kindsgrab a $1,000 fine for displaying a barber pole outside two of this three establishments in the Triangle and charging extra fees incurred by the board.

You see, the Cary and Raleigh locations of The Barbershop – A Hair Salon for Men only held a Cosmetic Arts License issued by the N.C. State Board of Cosmetic Art Examiners, an entirely separate bureaucratic agency from the barber board.

Since there was no barber permit for the business or no licensed barber on-site, Kindsgrab could not permissibly display a barber pole or advertise barber services.

Following an investigation and hearing in 2012, the board fined Kindsgrab $1000, $500 for each location, and ordered him to pay the board an additional $1,650 for attorney and staff fees.

Kindsgrab filed a petition for judicial review in Wake County Superior Court, which upheld the board’s decisions that Kindsgrab could not display a pole or advertise barber services without the proper permits. Continue reading

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9 years down the ‘Shabby Road’

It seems a bit ironic that the first issue of the Independent Register rolled of the presses the day following the 36th anniversary of The Beatles’ classic album

Photo by Deanna Barbour

Photo by Deanna Barbour

“Abbey Road.”

It wasn’t planned.

In fact, it was only just realized, 9 years later.

The three co-publishers often jokingly referred to themselves as a boy band, although Eric and William are barely marginal guitarists and Corey couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket with a lid on it.

The trio also saw their similarities to the Fab Four: Corey and Will an equal mixture of John and Paul (with a few George attributes for Toler) and Eric was likened to George. As for Ringo…eh.

It, then, seems only fitting that the iconic cover photo was mimicked not once…but twice. During a photo shoot by Heather K. Millis and Deanna Barbour earlier this year, they recreated  Shabby Road (originally taken in 2009 by “the fifth Beatle” Evan Brinkley) and attempted the cover of Rubber Soul. Both sans Ringo.

They never had a Ringo.

The first issue of the short-live, fledgling newspaper was the result of a grueling weekend of coverage, photos, writing and page designing.

Photo by Heather K. Millis

Photo by Heather K. Millis

From flooding to football to “Motorcylces and Money.”

There was very little sleep to be had in the small brick home referred to as Fort Insanity.

Despite having a few embedding problems at the Carteret News-Times press, they were pleased with the result. It was a dream come true.
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N.C. law gives student groups more leeway in leadership selection

By William R. Toler

[Note: the following was written as an article for the Richmond County Daily Journal.]

HAMLET — Student groups at Richmond Community College and public colleges throughout the state now have more autonomy to select their unlearning libertyleadership.

A bill signed by Gov. Pat McCrory June 25 gives student organizations—particularly those that are faith-based— the ability to “determine that only persons professing the faith or mission or the group…are qualified to serve as leaders of that organization.”

Groups are also authorized to take care of their own internal affairs and settle their own disputes, according to the law.

The law prohibits public colleges and universities from denying any groups access to funding, facilities or other privileges granted to other recognized clubs on the basis of the selective exclusion.

Sen. Gene McLaurin, D-Richmond, and Rep. Ken Goodman, D-Richmond, both voted for the bill as it passed through their respective houses.

However, Rep. Garland Pierce, D-Scotland, voted against the bill as it passed the state House 78-37.

“Many of us disagreed,” he said. “(The bill) took the power away from the schools to regulate these groups.”

Pierce said many colleges were opposed to the bill.

“This law is giving students the right to do anything they want without any accountability,” he said.

Pierce also added that “no individual rights were protected,” only the rights of the group.

“The groups would be discriminating against their own members,” he said adding that he believes the law may be unconstitutional.

Colleges and legislators weren’t the only ones to find fault with the new law.
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Code enforcement needs due process

By William R. Toler and Corey Friedman

[Note: The following was written as an editorial for The Richmond County Daily Journal July 10. A section that was excised from the original draft has been included in this version and appears below in bold italics.]

It’s said that “good fences make good neighbors,” so we understand if Davie Dawkins is a little short-tempered these days. The city of Rockingham took dawkinspic2away his fence, so to speak.

City officials hired a private contractor who seized several rolls of Dawkins’ fencing in April while cleaning up his yard under Rockingham’s nuisance abatement rules. Dawkins has since asked for the fencing rolls’ return to no avail. They were presumably sold for scrap.

Rockingham officials accused Dawkins of being in violation of a local ordinance for having a messy yard that created a public nuisance. City planner John Massey also said the clutter could be a breeding ground for pests and the jagged edges on the fencing were a public safety hazard.

That’s a puzzling claim that gives us pause. How can an inanimate object in someone’s partially fenced-in backyard really put residents’ safety in jepoardy?

On the odd chance that children — or anyone else, for that matter — would be endangered by the fence rolls’ jagged edges, as Massey suggested, they would more than likely be trespassing, which is a crime.

But the “crime” of having a messy yard doesn’t have to go through the courts, as is usual due process before the government can take an individual’s property. Just a few letters and conversations saying, “Hey, clean up your yard,” with an unsatisfactory response will suffice.

No warrant. No court order. No judge. No jury. Just city employees exercising their discretion under Rockingham’s rulebook.

State law and city ordinances gave them the go-ahead. Be that as it may, what’s lawful and what’s right aren’t always the same thing.
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Homeowner questions city cleanup

By William R. Toler

[Note: the following was written as an article for the Richmond County Daily Journal.]

ROCKINGHAM — A man says the city sent people into his yard to take his property, then stuck him with the tab.dawkinspic

Davie Dawkins said contractors took three rolls of wire fencing that he said was valued around $1,500 when they came to clean up his property in April, as ordered by the city of Rockingham.

Records show R&W Lawn & Maintenance billed the city $250 to “remove trash” from Dawkins’ property. The city, in turn, billed Dawkins $256.59, adding the cost of postage and certified mail. Officials removed the fencing under Rockingham’s nuisance abatement rules.

“I don’t see where I’m a nuisance,” Dawkins said.

But city officials disagree.

In a letter dated March 10, Inspection Superintendent Timothy Combs gave Dawkins notice of being in violation of six sections of the city code.

The code violations of which Dawkins is accused include conditions that could constitute breeding grounds for pests, a concentration of combustible materials, dilapidated furniture, building materials or metal products with jagged edges.
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William Toler: Profile of a news activist

By Hugh D. Fegely

[Note: The following was written as an academic paper by Fegely, a former co-worker of Toler's at WCTI-TV, for a news reporting and writing class at Ashford University in March. Some reformatting and editing was done to the original and links were added.]

Activism can take many forms, from the traffic-stopping marches to the simple letter to the editor. More activism is done in a grass-roots style – through pinacgearletters, personal displays – than through grand displays and marches, but the message is still seen and heard by many. One of the key elements of activism is presenting an alternative viewpoint contrary to mainstream opinion. With the explosion of connectivity through the internet, activism can be produced by anyone with a blog, and viewed by anyone who takes the time to search. This virtual grass-roots effort is the thinking man’s activism, where people can take a local issue and give it international exposure.

One such independent thinker is William Toler, a young eastern North Carolina native who has continued to look for the alternative viewpoint even while working within mainstream media. A founder of the short-lived print edition of the Independent Register, Toler continues to provide that different opinion while working for a news affiliate in New Bern, NC. As chief video editor, he stays informed on mainstream events, and also keeps a close eye on activities which should be reported on, but don’t always get covered. His original project went online, and is one of the ways Toler can report what he feels should be covered more.
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Protect the public, not polluters

By Corey Friedman

[Note: the following editorial was written for the June 26 edition of the Richmond County Daily Journal. It was read aloud on the N.C. Senate floor by Sen. Gene McLaurin, D-Richmond, the following day.]

Any farmer knows North Carolina’s cash crops need plenty of sunlight to grow. But some lawmakers prefer darkness when it comes to the agency that farmeditregulates our farms and ranches.

The state Senate’s agriculture committee on Tuesday advanced a bill that would make investigations into suspected environmental violations on the farm a strictly clandestine enterprise. A farm pollution probe would be more secret than a homicide investigation under the proposed rules.

The N.C. Farm Act of 2014, a 16-page grab bag of agriculture-related legislation, seeks to exempt environmental investigations into farm operations from the state’s public records law. The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources could keep its inquiries into alleged wrongdoing permanently under wraps unless a judge says the public has a right to know.

“Complaints of violations of this article relating to an agricultural operation and all other records accumulated in conjunction with the investigation of these complaints shall be considered confidential records,” the bill states, “and may be released only by order of a court of competent jurisdiction.”

We understand that regulators may need time to sort fact from fiction and ferret out the truth when someone accuses a farm of causing environmental damage. There’s a balance to be struck between total information blackouts and releasing details that could hamper an ongoing investigation.

This bill doesn’t seek balance. It seeks unparalleled and unprecedented government secrecy.
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When pleasure turns to pain

By Heather K. Millis

One evening I was indulging in another poor decision, sitting at the drive thru and noticed with perplexity after each sentence she uttered the phrase “my pleasure.” The 'Nanny State' of North Carolina

While I’m known for my eerie sense of perception it took me back. The fact is she indubitably takes no form of pleasure in including a sauce packet with my order.

Apparent as everything.

While I was driving home I couldn’t shake what had upset me most about the phrase and why it bothered me so.

Working what feels like a menial job is mentally taxing enough on its own but when a corporation dictates even the most elementary of sentence components I have qualms.
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N.C. develops plan to regulate drones, including photography limits

By Corey Friedman

If loose lips can sink ships, loose language can crash a statewide plan to regulate drones before the first unmanned flying machines even get off the ground.dronephoto

Lawmakers on a special state panel approved a working draft of guidelines for drone rules and regulations last week. State Rep. Joe Tolson said the House Committee on Unmanned Aircraft Systems’ bill is “a good start,” but will need some tweaking as it advances to the full General Assembly.

The proposed rules have their strong points — civil liberties safeguards that would require law enforcement to obtain a search warrant before conducting drone surveillance in most cases — but there also are some provisions that give us pause.

Drone operators would be required to get a person’s written consent before photographing him or her “for the purpose of publishing or otherwise publicly disseminating the photograph.” That conflicts with a robust body of case law establishing photography in public places as a First Amendment right.

The bill tries to carve out an exception for the news media, citizen journalists and others documenting important matters, but that provision, too, could prove problematic.

“This subdivision shall not apply to newsworthy events or events to which the public is invited,” a passage states.

Government shouldn’t get to define what is and isn’t “newsworthy.” If folks object to the news media and private citizens using drones to take pictures, it would presumably be a judge’s call whether the event had sufficient news value to qualify under the exemption.
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Onslow Sheriff’s shenanigans could cost his badge

By William R. Toler

Poor wording, Freudian slip or blatant declaration? Sheriff-Brown

A campaign ad for Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown contains a line that is disturbing to those who are conscious of the growing police state.

The controversial section reads:

“Those in the law enforcement profession have complete power over you, your life, your family, your loved ones, your rights, your freedom, your future and everything precious to life.”

The ad was apparently written by Brown and a disclaimer at the bottom states that he paid for it himself.

According to the Jacksonville Daily News, Brown released a statement saying this was taken out of context. To Brown it simply means that “covers and protects every part of a person’s life,” the paper reported. “Brown says he has ‘searched every imaginable thought’ to find an aspect of life to which law does not apply and said he could not.”

If that’s the case, then he should have worded that way other than saying that LEOs have “complete power over you…your rights…” However, Brown’s explanation doesn’t really cause any ease.

The fact that legislation, written by men claiming to represent the rest of the people in a given geographic area, is so invasive that it covers every aspect of life is a worrying thought in and of itself.

The JDN also reported that both of Brown’s opponents in the sheriff’s race were dismayed by the language in the ad.
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