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Black surrenders optometric license

Jim BlackFormer House Speaker Jim Black is now a former eye doctor.

Black, a Mecklenburg County Democrat, has agreed to surrender his license to practice optometry in North Carolina, according to a statement this afternoon by his attorney, Whit Powell.

But Powell said the agreement with the N.C. State Board of Examiners in Optometry leaves open the possibility of Black getting his license back when he completes his term in federal prison.

The move precludes a hearing by the state board. Black, speaking through his attorney, said he did not want to put the board "through the ordeal of a hearing" that he said would not be "in the best interest of my profession."


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Re: Black surrenders optometric license

That's a good idea, Isaac136. It sure would be nice to take the rest of the year off and just play music. And let somebody else worry about making sure all votes lawfully cast in North Carolina elections are properly counted and attributed to the correct candidate.

If someone can take over that job for me, then I can spend more time playing Vivaldi and Tchaikovsky. But I am soon going to need some new glasses too because the other night I was playing Beethoven, and he was losing 2-0 in the Third. [Rimshot please.]

Maybe I'll take a vote and see if the "eyes" have it. Then I can work on songs like "Spanish Eyes," "Jeepers, Creepers, Where'd You Get Those Peepers?," "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain," "Don't It Make Your Brown Eyes Blue," "The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You," and many more.

Music vision quiz: The first lines of these two songs make reference to eyes. See if you remember the opening lines of:

--"Misty."
--"All My Lovin'" (Beatles).

Meanwhile, here's to "Under the Dome,"
The best political blog this side of Rome.

Re: Black surrenders optometric license

Nice to meet you, Mr. Stern. I'm a big fan of your playing. I think you're way, way off though, in your political rant analysis. Perhaps you should stick to music.

Re: Black surrenders optometric license

If Isaac36 is right, then I'm Isaac Stern. As a violinist, I have played free music sets in Triangle pedestrian zones for thousands of youngsters through the last 20 years, a significant number of whom went on to learn the violin themselves either through private instructors or in school programs. It is of course true that some folks were voluntarily making some "street music contributions" along the way, which most musicians are most grateful to accept wihtout solicitation. And also let it be clear that these were not "educational introductions to music" or "beginning lessons on violin" or anything academic like that but simply performance demonstrations of the violin or fiddle in various types of folk, classical, popular or traditional selections including melodies popular among young people from toddlers to teens. I was not a "teacher" but I was including music demonstrations in my street music programs for the specific purpose of letting young people see and hear what it's like for a violin to be played right there before them.

Then I can see at the largest campus in the 16-member University of North Carolina System there is no budget for even a single basic instructor in violin even though many N.C. State students come to Raleigh having learned a stringed instrument and often wishing to continue their violin or viola studies although they are at State to major in other disciplines ranging from science, math and engineering to social sciences, liberal arts and agricultural studies. Meanwhile, at some other UNC campuses across the state, the music departments are three- to five-deep in highly qualified violin and other string teachers.

But now certain Democratic Party interests have clamped down on free music for young people in the Triangle by forcing writers and artists to work for Democratic Party campaigns for free or not work at all, and not specifically for our State Democratic Party establishment in Raleigh but rather for "requests" from powerful Democratic organizations in other regions of the country from New England to Texas just so that they can continue to re-enact the 1960 Kennedy-Johnson presidential campaign back when North Carolina was mostly Democratic in national elections even though in catering to out-of-state politicla directives, they have put rank-and-file North Carolina Democrats into such a corner philosophically that the state hasn't gone Democratic for President since Jimmy Carter carried the state in 1976, which was almost a third of a century ago!

Likewise, we have political penalties being ordered up by powerful out-of-state interest groups just to keep North Carolina down and out, politically and educationally speaking, with high school dropout rates soaring to shocking new levels, indefensible in a state which considers itslef a progressive leader within the entire region of the South.

The campaing finance problems for Dr. Jim Black started with some chiropractors who found themselves in a more vulnerable position politically than other groups of medical practitioners because their basic medical standing and reputations have often been questioned at every turn by their political and medical detractors. So some of them prevailed upon the former Speaker to let them make campaign contributions outside the established rules of political finance, and unfortunately for Dr. Black, he permitted them to do so even though he recognized later that this was in clear violation of the rules.

That was the central issue, and the political, journalism and medical communities should have then dealt with and should now face the special political problems faced by chiropractors wishing to have the same equality in political representation in Raleigh as is enjoyed by dentists, family doctors and surgeons alike.

As for the votes Jim Black received in his races for Speaker, he earned them fair and square because he learned the needs of this state and he proved that he would not leave out some sections of the state in the appropriation of funds for important state and local programs. He got his votes by earning them politically by providing effective legislative leadership which won the respect of legislators from other regions across the state. He didn't even need the vote of the person alleged to have accepted a "bribe." And it is to be hoped that one day this will be made plainly evident to the people of North Carolina.

Highly respected political reporters and columnists from McClatchy's Raleigh News & Observer and Charlotte Observer love to put down candidates from Mecklenburg County who have lost previous bids for statewide elective office. But win or lose--and I have run for Congress from Mecklenburg and won primaries in several surrounding counties such as Lincoln, Iredell and Yadkin by margins of between 60 to 70 per cent of the vote--we learn early in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County that you have to earn your votes and your campaign support through merit, hard work and effective issues platforms rather than through influence-peddling of any sort.

Meanwhile, neither The News & Observer or the Charlotte Observer appears willing to report on state political operatives and shadowy political groups that specialize in tripping up promising candidates for statewide office who live west of Burlington in the Piedmont or the mountains because they like having all the high cards dealt at the political club tables here in the Triangle. Maybe this benign journalistic neglect, to paraphrase Daniel Patrick Moynihan, is due to the fact that this sort of political mischief-making is done through a few phone calls or whatnot and do not require political funds since our newspapers seem to consider that only political stories involving campaign funds are worthy of investigation and reporting.

But folks, some of the biggest political deals do not involve the exchange of a single dollar between the participating parties.

So all of this may seem to many like a Dickenian tale of unfortunate personal circumstances or lost or irrelevant political history. But it's up to people in Raleigh and across the state today to decide if they want the future of the next generation of North Carolinians to be strictly limited by sectional politics and journalism and a higher education establishment in the Triangle which has come treacherously close to transforming itself into a bleak zone of political action centers rather than an inviting region of centers of learning, teaching, research and publishing.

Raleigh for North Carolinians, that's what we need in 2008.

David McKnight

Re: Black surrenders optometric license

What's wrong with the old Doc spending a few bucks to put glasses on pigs?
Heck all those guys at the trough wanted was just a few more acorns! He was just helping to grow more bacon, now he's busting rocks hope, he has safey glasses.

Dubious allegations?

Sadly, the "allegations" against Black were true. It's way too early for you to forget the history here. Black is not sitting in a federal prison because of dubious, vague, unimportant, technical slip-ups, or, as one legislator would have it, the moral equivalent of exceeding a speed limit on a busy highway. Black is where he is because of his own corrupt actions, because he abused the privilege of serving his constituents, abused the trust that we are supposed to invest in his office, abused the system under which our laws are supposed to operate. As a life-long Democrat, I'm disgusted with the rationales people are creating to excuse lawmakers, business executives, and others occupying positions of privilege from paying the consequence of breaking the law.

Yes, it is a shame that the benefit of Black's providing free optometric care to kids is gone now, but that's not the state's fault -- that's Jim Black's fault. Maybe Black used to tell himself what a gem of a guy he was for providing those services, and that such acts of generosity outweighed the acts of corruption that he apparently came to see as routine in state government. Maybe there's a ledger somewhere in which he comes out even. But our laws aren't written with footnoes that say, "unless the defendant is a peach of a guy and contributes to charities." There are a lot of mobsters in prision right now who'd be similarly excused if that were the way the law operated.

Re: Black surrenders optometric license

I do not count myself among those who would bring religion into politics at every step along the way, but if there ever was an anti-Christian action by a medical examining board, then this pressure by the state optometry board ought to qualify because the free optical care that Dr. Black gave to all those North Carolina children through the years--how many was it, in the thousands?--did not have a thing to do with political lobbying by the chiropractors or false charges about vote-buying in one of the elections for Speaker of the N.C. House of Representatives.

That's the less attractive side of North Carolina's political establishment for you--take away all the good that a man or a woman can do for the people of the state in order to try to re-inforce a dubious set of allegations bearing on totally unrelated topics.

Some of the powers that be in North Carolina's larger cities just cannot seem to accept the possibility that a person from a smaller town in the Tar Heel State can render worthy charitable service to others or contribute useful and practical ideas to the public debate about the leading issues of the day.

"To whom much is given, much is expected," so Dr. Black, through his personal generosity and professional commitments, made it possible for many youngsters to receive glasses for better vision who otherwise might have had to go without.

David P. McKnight
Formerly of Charlotte

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