Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Couple of things

Let's do some housekeeping after yours truly enjoyed a nice three-day weekend ...

- The good folks at Athens Politics have offered a link to Patrick Armstrong's blogs, and I will do the same.

- I'm the new vice president of the Interfaith Hospitality Network of Athens, and I teamed up with our president and executive director to pen a forum about the work of religious groups in fighting poverty. The gang at the Athens Banner-Herald was kind enough to run it.

- I don't really know where I come down on this, and it doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things, but apparently no one seems to know if traffic-calming medians will actually calm traffic or not.

- And, in nothing short of a shameless act of self-promotion, today's my birthday. I'm not sure what's more disconcerting ... the ever-increasing amount of grey hair I have or the fact that, at 28, I realize this year will feature my high school's 10-year reunion. Still, I've got my health, a great wife, loving family, good friends and a nice job (plus I actually hit the ball well at the driving range yesterday, though I was envious of Matt's brand spankin' new driver) ... so I'd give everything a thumbs-up.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

I like the way he thinks

I'm not entirely sure how Dayn Perry reached this conclusion, but he's convinced the Red Sox are going to win the American League East this season. I like that kind of optimism, though I think battling Toronto for the wild card is a more likely scenario.

Then again, I have grown more optimistic about Boston's chances this year. The Red Sox made good moves to shore up the worst bullpen in baseball (picking up David Riske, Julian Tavarez and Rudy Seanez), and I'm very excited about having Coco Crisp in center field for the next few seasons.

Lessons in journalism

It's really cute that Lauren Wright, journalism and political science double-major extraordinaire, is letting us know her views on celebrities and their political opinions, but it's equally concerning she has such a poor understanding of free speech, journalism and politics in general.

I mean, President Carter is actually a politician, so criticizing him for speaking at Coretta Scott King's funeral because he's a celebrity is kinda off the mark. But, no matter.

I've never really comprehended the whole 'Celebrities shouldn't voice their opinions' argument. I mean, Lord knows I don't agree with Cameron Diaz's claim that the 2004 presidential election was about electing someone who would legalize rape, but at the same time, if she wants to spout such nonsense, then more power to her.

I just don't understand this notion that celebrities surrendered their ability to engage in free speech simply because they release a hit CD or a star in a big movie. We common folk get to write letters to the editor and participate in whatever protests or freedom rallies we like, but apparently if you achieve a modicum of success you're done airing your views.

Truth be told, there really are celebrities who have a firm grasp on the political climate of the day and can talk intelligently about the issues. James Woods is an example on the right, while George Clooney would be one on the left.

Perhaps I should call for all undergraduates to quit voicing their opinions because no one cares ... but I won't because they have the legitimate right to say whatever they want, no matter how silly it is.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

I wonder why ...

Not that I'm stunned, but States McCarter continues to reveal himself to be nothing more than a petty and self-absorbed individual concerned only with perserving his power and influence rather than look out for the best interests of his constituents.

Harsh you say? Well, consider this story in Saturday's Athens Banner-Herald. McCarter is opposed to the addition of five area neighborhoods to the community's rezoning notification program, which McCarter voted against establishing last year. The program, in short, allows the neighborhood associations to receive email updates about rezoning and variance requests near them directly from the Athens-Clarke County Planning Commission.

McCarter opposes the program because he feels commissioners should be the ones to instruct and advise constituents about possible rezonings rather than a committee comprised of professionals who deal with zoning issues and make detailed and educated analysis of the impacted area.

Let's be clear - McCarter wants one singular individual who, quite possibly, is not as schooled in these types of land use issues to be the lone filter of information to the neighborhoods rather than a collection of individuals whose responsibility it is to study, research and evaluate land use issues. In essence, McCarter wants to be the little king of the eastside, telling his constituents that he knows what's best for them, regardless of the findings of the planning commission. In fact, what's he voting against is simply letting his constituents know about possible rezonings in their area.

This is perfectly understandable, seeing how if those neighborhoods impacted by La Puerta del Sol (and, it must be noted, Cedar Creek is one of those neighborhoods applying for notification) had actually been receiving updates and findings from the planning commission, McCarter's illogical opposition to the development wouldn't have found any traction in his district. The vocal minority which spoke out against LPDS would have been marginalized as they were confronted with the reports from the planning commission, rather than only receive biased and false information from McCarter's newsletter.

What's even more puzzling is McCarter is refusing to disclose why he opposes the program, let alone the addition of the five neighborhoods requesting recognition status. He flatly refused to answer Commissioner Carl Jordan's request for some clarity on the matter and told the Banner-Herald he'd air his concerns on March 7.

Jordan has said he supports granting the recognition.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Real Work Conversations

Thursday, February 23

Me: Did the interview go OK?
Paul: It was fine.
Me: Did you work in a reference to the Starland Vocal Band?
Paul: No, I forgot to. Was hard to find an opening.
Me: You probably didn't look hard enough.
Paul: I could have said something like 'and we'll have some contemporary works up as well, say from the 1970s ... a decade dominated by the Starland Vocal Band.'
Me: That would have worked.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Ports and security

I'll admit that I don't really have the most articulate argument in defense of my opposition to the recent sale of several U.S. ports to Dubai World Ports, but that's OK. My basic feeling is that I simply don't think it's good policy for any foreign company - private or state-owned - to be in charge of the operations of any U.S. port.

And that goes for the fact that a British firm oversaw the same ports in question prior the transaction. Actually, I'm a little perplexed I didn't already know this.

I'm all for free trade and improving relations with all the countries in the world, particularly in the Middle East, but I'm just not comfortable with the notion that a foreign entity is responsible for the managerial operations of our point-of-entry locations, particularly during a time in which U.S. port security has come under fire from members of both parties.

If anything, we should probably do a better job with regard to security and then ponder allowing foreign companies the right to manage our ports.

Real work conversations

I think this promises to be quite a fascinating addition to your reading, and I'll try my darnedest to recant a pair of conversations from the past two days ...

Tuesday, February 21
Paul: Yeah, we're having some issues with one of the MFA candidates, but nothing too big though.
Me: Oh yeah, what's the problem?
Paul: He wants to use live animals in the exhibition.
Me: Oh.
Paul: Well ... ants, like in a giant ant farm that spells 'sculpture.'
Me: Yeah, that could end badly.
Paul: Yeah.

Wednesday, February 22
Me: I don't think people realize how pivotal the year 1968 was. I mean, our society, the world we live in today with regard to our attitudes and opinions, a lot of that was heavily influenced by the political upheaval of that particular year.
Carissa (nodding): You've been waiting for the talk to end for the past hour to tell me that, haven't you.
Me: A little bit.
Carissa (nodding, then to Amber the Intern): So you got those shoes at Target?

Monday, February 20, 2006

Fratty Fraterson

I've been giving Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Tom Chasteen a good bit of grief in recent weeks, and I still stand behind much of my criticism. But, I do also recognize giving credit where credit is due, and the good commissioner played it right with regard to the moratorium against fraternities.

My friends at Athens Politics disagree with me on this, but a little healthy disagreement is good now and then I say.

My biggest problem is that, again, it seems the Athens-Clarke County Commission is taking action where no action is really needed. Passing a moratorium is fine and dandy one could argue - it just gives us time to sort through all of the viewpoints and make an educated decision, right?

So, how'd that moratorium on apartment developments go back in 2003? We see any low-income housing crop out of that, as was intended? How about the moratorium on downtown development so we can designate it as a 'historic area?' Looks like a couple of high-rise hotels are still popping up.

The problem with this community and moratoriums is they merely delay the inevitable. It gives people of all political persuasions and viewpoints the necessary cover to say 'we're working on it' when, in fact, not much seems to come out of it. And each time, we hear someone say 'seriously, this time we're going to only do it for a few months and get a real plan,' and each time the moratorium tends to drag on a bit longer and no comprehensive plan to fix whatever the problem was ever emerges.

Maybe I'm wrong in this case. I hope I am.

What I don't think I'm wrong about was that plenty of rules necessary to address fraternities and sororites moving into neighborhoods already existed, and I applaud Chasteen for pointing that out. This is very important, so pay attention kids - if a fraternity or sorority wished to move into, say Green Acres, they'd have to go in front of the Athens-Clarke County Commission and make a formal request ... and I feel very confident in saying there is one commissioner currently in office who is prepared to say 'that's a good idea.'

What's even worse is the incredible lack of class Commissioner David Lynn showed in making one of the poorest emotional arguments in the history of the world. Now, I'm typically a fan of Lynn, but when your argument is pretty much 'kids routinely die at fraternities and they bring death and destruction with them' then your argument is pretty weak, as well as patently false.

Stealing a singular headline from the media - one, which it should be noted, has only loose ties with a fraternity - does nothing but unnecessarily tug on the heartstrings of those involved in the debate.

Furthermore, I shake my angry fist at Lynn for showing, quite frankly, incredibly poor manners. He interrupted Chasteen frequently, spoke down to him several times and called him 'Tom' on one occasion (using first names is a no-no behind the rail). If you wish to make a compelling argument for your position, don't act like a spoiled brat. You admitted you violated protocal by inserting this onto the agenda so late (drawing a rebuke from Commissioner Kathy Hoard), yet have the nerve to be defensive when people ask questions about your proposal?

Hoard, actually, was perhaps the most agitated. As she noted, she actually is the commissioner for a district which is heavily populated by fraternities and sororities, and she lives right next to a sorority house as well. She said her district has never had any problems with those organizations that haven't been resolved in a civil manner and done through the appropriate channels and procedures. In fact, she called them good and gracious neighbors and didn't see what all the fuss was about.

I agree. Listen, it's not like I'm a defender of all things Greek. Ask anyone, I've made more than my share of jokes about fraternities and sororities. But to think your neighborhood is going to crumble because this organization went through a perfectly legal process to purchase land which is located near a neighborhood is a bit bizzarre to me.

If folks are really concerned about Greek organizations moving too close to a neighborhood, then simply change some of the zonings located in these questionable areas. That, one figures, could be done more quickly and in a way which protects the existing land use and prevents it from being used by a fraternity or sorority. I suspect that is what Lynn is ultimately after, but to make a crude argument which implies Greek organizations are harbringers of doom and death is absurd.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

More on tailgating

Charles, who actually is a police officer and has to deal with these types of things each fall (as well as the other rigors and stresses of being a law enforcement agent), wrote a lengthy response in a recent tailgating post. It was very well done and really illustrated the views of someone who patiently and gracefully does a very difficult job many of us take for granted. I thought it was worth promoting to an actual post:

My personal experience and the general experience of many of the people in the (UGA Police) department who have worked football games is that the late kickoff games have far more problems overall than games with earlier kickoffs. I'm sure any county officers you talk with will say the say thing about their experiences. These are not just drunk people problems, although alcohol has so vastly much a part of them. Traffic after night games stalls out much sooner due to the volume of people leaving town, creating far more instances of road rage and aggressive driving along with drunk driving. Athens is simply not designed to handle the volume of traffic it generates on these nights. Pedestrian traffic gets bad, too, forcing people who want to show their butt closer together with people who want to kick some butt.

Increasing the police in the stadium probably will not add to any greater sense of security, but will cause logistical problems. For one, there is only so much radio traffic that can be handled by the several bandwidths used during the games. For another, every officer who works a football game is somebody receiving a paycheck for that service, and our department is already tapped to capacity at each game—each additional officer then has to come from police departments throughout Georgia. We have lately been using more GBI officers, but there has developed something of a history in knowing which departments fit the situation and which don't. To be less vague, there have been cases where officers from departments more used to aggressive law enforcement overstepped constitutional or ethical boundaries in handling people in and around the stadium. So, we don't ask those departments to supply officers anymore, which means fewer places from which to draw people to be in the stadium. As well, all this traffic has to go somewhere, so local agencies have to deal with the expanding effects with what assets they have.

Fundamentally, though, increased officer presense will not decrease the problems in and around the stadium. I attribute this, based on my experiences, to exactly this: "Besides, drinking and football go so well together." The sense of entitlement and privilege the vast majority of tailgaters and stadium guests have to having their alcohol, their football, and their stupid pride creates an entire culture where arrogance and frank criminality are acceptable. I have kicked people out of the stadium who ardently believed they have the right to come to a football game, drink alcoholic beverages they illegally sneak in, show their ass to everyone around them, and continue to stay, and I ought to not only respect their right to do all of these things, but I'm an officious ass for ejecting them from the stadium. These are not isolated instances. Nor should we just think only of what happens at the stadium. The physical state of the campus after the games reveals the rot in the hearts of many of the tailgaters who come to the games to do what they call celebration, but this is not a celebration of the pageantry of a football tradition, rather of the possibility of Bacchanalia and raucous misanthropy, wasteful excess, and criminal depravity. People, during these games, have the chance to do things they otherwise would be arrested or cited for, but because of the limitations of enforcement will be able to do these things with impunity. And as much as there is the sense of 'folks nearby' coming down hard on the obnoxious, such vigilante justice is as much the brutish product of this tailgating culture as any problem it's supposed to be handling. One drunk person beating up on another because the first thinks the other is an ass should not appear to any person as a reasonable or practical way of keeping the peace.

The problem is not quantity of law enforcement, nor is the problem one of its quality. The problem is the ideology at the base of this tailgating culture, where affluent white people think they aren't criminals while breaking various laws because these special days grant them license and further privilege to do whatever they want, whether violence or property destruction.

I recognize I have strong and provocative views about these football games. But I see things most people who enjoy the games are free to walk away from, leaving the clean up of the mess they are part of to somebody else. It has never been lost on me that the large majority of tailgaters are, as I said, affluent white people and the large majority of the people who deal with the mess on campus are lower class minorities. This is one symptom of the culture. I have little patience with that culture's demand for me to oblige its indiscretions.

Certainly we can see elements this one culture of football games has in common with the larger cultures shared among us all. There are parallel ways humans behave when they are put together in groups and when almost all of them are in some stage of intoxication: I immediately know this and intimately so. Law enforcement cannot, and from my political commitments I think it should not, change these conditions producing these cultures. The kind of cultural construction necessary for positive change might, perhaps, begin with something as mundane as changing a kickoff time. I think the changes needed are much deeper and farther reaching, but too many people disagree, and too many people do not see.

Afterall, they don't have to.


Also, about the sidewalk parking: consider that during these times most of the people walking are intoxicated, and many of the people driving are intoxicated, and we see that if the people cannot walk along the sidewalk, they will push out onto the roads. This leads to traffic problems when cars cannot leave the city smoothly and health problems when cars strike various parts of peoples' bodies.

Charles makes an excellent comment regarding the sidewalk parking I had overlooked, so I'll make sure I give him credit for that right up-front.

Two observations I'll make are ...

- Regarding this 'culture of tailgating' ... a lot of this arrogant 'entitlement' stems from the empowerment bestowed on these individuals by the university itself. Lots of affluent white people feel they do have a legitimate right to engage in illegal bevahior primarily because they have had to give ever-increasing amounts of money simply to get tickets. This, as Charles noted, is a false right they feel they possess, but it's one they have nonetheless. To me, part of that is because these people feel they've had to give something significant, so they're entitled to do whatever they please.

- Without taking anything away from Charles's comments, I do think there was a good bit of generalizing involved. As I feel about most situations, you've got a vocal and disruptive minority who ruin it for the rest of the law-abiding folks. I tailgate with a large group of friends who manage to enjoy a few drinks and good food, have a good time, clean up our messes and not cause any disturbances either in or out of the stadium. The same is true for the good folks who typically set up next to us or across from us. Same goes for the folks who sit around The Wife and I at the stadium. And, truth be told, we did have a few instances of individuals in our (fairly large) group who did have too much to drink, but our folks kept a watchful eye on them throughout or didn't let them go to the game. And, truth be told again, I have seen some folks who were obnoxious and unruly, but they were dealt with either by law enforcement or by their own people.

Funny, but not knowing why

I'll admit, I really don't know Isaac Mizrahi from Golda Meir, but the following statements seems to suggest the exact opposite of what he's trying to assert:

"The thing is, I am very connected to popular culture, I am," he said. "And I watch 'Will & Grace' and I watch 'My Name is Earl' and I watch prime-time television a lot and every other joke is about pubic hair ... So I don't feel it's wrong to talk about that on the red carpet."

Really? I mean, both shows are pretty funny for a variety of reasons, some of them being a little risky, but ... really?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Honest curiousity

The Kenedy Police Department isn't planning on filing any charges against Vice President Dick Cheney for the accidental shooting of Harry Whittington. That's fine since the incident was an accident, and it's quite apparent the vice president feels very badly about what happened.

But I'm a bit confused - and not in a snarky way - even if an incident like this was an accident, shouldn't there be some sort of penalty? I mean, if I rear-ended someone because I was changing radio stations and not paying attention to the road, it would be purely accidental ... yet I'd still be cited for something like 'following too closely.'

I would think accidently shooting a man in the face would fall into a similar category. Cheney shouldn't go to jail or anything like that, but why do traffic violations - and other sorts of accidents - still carry some sort of penalty, but this one doesn't?

Seriously ... I'm asking.

Whither tailgating?

OK, I completely understand the frustration of many parents and families - as well as many people in general - when it comes to having large congregations of people drinking heavily all day, as is the case with regard to Georgia football tailgating. So, I'm totally sympathetic to the concerns of University Council's Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics.

Still, what good is it going to do to create 'family-friendly' tailgating zones when all you're going to do is push those who do plan on drinking a lot further out. For that matter, let's say they go all the way and ban the open-container policy UGA currently has in an attempt to prevent drinking on campus. All this means is that people are going to go the bars prior to kickoff, or assemble at individuals' homes to party, and then go to the game.

According to UGA Police Chief Jimmy Williamson, as well as many of the committee's members, much of the complaints stem from sober individuals sitting next to drunk individuals at the game. The people who want to drink a lot are going to drink a lot, and then you'll still have to deal with them once you're in the stadium.

That, and I'm not entirely sure what parking on the sidewalks has to do with anything. Granted, it's a little annoying, but it doesn't really have anything to do with drunken behavior, does it?

And isn't the Auburn game a bad example? You put your team on a national televised game - with the SEC East title on the line - with a kickoff at 7 p.m., then you're going to have some folks who drink all day and end up quite intoxicated. Heck, I tailgated with several folks who had this happen to them.

So why not just revert back to Vince Dooley's policy of no kickoff after sundown? Say everything has to start prior to, say 5 p.m. You'll still have drunk folks, but you'll also have cut down on a solid two hours of drinking.

Let's do this again

Attention Joseph L. Riley: Again I say, it's a different culture of which you apparently have little or no knowledge of. Political dialogue at any religious ceremony - funeral, wedding or 'regular' - is accepted and widely practiced by African-American Christian congregations.

Everyone doesn't always follow the same customs and traditions you do, so learn to live with it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Little bit of reconsidering

Initially, I thought it was no big deal the vice president's office waited more than 24 hours to disclose the information that Vice President Dick Cheney, you know, shot a man in the face. Understandably, that's an embarrassing incident which will provide plenty of late-night fodder and dominate the news cycle - rightly or wrongly - for a good number of days. And I'm quite sure Cheney was very concerned for the health and well-being of his good friend and is sincerely troubled by what has happened.

But, after pondering it for a bit, I am more than a bit bothered such a secretive tone was undertaken (though I'm not surprised). And, to be clear, this has nothing to do with the actual White House, that is the office of the president. This is solely on how the vice president's office handled this situation.

There was no thought to notify the media over what was, admittedly, a pretty big deal. It isn't everyday the VP, you know, shoots someone in the face. What's troubling is the owner of the ranch, Katherine Armstrong, spoke with Cheney's office the morning after the shooting - knowing the police were in the process of investigating the incident and preparing their report - and she decided, on her own, to call the local newspaper and let them know. A couple of hours later, the national media gets wind of it and is, understandably, very upset with having this information withheld for so long.

Because the implication is that without Armstrong calling Cheney and letting him know she was going to go public, the VP was perfectly content in letting absolutely no one find out, you know, that he shot someone in the face. Such secrecy isn't really that much of a shock coming from the VP - or the Bush administration for that matter - but at least the president understands the need to get his version of the story out as fast as possible and build off that (in 1994, while running for governor of Texas, Bush accidently killed a killdeer on a hunting trip, which is illegal ... within the next hour, he personally called each member of his press corps to let them know).

It's just hard to rationalize waiting 24 hours to inform the public - and then not even having your office do it, but rather rely on the woman who merely owns the ranch you were visiting and felt a twinge of her conscience telling her to let people know. It's particularly hard to justify not notifying the public that, you know, you shot a man in the face when you have no real problem with, you know, leaking the names of undercover agents to the media.

Slow news day?

Judging by this editorial in the Athens Banner-Herald, there apparently isn't much going on in the world.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Wife says 'Valentine's what?'

Seeing how I work with mostly women, much of the talk regarding Valentine's Day typically focuses on what I'm going to do for The Wife. I have tried valiently to tell them that my lovely bride really doesn't want anything for Valentine's Day, but still some (ehem ... Carissa ... cough) persist.

This prompts the best Valentine's Day card I've ever received ...

I, Julie McGinty, do not want husband, Johnathan McGinty, to purchase me anything for Valentine's Day. I find Valentine's Day to be a truly pointless holiday. There isn't anything that said husband could buy for me that would do more to convince me that he is the best husband in the world. Seriously people, I don't want anything. Now leave him alone. He cooks, cleans, does laundry, etc., etc., etc. I understand that it's inconceivable that I would not want anything, but girls, I have the best husband ever. I would much rather have the cooking, cleaning, laundering, etc. than some candy and other crap to show me that he truly cares on this one day.

And another thing, we just had Christmas for crying out loud. What more do retailers want from us? Our first-born? If only Hallmark and other retailers would get behind stopping addiction to meth or genocide in Africa, then I could get behind it. That's something that would actually have a good effect on this world rather than Americans spending money on candy that no one needs, cards that no one reads, and whatever else people are suckered into in hopes of illustrating their love for others. And don't get me started on St. Patrick's Day ...

The Wife scoffs at consumer-driven holidays.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Yeah, but ...

So, the owner of Insomnia goes on and on about his club is unfairly targeted because of race and not because his establishment has a long history of violence and general unruliness erupting either in or directly outside his club.

This happens on Friday.

And then, this happens early Sunday morning.

Listen, this commununity hasn't been entirely fair when it comes to fairly enforcing the rules with regard to hip-hop after-hours spots and bars/clubs which generally attract white, fraternity/soriority type folks (the furor over the Fifth Quarter a few years back is one clear example of this). But when you almost routinely have fights breaking out - not to mention an unsolved murder at your doorstep - it's hard to really be sympathetic to your argument.

More tortured than others?

So, this past Saturday, I participated in a tailgate for a UGA basketball game. There's truly nothing like sitting in a mostly empty parking lot on campus in 34-degree weather, sipping a beer. Still, what else was there to do?

Being a tailgate, much of the conversation focused on sports - with the exception of a brief discussion of the film Glory - and we turned our focus on the upcoming baseball season. Folks there used this time to lambast the Red Sox, a ribbing I took in good stride since their popularity has waned after actually reaching the pinnacle in 2004 and facing some severe overexposure in the year that followed. Still, my love for all things Red Sox knows no bounds ... even when they let Theo Epstein go, make no serious attempt to re-sign Johnny Damon and then, to twist the knife, bring back Epstein after it's all said and done.

During this discussion, my boy Tim Kelly was very critical of Red Sox fans, labeling them as a bunch of whiners who possess an eltist complex of inferiority. In simplier terms - they feel their defeats are more profound than any other teams, meaning the sorrows of, in Tim's case, the Orioles are inadequate to those of Boston's.

Now I don't think a Baltimore Orioles fan feels 'less worse' than a Boston Red Sox fan when his or her team loses. When your teams loses, particularly in a heartbreaking fashion in a pivotal game, it, quite frankly, sucks. And this feeling holds true for any fan of any team of any sport.

Plus, if you're an Orioles fan, you've got bigger problems to worry about ... namely your slavish worship of the most egotistical and self-centered baseball player in history in Cal Ripken Jr., but that's another story.

So I don't believe Red Sox fans feel deeper pangs of anguish when their team fails, but I will argue that Boston fans have endured something more painful with regard to close calls, bizarre defeats and mind-numbing collapses than any other Major League Baseball team. And I think I'm perfectly within the realms of logic in asserting that.

The difference is the Red Sox, traditionally, don't go through long stretches of being either just downright awful (as the Chicago Cubs have done) or a merely .500 ball club (like, again, the Cubs). No, Boston has a long history of being perfectly good enough to win a World Championship, but only to have the most sure victory snapped away by the ever-hungry jaws of crushing defeat (or the New York Yankees).

Need I run through the list of life-sapping disappointments ...

- In Game Seven of the 1946 World Series, Boston had the tying
run on third base with one out and watched as Roy Partee fouled out to first base and Tom McBride weakly grounded out to end the series.

- The one-game playoff in 1948 where the Red Sox, inexplicably, start Denny Galehouse over Mel Parnell, the team's ace, against the Cleveland Indians. Galehouse is shelled, leaves the game in the fourth inning trailing 4-1 en route to to Boston losing 8-3.

- In 1949, the Red Sox needed to win just one of the last two games of the season to win the pennant, but lost both games to the Yankees.

- Bob Gibson owning Boston in the 1967 World Series, dominating them in Game Seven to clinch the title.

- Carlton Fisk's home run in Game Six of the 1975 World Series is arguably one of the 10 greatest moments in World Series history, but people ... Boston lost Game Seven after blowing a 3-0 lead, tying the game and losing it, 4-3, in the ninth inning on a Joe Morgan single.

- Friggin' Bucky Dent in 1978! But, before we even get to Dent, Boston proceeds to blow a 14-game lead over the final two months of the season, stumble into a winner-take-all playoff game with the Yankees (at least the Good Lord put it in Fenway Park, so there was that), and watch as a woeful .240 hitter with a mere four home runs all year long launches a three-run shot over the Green Monster to erase a 2-0 Red Sox lead.

- Bill Buckner. Bill Buckner. Bill Buckner. Bill Buckner.

- Not even so much Buckner, but everyone forgets that Calvin Schiraldi blew two leads in Game Six of the 1986 World Series.

- And we can't forget that Bob Stanley still needed just one strike to somehow salvage this debacle, and responds by hurling a wild pitch, allowing Kevin Mitchell to score the tying run! Seriously, is there any other game that so closely parallels a Greek tragedy like Game Six of the 1986 World Series?

- On top of that ... everyone forgets Boston was up 3-0 in the sixth inning of Game Seven of the 1986 World Series.

- And then a defeat which sent me, literally, into the streets of my neighborhood wandering aimlessly at 1:30 a.m. ... Aaron Boone's lead-off home run in the 11th inning for the Yankees, capping yet another monstrous managerial effort by Grady Little and a comeback for New York from a 5-2 deficit in the eighth inning of Game Seven of the 2003 American League Championship Series.

This is merely a sampling. I didn't go into detail over Joe Pesky's role in the 1946 World Series loss or the other numerous regular season disappointments suffered prior to 2004 or the vast number of boneheaded decisions the organization made seemingly year after year (including the almost unforgivable calls to pass on Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays). Tell me ... what other team has such a maddening history of coming so close, yet failing so spectacularly ... so consistently?

So, again, I'm not saying other fans don't feel the same level of grief when their teams lose. It would be foolish to do so. But I do think it's a perfectly legitimate statement to say something to the effect of you can't begin to fathom what it's like to be a Red Sox fan if you're not one.

UPDATE: I don't think I'm selling this Denny Galehouse thing enough. It's the equivalent of a manager saying 'I know we've got Randy Johnson but let's go with Aaron Sele ... I've got a feeling.'

UPDATE 2: In doing some research on this, I discovered that Carlos Silva walked nine batters in 188.1 innings last year. That's insane.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The no-decision candidate

I already felt that Tom Chasteen wasn't the best choice for mayor of Athens-Clarke County, but after reading his forum in the Athens Banner-Herald, I'm more concerned with him falling down a lot while he walks.

Again, one doesn't get any impression of what the District 9 commissioner really feels about the proposed redistricting as he says it's good in one sentence, but poor-mouths it in the next. Does he like it? Does he dislike it? Who knows? He may sincerely not care, but one can't gather that either.

Chasteen also attempts to 'clarify' his statement when he suggested the state government had control over Athens-Clarke County, saying he meant only controlling the drawing of state legislative districts. And that the 'legislature makes decisions on this matter without a lot feedback from our local government, no matter who is in power.' That's true, but only to an extent ... particularly in light of the fact that it was a local government in Madison County that ultimately requested the redistricting. So, apparently, it does matter - a little - who is in power.

OK, all of this is fine and dandy. But what really makes me scratch my head is the absurd claim that Athens-Clarke County approving non-partisan elections is, in actuality, an endorsement of the redistricting. So, deciding that candidates at the local level should be able to vie for office in one general election, thus opening up the process to all voters, means we condone the Georgia General Assembly - and leaders who don't live in Athens-Clarke County - carving up our community for their own personal and political gain?

Listen, I voted for the nonpartisan elections - much to the chagrin of some of my fellow Democrats in the area. My rationale was that it was only fair for all citizens of Athens-Clarke County to be able to vote for their local representatives and not be hindered by the primary process or party allegiance. But how is that even remotely connected to the redistricting efforts?

Thus begins Chasteen's puzzling, confusing 'explanation':

Our community has always survived and thrived on being a little different from the world around us. Imagine - we are no longer saddled with immediate adversaries depending on the political make-up of our government versus that of the state. We have the opportunity to more readily work with members of the state and even national governments without the constraints of party affiliation. That circumstance will open doors to more of the officials we must work with to improve our roads, public services and schools.

No doubt this restructuring will present a challenge, as we will also not automatically have allies through the parties at the state level. But this restructuring is a challenge our community has the chance to take early strides to overcome. One of the strides I think we should take is to be prudent concerning redistricting. Now is not the time to take sides in the battle over lines. In the end, Athens-Clarke County has an opportunity to be in a better position politically, regardless of districts and regardless of the party with the most votes in Atlanta.

If those of us in the Athens-Clarke County government are able to adapt appropriately, and maximize the opportunity inherent in our new nonpartisan mandate, we will find a future where there will always be opportunities to work with state and national officials, and there will be far fewer issues that are beyond our control.

How exactly Athens-Clarke County - a predominantly progressive community - will be 'in a better position politically' by having its population sliced in half and lumped into two predominantly conservative districts is beyond me. And if a group of individuals who don't live in this community and whose political desires are contrary to the majority of citizens in Athens-Clarke County isn't grounds to 'take sides' - no matter how futile or ineffective the fight may be - than what is?

To me, this most recent forum just reaffirms the unnecessary and pathetic posturing Chasteen feels the need to take on with regard to seemingly every issue he confronts. It also suggest such a profound lack of understanding of both the nonpartisan elections and the redistricting bid, that it's hard to imagine many in this community backing his election.

It isn't often that one's clarification may do more damage than good, but it's possible that's the case with Chasteen.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Yglesias on Sullivan and cartoons

Earlier, I said I enjoyed Andrew Sullivan's Time column concerning the riots and violence over the offensive cartoon depictions of the prophet Mohammad. And while I still agree, more or less, with Sullivan's assertions in the piece, it doesn't necessarily mean I think he was breaking any new ground in the debate nor have I surrendered to his worldview.

And Matt Yglesias agrees with me:

There's no need for hard thinking precisely because this isn't a hard question. Of course newspapers should have the legal right to publish cartoons that offend some people. Of course the people offended by the resulting cartoons shouldn't start throwing around threats of violence to intimidate people. But what does this have to do with "the foreign policies of Bush and Blair" or the need for "very hard thinking" on the left?

Kinda faulty logic

It's convenient President Bush has decided now to tell us he thwarted a terrorist attack in 2002 just as questions surrounding the controversial domestic spying program heat up. Of course, he won't let administration officials participate in the hearings surrounding the shortcomings in the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina, but using other supposed 'confidential' material to justify your actions is 'OK.'

Regardless, is it me or is it a rather silly argument to say that a controversial - and possibly illegal - domestic spying program stopped a terrorist attack? Shouldn't it be doing that?

I mean, the president could ban air travel and that would directly reduce the number of terrorist attacks via airplane, but that doesn't mean it's a responsible or appropriate step to take.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Cartoon violence

As a person who spent much of his professional life in journalism, and someone whose current occupation requires him to spend much of his time working with journalists, it's safe to say I've always had a deep love for the 'freedom of the press.' A free press is essential to a democratic society. It keeps a watchful eye on those in power - be them in government or the private sector - and helps give a voice to those who wouldn't have one otherwise.

So when I see things like the violent protests in the Middle East over, admittedly, offensive cartoon depictions of the prophet Mohammad, it makes me cringe. Not just because I like to consider myself a fairly decent human being who respects the rights - and life - of others, but also because such tactics of intimidation are a blatant attempt to stamp down dissent and anything which might dare offend someone.

The violent uprisings in the Middle East over, again, a cartoon, are so ignorant, petty, stupid and banal, that it almost defies logic. It reveals the worst side of mankind and shows the true lack of tolerance on the part of Islamic extremists (not to mention the severe lack of respect of life they possess, but we already knew that considering they rammed planes into our buildings and routinely send young children strapped with explosives into crowded shopping malls to kill innocent people).

Here me now when I say - we are better than them.

I'll say it again just so I am clear - we are better than them.

And we are better than any individual - be it Muslim, Jew, Christian or atheist - who determines it is 'OK' to kill innocent people to further their agenda.

And this is an important distinction to make with regard to our own intolerances. I am no fan of Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell. As a Christian, I find it quite appalling to hear some of the things they say from their pulpits, attempting to pass their thoughts off as newly handed down Gospel from on high. One can color me 'intolerant' to the point that I will turn off the TV when they come on or mutter 'idiot' when I hear them espouse some sort of nonsense.

However, I would never deny them their American right to express their opinions or beliefs, no matter how inflammatory the language. I may vocalize my disagreements with them or refuse to watch their programs or buy any products from them or work with an organization that promotes different viewpoints from them, but I would never call for them to not have the ability to say what they want.

And I would never dream of rioting in the streets of my hometown, looting stores and hunting down and attacking people who shared the same worldview. Such actions are barbaric and void of any rationality.

Furthermore, despite my deep disagreements with the members of the Religious Right, I can not think of any occasion in which their leaders have encouraged their followers to take to the streets and kill innocent people. They may enact odd boycotts of Walt Disney World, but they do not preach violent rebellion.

It's why absurd and ignorant posts, like this one, which equate the Pat Robertsons of the world with murderous riots led by intolerant Islamic extremists, are so pathetic. Does this blogger really believe that if a handful of Christian extremists had slammed planes into the World Trade Center, we would have turned a blind eye?

That's grossly irresponsible to suggest and reveals a bigotry that is hard for me to fathom. The Christian community (as if we have one monolithic voice outside of The Big Man Upstairs) routinely condemns the actions of ignorant individuals who commit violence in the name of God, and it doesn't pass on marching orders to its followers urging them to wreak havoc in our cities. Such actions are in direct contradiction to the teachings of Christ.

Does the Religious Right make a big ole stink over a lot of, in my view, silly things? Of course. It's always been hard for me to figure out, seeing how the Scriptures repeatedly tell us that Christianity will be persecuted:

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
- Matthew 5:10-12

So, when I see things like works of art that defame Christ or hear any individual talk poorly about my faith, I accept it. Perhaps that's one of the (many) differences between Christianity and Islam with regard to this particular episode. The images of the prophet Mohammad are considered holy, while Christianity repeatedly speaks of persecuation throughout.

Hell, our God was nailed to a tree, and we embrace it as the one chapter of the most pivotal aspect of Christ's story.

But such tolerance extends throughout the West. The Islamic community in America has denounced the cartoons, but also strenously denounced the violence. So have Jews and Hindus and atheists alike. Do we get it right 100 percent of the time? Absolutely not ... and not even close. With regard to tolerance and respecting the viewpoints of others, we do have a long way to go (turn on any cable news network and watch their 'debate' shows ... respecting other viewpoints is alien to these people).

But we don't march out as a society and kill those who think differently than us.

Radical Islamic extremists, by their actions, are telling the world that if you dare do anything we don't agree with, we're going to kill you. Whether it's an offensive cartoon in a Danish newspaper or using female U.S. soldiers to defend Saudi Arabia from invasion, we have no tolerance for your way of life and we aim to end it.

Watch the reports, listen to the calls from their leaders and witness the violence unfold in the streets.

And keep saying it ... we are better than them.

Guilt by association?

By no means am I a huge defender of fraternities. Despite having several good friends who were members of fraternities in college, it was something that wasn't for me as I simply didn't get along with the vast majority of folks who joined them.

But that doesn't necessarily mean I'm completely on board with the Athens Banner-Herald's recent editorial proposal to ban the SAE fraternity from the University of Georgia campus ... nor does it mean that I'm not open to some sort of sanctions or penalties against SAE for the actions stemming from the death of Lewis Fish last week.

As you may recall, Fish died after a night of partying which featured him consuming lethal amounts of alcohol, cocaine and heroin. Fish's friends, most of whom are now in police custody for a variety of charges ranging from underage drinking to drug possession, have all said they spent part of their night at a party at the SAE house.

The Banner-Herald said the fraternity should be booted from campus, primarily because the national organization's investigation would probably lag and turn up, more than likely, favorable findings toward the UGA chapter even if some blame was to go around. They raised the analogy of the Georgia football team, pointing out how quickly the school would react if a similar event with that team.

Yes and no.

Personally, I don't think the fraternity should be booted from campus. I base this on the fact that - to date - there is no evidence linking the distribution of drugs to any sanctioned event at the SAE house, nor is there any indication that current members and/or officers of the fraternity encouraged or forced Fish and his friends to take said drugs.

However, the paper is right in one regard, they just selected a poor analogy to illustrate it. There is precedent at the University to punish an entire organization for the actions of a few. The men's basketball team had its season abruptly ended because of a handful of members who participated in what amounted a fake class designed to boost their grades, thus keeping them on the court. It was never proven that the entire team was guilty of the offense, but nonetheless UGA took action against the entire program to set an example.

I do think the fraternity should face some sort of sanctions, however. Perhaps limiting the number of on-campus parties they can hold or restricting the number of individuals who can live in the fraternity house. Still, until definitive evidence can be produced to show this was a more widespread problem in that particular fraternity, removing them from campus because of the tragic and unfortunate actions of a few seems a little extreme to me.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Candidate in the 9th District

Courtesy of Adrian, I received a press release from Kelly Girtz, who has recently declared his candidacy for the District 9 seat on the Athens-Clarke County Commission. That's the seat being vacated by Tom Chasteen and already has two candidates in Ed Vaughn and Alvin Sheets.

Girtz is a teacher at the Classic City Learning Center and has lived in Athens-Clarke County for the past 10 years.

Says Girtz:

My interest in a seat on the County Commission developed through my work with children and families in Clarke County. To fulfill the potential of this community, I must now extend my work beyond the classroom. Expanding economic opportunities, ensuring appropriate land use, creating viable transportation options and supporting safe neighborhoods are all essential to the health of this community and its residents. Fortunately, all are possible if they are supported by sound decision making from the Athens-Clarke County Commission.

Some of the language is a little pretentious, if you ask me, but he seems to be a good guy with an honest desire to make this community a better place. We need more of that. So look him up and ask about his campaign, particularly if you live in the 9th District.

LPDS update

Who would have thought it ... the rezoning of the old Cofer's site (in order to build La Puerta del Sol) passes 8-2 with only States McCarter and Elton Dodson voting against it. Seeing how they were the two commissioners who represent the affected area, I'm sure this is going to upset a lot of folks over there who were against it.

I think this show how marginal McCarter has become in the political landscape of this city. His wackiness regarding his brief bid for mayor, as well as the sheer anger he unleashed during the initial battle over the rezoning, has obviously isolated several folks on the commission.

Dodson was put in a difficult spot. In email exchange with me last year, he said he personally supported the concept but would find it difficult voting against the wishes of the majority of his constituents, which he felt opposed the rezoning. Ultimately, he cast his lot with what he viewed as the majority (the opposition), and that has probably helped him earn some stripes with the voters over there. Plus, if he did really 'personally' support the LPDS - as he has said in the media and in email exchanges - then it's win-win. He gets the cover of voting against it, but the satisfaction that a non-sprawl, mixed-use development will pop up on the eastside.

Anyway ... I'm glad Bruno Rubio will get to open up his restaurant on the eastside. I hope those who so vehemently opposed its development will give him a chance.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Ethan goes to The Office

I've already stated how much I love the NBC version of The Office, particularly after it found its legs in its second season by fleshing out the storylines of Jim, Michael, Pam and the rest of the gang. And the primary storyline which has enthralled The Wife and I is that of the romance between Jim and Pam, or the lackthereof (seeing how she's engaged to another individual).

Aside from the obvious reasons I like the show - namely the humor - I've really enjoyed this subtle examination of love, and I think a lot of folks are overlooking it because of the sheer silliness of the show. It's taken me a bit to determine why I really like this particular storyline, and it finally dawned on me after 'The Booze Cruise' episode - The Office is a rather clever adaptation of Edith Wharton's novel Ethan Frome.

I'm stretching a bit, aren't I?

Hear me out though.

Ever since I first read Ethan Frome during my junior year in high school (WEST-side! 1995 state champs baby! ... er, sorry), it's been my favorite book. I thought it featured beautiful language and wove a complicated love story that, while ultimately tragic, contained hopeful elements to it.

The book tells the story of Ethan Frome, a man trapped in a loveless marriage with his wife Zeena in the barren and dismal landscape of New England in the winter. Zeena, a sickly woman, is taken care of by her younger cousin, Mattie Silver. Everything Zeena isn't, Mattie is ... and Ethan falls in love with her. But, being married already and fearing that Mattie has her romantic interests elsewhere, he keeps his feelings bottled up inside.

Instead, Ethan relishes in the mundane. Things like escorting Mattie back from her weekly trip in to town constitute the best part of his week.

And that's the part of the story that is most impressive to me. There are tons of other elements at work in Ethan Frome - the psychology of the bleak landscape being one primary one - but they don't possess the same hold over me as the descriptions of unrequited love found throughout the book. What's most powerful to me is how Wharton is so clearly and so passionately able to articulate what it feels like to have deep romantic feelings for someone, yet feel as if you will never be able to disclose those feelings.

And that's why I partially connected with it because, well, I had a crush on a girl (one which lasted for quite some time). Granted while that relationship didn't exactly work out, I would feel the same feelings later in my life for The Wife (during the arduous year before I was finally brave enough to ask her out on a date). It's safe to say anyone who has ever been in love with - or, at the very least, had romantic feelings for - someone who was unaware has experienced the emotions Ethan experienced.

That's what makes it parallel The Office so closely. Strip away the unnecessary elements such as Ethan's marriage or Mattie's availability, and you get to the crux of the story. Jim feels the same sort of exasperated, yet abounding love for Pam that Ethan held for Mattie. And we are led to believe Pam holds the same feelings for him, but the social constructs of their environment (the office) and their circumstances (her engagement) prevent them from fulfilling their desires.

So, Jim relishes in the mundane - he enjoys playing jokes on fellow office mates with Pam (the placing of all of Dwight's items in the vending machine was tremendous) and longs for their shared walk to the car at the end of the work day.

And, as in the recent episode 'The Carpet,' we see Jim grow forelorn when he feels Pam is moving away from him. As her fiancee spends the day up in the office and Jim is relegated to a temporary seat in the back of the office, he is quite miserable. He feels her slipping away from him and, at the end of the episode, does his best to soldier on by asking another woman out on a date.

But when he returns to his desk, he finds seven messages on his voicemail. They are all from Pam, and they run the gamut from her missing having him around to talk with to more inside jokes she has for him, and only him.

The smile on his face grows bigger, and his worries are washed away. This incredibly simple act of kindness, this geniune token of friendship, has reaffirmed his love for her, and one can almost hear Wharton's description in the background:

The other he tried to slip through hers; but she eluded him nimbly, and Frome's heart, which had swung out over a black void, trembled back to safety.

One of the central themes I took away from Ethan Frome was the beauty and purity of unexpressed love. The only boundaries and restrictions on unexpressed love is that of the imagination. It remains clean and wholesome. Once the love between Ethan and Mattie becomes apparent, the relationship grows murky. The wonder of those nighttime walks vanish as they have wrestle with the choices they have made.

And that's where The Office is right now - dealing with the unexpressed love between Jim and Pam. When the two finally cross that bridge and begin sorting with their feelings in the real world, and not simply enjoying the imaginary constructs of their mind, things will get more complicated.

Best of the best

You know what's kinda hard? Trying to pick your 15 favorite songs of all time. And I'm sure this list is very incomplete. For instance, no Tupac? But, while I like the body of work, it was hard to pinpoint one particular song which stood out more than the ones on this list.

Plus, having to sift through Bruce Springsteen songs was tough. Had to cut 'Darlington County' to get 'Youngstown' on there.

So, in no particular order:

'Breathe Me' - Sia
'Cupid' - Sam Cooke
'Uptight' - Stevie Wonder
'These Arms Of Mine' - Otis Redding
'Cry To Me' - Solomon Burke
'Atlantic City' - Bruce Springsteen
'Youngstown' - Bruce Springsteen
'Peaceful World' - John Mellencamp
'Long Time Gone' - Dixie Chicks
'The Way I Am' - Eminem
'Rabbit Run' - Eminem
'Arms of a Woman' - Amos Lee
'Elsewhere' - Sarah McLachlan
'Through The Floor' - Edwin McCain
'Keeping The Faith' - Billy Joel

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Shameless product promotion

Been busy with work fellas, so sorry for the break. I've got a couple of ideas for some posts that I'm working on (and not all of them are political in nature, so a break from that), and I hope to get one or two of them up by the weekend. What I'll do now, however, is do some free PR for some things I've taken a likin' to.

- Bernzomatic Flexible Utility Lighter. I go to Sam's Club looking to buy some more point-and-click lighters, but I learn they don't sell those anymore. Instead, they suggest this new product they just began to carry with a bendable neck. It's no simple lighter ... it's a friggin' torch. And three of those bad boys for $12. The wife is a bit unnerved by them, but it's by far the coolest thing I've bought in a while.

- Terrapin Cream Ale. Not only is this an Athens brew, this stuff is absurdly good. My boy Tim Kelly tipped me off to this beverage - I had only gone for the Rye Ale previously - and, safe to say, it was a good suggestion. Honestly, it's like Cream Ale ... but with all the beer goodness.

- Smoking Loon Chardonnay. Let's talk about wine a bit. My (other) boy Matt pushed this wine on me last fall, but I didn't even open the bottle until Tuesday night. There's only half left.

- Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. I've only read excerpts prior to receiving a copy for Christmas, and it's incredible. It's always good to read a sound, intellectual defense of Christianity rather than whatever drivel is on Trinity Broadcasting Network these days. Lewis doesn't let me down. Each chapter starts out with what I feel is a fairly simplistic argument that I'm about to discount, but then he turns on a dime and offers a deep, rational and powerful argument that blows my mind.

- The Office on NBC. I was so ready to give up on this show after what I felt was a lackluster first season. Everything was taken right from the BBC version and didn't translate well. The second season, however, has rocked. It is the funniest show on television and, underneath it all, are several incredibly sweet storylines (Jim and Pam, Michael's desire to be loved, etc.). I've taken to buying them from iTunes as of late just so I can have them on the go.