Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Public apologies

Perhaps I really am a big ole bleeding heart, but I wanted to put out a public apology to Athens Politics poster Dawg Corleone. There was a debate over at AthPo, and rhetoric got harsh. Though I still hold vast disagreements with him and take exception to his characterizations, I still said (posted?) a couple of things I shouldn't have.

So, my friend, sorry to you.

Monday, January 30, 2006

We're famous! (sort of)

They say any publicity is good publicity, so I imagine the attention my little ole blog has been getting is, well, a good thing. Apparently, my pieces regarding redistricting in Athens has reached Atlanta Voice.US, an Atlanta blog that covers state politics (among other things). Dana Blankenhorn has promoted this blog twice - first, with regard to the Athenian blogosphere's outcry over redistricting, and the long-term impacts of our activism and the recent posts concerning The Red & Black article.

We're very much flattered, thank you. Though there are a couple of unusual assertions made by Blankenhorn, the first being that he (or she) is convinced my user name is 'JHAC.' Though I don't think a 'M' looks anything like a 'H' ... I could be wrong. Anywho, it's officially Jmac (which is a handy handle for Johnathan McGinty).

Secondly, Blankenhorn has twice inserted words or meaning into my posts. In the post concerning the netroots, there's the claim that I called Sen. Ralph Hudgens a 'tool of the Chamber.' I never said anything remotely of the sort, so there's that. The latter post concerning the article suggests that I feel the media is manipulating this story. Again, completely off the mark. The only reason I weighed in was to express my views with regard to journalism ethics, not because I think The Red & Black is some pawn in the redistricting plan. Quite the contrary actually.

There's also this assertion that the Athenian netroots are an angry sort, with my blog being an example of this. I take exception to that. I'm actually a quite relaxed and easy-going fella, as I'm sure Blankenhorn is as well. Many of my readers often feel I'm too moderate on some issues, and I have in the past railed against the self-importance some bloggers, particularly national ones, feel they have.

Some blogs may be rooted in anger, though I don't know many local ones which are (though Dan Matthews has been known to get riled up now and then). Maybe something which is a bit outside the traditional media or framework of the local party structure comes across as different, or angry, but I don't know if such a perception is reality.

Anyway, it's nice that we're picking some notice from folks like Blankenhorn. I hope they keep on coming back and checking out what we've got to say.

UPDATE: Dana was kind enough to fix my name on the original post, so many thanks for that gesture.

That's what I said

In a move which only makes me inch closer to dropping everything and volunteering for his presidential campaign when he eventually decides to run, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has come out against both Samuel Alito and Sen. John Kerry's (D-Mass.) proposed filibuster:

"We need to recognize, because Judge Alito will be confirmed, that, if we're going to oppose a nominee that we've got to persuade the American people that, in fact, their values are at stake," Obama said.

"There is an over-reliance on the part of Democrats for procedural maneuvers," he told ABC's "This Week."

Obama's solution to the Alito problem? Win some freakin' elections.

Amen to that.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

OK ... really a conflict of interest

Following up on the earlier post, an anonymous poster at Athens Politics made a claim that Cristen Conger, the reporter from The Red & Black whose father is Dan Conger, the communications director at the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce, had her name featured throughout the organization's newsletter.

This, indeed, is true. A search of their online site, with its limited archives, show two articles the younger Conger had written for the Chamber. And her name is listed in the newsletter as a regular contributor.

So let's put aside the questions regarding the ethics of assigning the daughter of the Chamber's communications dirctor to cover a hot-button story featuring the Chamber. Instead, let's focus on the definite ethics breach stemming from the fact she had written articles for the Chamber's newsletter in the past six months.

Conflicts of interest

There's a pretty interesting - and, at times, odd - discussion going on over at Athens Politics concerning a recent article covering the proposed redistricting written by Cristen Conger, the daughter of Athens Area Chamber of Commerce communications director Dan Conger. Publius worked with a couple of sources to confirm if this was true, and then suggested it was a conflict-of-interest for Conger to write a story in which her father was the spokesman for an organization that held a vested interest in the topic of the article.

Several posters, primarily conservative ones, cried foul and claimed Publius was dragging this girl through the mud for no good reason at all ... that this whole thing was 'petty.'

I disgree with the latter's assertion and their suggestion this is something which really is nothing. Anyone who suggests that misses the whole boat on journalism ethics, and speaking as someone who spent the majority of his professional life actually in journalism, I feel I've earned enough street cred to say that.

So, off the bat, let me say this - my fault is not with the younger Conger at all. In fact, I think she produced a very well-written and well-reported story with no signs of bias at all. Her article gave a voice to all sides in this debate, and she is to be commended for her reporting. I think she's going to have a long and successful career in journalism if she decides to pursue that as a profession.

My problem isn't even so much with the student editors at The Red & Black, though they are partially responsible. This is a student newspaper, and it's one of the ultimate learning experiences. I worked with several folks who were alums of The Red & Black and the hands-on experience they received prepared them for a career in journalism.

The problem is that one of their editorial advisers - one of the career journalists and/or instructors hired to guide them through the process - never raised a red flag over this. It's a very simple rule when it comes to journalism - you don't touch these types of scenarios with a 10,000-foot pole because something like this very fiasco is bound to crop up.

Journalism is a very, very inexact science. It's a trade, something to be honed over time. The people doing the reporting are, well, human and mistakes can be made. People don't divorce their biases when they walk through the doors - be it a beat writer for politics who is a die-hard Republican or a beat writer for Alabama football who is a die-hard Alabama fan. Because of these natural biases, a process is put in place where a team of editors choose the stories, distribute them to the appropriate reporters and then edit and evaluate the copy as it comes.

It's imperfect, but it's the best we've got.

So when something in that process goes awry - no matter how pure and sincere the reporting was (and I believe it was in Conger's case) - you get questions like this. Journalism, though imperfect, is supposed to be about striving for non-biased reporting which equally and fairly represents all sides in a story. And, in order to help reach this lofty goal, you make sure conflicts of interests like this one don't pop up.

The editors and advisers at The Red & Black should have recognized that.

Friday, January 27, 2006

More on Chasteen

Though it may seem like I'm picking on the poor guy - and I'm quite sure he's a rather personable fella - after another day of pondering on it and reading some other thoughts on the matter, I think there's a little more to Tom Chasteen's singular vote against opposing the redistricting efforts in the State Senate. I think I've made my thoughts on his vote pretty clear, but I don't think we've given enough thought to the implications it may have on the entire race.

As has been dicussed here in the comments, and at Athens Politics, I think it's a foregone conclusion that Heidi Davison will seek a re-election bid. She has been willing to fight the good fight - however futile it may be - with regard to redistricting, and conventional wisdom suggests she'll want to see through the work of anti-poverty committee she helped launch earlier this year.

And, as Publius has duly noted, she deserves to be commended for her work in both areas. I've had my agreements with Davison and my disagreements with her, but I'm most impressed with her leadership in recent months.

Chasteen's vote against the condemnation offers a signal that he's willing to become the candidate for the Athens Area of Commerce (whether or not they'll embrace him is a different story). The Chamber, for all of its detractors (and I've been in voice in that chorus on occasion), still holds some impressive political clout in town. However, it is still not a widely popular political entity, and make no mistake, it has failed miserably when it comes to endorsing and supporting candidates in contested races.

What can swing an election like this in its favor, however, is division among the opposition. If Chasteen does indeed become the darling of the Chamber, he may bel able to lock up a solid 35 to 40 percent of the vote if Davison, Keith Johnson, Charlie Maddox and Andy Rusk are clamoring for the other votes. We'd still have a runoff, and I'd bet Davison would be the one who squares off with Chasteen. At that point, the balance of the folks who voted for neither candidate would have to decide between someone who has championed rather unpopular 'living ordinances' (Davison) or someone who is on record as thinking the wishes of the State Senator from Madison County mean more than the wishes of Athens-Clarke County. It's not a pretty vote either way you look at it.

All this to say ... this may work out very well for Davison. Some of those candidates on the more outlying edges of the campaign - well-meaning and passionate folks like Rusk and Johnson - may not be able to generate as much support as they had once hoped. Consider, to some extent, Davison the 'anti-Chasteen' in this election ... the George W. Bush to John McCain in 2000 and the John Kerry to Howard Dean in 2004.

I know it's merely one issue, but I think it's a big issue. And it's a personal issue. Chasteen went on record in saying he would defer to the state leadership rather than act in the wishes of the majority of his own community. I think today's editorial in the Athens Banner-Herald hits the nail on the head:

"It does (voters) a disservice if we strain our relationship, if it's not a working relationship with people who have control over Athens-Clarke County," Chasteen said at Wednesday's commission meeting.

In other words, Chasteen voted against the resolution simply because he didn't want to risk making state legislators angry with the community.

Can Chasteen truly believe Athens-Clarke's delegation to the state legislature can, or should, exercise "control" over this community? Such an outlook, if it is an accurate reflection of Chasteen's view of the relationship between state and local elected officials, hardly bodes well for his mayoral bid.

Certainly, there is a need for a working relationship between state and local elected officials. The state legislature can, and does, pass laws and make budgetary decisions that can directly affect Athens-Clarke County.

But part of being a mayor is to exercise leadership. A mayor must make certain the best interests of the community which he or she serves are being met. Sometimes, that means making uncomfortable decisions. ...

There is one thing, however, that can be said with certainty. The way in which the redistricting bill was handled by Hudgens was irresponsible. The bill began making its way through the General Assembly almost before other members of the local legislative delegation had notice of it, and certainly before its existence was known widely in the community. Hudgens and other legislators deserve to be chastised, however ineffective such chastisement might be, for their approach to the bill.

Chasteen's Wednesday vote - which, judging from his comments, was intended to show some deference to the state legislature - could be read as acquiescence to the heavy-handed manner in which legislators have handled the redistricting proposal.

In a community which is heavily populated with a minority party in a state that is run by the majority party, such deference isn't going to play well when it comes time to head to the polls. And that makes it easy for Davison to come out and say 'you may not have always agreed with me, but I've always fought first for the interest of this community ... can my opponent say the same thing?'

As of today, he really can't.

Thursday, January 26, 2006


Quick question ... know what Tom Chasteen stands for? Anyone? Any clue where he comes down on the issues? Some suggestions?

Because it appears, yet again, the mayor candidate has attempted to hedge his bets, this time with the issue of redistricting. On a night in which the Athens-Clarke County Commission voted to condemn the proposed redistricting of its State Senate seat, Chasteen was the lone commissioner to vote against doing so.

Now, sure, prior to the vote, he called the whole thing partisan politics at its best. But when it came time to vote, he said he voted to oppose the condemnation because he felt it would strain the relationship between the state government and the local government. That, quite frankly, is a rather absurd justification considering how relations aren't exactly peachy between the Georgia General Assembly and Athens-Clarke County (see lack of funding in 2006 budget for University of Georgia, proposed redistricting, etc. and etc.). To suggest this vote would strain the relationship is to ridiculous.

What we're seeing develop here is Chasteen further distance himself from the political reality in Athens-Clarke County and make a shameless ploy to position himself as the candidate for the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce ... though, even they still don't know what to think of Chasteen.

Hopefully someone out there - someone - will speak out about this. Might get them some traction with some voters in this town.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Huckaby looking forward to sleeping in

Per an official University of Georgia announcement, the university's senior vice president for finance and administration, Hank Huckaby, is retiring at the end of June. Huckaby got some recent recognition for assisting Gov. Sonny Perdue with his transition in 2002 and serving as the state's interim financial chief. Before that, he had worked for several administrations, including Gov. Joe Frank Harris and Gov. Zell Miller.

I don't know much about the guy, but he's been a good public servant and done a good job with the state's finances and the university's. My hat's off to him, and here's wishing him a healthy and happy retirement.

Can I quote you?

An exchange of quotes in a recent post at Athens Politics got me sifting through some web sites full of famous, and some not-so-famous, quotes. Liked a bunch and thought I'd post a few:

People say I am ruthless. I am not ruthless. And if I find the man who is calling me ruthless, I shall destroy him.
— Robert Kennedy

If any man claims the Negro should be content ... let him say he would willingly change the color of his skin and go to live in the Negro section of a large city. Then and only then has he a right to such a claim.
— Robert Kennedy

Do you realize the responsibility I carry? I'm the only person standing between Richard Nixon and the White House.
— John F. Kennedy

I look forward to a future in which our country will match its military strength with our moral restraint, its wealth with our wisdom, its power with our purpose.
— John F. Kennedy

When written in Chinese, the word "crisis" is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.
— John F. Kennedy

A man who won't die for something is not fit to live.
— Martin Luther King Jr.

One of the greatest casualties of the war in Vietnam is the Great Society ... shot down on the battlefield of Vietnam.
— Martin Luther King Jr.

A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward.
— Franklin D. Roosevelt

Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.
— Franklin D. Roosevelt

The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it comes strong than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism - ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or any controlling private power.
— Franklin D. Roosevelt

Carry the battle to them. Don't let them bring it to you. Put them on the defensive and don't ever apologize for anything.
— Harry Truman

I had a reason for every movie I did, especially Tank Girl because I'm into horror.
— Ice T

In all life one should comfort the afflicted, but verily, also, one should afflict the comfortable, and especially when they are comfortably, contentedly, even happily wrong.
— John Kenneth Galbraith

Liberalism is, I think, resurgent. One reason is that more and more people are so painfully aware of the alternative.
— John Kenneth Galbraith

I had a mustache when I was 13.
— David Schwimmer

I make out with Christina Ricci ... many times. But no real love scenes. I'm dying to.
— Casey Affleck

(Joe) Frazier is so ugly that he should donate his face to the US Bureau of Wild Life.
— Muhammed Ali

If you even dream of beating me you'd better wake up and apologize.
— Muhammed Ali

A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.
— Muhammed Ali

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Is his maiden name 'Morris'?

Man oh man, Athens Area Chamber of Commerce president Larry McKinney is all over the Athens Banner-Herald these days. He had a forum in Sunday's paper, was quoted as saying the Chamber was suddenly, perhaps even magically, open to higher wages on Monday and now has penned a response to Athens Banner-Herald associate editor Don Nelson's column concerning a communication breakdown on the Chamber's part during the redistricting process.

It's interesting to note McKinney didn't address any of the real issues Nelson raised in his Sunday column - primarilly that McKinney isn't able to point to a concrete number of how many folks in the Chamber really support or oppose the redistricting. I don't know if it's as much of a breakdown in communication, as it is rather a determined focus on a political agenda by a few, albeit a powerful few, at the top of the Chamber's ranks which automatically dismisses whatever contrary views manage to reach them.

Again, if you want a blueprint of how not to set up a foundation for a successful 2006 local election season ... then just follow everything the Chamber president is doing.

Isolating key leaders in government? Check.

Misrepresenting your own membership? Check.

Starting a war with people who buy their ink by the barrel? Check.

Embracing a vastly unpopular political idea? Check.

Yep ... that's the recipe for crash-and-burn right there.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The blogosphere strikes back

Ah, we are a tad elitist aren't we?

A little while back, in an article discussing money raised by the Athens-Clarke County mayoral candidates, the Athens Banner-Herald revealed that Charlie Maddox had spent roughly $2,500 on his campaign web site. Said web site, quite frankly, leaves much to be desired.

And folks in the Athenian blogosphere don't think Maddox got enough bang for his buck. Adrian at Athens World questions the money spent, while Publius at Athens Politics has similar issues.

It is a bit puzzling. I almost expect exploding fireballs in the upper corners of the page. And I hope you have Powerpoint if you want to know where Maddox stands on the issues ... because if you don't, you can't access his link to find out what it takes to lead Athens-Clarke County.

Gosh ... the more I look at it, the more lousy I think the site is.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Is this the end?

One more thing about Larry McKinney's forum ... is it just me, or has it occured to anyone else this may be the end of any chance the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce had to be a viable player in town? With a solid majority of Athens-Clarke County citizens at least concerned about the proposed redistricting, it doesn't seem to be the best political move to come out so strongly for something which is so unpopular in this community ... particularly with a chance to install an entirely new Athens-Clarke County Commission just months away.

The Chamber may get a better seat at the state level, but is it worth becoming completely irrelevant at the local level?

Roundup of the absurd

On a Sunday editorial page full of peculiar arguments, let's first-off give kudos to where kudos are due by commending Athens Banner-Herald executive editor Jason Winders for an excellent column concerning the proposed State Senate redistricting plan. My former boss points out how ill-informed Rep. Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) and Rep. Eric Johnson (R-Savannah) really are concerning this proposal. Others making sense about redistricting include Athens Banner-Herald associate editor Don Nelson, who points out the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce has some severe communication problems they need to address.

On the peculiar front, Chamber president Larry McKinney gives us some silly spin about said redistricting, while Athens Banner-Herald editorial page Jim Thompson - who I'm quite a fan of professionally and personally - misses the mark this time. He espouses on how The O'Reilly Factor and The Colbert Report are the same thing ... no matter that the former is featured on a 24-hour news network, while the latter is broadcast on Comedy Central.

Perhaps all of the good redistricting columns where taken, eh?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Fun with cameras

Blogging of substance to return shortly ... as for now, how about some images of my neices at Zoo Atlanta this past weekend:

Avery, left, and Reagan pose in a freakishly large nest.

One of about eight images they took in the 'cut-out' posing areas.

The redistricting shuffle

Since I am literally walking out the door in about four minutes, I've only got time for a few quick thoughts about yesterday's discussion over the proposed redistricting of Athens-Clarke County's State Senate districts.

The primary thought racing through my mind is how completely out of touch with reality Sen. Ralph Hudgens (R-Comer) and Sen. Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) are.

Rogers, who, as noted, represents Woodstock, claimed the Athens-Clarke County Chamber of Commerce represents the will of the people of this community more so than the elected leaders of the Athens-Clarke County Commission.

The wisdom of the chamber of commerce, given the makeup of the chamber of commerce, may surpass that of the commissioners.

OK, this is absurd on a many levels, one being that such a statement is ridiculous. I would venture to say the elected leaders of this community - most of them winning with more than 60 percent of the vote in their recent elections - are definitely more representative of the wishes of Athens-Clarke County. It also suggests the commission has gone out of the way to oppose such redistricting, despite the fact such opposition didn't arise until after Rogers' ignorant statement. Much of the opposition to the proposed redistricting has come from average Athens-Clarke County citizens through letters to their current state representatives and a variety of local publications, as well as Rep. Jane Kidd's (D-Athens) rightful concern over it.

Mayor Heidi Davison didn't like the remarks either:

Athens-Clarke County Mayor Heidi Davison called Rogers' comment "ludicrous" at a Wednesday night town hall meeting held by Reps. Keith Heard and Jane Kidd.

"I believe I was elected by the people of this county, 57 percent of them, and no one at the chamber was," Davison said.

Secondly, Sen. Eric Johnson (R-Savannah) - interesting how folks from all over this state know what's best for Athens-Clarke County's representation - claimed Democrats who oppose this redistricting are being hypocritical because earlier they backed the 2001 districts which carved out a Democratic 12th District in Congress.

OK, well let me off the bat say this - the 2001 lines were odd and they were designed with political goals in mind, and that's wrong. But seeing how Johnson has long claimed the 12th district was a product of gerrymandering, why is he so eager to defend this redistricting by comparing the two?

By doing so, is he admitting this is a gerrymandering attempt by Republicans? And that it's OK for Republicans to do it now because Democrats did it then? I thought gerrymandering was bad all across the board, regardless of the political party pushing it through?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Odds and ends

I've been away a bit, and for that you have my deepest apologies. A house full of neices and nephew (singular nephew that is), along with responsibilities at the ole job, has slowed my efforts. I promise to kick it back into gear a few days.

Until then ...

- Everyone will forget about Sen. Hillary Clinton's 'plantation' comment in a few days, and it was nothing more than political rhetoric to fire up her base ... the same way Vice President Dick Cheney's comments suggesting the terrorists would win if Sen. John Kerry was elected president. Both are inappropriate, but such is life in today's political climate.

- Overheard last night from the gentleman behind me at the Georgia-Kentucky basketball game:

[Female Kentucky fan screams to disrupt a Georgia player shooting a free throw.]

GUY: Man, that was loud! It sounded like the girl in the Emily Rose movie which was not that scary by the way.

No pause in between statements ... just flow from joke to film critique in nanoseconds.

- One area coaching vacancy has been filled as Elbert County has tabbed Eddie Roberts as the school's new head football coach. Roberts is an Elbert County alum and resident and rolled up an impressive 22-5 record at Calhoun Falls (S.C.) the past two seasons. Clarke Central and Oconee County are still looking for coaches, and I've heard rumors from different folks that Greene County's Larry Milligan is high on the Gladiators' list. Of course, Lincoln County's Larry Campbell is always bantered about too, and we know that ain't likely.

- Mayor Heidi Davison has reached out to the blogger community here in town, and let's give her a hand for that. She sent an email concerning the new Partners for a Prosperous Athens out to another Athenian blog, which was in turn forwarded to me. Here's part of text:

If you and your fellow bloggers are truly interested in getting involved in a meaningful way with the recently announced poverty initiative, I will be happy to help you do so as we need the help of all our citizens who are concerned and feel passionate about this problem. I don't have time to participate in a blog exchange, to be perfectly honest, but I am happy to provide information, answer questions, post times/dates/places of meetings, supply names of steering committee members, receive and distribute input, etc.

Davison encouraged anyone with questions to contact her, and you can find that information here.

- Meaning to post something about some of the recent 'oversights' on the state and federal level with regard to Athens-Clarke County. Hopefully can do that in the next few days.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Probably not a popular idea for some

Methinks this won't be the most favorable suggestion for my friends on the left side of the aisle, but I think Matthew Yglesias is dead-on about the confirmation of Samuel Alito:

So what's a Democrat to do? The same thing they should have done on John Roberts -- explain why putting him on the Court will be bad for the country, vote "no," let the GOP majority confirm him, move on to other issues, and try to win the next two elections.

You want to put individuals with more progressive judicial views on the Supreme Court? Then you've got to start winning elections, and filibustering Alito ain't going to help you do that. Taking a principled stand, nominating good, honest and appealing candidates, and running on a positive agenda that draws clear differences between the parties are the ways to get back into power and then be able to nominate your own judges.

But, like I said, most folks on my side probably won't agree with this prescription.

UPDATE: It only took a few seconds of my perusing the comments on Yglesias' post to realize how right I think his suggestion is. In particular, this one sealed the deal:

alito will be more than a bad judge. he will be a bad judge who will help republicans steal elections. you think bush v. gore is a one-time deal? if alito is confirmed, we may never see another fair election.

We may never see another fair election? Listen, Republicans have done their share of dirty tricks, as I'm quite sure have some Democrats ... but to suggest we will never see a fair election again shows just how disconnected some in this debate are from reality. I mentioned this over at Xon's blog a little while back - there are tons of reasons to vote against Alito, but something like
this isn't one of them.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

That's a guest speaker

Not that we're big fans of his politics, and we definitely don't see eye-to-eye with his son, but it is pretty darn cool that President George H.W. Bush will be the keynote speaker at the dedication of the Paul D. Coverdell Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences on April 7.

Says University of Georgia President Michael Adams in a press release - "I am delighted that former President Bush will attend the dedication of the Coverdell Center and join with our faculty, staff and students in celebrating this special event. President Bush very much wants to be a part of honoring the memory of a great Georgian who was both his professional colleague and his close, personal friend."

That should generate some pretty decent media coverage, as well as probably some protesters from the various protesting types in our community.

Odds and ends

It's been a while since I've done this ...

- The Athens Banner-Herald has the latest fundraising numbers for the 2006 elections, and it shows Tom Chasteen and Charlie Mattox far in the lead of contributions. Chasteen is understandable, but Mattox? Wow. I know he's got some good contacts and stuff, being the head of the Department of Labor and all, but he hasn't exactly aired any of his views yet in the public arena. Our boy Andy Rusk has raised just a hair under $200, putting him in last so far (though he didn't include his monies from Friday night's event ... I gave him the requested $5 for what it's worth).

- Went and saw The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe last night. I liked it very much, thank you. I never got into the whole Lord of the Rings thing, primarily because I wasn't a fan of the books growing up, so the trilogy was a bit lost on me. Not to say it was bad or anything, just not my bag. I did, however, love the Narnia series, and the movie didn't disappoint. It dragged a bit in the beginning, but once the kids actually got into Narnia, the whole thing picked up. The final half an hour was quite impressive.

My only real critique was they changed one of my favorite lines from the book just slightly enough where it irked me. In the book, Lucy asks Mr. Thomas if Aslan is 'safe' and Thomas replies 'he isn't safe, but he is good.' In the movie, 'safe' is changed to 'tame' and Lucy finishes the sentence. I know, I'm nit-picking, but our pastor devoted his most sermon to this particular exchange, so I was a bit letdown upon seeing it on film. Still ... a minor problem ... movie still rocked.

- Everyone give a hand to Cedar Shoals boys basketball coach Ron Link who picked up his 500th career win last night. I worked with him for the better part of three years, and I liked him quite a bit. Took the Jaguars to the Elite Eight in my last year as prep sports editor (a year which saw current Georgia football standout Quentin Moses pick up my basketball player of the year honors ... kid scored 40 points and pulled down 16 boards in an upset of No. 2 South Atlanta), and they reached the Final Four the following year.

- Bertis Downs doesn't care for the Banner-Herald's tone ... and, he may have a point. The editorial in question was a tad critical.

- Hey, Georgia hearts the Big East as the Bulldogs add Louisville to their football schedules for 2011 and 2012 (shouldn't we all have flying cars then?). They also get to play Cincinnati in a couple of years. Of course, it's the only conference to have figured out Mark Richt as both Boston College (in 2001) and West Virginia (this year's Sugar Bowl) have both taken Georgia down. But let's get to the real news ... the Bulldogs will host Appalachian State in 2009 ... meaning both of my cousins will surely head down to see their alma maters get slammed.

- Anyone else interested in pooling our resources together and making an offer on Nick and Jessica's Newlyweds house?

- If you enjoy checking out new blogs, and I'm sure you are, I came across this one last night after its charitable host was stunned at my useless prep sports knowledge. This girl loves to cook, drink beer and watch football ... and she likes to blog about it too. Even though I know absolutely none of the folks she's talking about it, it was oddly addictive. She's also got a brand new one devoted entirely to food, which she apparently started up, like, yesterday.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

When two isn't better than one

Not content merely holding 12-seat advantage (34-22) in the State Senate, Sen. Ralph Hudgens (R-Comer) has decided it's in the best interest of Athens-Clarke County if we cut the county in half and stick it with some counties which have little, if anything, in common with it. On the first day of the 2006 General Assembly, Hudgens proposed redrawing the current senate districts, dividing Athens-Clarke County into two wedges with one going west toward Oconee County and the other going right toward Jackson and Oglethorpe Counties.

Not surprisingly, this will severely dilute the voting power of Athens-Clarke County citizens - who tend to be overwhelmingly Democratic - by lumping them in with the more conservative outlying counties. Hudgens claims that 'Monroe (in Walton County) has a lot more in common with Athens than anything else.'

Uh ... have you ever been to Monroe Sen. Hudgens? Have you ever set foot in Athens for that matter? A small town which is the seat of a predominantly rural county is similar to a growing urban population which is home to the state's largest university?

Rep. Jane Kidd (D-Athens) now thinks she may abandon her bid for the State Senate seat for District 46 if the redistricting passes, and she told the Athens Banner-Herald that she felt the move was purely political and designed to keep Republicans from losing the seat (currently held by Brian Kemp) to a Democrat. Well ... of course it is. Most things in politics these days tend to be political (sadly), but this is kinda much don't you think?

Listen, I'm all for giving Athens-Clarke County two more seats - but only by doing so within the county limits. This community has a population of more than 100,000 and - with the growth of the University of Georgia and natural population influxes - will probably add on another 5,000 to 10,000 people in the next 10 to 15 years. This is a predominantly progressive community and diluting their voting strength and giving them conservative representatives in the legislature does an injustice to their interests.

Likewise, I'm all for adding seats in the rural counties. Those are overwhelmingly Republican areas, and they too deserve the the opportunity to elect conservative leaders who best represent their views. Making them compete with voters in Athens-Clarke County does a disservice to them.

But let's not fool ourselves and say it's fair to slice and dice through random counties willy nilly. It's political ... pure and simple. If the folks currently in control of the Georgia General Assembly really cared about fair representation they'd realize leaving the current districts alone is the best solution.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Two tidbits

Just a quick bit of info I've learned recently ...

• Rumor has it that current 12th District Representative John Barrow (D-Athens) may face a primary challenge in the upcoming election. Wouldn't be too much of a surprise, considering how far right Barrow has gone in an effort to appease the more conservative voters of his new district. Also wouldn't be too surprising seeing how Barrow is an Athens native and having to move down to the new district. Speculation is currently centered on someone from the Savannah area.

• For those who want to assist with the newly formed Partners for A Prosperous Community, the new poverty task force here in Athens-Clarke County, Tim Johnson from the Clarke Interagency Council passed on the following advice:

A Steering Committee has been appointed and charged with developing and implementing a process to engage the entire community (with particular attention to assuring that all stakeholder constituencies are represented) in developing and implementing strategies to reduce poverty in Athens. I anticipate that there will be multiple approaches to accomplish this, ranging from one-time input (town meetings, surveys, focus groups, interviews) to ongoing involvement (task forces, work groups, strategy teams, committees). Anyone and everyone who wants to be involved will be (with special efforts to assure that key stakeholders are well represented).

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Rusk is for real

As Publius so duly noted at Athens Politics, there was a good crowd for Andy Rusk's mayoral kickoff event last night. It was a good time. Publius and DiDDY from Athens Politics, Adrian from Athens World and I got the chance to chat with Rusk for probably 20 minutes or so over a couple of beers and came away very impressed.

He knows his stuff quite frankly. In the words of great Jerry Orbach from Dirty Dancing - 'when I'm wrong, I say I'm wrong' - and I was wrong about Rusk. He is well-versed in local politics, knows the issues pretty much front and back, is quick on his feet and comes across as quite a personable fella. He spoke for about 15 minutes prior to the musical performances and laid out the opening argument in his case to become mayor of Athens-Clarke County.

What was very impressive to me was the criticism he leveled on current mayor Heidi Davison, who was sitting front and center to hear him speak. Now, I didn't exactly agree with all of Rusk's criticism, but he had enough gumption to tell her, and the 50-plus people in the crowd, what he thought was not right with our community. Like Publius, I wished he would have offered a little more criticism about Tom Chasteen, but I'm sure there's plenty of time for that in the future.

What I also liked about Rusk was his eagerness to try and get the student population involved in the political process. He and I chatted about the success former Republican candidate for Athens-Clarke County Commission had in getting UGA students to register in town and then get out to the polls.

I've also got to say I was impressed Davison was there. I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Heidi, primarily because of the interest she took in the Interfaith Hospitality Network of Athens and also because of her eagerness to enter into dialogue with the community (she has replied to every single message I've ever sent her and each response has been personal, professional and thorough). I was leaning toward backing her re-election bid until about half a year or so ago, when I decided to shop around a bit.

And we've got plenty of time before Election Day. Davison may just run, and I may just cast a ballot for her.

But I know this - right now, I'm strongly leaning toward Rusk's camp, seriously considering helping him out some, and I'd encourage you to check him out too. He's honest, passionate and, most important of all, credible.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Wicked cool

A couple of years ago, some friends and I were gathered around talking about how awesome it would be if we all had our own action figure. Well ... some dreams do come true as my boy C Trent is now complete with a kung-fu action grip.

(I know it's a bit late, but I hadn't checked his blog in a while).

Thursday, January 05, 2006

A bit on the blogosphere

A couple of months ago, I entered into a brief dialogue with my buddy Xon concerning just how important blogs were in the national conversation. I said they really weren't that big of a deal, and Xon didn't necessarily agree. I can't seem to recall what issue prompted this discussion, but I do remember changing my mind somewhat just a few weeks later.

I'm not going to sit here and say something to the effect of 'blogs are the wave of the future man ... get on board or get left behind' because, well, I don't necessarily believe that. But I do believe that blogs have become an important - almost integral - component of our news-gathering process and the analysis of said information. Look at the impact conservative blogs had on the Dan Rather story concerning President Bush's service in the Air National Guard. Likewise, consider the role liberal blogs have played with regard to the threatened 'nuclear option' in the Senate.

I think what we're seeing is the rise of an alternative source of media. Granted many of the blogs which offer political commentary are not terribly credible or are unabashedly biased, but there's no mistaking their role in today's environment. And, thankfully, this is starting to happen at the local level.

The Athens Banner-Herald's local government reporter, Blake Aued, did a piece on the day after Christmas concerning the ability of mayoral candidates to effectively use the web. In that piece, some attention was brought to Athens-Clarke County mayoral candidate Andy Rusk's guest-blogging at Athens Politics.

This was a good chance for the traditional media to pick up on the contributions of newer media, such as blogs, but I think the story missed the boat. Publius agreed and said roughly the same thing. The story focused on the ability of political candidates to use the web to raise money and organize supporters - as many other stories concerning blogs had already done. There is some truth to that, but again it missed out on a great opportunity to discuss what the fledgling Athenian blogosphere has done in this community.

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't have grand visions of us rising up to challenge the traditional media like the Banner-Herald or Flagpole. Those are professional organizations with full-time staffs comprised of hard-worked and talented reporters and editors. It's their job to report the news to the public.

But what I am saying is that, in our own little way, the growing Athenian blogosphere is starting to get some notice in the community. There are instances of local blogs breaking news - such as AP telling us States McCarter wasn't resigning from the Athens-Clarke County Commission - as well as numerous instances of local blogs helping to drive the debate over local issues.

And it's the latter that is most important when it comes to determining the impact of blogs with regard to politics in Athens-Clarke County. I'd venture to say that, at least partly, because of the focus put on issues like the La Puerta del Sol rezoning and the poverty rates in Athens-Clarke County, those issues have risen to the forefront. Just a few months ago, no one in this town was even talking about the poor in this town (as a political issue for candidates to deal with), but a couple of agencies may be forced to shut their doors, Rusk begins talking about the poor and we in the blogosphere keep on talking about ways to make this community more prosperous and secure ... and all of a sudden, something that wasn't an issue before is now worthy of a special task force and draped across the front page of the Banner-Herald.

Again, I'm not saying it's because of us, but it's hard to deny that our constant harping about didn't help keep it at the forefront of the local political scene.

All one has to do is take a look at the wide variety of local political blogs, and one can't help but come away thinking that something is getting going here. And, as Publius pointed out a few days back, candidates and other community leaders would be advised to keep in touch with the local bloggers. One of the reasons we like Rusk so much is because of his willingness to participate in the discussion with us. I don't see eye-to-eye with Rusk on everything, and I even was a little hard on him a little while ago, but I'm leaning toward backing his candidacy because he is eager to join in the dialogue and take some criticism here and there.

There are a ton of local political blogs out there. I've come across a couple in Oconee County, including two which often having dueling debates and criticisms at their sites, and I've done my best to offer links to them (two of the Oconee County ones are even absurdly conservative, but feature nice enough guys who I've enjoyed discussing and debating with):

Athens-Clarke County

Antidisingenuousmentarianism (Liberal)

Athens Politics (Liberal)

Athens World (Center-to-Liberal)

Safe As Houses (Center-to-Liberal)

Oconee County

Jay Hanley: Mr. Republican Jr. (Conservative)

Oconee Politics (Liberal)

Oconee County News and Commentary (Conservative)

The Eyes of Texas

I could say 'I told you so' and point out that Vince Young is the best player in college football, but his 467-total-yard performance in the Rose Bowl has kinda already done that for me. Not that I'm really that big of a Texas fan, but it was really nice to see Southern Cal lose for a change.

And, I'm taking a poll here, but was that the best college football game you've ever seen? The 2002 Ohio State-Miami game was great, as was the Colorado-Michigan game with the Kordel Stewart 'Hail Mary,' but the Longhorns' win tonight might be the best I've witnessed in a long, long time.

As far as the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft ... if the Houston Texans are content in getting Eric Metcalf, er, Reggie Bush with their selection, that's fine. I'd rather snag Young. Heck, I'd rather take LenDale White if we're ranking USC backs.

I mean ... 267 passing yards and 200 rushing yards? Are you kidding me?

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Best of the best

Happy New Year everyone!

In the spirit of looking toward a brighter future, let's take a look back at 2005. Together with some other folks in the Athenian blogosphere - Hillary, Athens World and Athens Politics - we've rounded up some of the most entertaining things which happened this past year. Adrian was kind enough to put the final list up at Athens World, so go check it out.