scharrison's blog

Smithfield Closing Elon Plant, Five Others

If the building looks like it's been around for a while, that's because it has. Before it was purchased by Smithfield in 2001, this was the original Stadler's Country Ham facility built back in 1955. I'm sure many reading this have eaten said ham, but you probably have no idea how connected our community is (was) to this business. But by the end of the Summer, that connection will be forever severed.

Citing issues such as a drop in sales and high grain prices associated with food-based ethanol, Smithfield Foods is "restructuring":

Here's a rundown of the affected plants:

The Smithfield Packing Co. South facility in Smithfield, Va., is slated to close in December. Of 1,375 employees, 1,035 will be offered transfers.

Water Quality Battle Looms

When most people contemplate water pollution, they picture riverside factory pipes spewing an unholy concoction of steaming bubbly chemical stuff. Which did/does happen, but those source point polluters are easy to find and deal with, which we have done rather well. But when our water quality didn't really improve much, we realized we had a bigger problem, and one that would be much harder to deal with. Stormwater runoff is the single biggest polluter of our water systems in North Carolina, and it's long past the time for our leaders to face the music and start dealing with it. For the General Assembly members reading this, I have two things to say: it won't be cheap, and it can't be postponed.

N.C. Citizen-Soldiers Back In Harm's Way

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have exacted a heavy toll on our men and women in uniform, and the family members left behind have not been spared from the suffering. I hesitate to attempt assigning levels of suffering and sacrifice, but the activation and deployment of National Guard and Reserve units carries with it an additional (and unique) set of circumstances that affect those involved, and the nature of their service is such that resources to deal with these issues often don't exist. North Carolina currently has about 500 Citizen-Soldiers actively deployed, but that is about to change:

On Learning and Unlearning Racism

Amidst all the speculation about what the election of Barack Obama represents, as far as race relations and equality in this country are concerned, I find myself wondering what some of the black friends I've had in years past might be feeling today. I would like to thank Dr. Frank for jogging loose some of these memories with his haircut story, and I would also apologize upfront if any part of this diary is found offensive by the reader. That's not my intent, but this is a subject that one simply cannot delve deeply into without stepping on some toes in the process.

The Frog in The Well

Retail sales figures for the last quarter of '08 are coming in, and the only remotely positive reports emerging are, "It's not quite as bad as we feared." But there's not very many of those, either. This is not really news, because everybody expected it, and some forward-thinkers are hoping it might stimulate a move away from our consumer-based economy. I, on the other hand, fear that our economic blight will merely push us into a deeper reliance on cheap imports.

Dealing With State Government Online

Recently I considered "less ranting" for possible inclusion on a list of New Year's Resolutions. I am going to adopt Dan's already broken "stop sleeping late" resolution, at least until tomorrow anyway. But going rantless or even "rant-lite" is going to have to wait until at least a year from now, because I've got a rant that's been building since early last year, and previous mini-rants on this subject haven't sufficiently scratched my rant itch. For those familiar with earlier rants, I'll do the freshest rant first, so you can avoid any rerun rants.

Unsung Heroes: The Nature Conservancy in North Carolina

North Carolina's Coastal Plain is an enigma to most of us. Vast stretches of flat nothingness to traverse on our way to the beaches. But that nothingness is actually an incredible and precious world of wonder and diversity, and it may be one of the first casualties of our lack of foresight in our continued addiction to fossil fuels.

Enjoy It While You Can

I've done my fair share of traveling over the years. I've climbed pyramids on opposite sides of the planet, walked in the footsteps of warriors and kings in places where human history is sometimes measured in millennia, as opposed to centuries. And I plan on doing that some more, before I retire to the rocker. But I'm also going to take the time to get to know and enjoy the vastness and beauty of North Carolina, which, for too many years, I have paid little attention to.

Don't spank me Betsy, but I'm going to use up some more bandwidth. While I can paint a decent picture with words, it's still not really a picture, if you know what I mean. ;)

Obama's Likely Choice To Head EPA: Right Time, Wrong Person

With the possible exception of the Justice Department, the Environmental Protection Agency has seen its effectiveness, credibility and mission wither more than any other Executive arm during the administrative nightmare of the last eight years. Respected environmental experts and scientists have seen their findings and recommendations marginalized, edited or downright ignored. In cases where the data was simply too strong to ignore, the Bush administration took the back-door route by concurring, and then selecting wide swaths of industry to be exempted from any corrective actions resulting from said studies.

21st Century Energy Solutions: Algal Biomass

I'm still having a little trouble comprehending the scope of our success in the election. Races I thought we might barely lose we won, and ones I thought we might barely win ended up being blowouts. Amazing. But hovering over the post-coital bliss is the horrible state of our economy, and the fear that the changes we need will be lost in the desperate struggle to survive until the economy turns around. But if North Carolina is going to not only survive but prosper, we're going to have to find the resources to take bold, innovative steps, especially in the area of energy production and usage.


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