I am working on the template of this blog today in order to chase down some problems that have developed with my template and widgets.

Macon County Commissioners

Coverage of the meetings of the Macon County Board of County Commissioners.

Franklin Town Board of Aldermen

Coverage of the meetings of the Franklin Town Board of Aldermen.

Macon County School Board

Coverage of the meetings of the Macon County School Board.


Photos from my photoblog.

nullspace for future use

nullspace for future use


Friday, April 30, 2010

NC-11 Congressional Money Race Review

We are now in the final days of a hotly contested race, with six good men vying for an opportunity to take on Congressman Heath Shuler. Early voting has been taking place for the last few weeks and Judgement Day is May 4th, 2010. By sometime that evening, we'll find out if we have a clear winner, or if none get over 40%, if we will have a runoff election on June 22, 2010. 

In my personal opinion, none of them have shown an ability to raise money commensurate with taking on an entrenched Congress Critter. Here are the latest numbers that have been filed with FEC:

Total Raised

$691,209 Heath Shuler
$128,930 Jeff Miller
$123,694 Dan Eichenbaum
$37,045  Greg Newman

Total Raised from Individuals

$297,471 Heath Shuler
$116,930 Jeff Miller
$21,117  Dan Eichenbaum
$17,045  Greg Newman

Total Candidate Self-Financing

$102,577 Dan Eichenbaum
$20,000   Greg Newman
$12,000   Jeff Miller
$0             Heath Shuler

Also, Heath Shuler has raised $365,171 from PACs. His current cash on hand dwarfs all his Republican challengers put together.

A lot of attention has been paid to the money race on this blog as a kind of barometer of public support and the ability (desire?) of the candidates to go out and get the type of money that will get their message out to potential voters in the district. Several of the candidates (and campaign staff) have shown an unconscionable level of incompetence in this area.

Fundraising is just one of the tools we have available to us as a way of looking at the candidates and their staff as they audition for the job of taking on our resident Congress Critter.

Another way of looking at candidates that can tell us about their political journey is to look at what candidates and political causes they've given to in the past. It can provide us with another piece of the puzzle.

Here is what I've been able to find in the FEC data regarding the above candidates (in alphabetical order):

Dan Eichenbaum [Campaign Website]

Date of Donation Amount Donated Recepient of Donation
7-12-2000 $250 Libertarian National Committee
10-12-2002 $250 Libertarian National Committee
1-24-2008 $250 ORTHPAC 
2-12-2008 $125 ORTHPAC
8-26-2008 $250        Libertarian National Committee
10-20-2009 $2,000 Dr Dan 4 Congress
11-18-2009 $250 Republican National Committee
12-27-2009 $250 Dr Dan 4 Congress
1-12-2010 $10,000 Dr Dan 4 Congress
2-28-2010 $285 Buncombe County Republican Party
3-01-2010 $20,000 Dr Dan 4 Congress
3-31-2010 $70,000 Dr Dan 4 Congress

ORTHPAC is Political Action Committee,  namely promoting the interests of eyecare providers and ophthalmologists in the field of politics.

List of candidates ORTHPAC donated to in 2007-2008 Cycle
List of candidates ORTHPAC donated to in 2009-2010 Cycle, including:

Heath Shuler $2,500 [2007-2008]; Nancy Pelosi $5,000 [every cycle]; Harry Reid $10,000 [2009-2010] along with many other Democrats [45%] and Republicans [55%].

This is one reason, as a general rule, I do not donate to PACs, because you never know who they'll be giving money to, and I don't want some of my money going to politicians I disagree with on so many issues.

There also seems to be a national trend among Republican candidates who are challenging established incumbents to not accept donations from PACs.

Jeff Miller [Campaign Website]

Date of Donation Amount Donated Recipient of Donation
2-23-2005 $250 George W Bush
8-02-2005 $200 Charles Taylor
7-27-2006 $200 Charles Taylor
10-20-2006 $500 Charles Taylor
10-18-2007 $1,000                             Spence Campbell
3-27-2008 $500 Spence Campbell
10-30-2008 $500 Elizabeth Dole
9-30-2009 $1,000 Richard Burr  
2-03-2010 $12,000 Jeff Miller for Congress
2-28-2010 $375 Buncombe County Republican Party

Greg Newman [Campaign Website]

Date of Donation Amount Donated Recipient of Donation
7-21-2006 $200 Charles Taylor
4-19-2009 $2,000 11th Congressional District Republican Party
2-17-2010 $490 Buncombe County Republican Party
3-16-2010 $20,000 Greg Newman for Congress

Heath Shuler His Campaign Website is not up yet, but I expect it be shortly

If he has given to a political campaign, I've not been able to find it. Seems this guy never cared enough to give to a political cause or candidate.

The other candidates, save James Howard, in this race have virtually no record of donations that I can find outside of donating to the BCGOP in order to attend their Lincoln-Reagan Dinner this year.

Conclusions and Commentary

Data for this post came from a number of sources, including Open Secrets, Congress.Org, the Federal Elections Commission and News Meat. Any errors from the original sources are mine [I'm bad to transpose numbers], so if you see any glaring errors, please drop me a note in the comments, and I'll correct them.

What do these numbers tell us? I think that they tell us what a candidate has cared deeply about in the past, and from that, we can trace a history of donations and draw some generalized conclusions. 

Generally, about half the people eligible in this country vote. Less than a quarter of eligible voters (I'm being very generous here) tend to vote in primaries. Even fewer people give to political causes or campaigns. I've seen no hard numbers, but from what I've seen during my time of crawling the FEC database, I'd have to say that figure is around 1%. 

The people who give to campaigns are either the most ideologically driven, or wealthy enough to hope for gaining some influence in policy if their candidate, or roster of candidates, wins.


NC-11 Congressional Fundraising Race
April 21, 2010 Update

NC-11 Congressional Fundraising Race
April 20, 2010 Update

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Plasma Rain Falling on the Sun

Continuing the trend of science-like articles today, I'm posting this video and a link to the Science at NASA website for a fascinating look at the sun as revealed by the Solar Dynamics Observatory, which has been billed as a Hubble for the Sun. So far, that has been upheld as the orbiting observatory has been showing us new things about the sun every week since it became operational. The discovery this week: Plasma Rain.

The movie, recorded on April 19th, spans four hours of actual time and more than 100,000 km of linear space. "It's huge," says Schrijver. Indeed, the entire planet Earth could fit between the plasma streamers with room to spare. 

Astronomers have seen eruptions like this before, but rarely so large and never in such fluid detail. As science team member Alan Title of Lockheed Martin pointed out at last week's press conference, "no other telescope comes close to the combined spatial, temporal and spectral resolution of SDO." 

Schrijver says his favorite part of the movie is the coronal rain. "Blobs of plasma are falling back to the surface of the sun, making bright splashes where they hit," he explains. "This is a phenomenon I've been studying for years." 

Coronal rain has long been a mystery. It's not surprising that plasma should fall back to the sun. After all, the sun's gravity is powerful. The puzzle of coronal rain is how slowly it seems to fall. "The sun's gravity should be pulling the material down much faster than it actually moves. What's slowing the descent?" he wonders.
For the first time, SDO provides an answer. 

"The rain appears to be buoyed by a 'cushion' of hot gas," says Schrijver. "Previous observatories couldn't see it, but it is there." 

One of SDO's game-changing capabilities is temperature sensing. Using an array of ultraviolet telescopes called the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA), the observatory can remotely measure the temperature of gas in the sun's atmosphere. Coronal rain turns out to be relatively cool—"only" 60,000 K. When the rains falls, it is supported, in part, by an underlying cushion of much hotter material, between 1,000,000 and 2,200,000 K.

ISS Flyover of Western North Carolina for April 28, 2010

The above photo is of the International Space Station flying northeastward of the constellation Scorpius this morning. It is a 16 second exposure captured by my Kodak Z950 camera.

This photo was taken before the first one, as the space station left the constellation Canis Major. The silver glow of the moon can be seen in the lower left portion of the photo. It is behind the small hill, below the local horizon.

There will be a series of passes visible over the southeast during the next few days, both in the morning and in the evening. Here is a table of pass predictions for my location near Franklin, NC:

Search period start:00:00 Wednesday, 28 April, 2010
Search period end:00:00 Saturday, 8 May, 2010
Observer's location:Chestnut Cove, 35.5000°N, 83.2792°W
Local time zone:Eastern Daylight Time (UTC - 4:00)
Orbit:342 x 356 km, 51.6° (Epoch Apr 27)

Click on the date to get a star chart and other pass details.
DateMagStartsMax. altitudeEnds
28 Apr-0.504:24:2019ENE04:24:2019ENE04:25:4610E
28 Apr-2.205:56:0810WNW05:58:3524SW06:01:0010S
28 Apr-2.120:46:0010S20:48:2423SE20:50:4910ENE
28 Apr-0.822:21:0810W22:23:3623NW22:24:3819N
29 Apr-0.504:51:2912SE04:51:2912SE04:51:4110SE
29 Apr-3.221:10:3610SW21:13:3278NW21:16:2910NE
29 Apr0.422:49:0010NNW22:49:1410NNW22:49:2810NNW
30 Apr-0.621:36:3110W21:38:5422NNW21:41:1710NNE
1 May-2.920:25:5110SW20:28:4570NW20:31:4310NE
2 May-0.520:51:4710W20:54:0520NNW20:56:2410NNE

I got the table from Heavens Above, and I highly recommend that website to you. 

I'll be taking photos of some of the coming flyovers, and will share the interesting ones with you.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Double Rainbow Near Franklin, NC

This is a photo and video of a double rainbow I spotted outside my house this afternoon as a rain shower passed by headed Southeast. It's the best one I've seen in a while!!!

Macon County Commissioners:
Full Video of the April 26, 2010 Meeting

Here is the full video from yesterday afternoon's Macon County Commissioner Meeting. It is about an hour and 37 minutes long. I recorded it in 320x240 (QVGA) resolution in order to speed up the video processing time. I will post my notes below the video when I find the time to type them up. Meanwhile, enjoy the video, and learn first hand what the county commissioners are doing...

Monday, April 26, 2010

Macon County Commissioners Meeting
Agenda and Live Twitter Feed

I'll be in the Macon County Commissioners Boardroom by 2pm today, and will be tweeting and uploading photos during the meeting. You can follow the progress of the meeting on Twitter under the hashtag #macongov, or here on the embedded widget below. If you have a Twitter account, feel free to jump in and participate. The agenda for the meeting is at the bottom of this article.

**4.29pm** Here is a short clip from the meeting, a demonstration of a CPR Machine called an Auto Pulse:

I'll have more later.

APRIL 26, 2010 - 2 P.M.


  1. Call to order and welcome by Chairman Beale
  2. Announcements
  3. Invocation
  4. Pledge of Allegiance
  5. Public Hearings

    1. Community Development Block Grant (Rick Norton)
    2. 911 Road Names (Angie Kinsland)

  6. Public Comment Period
  7. Adjustments to and approval of the agenda
  8. Reports/Presentations:

    1. 2010 Census update (Derek Roland & Rhonda Blanton)
    2. SCC/CPR machine demonstration by Todd Doster,
      Southwestern Community College EMS Facilitator/Coordinator

  9. Old Business:
  10. New Business:
  11. Consent Agenda
    All items below are considered routine and will be enacted by one motion. No separate discussion will be held except on request of a member of the Board of Commissioners. 

    1. Minutes
    2. Finance
    3. Tax releases
    4. EDC Guidelines

  12. Appointments
  13. Closed session - Contractual & Attorney/Client Privilege
  14. Adjournment/Recess 

11th District Republican Party 2010 Convention
Congressional Candidates Campaign Speeches

Candidates in the Congresssional Primary at the 2010 Convention of the 11th District Republican Party

Republican delegates gathered in the Charles M. Beall Auditorium on the campus of Haywood Community College on Saturday for the 2010 Party Convention this past Saturday to conduct party business. Thankfully, there were no party leadership elections, it wasn't a presidential election year, and there weren't a lot of resolutions that tend to bloom on presidential election years that make a convention drag on until there is no longer a quorum to conduct business because delegates get tired and go home. 

Here are the speeches made by the candidates for Congress at the end of the event, in the order in which they were made:

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Slide Show of the 2010 NC-11 GOP Convention

Lighting conditions in the Charles M Beall Auditorium were low, and rough on taking pictures. I often had to try two or three times to get a good shot, and even then, it was dicey.

I hope you enjoy seeing the photos!

Photo Slide Show of Convention

Sunday Morning Time Lapse with Bird Chorus


Saturday, April 24, 2010

11th District Republican Party of North Carolina
2010 Convention Live Coverage

I'll be Clyde, North Carolina for the 2010 Convention of the 11th District Republican Party. Instead of attempting to webcast the event from a shaky and unreliable WiFi connection, I'll be tweeting, uploading pics to TwitPic and short QVGA (320x240) videos during the event. I'll be using the twitter hashtag #NC11 as the official hashtag of the event. If you are planning to be there and have a twitter account, please feel free to participate and share your impressions and pitch for your candidate. The convention is scheduled to start at 2pm and I'll be there before then, hopefull providing coverage as early as 1pm, if not before.

I've embedded a widget below that will allow you to follow the event from here if you wish. I think that Mountain Xpress is including the #NC11 tag today as part of their #avlelect election coverage, and may be sending someone to cover the event as well. [Scroll down to see their tweets]

This year's Congressional Race has six good men running in a crowded field. So far, only three of them have raised enough money to levels that require reporting to the FEC [link to report], so I'm going to treat these men as the top tier candidates. The others have their good points, but without a proven ability to raise money, I'm afraid I can't support them in the primary. It will take large amounts of money in order to stand a chance of defeating Congressman Heath Shuler this fall. It may not even be possible to do that even then given the state of anarchy in the Republican Party and Congressman Shuler's ability to portray himself as a social and fiscal conservative to the voters of the district. 

The quick videos I will be uploading today will be low resolution videos designed for quick posting to the Internet. I will add them to the end of this post in the order that I upload them, and will provide a link to the YouTube Page they can be seen on in the Twitter Stream. Any HD resolution videos will be posted (at the earliest) Monday morning.

The twitter feed below is not moderated in accordance with my philosophy of Free Speech. So, today, anyone with a twitter account can contribute to coverage of the event as citizen journalists. If you are at the event, please come up and introduce yourself, I'd be glad to put a face to some of my friends, political allies and even political foes today!


Photo Slide Show of Convention

Everybody Draw Mohammad Day is May 20th, 2010

Image Courtesy Reason Magazine

I'm sure that you've heard about the warning of violent retribution by Revolution Muslim that the creators of South Park received for daring to have a satirical discussion regarding whether or not Mohammad could be drawn. In the end, Mohammad was depicted as being in a bear suit. Read more about this at The Volokh Conspiracy to see the insanity that is Islam.

The guys over at Reason have decided to start a 'Draw Mohammad Day' event. I'm on board with that, and am endorsing the effort whole-heartedly and will be participating. Read more about that there. I don't particularly like South Park due to the vulgar language and profane mindset of the show. I do, however, support their right to express themselves, even if that expression is offensive to me, or to others.

The big day is May 20, 2010 and I'll be sure to remind you frequently in the coming days. Since my screen name is Thunder pig, I thought that I'd go with a pig theme as I will try to come up with something about the adventures of Mohammad the Pig. Mohammad will teach us about Jihad. 

It will be glorious! 

Hopefully, I will be able to attract a fatwa for my efforts. I've not had one issued against me since the early 90's, when I was part of a group that was smuggling bibles into Saudi Arabia disguised as Qu'rans.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Joint Meeting Between Macon County and the Towns of Franklin and Highlands

The Boiler Room Restaurant

The Macon County Commissioners held a joint meeting with the Town Boards of Franklin and Highlands at The Boiler Restaurant in Franklin, NC at 7pm on April 22, 2010. The local governing boards met to keep each other informed of what they were doing, and share plans for the future, and to foster communication between each group.

Socializing Before the MeetingBefore the meeting began, members circulated and socialized as they waited for everyone to arrive. At about 20 minutes after 6pm, a blessing was said before everyone lined up and got their food, and ate. Socializing continued during the meal.

To start things off, everyone took turns introducing themselves to the others in the group, including the members of the media. I gave my name and introduced myself as a local blogger.


David Wilkes, the Mayor of Highlands, introduced himself, noting that he was still learning the ropes at being Mayor. He reported that the economic situation in Highlands seemed to be getting better, that tourism would probably improve this tourist season. The Highland Commissioners were focusing on improving communication between the different departments of the town and the local community. He mentioned that there would be a ribbon cutting on the new Soccer Field next Tuesday.

The FoodFranklin Mayor Joe Collins went next. He noted that the Town Hall had been completed, and that the Police Department had moved into their new building. He said that both buildings had room to grow, and should serve the Town of Franklin for a long time.

He spoke of the water and sewer improvements that had been undertaken and the commercial development started by Phil Drake in Frogtown. Collins said that he believes that the worst of the economic downturn is behind us, and that better times are ahead.

Franklin Alderman Sissy Patillo spoke next, since she had to leave early. She spoke about the Main Street Program and about improvements that would be underway soon on backstreet that would include sidewalks. She updated everyone about the festival schedule for this summer.

Sam Greenwood, Town Manager of Franklin, went next. He spoke of water and sewer improvements that were underway and were planned. A sewer Line through the center of town would be soon replaced, and a water line near Angel Medical Center was also going to be replaced. He spoke of tourism development and addressed budget concerns. The Town of Franklin had adopted a conservative posture with a net cutback of about 5% in all areas in an effort to build up the town reserves.

Expanding the ETJ and areas of Annexation were top priorities for the town. He said that there were several subdivisions and commercial developments were underway or in the planning stages.

Ronnie Beale, chairman of the Macon County Commissioners spoke of concerns regarding problems with the highlands Road in the Cullasaja Gorge, which did not make it through the past winter so well. Like the Wayah Road in the western part of the county, it had undergone periods of freezing and thawing and parts of the roads had collapsed. He said that the NC DOT would be spending quite a while playing catch up in repairing the damage caused by the severe conditions of this past winter.

He addressed the desire of the state government to turn secondary road maintenance over to the counties. He said that the county did not want to get into the road repair business. Macon County has about 580 miles of secondary roads and that in order to properly maintain them, taxes would have to be raised by about 4 cents on the dollar, given that a 1 cent raise would bring around $900,000.

He spoke about the renovation of the old library in Franklin and the re purposing of the building as a community resource, housing a senior services center. He spoke of the Animal Patrol and the Animal Shelter.

Mayor of Highlands
Jack Horton, the Manager of Macon County, continued by noting that both the towns of Franklin and Highlands had adopting the County Animal Control Ordinance as their own.

He mentioned water and sewer improvement projects that were underway and those that were being planned and turned to school construction projects in the county. A K-4 (Kindergarten through 4th grade) school was planned to replace the Iotla and Cowee Schools that would also serve some students who were currently attending the East Franklin Elementary School. He said that it was expected that federal stimulus funds would ease the tax burden on the citizens of Macon County for this project. 

Horton spoke of the Nantahala School renovation that would be taking place over the summer. Nantahala School is a K-12 school. Two of the three K-12 schools are in Macon County. Highlands has a K-12 school. The only other county that has one is Pamlico County. 

He said that in another two to three years, the school buildings in Macon County would be in good shape. Another problem facing Macon County was the desire of Raleigh in the past year was to reduce monies being sent to the counties and offloading responsibilities to the counties, like secondary road maintenance. He illustrated the problem this posed to the counties by noting that the state collects about $150 million from the gas tax and spent about $400 million to maintain the roads. 

Brian McClellan, Macon County Commissioner, reported on the Hudson Library renovation in Highlands. He said that the library board was able to contribute 20-25% to the project, with the county handling the balance. Costs were being reduced by using county maintenance personnel. He said that they were doing quality work. The long range plan for Hudson Library is to transfer ownership over to the county like all other libraries in the Fontana library system. He added that improvements to the softball field in Highlands would be started after the end of the school year to improve drainage.

Bobby Kuppers, Macon County Commissioner, spoke to issues concerning the planning board. He reported that it would take a while to generate a steep slope ordinance. He said that the people involved build on steep slopes, sell properties steep slopes or lived in the areas that has steep slopes. He said that not everyone agreed with each other and that they were in the process of haggling things out. 

He expressed that he has tremendous confidence in these people, that they will come up with something that can be owned by the community. Meetings would soon be held that would seek input from people in the community. People would be given the opportunity to have their concerns heard. 

He said that while it was easier to throw rocks at the end of the process, it would be more constructive to show up at these meetings and contribute then.

Jack Horton brought up the importance of the US Census count in determining how some $400 billion in federal dollars would be distributed to the states, and the only way to ensure that we got our fair share was to get counted. So far, the turnout is much better than the count ten years ago and reminded everyone that if you had a PO Box, you wouldn't get a US Census form...that you would have to seek a form for yourself. 

The meeting ended at that point.

NCDOT Crew on US441N in Macon County

The running joke is that the orange construction cone is the state flower and the NCDOT worker is the state turtle. True to form, only one guy was working his broom the whole time I sat at the intersection made dangerous by this work crew.

I finally had to back my truck up from the intersection so I could see around the equipment. This is where I took the photo from...

Help the BCGOP Air an Ad on WLOS:
Teens Ask Obama Questions

This is from Chad Nesbitt of the Buncombe County Republican Party:

My Fellow Republicans,
As you know, President Obama is coming to Asheville this weekend. Trust me when I tell you that his visit is not a vacation, but an expensive political statement. The BCGOP will not leave it unanswered.
Team BCGOP has produced a TV ad that we want to run on the 6:00 PM WLOS news this Saturday. This newscast will be buzzing about where Obama has been in Asheville and our ad will run right in the middle of it.
WLOS will also cover this ad as a news story which will lead right into our “Outreach Program” in the school districts.
It has 3 teens asking the President questions and then promotes our Outreach Program that begins May 6th.
We need $800.00 to run this ad and I am asking if you wouldcontribute to the expense.
Timing is of the essence as I have to give WLOS the $800.00 and the ad by noon Friday to get it on Saturday.
This ad will show Buncombe County conservatives that we are fighting for them and the future of our children.
Please look at the 30 sec. ad here:
If you can contribute any amount of funds, please contact me directly at 828-216-0147 or donate online immediately by clicking this link.
May God Bless You,
Chad Nesbitt
Buncombe County Republican Party