The Commerce News
October 17, 2001
Isn't Normal Anymore
Life really is different after Sept. 11.
America is recovering. People are back out shopping, airplanes
are increasing in passenger loads, Major League baseball has
enjoyed a successful set of playoffs and football has resumed.
All the appearances suggest normalcy, but there in the background
is the terrorist attack, the aftermath of the assaults of Sept.
11 and the ramifications of our out-of-sight war in Afghanistan.
We still watch "Friends" and "Survivor."
Football fans are no less interested in the successes of Georgia,
Tech and the Falcons. There are weddings, births, social functions.
Everything seems normal, but it isn't.
"Normal" will never be normal again. This is not to
say America is in despair; far from it. But everything is measured
against what life was like before Sept. 11. Virtually no part
of life is unchanged or unaffected by this historic event.
The four major considerations are if and when the terrorists
will strike again, how the war in Afghanistan will come out,
how the economy will be affected by the above and all of the
new precautions Americans may have to take as they travel, open
their mail and live their daily lives. For that reason, the news
is absolutely focused on the ramifications of the Sept. 11 attack.
Stories that would have made the front page two months ago (does
anyone remember Gary Condit?) in the national press aren't being
reported now because of the focus created by a handful of fanatics
who we will never come close to understanding.
The terrorist attack colors all of the news coming out of Washington,
DC, and all of the financial news. The threat of further attacks
dominates the news out of Atlanta, while terrorism by anthrax
is the lead story in the national news. What-if stories emanate
from every state capitol, every law enforcement agency and every
arm of government.
Even the operations of the Jackson County Water and Sewerage
Authority are affected because its ability to pay for water projects
is based on sales tax collections and sales plummeted Sept. 11.
Yes, "normal" has changed. We are more nationalistic,
patriotic and united. Many have now realized that life is more
than going to work and making and spending money. People count,
whether they're strangers in New York suffering from the Twin
Towers assault or family, friends and neighbors. The terrorists
hurt us, but early in the game they've made us a stronger and
more resolute people.
Our economy will suffer, especially if there are more attacks,
but no matter how many people terrorists kill or hurt, America
will adjust and ultimately accommodate the terrorists' desire
to be with Allah. Our lifestyles may change, the economy may
falter, but as the president says, there can be no doubt about
the ultimate outcome.
Out of adversity comes growth. None of us know what is coming,
when or who will be affected, but we do know the outcome. America
will be standing stronger than ever.
Previous generations have suffered much greater calamities in
the Revolutionary War, Civil War and World Wars I and II. They
wrought greatness; so will this one.
The Jackson Herald
October 17, 2001
textiles the end of an era
There's been a slow erosion of traditional textile manufacturing
in the nation for the last two decades and Jackson County has
felt the impact. All but two traditional Jackson County textile
plants have closed, the result of cheap overseas labor, new trade
rules and a slowing economy.
Last week, Wilkins Industries announced the closure of its Jefferson
plant and the loss of 135 jobs. This week's announcement that
Texfi Industries was closing its doors in Jefferson with a loss
of 160 jobs was another blow to the town during this economic
Not too long ago, Jefferson was a typical Southern "mill
town" where many local jobs revolved around textile production.
With roots going back to the early 1900s, Jefferson Mills had
long been a major business and civic leader in the town. The
Jefferson City School System was a beneficiary of the mill and
in fact, the football stadium and city pool complex were owned
and maintained by the mill until the 1980s.
But perhaps more than those outward signs, the mill helped to
begin the long transition of Jackson County citizens from agricultural
to industrial employment. As subsistence farming waned in the
middle of the century, more and more people began working in
cotton mills, a natural extension of the county's cotton-growing
past. For some men, it was the first job they'd ever had outside
farming and for many women, it was the first paying job they'd
Of course, having such a dominant employer in a small town did
create some problems. The diversity of leadership was sometimes
stifled and people often found it easier to "let the mill
do it" than to get involved in community leadership themselves.
But on the whole, Jefferson gained more than it lost by being
a "mill town." Over time, three other large textile
firms opened in Jefferson - Belgrade Manufacturing (now Wilkins)
in 1959, and SCT (now Buhler Yarns) in 1966. The old image of
sweaty "cotton" mills began to change as new innovations,
many stemming from Jefferson Mills research, came into the industry.
Eventually, even the cotton went away as the mills moved into
But by 1990, the heyday of traditional textile firms in Jefferson
was ending. When Texfi Industries purchased Jefferson Mills a
decade ago, it was something of a loss for the town. Although
the mill continued to run, the change from local ownership marked
a major turning point.
Now the last vestige of what was Jefferson Mills, once Jefferson's
largest employer, is closing.
We are fortunate, of course, to have had other industries locate
in Jefferson in the last 10 years. More dispassionate observers
might even suggest that this decline of traditional textile plants
and the rise of other industries is just the natural order, an
Perhaps that is true. But that mill didn't just weave cloth -
it was itself a part of our community's social, cultural, economic
and political fabric, woven as tightly to Jefferson as the threads
it once produced.
When the last machine is shut down and the lights turned off
in the Texfi-Southworth-Jefferson Mills plant, so too will the
lights fade on a significant part of Jefferson's history.
The Jackson Herald
October 17, 2001
fighting terrorism and culture
As the bombing in Afghanistan continues, a big question remains:
What happens next? Will the eventual destruction of the Taliban
regime also destroy Osama bin Laden and Islamic terrorism? Will
the U.S. continue to pursue terrorists in Iraq and other Middle
These are important issues which could affect the U.S. for decades
to come. Much has already been said about this "new kind
of war" in which there is no single, discernible enemy.
Yet there is a common thread which ties these terrorists together
- their actions are rooted in a radical Islamic fundamentalism
that is not confined by borders.
That doesn't mean that the U.S. is engaged in a religious war,
but religion is certainly one of the factors which motivates
this brand of terrorism. Indeed, the social, political and cultural
structure in many of these nations is deeply rooted in Islamic
law and traditions.
It is that entwining of religion, culture and politics that has
been exploited by Osama bin Laden and other radical Islamic leaders.
The anti-American fervor these groups have stirred in recent
years has led to a series of terrorists attacks, the largest
of which took place Sept. 11.
Unfortunately, the destruction of the Taliban in Afghanistan
and the capture or death of Osama bin Laden won't be the end
of this radical mentality. The seeds of hatred now stirring in
the Middle East have been spread all across the region. Even
many of our allies in that area of the world are sitting on the
fence. Their economic interest lies with the West, but their
internal political and cultural interest lies with the masses
marching the streets burning American flags.
Forced to choose between those competing interests, most of these
Islamic nations will side with those marching in the streets.
Some of these countries may be our current allies, but they are
not really our friends.
There are those in this nation who blame the U.S. for the upheaval
in the Islamic world. If only we would talk to these people and
"understand" them, we're told, they wouldn't become
terrorists. If only we would share our wealth, we wouldn't see
radical Islamic clerics declaring the U.S. to be a great "Satan."
If only we would stop supporting Israel, the Islamic world would
become our friend.
That is nonsense, of course. The root of terrorism isn't poverty,
or our support of Israel - the underlying problem is that the
West and the Islamic world look at each other from across a wide
social, political and cultural divide. Osama bin Laden is exploiting
those differences to foment support for his view of the world,
a world in which the West would become subservient to the power
of Islamic fundamentalism.
The U.S., and by extension the rest of the Western world, cannot
allow that to happen. Whatever the merits of Islam as a religion
of personal beliefs, many of its wider political and social ideals
run counter to ours. Some Islamic nations treat women as little
more than chattel; free speech does not exist; freedom of religion,
other than the state-sanctioned Islamic beliefs, is forbidden;
democratic governments are rare even in moderate Islamic nations.
In short, the very ideals we in the West embrace are rejected
by a large number of those living in the Islamic sphere. That
is why this conflict has been referred to as a "clash of
civilizations" because it is a conflict over cultural ideology,
not just religion.
So even if the U.S. can bring down the Taliban and kill Osama
bin Laden, the fundamentalist Islamic movement will continue.
Osama bin Laden may be the current "leader" of this
movement, but the radical ideology that underpins his Islamic
terrorism existed before he rose to such prominence. In fact,
his capture or death will likely feed the frenzy, making him
a martyr to millions who already believe in his twisted war against
That creates a huge problem for the U.S. as it pursues its "war
on terrorism." We can destroy the Taliban and Osama bin
Laden and we can, for a time, disrupt and dismantle many of the
organized terrorists groups that function under that leadership.
But we cannot destroy the deep-seated beliefs of an Islamic culture
that breeds and nurses a radical, fundamentalist theology.
Given that reality, the question the U.S. must answer is this:
Do we pursue our war on terrorism outside Afghanistan once it
has been subdued, or do we wait for the next wave of attacks
on our shores that will surely come under the direction of a
That is a strategic issue which U.S. leaders are no doubt analyzing.
The argument for hitting Iraq and other Islamic states which
support terrorism is that this radical movement is still relatively
weak and disorganized. In fact, the only reason we have a few
allies in the Middle East now is that this movement threatens
the political power of their current leaders. To some extent,
the various factions in the Islamic world are still fighting
among themselves. That is to our advantage. The more those factions
fight among themselves, the less resources they will have to
pursue outside terrorism.
But is inevitable that some day, perhaps in 10-20 years, this
radical Islamic movement will consolidate its power over a large
part of the Middle East. Various state borders may continue to
exist, but another leader will rise who will unite the radical
Islamic elements into a Pan-Islamic, anti-American movement.
Can we forestall such an eventuality by widening our military
actions now, perhaps crippling the resources and leadership which
organizes this radicalism? Or would military actions actually
hasten the rise of a Pan-Islamic bloc by forcing moderate regimes
to side against the U.S. to appease their own citizens?
That is the difficult issues looming over Washington in the coming
weeks. There will be tremendous pressure by many of our allies
to stop military actions once Osama bin Laden and the Taliban
are gone. Yet, there is also the long-term strategic interest
of the U.S. to weaken the terrorists movement by carrying the
fight onto other places, gambling that in doing so, we won't
foment an uncontrollable backlash.
Let's hope we have wise leaders in Washington to make that decision.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.
The Commerce News
October 17, 2001
It is with some irony that we note the anger or dismay over the
Jackson County Board of Commissioners' six-plus-mill tax increase
in the tax rate for a $27 million budget chairman Harold Fletcher
Granted, each of us could easily take a pen to that budget and
knock out $5 or $7 million, but no two of us would make cuts
in the same places. Indeed, there is some justification in Fletcher's
Even as the budget hit new heights, many of the perceived needs
of the county are unmet. Those who desire animal control will
find none; department heads who desperately need more room or
additional employees did not get them. The pay for county deputies
and prison guards remains scarcely above the poverty level. For
all the dire predictions of growth, the 2002 budget falls well
short of meeting the many challenges of growth.
The school systems have the special purpose local option sales
tax to meet many of their growth-related capital expenses. The
county has no such option. The original local option sales tax
mandated a tax rollback and its proceeds have long been absorbed
into the county budget. The special purpose local option sales
tax goes mostly (75 percent) to the expansion of the county water
and sewer service and the rest is split among roads, recreation
and a fund to build a fire training facility.
Meanwhile, virtually every county department struggles to manage
a workload inflated by growth. From maintaining roads to providing
police protection to recording property transactions and regulating
construction and development, simply providing an adequate level
of service is incredibly expensive. In addition, even though
people abhor increases in their property tax bills, they still
clamor for more and better services.
Nobody comes before the Jackson County Board of Commissioners
to suggest eliminating the ambulance service, cutting funds to
the fire department or slashing the number of deputies. Nobody
asks that the health or mental health departments be eliminated,
the tax office and probate judge's staff be trimmed or that the
planning department be closed. All of those services and
the others are recognized necessities demanded by taxpayers.
In an ideal situation, every county department and every county
employee would work at peak efficiency, but that happens neither
in the public nor the private sector. While there should be continuous
efforts to eradicate waste and improve efficiency, they will
never be totally successful.
The bottom line is that government is very expensive and it is
getting more expensive because of our growth, demands of citizens
and increased regulations passed on by state and federal agencies.
Certainly there must be ways to increase efficiency, but short
of cutting government services, there is little hope of significantly
reducing the total cost.
When the county tax bills come out, before we succumb to anger
over the amount, remember that every public service funded by
taxes is either required or demanded by the taxpayers. The high
cost of operating county government reflects as the desires of
the citizens as the decisions of elected officials. Unfortunately,
we relegate to them the job of balancing the needs and desires
of the citizens with the resources to fund them to our commissioners,
after which we complain mightily if services don't meet our expectations
or tax bills exceed expectations. The ideas of reducing local
government spending and drastically cutting taxes play well on
the campaign trail. Making them a reality is a different matter.
That is not to say it can't be done, but taxpayers would be wise
to remember that even at its most efficient, government is very
expensive and gets more costly every year. It is simple to dismiss
increased taxes as wasteful or inefficient spending, but the
people making those charges have never had to figure out how
finance county operations.