Friday, March 31, 2006

Ask and ye shall receive ...

Russ asked me to do a post about the recent illegal immigration scuttle, and I had been meaning to do so anyway, so here we go.

Right off the bat let me say this - I sincerely have absolutely no idea how to process all of this. There isn't a clear way to come down on this, though I lean toward thinking much of the legislation is poor policy (and downright not feasible to enforce effectively).

If you view it through the prism of the Christian worldview, it's difficult to comprehend making it a crime for some individuals to seek a better life and an escape from the poverty and despair which ravages communities in Mexico, Central America and the Carribbean. We're called to welcome in the stranger, so I have a hard time justifying penalizing folks just looking for a better way.

Still, we're a society of laws and the law must be respected. Of course even that gets tricky as civil disobedience during the Civil Rights Movement helped produce legislation which ended segregation and combatted institutional discrimination.

The McCain-Kennedy bill is different than some bills, in that it calls for a massive guest worker program and a series of steps to assimilate existing illegal immigrants into our society. This includes the acknowledgement that those who came to the United States broke immigration law and the payment of back taxes and a fine (over a to be determined time frame, depending on the financial security of the immigrants). When that is completed, then they can apply to become full American citizens.

Technically, this isn't amnesty because amnesty would be a blanket forgiveness of a wrongdoing, automatically bringing them into the population without any penalty. The McCain-Kennedy proposal doesn't offer 'forgiveness' but instead sets a series of steps they can undertake to gain citizenship. There's some give with the take.

A bill by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), however, is sharply different and includes (in its original form) the construction of a 700-mile fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as harsh penalties for not just illegal immigrants, but those social service agencies which assist them (and we're not talking about 'coyotes' which ferry immigrants across the border, but actually groups which offer services to the poor ... as well as merely giving a thirsting man some water to drink). Understandably, I have strong disagreements with Sensenbrenner's bill. Regardless of where one comes down on illegal immigration, making it a crime to giving someone a drink of water is despicable.

And there are a whole other myriad of bills out there. If I had to choose one, I'd say the McCain-Kennedy proposal is the most sound one as far as balancing the requirements of the law with the reality of the situation ... and that reality is that if we do decide to begin massive deportations of undocumented immigrants, we're going to see some very real and very negative effects on our economy, and the ever-so-slowly growing economy of Mexico ($10 billion a year is sent back to families in Mexico every year by undocumented immigrants seeing how even the lowest wages in the United States are 12 times as much as wages in Mexico). These immigrants work long hours for low wages and are essential to our agricultural and construction industries, as well as numerous jobs in our service sector. Furthermore, these immigrants flood American merchants with this recently earned money, thus keeping our economy chugging along.

That's important to consider as we discuss any type of immigration legislation. Back in my days at the Athens Banner-Herald we had a correspondent who put together an excellent series on the impact of Hispanic and Latino immigrants on the community. He dedicated one of the stories to the commonly heard allegations leveled against illegal immigrants and discovered many of them were false.

For instance, accusations they chew up our services are widely exaggerated. Fear of deportation keeps most undocumented immigrants from even seeking such services, whether through direct contact with the agencies or through a second- or third-party. In Georgia, for instance, illegal immigrants are not eligible for government housing, while only 1.3 percent of welfare expenditures go to Hispanic families (and, again, only legal Latino or Hispanic residents can access this service).

The claim they strain our medical services has some truth, but their presence causes no greater burden than a legal citizen who is simply without health insurance. This makes it very difficult to levy much of the blame for soaring health care costs solely on illegal immigration. Some of the blame, to be sure, but it's a stretch to say it's severe based on most available data.

And illegal immigrants still pay their share of taxes. If they are employed by Wal-Mart or another company and receive a legitimate paycheck, then they pay income tax. If the pay is under the table, as many jobs in construction and landscaping operate, the Hispanics and Latinos must still pay sales and ad valorem taxes when they purchase goods.

Also, Latinos often rely on fake documents to gain work, which mean they frequently pay Medicaid and Social Security taxes on which they'll never see a return. Undocumented immigrants often purchase Social Security numbers from legal residents, which means they pay the taxes but don't receive the benefits later in life.

Now, I'm not going to sit here and say there isn't a problem with illegal immigration. The influx of undocumented workers into the country does put a strain on many of our service, even if not to the extent their detractors make it out to be. There's also the question of how to responsibly handle such rapid population growth with regard to development, services, etc.

Furthermore, several of the terrorists who participated in the attacks on 9/11 entered this country illegally, so it's imperative we do something to make our nation secure while respecting and honoring those individuals who are seeking to make a new life for themselves and their families. I believe, however, it's important to note that the terrorists entered our country illegally not by sneaking across the Rio Grande, but through access with Canada and our international airports (yet no one seems to be suggesting we build a massive wall between us and Canada).

Too much of the legislation being bantered about right now, sadly, does have some discriminatory tones to it, and this isn't new for America. Influxes of Italian, Polish, Japanese and Irish immigrants - many of whom came here illegally as well - to this country resulted in unfortunate discriminatory policies and an 'America-first' attitude (the American Party in the mid-1800s is a perfect example of a group rising up to oppose the arrival of immigrants from a different culture). So there seems to be a bit of history repeating itself here, even if the rhetoric is considerably more subtle now.

It's a tough nut to crack. As of now, the McCain-Kennedy proposal appears to be the most sound, but it definitely isn't a perfect piece of legislation by any means.


Not that Cynthia McKinney isn't an embarassment to the Democratic Party - because she is - but the most entertaining and stupid thing in the AJC article concerning her possible arrest is this:

In what she says is a quote from the late hip-hop artist Tupac Shakur, she adds, "Some things never change."

OK, granted that is one of the lyrics in the song Changes, but isn't kinda dumb to attribute that quote to Tupac? I mean, everyone says 'some things will never change.' People have said that for, quite possibly, centuries. It isn't like Tupac all of a sudden dreamed up that oratorical gem.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The uproar has begun

Everyone's coming out against Bob Smith's horrible idea to impose state-mandated curfews on local government meetings.

The Athens Banner-Herald pens a nice editorial about, featuring this gem:

Smith might have a point about whether government officials can think clearly enough at 2 a.m. to make responsible decisions. Unfortunately, we've seen enough irrational lawmaking under the sun-streaked Gold Dome to know that the time of day has precious little influence.

Publius at Athens Politics talks about it here, while GP is quite blunt in his assessment.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Jmac vs. UGA's College Republicans (sort of)

Well, not really.

They seem like decent enough people, but I came across the University of Georgia College Republicans blog this afternoon and was treated to a healthy does of propaganda, half-truths and outright false statements. To be fair, at least the College Republicans have a blog as the Young Democrats merely have an unimpressive web site.

Still, I'd like for both political parties to occasionally drop the standard talking points and cease this perpetuating cycle of painting the other side as a dark entity out to destroy America. Granted, I'm a good Democrat and I find little to anything appealing about Republican ideology, so I poke fun and point out my disagreements where it's appropriate. But I sincerely don't think Republicans are out to ruin the country. Rather, I just think it's their ideology which is faulty (love the sinner, hate the sin as my mother would say).

But it boggles my mind that seemingly fairly educated students could put out such assinine comments such as ...

Once again lambasting Jack Murtha and belittling (without a valid reason, mind you) the Democrats 2006 national security vision (as an aside, I've got plenty of problems with Democratic national security vision, the primary one being they shift their goals around and don't stand and fight when elections roll around because 'Republicans are strong on national security' ... grrrr, this will definitely be a future post). First off, you can disagree with Murtha's proposal to withdraw troops from Iraq immediately (I don't necessarily think it's a good idea), but it's downright disgraceful to call him a coward. This is a man who earned two Purple Hearts, the Bronze Star with Combat "V" for valor in combat and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry ... not to mention the fact that he volunteered for service in Vietnam at a time when many of today's prominent leaders from both parties were doing everything in their power to get out of said service. If anyone has earned the right to speak his/her mind about military matters without being labeled a coward, it's him.

Second, J.P. Emanuel says it's impossible to double the number of our special operations forces. Now seeing how Emanuel himself was a special operations soldier, I don't want to speak out of turn since I'll make the safe assumption he knows a lot more about this than I do. But it seems to me there must be an appropriate procedure to increase the number of troops in our special forces without sacrificing or compromising the existing standards we have in place for their training. His criticism seems rather knee-jerk to me.

And, of course, it is silly for Democrats to say they have a plan to catch Osama bin Ladin. But it's quite obvious Republicans don't have one either.

• The posting concerning the immigration reform protests was the most unusual to me. Primarily because it blantly confuses media coverage of an important event to the Hispanic community with organizing and orchestrating a protest. There are apparently a handful of Hispanic and Latino radio personalities who had a hand in coming up with some ideas for the protest, but there is a distinct difference between the mainstream media and a radio personality (something which all too often is lost upon many of today's Republicans who equate someone like Rush Limbaugh to an actual journalist).

The CRs apparently missed this key passage:

Telemundo Chicago, a Spanish-language TV station, began its coverage blitz 1 1/2 weeks before a recent rally, though there was no urging that viewers attend, said news director Esteban Creste.

"We just told them what was going on," Creste said. "While we were not trying to mobilize people, it might have prompted people to decide to go there.

• Continuing their assault against the media, the CRs bash an ABC employee for a news memo which featured disparaging comments about President Bush. The memo was pretty foolish, but to play the 'liberal media card' again is ridiculous. As I've argued many times before, bias exists in the eye of the beholder. If you want to see a bias - be it liberal or conservative - you're going to find evidence to support your belief.

Regarding the memo itself ... sure, there is a definite possibility this employee disliked Bush. There also is a definite possibility this employee, as a member of the media, grew tired of a political leader belittling his profession and offering spin and spin when the media is seeking a definitive answer on important questions. Frustration happens.

• There's also criticism of the kidnapped Christian Peacemakers in Iraq, who after being rescued by American and British forces, offered their own criticism of the invasion of Iraq. You know, it's just kind of hard for me to comprehend pointed attacks against individuals dedicated to the Christian principles of peace and compassion ... so much so they risked their lives and were eventually captured by terrorists. To suggest they weren't thankful for their rescue (which is an out-and-out misrepresentation of their positions) and say they're responsible for the turmoil because U.S. forces can't focus on eliminating terrorists is absurd.

Political discussion is a pesky thing, and I don't appreciate irresponsible statements. And far be it from me to completely take the high road and cry innocent as I have all too often returned childish criticism with more childish criticism, but I think it's important for everyone to have an educated discussion of the issues which doesn't resort into name-calling and flame-throwing.

Whither local control?

Enough already with this new precedent of screwing with local governments, Athens-Clarke County in particular. Bob Smith, who like Ralph Hudgens, is the thorn in the side of individuals everywhere dedicated to that radical concept of local control, has determined he knows best how long our local governments should be allowed to meet.

Smith has proposed a bill mandating that local government meetings, like the Athens-Clarke County Commission, have to wrap up their meetings by midnight. While Smith says this doesn't target Athens-Clarke County, it's hard to wonder how it doesn't seeing how, according to the Athens Banner-Herald, six of the 15 meetings this year have lasted until after midnight.

Listen, many of these meetings do go on absurdly long. Mayor Heidi Davison has said so, and everyone not named Carl Jordan has said so. But it isn't as if they're deliberately going long or that they're poorly organized. Typically what makes these meetings last so long is the fact we have such an active local population, resulting in longer-than-normal times of public input. To this, I give a hearty 'good!'

Furthermore, of the six this year which have lasted longer, I would venture to say they have been meetings which have dealt with difficult issues such as the La Puerta del Sol rezoning. Thoughtful debate and ample public input is necessary for our commissioners to make educated and responsible decisions.

Again, there are legitimate ways to streamline the meetings, but for an answer to come from (yet another) state representative who doesn't live in Athens-Clarke County is ridiculous. I wonder how much Oconee County citizens would like it if Jane Kidd or Keith Heard passed a bill forbidding clear-cutting of trees in their community, especially seeing how good the folks out there are at stripping the land down to the red clay.

And, once more, kudos to Davison for striking back:

I would suggest to Rep. Smith that he move to Athens-Clarke County and declare himself a candidate for mayor when qualifying begins June 26, and then he can control the agenda, which he seems to want to do from Atlanta.

You see Smith was Ralph Hudgens before being Ralph Hudgens was cool. The man has routinely ignored the wishes of Athens-Clarke County based on, well, I don't know. I'd say chalk it up to ideological differences, but he's too inconsistent for that. I'd say chalk it up to a dislike of Athens-Clarke County in general, but I've seen him at too many happy hours for that.

Whatever it is, Smith has a peculiar habit of just refusing to allow our community to decide its own fate. Case in point is the hotel-motel tax increase, which has to be approved by the Georgia General Assembly for a local community to then open it up to a vote by its local leaders. Smith has stubbornly refused to submit the bill and killed it each time because, quite simply, he doesn't like taxes.

That's fine and dandy, and I for one don't think the proposed increase is the best thing to do either. But at least let Athens-Clarke County determine if it should increase or decrease a local tax.

So, I ask, where has local control gone? Where has the respect and consideration to the individuals who represent local communities - particularly Athens-Clarke County - gone? Everything from Hudgens' meddling with our district lines for his own petty partisan purposes to Hudgens (again) introducing a bill mandating how wide stream buffers should be to Smith's heavy-handed handling with both the hotel-motel tax and how long our leaders should be allowed to meet screams of disdain for some local communities to march to the beat of a different drummer.

I wonder what atrocious bill will trickle down from Atlanta now? I'm waiting for one of Athens-Clarke County's two least favorite representatives to tell us we can't leave our lights on after 8 p.m. or that two children per household is enough.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A Prosperous turnout

Pat yourself on the back Athens-Clarke County - more than 750 people turned out for the first meeting of Partners for a Prosperous Athens. That's great news, and I'm glad it was so well attended. DiDDY over at Athens Politics attended, and I hope he puts up a summary over there.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Couple of things

- I don't know Mac Rawson, and I'm sure he's a good guy who I may very well vote for if he does run for office, but is it just me or does anyone else get the feeling the interview went something like this:

Blake Aued: Who are some possible candidates to take on Sen. Hudgens? We've heard Jim Ponsoldt and John Scoggins. Have you heard those names?
Mac Rawson: I'm thinking of running.
Blake Aued: Oh ...
Mac Rawson: Yeah, I'm running. Put that in there. That I may run. Or am running.
Blake Aued: Anyone else?
Mac Rawson: I'm the frontrunner.

Now, I want to beat Ralph Hudgens as much as the next Athens-Clarke County Democrat, but is advertising how bad we want to beat him and practically begging for an opponent to show up the best campaign strategy? When the Republican spokesperson only has to say 'The Democrats are mad about everything ... that's kind of their permanent state' and come out looking better, something's gone wrong in our approach to this.

- Perhaps if the state and federal levels actually put up the appropriate supplementary funding for education, we wouldn't be talking about property taxes. This, as we all know, is how today's GOP wins elections - promise the moon and cut your taxes ... and, as we all know, it ain't working out too well either.

- It finalized the destruction of my bracket, but George Mason reaching the Final Four is pretty cool. Even more amazing is the fact the Patriots didn't sub anyone from the 10 minute mark of the second half. Of course, this did leave us with the weakest Final Four in recent memory (two SEC teams and a squad from the Colonial Athletic Association?).

- 'Stop embarassing the nursing profession?' Next, is Mr. Nicolaus going to accuse of her siding with the terrorists?

- I'll be honest - I've got no idea what the ABH editorial is about, but I'm intrigued by the headline.

- Paul is all over Sunday's Living section, and the ole musee gets some nice recognition.

- Be sure to go to Cedar Shoals at 7 p.m. tonight for a meeting of Partners for a Prosperous Athens. The group's leaders penned a nice forum on Sunday, and I hope you can make it. I'm gonna try.

Hit some Mo ...

I was kinda down on the whole Bronson Arroyo-for-Wily Mo Pena trade last week, but I've changed my tune in recent days. Let's face it, Arroyo probably has maxed out his potential in professional baseball. He's not going to morph into a No. 1 or No. 2 starter - and if he does, my money's on that it comes in a contract year - and the Red Sox are deep in starting pitching (Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett, Matt Clement, David Wells, Tim Wakefield, Jon Papelpon, John Lester, etc.).

Plus, Pena is overflowing in potential. True, his strikeouts have been high the past few years, but he's got ridiculous power and could flourish at Fenway Park. And he's, what, 23 or 24? If he can settle into a .275/25-30 HR/80-90 RBI clip, the trade's a huge win for Boston.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Couple of things

- It's a rather lame bumper sticker, but apparently it causes police officers in DeKalb County to enforce unconstitutional laws.

While Grier argues her bumper sticker is political speech protected by the First Amendment, the case that challenged the lewd decal law didn't involve such a serious message. In 1991, the ACLU backed a motorist who was cited for a "S--- happens bumper sticker.

The court called the decal law vague and overly broad.

The current edition of the Georgia Law Enforcement Handbook, which officers rely on, doesn't mention that the decal law was overturned.

Weber said the ACLU will seek to have the handbook revised.

"The law is unenforceable, and departments are supposed to inform their officers," Weber said.

It's been 15 years folks. Might be time for an update.

- Ah yes, the university is here to rain on the parade of the 95 percent of the individuals who don't break the law. This whole thing is terribly confusing. What constitutes 'set-up' in the grand scheme of things? Is me putting our my tent to reserve my spot a set-up? Or do I have to have a grill a-blazin' to break the new law? Same thing with 'unauthorized electric and cable hook-ups for TVs and satellites' ... do generators fall into that category, or are we just referring to the morons who break into buildings to use outlets?

And a new parking area by the intramural fields makes up for this Damon Evans? How in the world is crossing College Station Road 'safer' for pedestrians?

- As Matt pointed out in a mocking text message last night, LSU has completely destroyed my bracket.

- In a little good-natured competition at the ole musee, the attendance totals for dueling gallery talks between Paul and Carissa are in ... and the latter has come out on top. In Paul's defense, it was mighty rainy for his talk, but we have proof right here of Carissa's 6-2 win.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Building an army?

The Athens Area Chamber of Commerce is holding a candidates training seminar today, which - while being an understandable and responsible thing to do for the community - just kinda proves to me the Chamber is even more focused on recruiting individuals to help advance their political agenda.

Now they've got Clarke County Democratic Party chairman John Jeffreys addressing the group to discuss fundraising, so this is hardly a partisan effort. But, then again, I don't necessarily think we have a huge partisan divide in this community. Rather you're either pro-Chamber's political message or anti-Chamber's political message (because I believe it's important to separate the political arm of the Chamber from its stated mission of helping local businesses, an overwhelming number of whom are small businesses).

What did make me chuckle when I glanced at the agenda was that Athens-Clarke County Commissioner States McCarter is the slated speaker to address 'Defining Yourself As A Candidate.' Truth be told, there's no better person in the community to do just that. Good or bad, folks definitely know where they stand when it comes to McCarter. Considering I've respectfully disagreed with many of McCarter's recent positions, I do shudder to think what kind of wisdom he'll espouse.

Now should the Chamber be doing this? I don't really know. From my understanding, its Political Action Committee is overseeing this, so that gives them enough wiggle room. But it's growing harder and harder to distinguish between the Chamber and its PAC, which gives the impression that this could be just an attempt to bolster its ranks with a pool of qualified candidates who can seek office throughout the community. Considering the Chamber's leadership endorsed the recent GOP power grab in Athens-Clarke County, this seems to me to be another step in an attempt to take control of the local government.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Couple of things

- Don't let anyone tell you it's about finding an ideology more closely in-tune with theirs. The threatened jump by some Georgia legislators to the GOP is nothing more than pure political opportunism. The three legislators - Reps. Mickey Channell of Greensboro, Larry "Butch" Parrish of Swainsboro and Richard Royal of Camilla - are considering moving because they represent conservative districts, and they know the current GOP leadership has no respect for their years of service unless there is an 'R' next to their name (case in point, the sudden uproar against long-time Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin). This is about self-preservation, that's all.

- Publius at Athens Politics talks about Denise Majette seeking state office again.

- Georgia Sports Blog makes a connection I can't believe I haven't thought of yet.

- The Red Sox traded for Pedro Cerrano, er, Wily Mo Pena yesterday, and Lancaster lets us know how the Reds feel about it.

- And, if you're around the ole musee this afternoon, swing by and hear my co-worker Carissa talk about Georgia O'Keeffe in honor of Women's History Month at 5:30 p.m.

Mayoral update

Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Tom Chasteen may be the presumed frontrunner for this fall's mayoral election, but it isn't because of anything he's done as of late. It's more because his biggest obstacle to the job, current mayor Heidi Davison, hasn't made any formal announcement on whether she'll seek a second term.

Chasteen, in fact, has done a marvelous job of isolating numerous groups of voters in Athens-Clarke County the past few months, something a candidate for mayor probably shouldn't be doing. Case in point, the latest letter from a library employee taking him to task for his comments belittling how much money they earn. This is the third letter in as many days criticizing Chasteen for his statement that library workers were unworthy of salary increases and shouldn't be paid as much as the county's physical laborers.

While I do think both groups are underpaid, it is rather insensitive (as well as poor politics on his part) to even give the suggestion that a group of county employees aren't worthy of their wages. If he thinks so little of the staff at the library, than what does he think about the staff at the rest of the public sector offices?

I'm quite sure Tom Chasteen is a personable fella, but if you're running a campaign for mayor it doesn't seem wise to me to do things like side with the Republican-controlled General Assembly over redistricting and bash county employees.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Technology rocks

I've got to give a hat tip to Russ for pointing out Pandora by the Music Genome Project to me. You enter an artist or song you like in the opening menu, and then it generates a streaming audio station for built around that artist/song and others which it thinks you'll like.

And, as of now, it's free. So that's cool

Friday, March 17, 2006

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

And now, in honor of the day of my people, a joke courtesy of these fine folks:

Padraic Flaherty came home drunk every evening toward ten. Now, the Missus was never too happy about it, either. So one night sh hides in the cemetery and figures to scare the beejeezus out of him. As poor Pat wanders by, up from behind a tombstone she jumps in a red devil costume screaming, "Padraic Sean Flaherty, sure and ya' don't give up you're drinkin' and it's to Hell I'll take ye'". Pat, undaunted, staggered back and demanded, "Who the hell ARE you?". Too that the Missus replied, "I'm the divil ya' damned old fool". To which Flaherty remarked, "Damned glad to meet you sir, I'm married to yer sister."

If you're in the mood for music, check out Gaelic Storm. I went and saw them in concert a few weeks back here in Athens, and they were quite good.

Trap rap?

OK, I see ... because you merely don't care for something, that justifies increased police presence where it's performed. That's a mighty impressive strawman you've raised up there Mr. Borden.

Listen, I'm not opposed to having additional police officers in front of the area outside Insomnia, but that's primarily because that section of town has had a history of fights and other disturbances, not because of what type of music is played there. Arguing the latter is silly.

I like hip-hop and most people I know like hip-hop as well. In its purest form, it's a raw and unflinching version of poetry which offers a glimpse of life and culture few Americans truly understand, including most individuals who care for rap music. Most new forms of music always meet with resistance in the outset - see rock and roll in the 1950s, Motown in the 1960s, outlaw country in the 1970s, etc. - because some people quite simply don't like them.

Mr. Borden doesn't like rap music, and that's perfectly acceptable. It is foolish, however, to argue that rap music is the reason the area around Insomnia receives increased police protection.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Remembering William Hartman

Georgia legend William Hartman passed away this afternoon at Athens Regional Medical Center after what can only be described as a full and fulfilling life. The longtime Georgia coach was not only a treasure to the Athens-Clarke County community, but he also was the grandfather of my buddy Scott.

I only got the chance to meet Hartman a handful of times, but my favorite meeting came when me and John From Texas had the chance to sit down with him at Scott and Meimi's wedding. We're shooting the breeze with him, and Hartman inquired about where in Texas John was from. He then offers 'a really good friend of mine is from Texas, and he still lives out there, you may know him ... his name is Sammy Baugh.'

When a good friend of yours is the man responsible for ushering in the forward pass in football, that's pretty cool.

Here's to a life well lived, and one that will be truly missed. And let's be sure to keep Scott and all of the Hartman family in our prayers.

Couple of things

- Not that I'm a guy who's well-versed in this kind of stuff, nor do I think that farmers didn't suffer over the past six months, but what in the world constitutes a drought these days? I remember getting a lot of rain for, well, the past year or so. It seems to me that we're setting a high bar here. Then again, I really have no idea about this kind of thing.

- Going from worse to worse with regard to health care?

- I'm glad to see the Georgia General Assembly focusing on serious issues. Seriously, people, this is what you're debating these days? Not the state's economic woes or health care issues (see above) or mumbo-jumbo education policy ... but whether or not we should recognize Jane Fonda as part of Women's History Month?

OK ... memo to Democrats ... are you just asking to lose the 2006 elections?

OK ... memo to Republicans ... who gives a flying flip? It's Jane friggin' Fonda. Yeah, it wasn't the brightest thing in the world to head off to North Vietnam back in the day, but when you have Sen. John Douglass (R-Social Circle) say 'I'm not a Vietnam veteran, but I think soldiers died because of her actions,' you look like a fool. First off, how in the world did Fonda's silly trip kill any American soldier? Second, you're not a Vietnam veteran, but you claim to know what happened on the ground there? Buddy ... take a breath.

- Robert Morris College is headed for a probation faster than a train driving off a cliff. Tony Cole? Seriously? Can this kid just not, you know, go away?

Anyone else have deja vu?

Replace the 'n' with a 'q' and there you go ...

“Just like Sept. 11, only with nuclear weapons this time, that’s the threat. I think that is the threat,” (U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John) Bolton told ABC News’ Nightline. “I think it’s just facing reality. It’s not a happy reality, but it’s reality and if you don’t deal with it, it will become even more unpleasant.”

I mean, I don't think Iran having nuclear weapons is a good thing either, but can the Bush administration at least consider employing a new kind of public relations strategy here? This is eerily like the original message used to lead the country to war in Iraq, and we see how that little venture is going.

Over at Hurricane Radio, Patrick Armstrong put up a nice piece concerning possible strategies to deter Iran from building its nuclear program, and I thought he did a fine job with it.

Changing horses

For the past two years I have stubbornly tried to dislike Grey's Anatomy, but I really can't help it. Furthermore, it's the only show in recent memory that has resulted with me going from completely rooting for one character (Meredith) and despising her rival (Addison) to now pulling for the rival and hoping for the downfall of the main character. And that reversal has taken place in a mere three weeks.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Couple of things

- Hillary compares me to Barack Obama and admits she missed me at work. I'm genuinely touched.

- Since it's geographically near him, I wonder if Patrick Armstrong has anything to say about Brunswick's mayor striking rich on Deal or No Deal.

- The Athens-Clarke County Commission is about to get an earful over converting Hawthorne Avenue back to four lanes. I don't necessarily know if it will help business as the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce claims, but I do know it will help traffic. As that's the route I typically take driving home from work, it's a friggin' nightmare. It's so bad, particularly during the lunch hour, that traffic extends all the way back to Atlanta Highway. And I don't know if bike lanes are really that necessary on that stretch of road. Other places - like Oglethorpe feeding into Prince Avenue - sure, but I rarely see bikers on Hawthorne Avenue.

- Buddy, he seems to be doing a bang-up job on his own.

- I'd still like you to check out my conversation with Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Alice Kinman. It's refreshing to have an elected official speak so openly and honestly about the issues.

Real work conversations


Carissa: How was The Masters?
Me: Huh?
Carissa: Your trip? The Masters?
Me: That's not it.
Carissa: No ... wait ... beer ... beer in a can? You went to drink beer in a can and fish, right?
Me: If you mean I went to the beach, then yes ... it was good. How was your trip?
Carissa: Pennsylvania.
Me: Ah.


Me: I've got to go to the grocery store this afternoon.
Hillary: I hate the grocery store.
Me: Really?
Hillary: Well, people who don't hate humanity are OK going. (beat) Not that I hate humanity, it's just that I hate it when humanity won't get the hell out of my way.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Kinman speaks out

Further bolstering her claim to the most revered position of 'My Favorite Athens-Clarke County Commissioner,' Alice Kinman was kind enough to exchange emails - and thoughts and ideas - with me regarding ways to get more out of shrinking Community Development Block Grant funds, as well as the local community's responsibility to work for the common good.

In my email to her, I asked Kinman if she felt frustrated sometimes that sense of community seemed to be lost, and she responded:

As you can tell by my rather equivocal comments quoted in the ABH, I'm not at all sure that we haven't lost our sense of community and commitment to one another. It is my great hope that we have not and that a budget discussion about increasing the amount of General Fund money that goes to public service agencies will flush out the
philanthropist in us all. As Jim Wallis likes to say, a budget is a moral document.

The reality these days is that we've gotten used to funds from state and federal levels to take care of our local needs. But these funds are shrinking at an alarming rate, which pushes the responsibility for paying for these needs down to the local governments. What else can we do but find ways to address them? A federal tax cut does not cut down on the number of poor people. What it does mean is that we have to find the will to take care of our own on our own. Or else ignore the problem, face a diminishing quality of life, and move ourselves and our children into gated communities. OK, maybe that last phrase sounds a bit apocalyptic, but that's what it feels like.

I raised the point made in the Banner-Herald article concerning the fact that 20 percent of CDBG funds go to administrative costs for HED, and asked Kinman to explain why those costs were higher and how much that impacted the use of our funding:

As for administrative costs, I do think, from conversations with a number of people who work for a variety of non-profits, that we could realize some savings by consolidating our efforts. Take affordable housing, for example, which has at least five major agencies involved, all of which get some CDBG funding. All do very good work, but all need different types of accounting and reporting. You have Athens Land Trust, for example, which renovates homes and tries to keep them affordable by keeping the land in trust - only the house is sold. Then you have East Athens Development Corp which builds infill, but allows owners eventually to benefit from the increased value of their homes when they are sold.

Athens Housing Authority has a similar program but, if I understand it correctly, must account for and report their "proceeds" or "income" differently. I think there's a good argument that we need all three programs, but perhaps all of them need to be guided by a larger community-driven affordable housing strategic plan. I don't think we really know, for example, what the future affordable housing needs of our community are. How many units do we need? How many should be targeted to single-family owners? How many to rentals? How many should be permanently affordable? How many should be earmarked for creating future wealth through equity? Also, should ACC govt be doing something more direct and pro-active to encourage developers to include affordable housing when they build? You see the complexity.

Both Kinman and I work with the Interfaith Hospitality Network of Athens, and we've both seen the ups and downs of fundraising. Charitable giving, by its very nature, is a peculiar beast and it's difficult (though not impossible) for any organization to base its long-term needs on the fluctuations of private giving. As a result, particularly during the beginning stages of many non-profits, they turn to CDBG funding to get their feet on the ground. Unfortunately, many of them non-profits become entrenched in the funding and often feel entitled to the same percentage of funding year after year. The Banner-Herald article said that 10 local agencies have received CDBG funding every year for the past 20 years. I asked Kinman, first, if she thought this was a problem particular to this community and if the difficulties in private fundraising helped feed into the entrenchment:

I don't know the answer to your third question, and it's a good one. I'm willing to bet that it's not a problem exclusive to us. Athens is unique, but not that unique.

Raising private funds is very difficult, and the more agencies we have asking, the harder it gets. Donors can get donor fatigue. HED has put a great deal of work into their long-range planning, engaging a large number of citizens in a needs-assessment process that basically sets out what the needs are, prioritizes them, then comes up with strategies to address them. But of course this is only one funding source, and they are bound by the HUD priorities of housing (esp. home-ownership) and economic development. This leaves out so much - healthcare, addiction treatment, academic support, scholarships, services for the chronically homeless, etc., etc.

I have high hopes for the poverty initiative currently underway to give us a way to talk about all these needs and then coordinate efforts, including fundraising efforts, to address them. When I did my taxes for this year, I was a little surprised by all the little checks I wrote to various organizations. Of course this number was tiny compared to all the organizations I didn't write any checks to. Would it be easier for me just to write a monthly check to a single
organization that doles out money for all these needs? Yes, but only if I had a great deal of confidence that that organization understood our local needs from a grass-roots level. I'm glad to see that you bloggers are promoting the poverty initiative, and I hope you'll continue to do so.

I like Kinman's idea of exploring the ways to use our local budget to assist local agencies which help the community. These are local organizations which aren't government-run, but rather community driven non-profits that are on the front-lines of the fight against poverty and disease and addiction day-in and day-out. Such innovative thinking is essential, and that's what I like the most about Kinman.

It seems to me that she sees the big picture. Whether it's her work to develop a master sidewalk plan or this initiative, she's looking for long-term solutions which bring all of the community's players to the table. For that, she is to be commended.

And let me thank her for taking some time to share her vision and ideas with us.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Son of a beach

As you may have noticed, it was a little quiet on the frontlines the past few days, and for good reason. I took the opportunity to get away for the weekend and head up with some folks to Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina for a couple of days of golf, fishing and canned beer. Good time had by all, as you can see in a brief running diary of our events ...


- A morning full of running errands as I await Ed's arrival around noon. As an aside, Ed and I had exchanged text messages all afternoon Wednesday with simple messages like 'Dude ... I am so fired up.' The poor lad gets there fighting off a cold, but with a prescription in hand. Nothing will deter him.

- Take a few moments to remember Matt, who was unable to get away due to work requirements. There is genuine disappointment on our end. By 12:45 p.m. we're off to snag Trey, who is ready to go with his bags sitting outside in the driveway.

- This would be a good time to mention that I am transporting four guys, their bags, their golf bags and a cooler down to the beach in my 1999 Honda Accord. I'm not a fan of SUVs for the gas mileage reason, but I'm really longing for one as we get to Jason's house to grab his bags and begin to assemble the Rubik's Cube that is my trunk.

- Arrive in Augusta to pick up Jason from a meeting at Augusta Tech and a couple of items at The Fresh Market. The guys also get a brief tour of my hometown in a style similar to 'The Peterman Reality Tour.'

- Around 7:45 p.m. I realize I have absolutely no idea how to get to Ocean Isle and am without a map. This is rather sad since I go to Ocean Isle every year and, sometimes, twice a year. In the midst of driving around aimlessly in the darkness of the South Carolina backroads, the car is startled by the opening of a can. Ed's having a beer.

- At roughly 8:45 p.m., I am quite impressed as I have by sheer random chance completely stumbled onto the proper route as we arrive at the house. By now, however, it's evident we haven't eaten anything so we head out to check out the local restaurants ... and everything is closed ... except for McDonald's. Which means we'll be enjoying our second meal of the day from the Golden Arches. Trey is quiet during the meal with his eyes focused on the counter. I ask what's up, and he replies 'I'm just wondering how long those apple pies have been out.' With that, he's up to get two and returns to discuss how the Arby's turnover is superior in every level to other fast food fruit desserts.


- A tee time at 9:24 a.m. at Carolina Shores Golf Club, which is a beautiful course and the only one along the coast which hasn't yet raised its winter rates. Trey and I take on Jason and Ed in a nine-hole low score/nine-hole best ball format. Down by three shots heading into No. 17, Trey and I morph into Tiger Woods and finish par/bogey, but fall by a shot.

- Return to the house around 2 p.m. for lunch, a change of clothes and then head to Barefoot Landing where Ed is enthralled with Alligator Adventure. During the offseason, apparently, Barefoot Landing isn't too terribly popular. Thus ...

- ... we head off to Broadway at the Beach with a singular goal of going to Margaritaville. We make the wait time pass at the cabana-like bar next to the restaurant where Ed is slammed with an $8 bill for one pina colada (which leads to the comment 'Was Jimmy Buffett somewhere in that pina colada?').

- Margaritaville, by the by, is an outstanding restaurant. I'm talking the best peel-and-eat shrimp I have ever had (simmered in beer and lemon juice and covered in Old Bay). The jerk chicken I had for dinner was spectacular as well, as was Ed's conch fritters. Perhaps the highlight, though, is Jason questioning how much the 'Banana Rama' was and, upon hearing $7, slams his hand on the table and says 'I'll take that.' Cost, apparently, not a factor. The house band, for what it's worth, absolutely rocked. They played Peter Frampton's Do You Feel?, complete with voice-changing technology, and did so for about 14 minutes.

- From there we make our way down to Blarney Stone's, which prides itself on being Myrtle Beach's only authentic Irish bar ... but is about as Irish as Antonio Banderas. Nice and low-key when we get there around 9:30 p.m., but when the band goes on 10 a.m. it starts to get crowded and evolve into a more college-age kinda crowd. When the waitress with the gigantic, syringe-filled Jello-shots arrived, we figured that was our cue to go (but not before Ed had paid $8 more for a Red Bull and vodka ... leading to 'what is up with this place!? ... how about I just leave the keys to my house on the table for you folks?').

- About this band ... Eason. The lead singer looks an awful lot like Breckin Meyer, and they might possibly be the worst band in the history of mankind. When you follow a cover of Superstitious with Collective Soul's Shine, that doesn't necessarily mean you have good range.


- Ed emerges from his bedroom, showered and ready for the day at 9:30 a.m. He requests a 'little hair of the dog' which is insanely funny, though it really isn't.

- Stop by the Ocean Isle Fishing Center to get ready for a day of leisurely fishing, where we get tips from a 11-year-old who knows a lot more about fishing than we do.

- Surf fishing, where you stand in the ocean up to your knees and cast your line out into the waves, is usually a lot of fun. However, when the water is probably a shade below 60 degrees, it's quite brutal. Plus, with the tide coming in, we all get smacked pretty good by a wave or two. After an hour of this, we retreat to the house.

- At the house, we enjoy the remainder of the afternoon on the floating dock and fishing in the waterway. We also go through a lot of cigars, including Prince Albert's Soft Cherry Vanilla. Sadly, these are a lot better than the more expensive ones we purchased the day before. Still, an excellent afternoon in the sun, catching not really anything, enjoying a few cold beers, some nice cigars and listening to Waylon's son.

- After roughly four hours and a mild sunburn, we come in to shower and head out to grab a bite to eat at The Giggling Mackerel (Russ can appreciate this since we turned the restaurant's name into a million different innuendos on our last trip). I'm given roughly 17 pounds of fried seafood in a basket the size of a tea cup. Ed is estatic, routinely saying 'this is exactly what I had in mind for dinner ... exactly!' He also eats 12 raw oysters, which prompts Trey and I to turn our heads away in disgust.

- Another trip to Margaritaville, though this time primarily so I can by a shirt. We were hoping for a repeat performance of the band from the night earlier, but - I kid you not - we were greeted with Eason. Safe to say, we then determined we were fairly tired and returned home for the night.


- Leave by 9:30 a.m. and Ed is genuinely sadden by our departure. Though talk of planning next year's tailgating adventures seem to perk him up.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Reality from The Realist

Don't take this as my condoning the actions of Barry Bonds, but I've got to give a hat tip to I'm A Realist for this post discussing the recent allegations against the Giants' slugger.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Couple of things

- As of late, I've been commending commissioners I typically disagree with (see Tom Chasteen) and chastising ones I usually agree with (see David Lynn). So, as we continue this bizzarre pattern, let me now pat States McCarter on the back for changing his mind over the moratorium against fraternities and sororities. McCarter, who originally voted for a moratorium, called for the Athens-Clarke County Commission to reconsider the vote, though his move failed after a 5-5 tie with Mayor Heidi Davison breaking the tie.

Those who stuck to their guns on the moratorium, again, I commissioners I agree with on the issues more often than not ... but I just don't see their argument this time around.

- Is there anything more awesome than this? A member of the Board of Regents getting into an old-fashioned street brawl with the son of the former mayor of Athens-Clarke County? In a posh neighborhood like Crystal Hills no less?

Don Leeburn (he of dating Suzanne Yoculan fame), who is 68-years-old, sent Mason Bentley to the hospital with a broken nose and a punctured and collapsed lung.

Note to self - Do not screw with Don Leeburn.

At one point, Bentley threatened to go get his AK-47 from his house. Now, what in the world is the son of the former mayor doing collecting antique Soviet weaponry? No matter. Seriously ... doesn't this sound like an episode of Desperate Housewives? Especially with Yoculan watching from the street.

With this going on, probably not the kind of exposure the Bentley family wanted today.

- Hillary and I were talking about the uproar over the NASCAR Hall of Fame going to Charlotte rather than Atlanta and our complete and utter confusion over it. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, for instance, was offering some borderline biased reporting over the decision and made some comments against Charlotte which could be taken as a tad negative. Plus they stuck Jeff Schultz in the Business section of all places and apparently told him to take shots at North Carolina.

People ... auto racing got its start in North Carolina, it belongs there. I just don't get this entitlement Atlanta feels when it comes to having everything. Just because you've got The World of Coke doesn't mean you have right to every possible tourist attraction.

Plus, why the hatin' on Charlotte? I love that city. It's easier to navigate than Atlanta, actually gets a nice snow storm or two during the winter, is clean and is home to the James K. Polk Memorial Site.

- The Sports Guy talks about bad TV, and it's funny.

Monday, March 06, 2006

More optimism, less pessimism

Either you were born into the Red Sox, you were swept up by them, or you inherited them the same way people inherit baldness and high blood pressure. Inevitably, you passed them down to the next generation. You hoped everything would be worth it some day ... even if all evidence pointed to the contrary. You hoped. You hoped. You hoped.
- Now I Can Die In Peace, by Bill Simmons

I don't officially know when I became a fan of the Red Sox. Growing up in the 1980s in Augusta, Georgia, with your only option being the Braves ... you tend the look elsewhere. So, with family from New England and my disdain for any team from New York already strong at age seven, I checked out the Red Sox. I had given the New England Patriots a try in Super Bowl XX, only to watch the Chicago Bears shuffle their way to a 46-10 victory (with the inexcusable fact that Walter Payton did not score a touchdown, but William 'The Refridgerator' Perry does ... for shame Mike Dikta), so I gave the Red Sox a try. Boston had a couple of solid teams in the mid-1980s, and I got hooked.

So, when 1986 rolled around and they reached the World Series and took a lead against the New York Mets in Game Six, I figured this was how it was supposed to be. My team would win a title or so every other year ... and then Bob Stanley blew a few leads and Bill Buckner ... you know. I distinctly remember watching this game at the house of some of my parents' friends, and being really broken up about the Game Six loss. My father couldn't comprehend it and stared back at his devestated eight-year-old son with a 'whose son are you' kind of look on his face.

Still ... I loved 'em and followed them as much as a boy living in Georgia could in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I read the box scores in the paper and damn near memorized articles in Sports Illustrated which featured Boston (I distinctly remember some huge series between Toronto and Boston from either 1990 or 1991 being profiled and thinking how cool it was to see my team getting such play).

Then 1991 happened ... and the Braves, with perhaps the worst ensemble of players in the history of baseball (I mean, Sid Bream was the starting first baseman ... Sid Bream), somehow managed to reach the World Series and the entire Southeast got caught up. And then, the Braves, quite frankly, just never lost again. I mean, never ever. It's ridiculous. So I pushed Boston to the side and dove headfirst into being a Braves fan. I remember Xon and I being incredibly overjoyed that the Braves had traded for Fred McGriff in 1993 thinking 'at last, a marquee clean-up hitter.' In hindsight, with people belting out 40 home runs left and right, such joy was a little absurd.

But, on Nov. 18, 1997, the Red Sox traded for Pedro Martinez and, all of a sudden, they had landed literally the best pitcher in the universe. And with that one move, I was sucked back in ... riding the highs (Pedro bringing the Red Sox back from a 2-0 deficit against Cleveland in the 1999 American League Division Series) and lows (Aaron Boone ...) all the way until the beautiful 2004 postseason (OK ... seriously, I just almost cried right there).

So, with that ... this offseason, like most offseasons for Boston fans, has been one full of hopeful promise and backbreaking despair. Forget the dramas of the regular season and postseason ... enduring an offseason with the Red Sox is more traumatic than all of it (well, not really ... but still ... I'm going for effect here). Red Sox fans are the Tina Turner to the Boston front office's Ike ... the Nick Nolte to whatever it is that so thoroughly screwed him over that night. They'll slug you one minute (letting Johnny Damon go) and say 'baby, I'm sorry ... I didn't mean it' the next (acquiring Coco Crisp).

I think we can land Oil Can Boyd for a few prospects ...

Keeping that in mind ... let's look at the 2006 Boston Red Sox:

We start off strong here. Though I hated to lose Doug Mirabelli, you have to realize that you got a pretty good second baseman in Mark Loretta for him ... so that's a nice little tradeoff sacrificing a guy who may squeeze out 125 at-bats a year for a dependable, everyday second baseman. But that doesn't matter any way ... as long as Jason Varitek is wearing a Boston uniform, he's going to start and hit .270 with 25 home runs and be the best field general in baseball.

First Baseman
Switching the less-than-frightning tandem of John Olerud/Kevin Millar for a even potentially more timid duo comprised of Kevin Youkilis/J.T. Snow is odd. Out of all of the Red Sox's offseason moves, this is the most puzzling. Along with the bullpen, you knew this was your weakest link ... and J.T. Snow, who needs a walker to cover the bag, is the best of the lot. Plus, Youkilis has been a 'top prospect' in the organization since 1958. You're going to be lucky to squeeze out a .260 average with 18 homers and 60 RBIs from this position. Lucky I say.

Second Baseman
Has there been more turnover at any other position the past three years in the organization? I'm expecting them to bring back Jose Offerman by mid-season. I loved Mark Bellhorn (so much so that, while attending the 2004 Georgia-Auburn game in Auburn, I stood up and applauded him being honored before kickoff ... the rest of the Georgia fans were displeased and my father replaying the Game Six look), but he got released last year. Then I really liked Tony Graffinino, but he has all but lost his job with the acquisition of Loretta. Now I think Loretta is going to do just fine, but I wouldn't be shocked to see him dangled in front of other teams by July.

Ah ... the good ole days ... with Offerman fumbling and bumbling as he played every infield position ... and batted lead-off.

Third Baseman
This was my favorite pick-up until Jan. 27, 2006. Sure, Lowell was absolutely terrible last year. But he's tough, and the short porch in left field is going to be perfect for him. No more hitting .230 anymore ... I'm going to boldly say Lowell wins Comeback Player of the Year honors after batting .312 with 30 home runs.

OK, we all got a little giddy over the Miguel Tejada thing, but ... Alex Gonzalez? Really? We've cycled through Nomar, then Orlando Cabrera (who never should have been allowed to leave), then the ill-fated Edgar Renteria experiment and now to Gonzalez. The Boston Globe even did a piece on Gonzalez saying he could be the best defensive shortstop in Red Sox history ... despite the fact that his fielding stats were considerably worse last year than Renteria's the year before he joined the team (and, let's not forget, that Renteria won two Gold Gloves before committing 187 errors last season). Probably my least optimistic slot.

Left Field
Manny being Manny. He's going to ask for at least four more trades, but still hit somewhere around .300 with 40-plus home runs ... all the while playing left field as if his eyes were glued shut and he had drank a 12-pack of Sam Adams just before the first pitch and he had just been kicked repeatedly in the lower back by a mule and someone had surgically removed his entire left inner ear canal. Remember Ryan Klesko playing left field for the Braves? OK, remove his eyes and you've got Manny guarding the wall. And that's why you love him.

Center Field
OK ... this was the best move Boston made all offseason, and it's rather poetic it comes to fill a void made by some of their worst offseason management. First off ... Johnny Damon should have never left the team. The management should have been more willing to negotiate with him and paid him the respect he was due. Still, Damon should have, you know, actually given a flip about wanting to stay in Boston and asked 'Where the heck is Theo?' Regardless, he's a Yankee now and that put me in a two-week depression. Seriously, my eyes almost bled when I saw him get his hair chopped off. But, with Theo back in the fold, the Red Sox nabbed the best young centerfielder in the game not named Carl Crawford. Not only does Coco Crisp have a rather terrific name, but he's 27-years-old, plays solid defense and is going to hit .300, slug 15 to 20 homers and still 15-25 bases a year.

For a while, I thought Drew Berrymore was going to have to take over in center.

Right Field
Ah ... good ole Trot Nixon. I've always loved Trot Nixon, and not simply because he's got Popeye's forearms. Trot's as dependable of a player you could ever ask for. You know he's going to go out there and hit his 20-plus home runs, play solid defense and do what the team needs him to do. Plus, I think he's been with the team since the Dwight Evans era. Hell ... he could be Dwight Evans.

It's the canned spinach which works, not the frozen boxed kind.

Designated Hitter
Big Papi, baby. Outside of a juiced Barry Bonds and, perhaps, Albert Pujols, the best clean-up hitter on the planet. And, unlike Pujols, David Ortiz is money in the clutch. He had three game-winning home runs last year and singlehandedly kept Boston alive in Games Four and Five of the 2004 American League Championship Series. I mean, is there a more frightning 1-2 punch in baseball other than Manny and Big Papi?

Is this Game Four of the 2004 ALCS ... or Game Five ... or one of the three game-winning homers in 2005 ... or any of the other 22 game-winning RBIs he had last season?

Starting Pitching
If they stay healthy (and happy), it's the deepest rotation in baseball. Two aces in Curt Schilling and Josh Beckett, one gritty veteran in David Wells, two guys who could go either way in Matt Clement and Bronson Arroyo, one guy who can pitch until he's 79 in Tim Wakefield and two of the best pitching prospects in the game in Jonathan Papelpon and Jon Lester. If they stay healthy (and happy), the Red Sox are loaded. If Schilling's ankle disingrates, Beckett lasts only 87 innings, Clement pitches like he did in August and September rather than April and May, Arroyo wears his cornrows too tight, Wells starts itching for the West Coast again and Papelpon and Lester aren't ready yet ... then you've got last year all over again, and Wakefield is your 'go-to guy' ... and we see how well that worked out.

Well, it's hard to say it can get any worse. At the very least, Foulke should be able to post an ERA of 3.75 to 4.00 and save 25-plus games. Plus Julian Tavarez and David Riske should see to it that Mike Timlin isn't appearing in 141 games this year. Plus, I remember Timlin from the 1992 and 1993 World Series ... so he's got to be pushing it now.

I've gone from deep pessimism about this time to pretty optimistic. I think it can be a special team. If Schilling and Foulke can recover from their injuries, Beckett can withstand the pressure of pitching in Boston, the infield can learn each other's names and the bullpen doesn't, you know, have an ERA of, like, 6.54 ... Boston can get back to the playoffs. And if that's the case, with a deep rotation, the Red Sox can make some noise.

The A.L. East is tough. Toronto spent a whole lotta money on a whole lotta nothing, but should make a run at the wild card. The Yankees are the Yankees, though they have to contend with 'The Curse of A-Rod' these days.

Two years, one MVP, plenty of pretty-boy moments ... zero titles .

If nothing else, the Red Sox get the wild card and then who knows. Things go right, then can win the division and make a run. And, I can say this now, it's happened before.


So I updated a couple of links over on the right, and I thought I'd run down the list for you ...

- Under 'Lend A Hand' I added Action Aid, which is an organization that combats global poverty, and War Child, which reaches out to children forced to become soliders in war-torn parts of the world.

- Lots of fun stuff under the brand spankin' new 'Sports Links' heading. We've got three Georgia athletics blogs in Georgia Sports Blog, I'm A Realist (a frequent contributor here) and Dawg Blog. Probably the three best out there, so I recommend you give a look.

Georgia Sports Blog, by the by, is absolutely fabulous. If you'd like a sampling of what you're going to get there - aside from absurdly intricate, yet fascinating breakdowns of Georgia baseball games - I'd recommend this spectacular post concerning the history of Georgia men's basketball program. When you can work Rick James, Led Zeppelin and Jim Harrick all into one post, truly you are a masterful wordsmith.

Also, with Spring Training underway, added plenty of Red Sox links. Sons of Sam Horn is a legendary site for Red Sox Nation, even if is a circa-1996 message board. Still, these fellas possess an absurd amount of knowledge. Plus this is the infamous site Curt Schilling visited as he was considering accepting a trade from Arizona to Boston over Thanksgiving weekend 2003. I'd venture to say these folks right here almost singlehandedly brought Schilling to Boston.

Had to include The Sports Guy, who is one of my favorite writers and a die-hard Red Sox fan. And be sure to check out his blog, which includes this marvelous entry concerning a TV diary from last week. It includes a ridiculous breakdown of this season of 24 - "President Palmer being assassinated in the morning, then Fox News dropping that as its lead story within four hours to concentrate on the riveting U.S.-Russia treaty (really, an assassination wouldn't carry the day?)" - and good stuff on Deal or No Deal.

I also feature Joe Posnanski, who is still my favorite sports columnist. This guy right here was the reason I decided to become a sports writer ... and I even told him that during an awkward exchange while I was in high school working at The Masters:

Me: Mr. Posnanski, I just want you to know I'm a big fan, and you're the reason I've decided to go into journalism.
Posnanski: Really? That's really cool ... though I'm kinda on deadline ... that whole Greg Norman collapsing and losing to Nick Faldo thing.
Me: Oh ... that makes sense.

In hindsight, this exchange is even more awkward since I now have the perspective of having been a sportswriter. I would have responded with 'Sweet Merciful Moses ... run child, run while you can!'

- Speaking of sportswriters, we've got two links to some mighty fine Athens Banner-Herald alumni in Marc Lancaster and C. Trent Rosecrans. Both are beat writers at the Cincinnati Post and both are damn fine journalists. I worked with both of 'em, and what I know about writing, reporting, developing contacts and the business in general comes from them.

- And finally, but definitely not the least among these, is a link to Patrick Armstrong's blog down in scenic Glynn County. He's a good centrist Democrat, and I've enjoyed his stuff.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Tale of two meddlings

I gave him a little bit of a hard time regarding the proposed three-laning of Prince Avenue last year, but Pete McCommons is still a damn fine writer, and he nails it with his column about Sen. Ralph Hudgens in this week's Flagpole.

McCommons voiced his displeasure with Hudgens back when the whole redistricing thing got going, then sat back for a few weeks and let his detractors take over Pub Notes - including an idiotic rebuttal from Hudgens' son. After giving them their due time, McCommons set about deconstructing Hudgens' most unusual legislative moves and uncovered a disturbing trend - that if it involves your local government, be it Athens-Clarke County or even Madison County, the senator thoroughly enjoys messing with your affairs ... wishes of the actual citizens be damned.

Hudgens has introduced a bill to put a referendum on the November ballot in neighboring Madison County to change their form of government. Why did he do it? Because the Chamber of Commerce wanted it. Then the Madison County Board of Commissioners went along and passed a resolution requesting a referendum, too.

Ralph says he’s just doing his job, introducing legislation requested by the county commission, and all it does is let citizens vote on their form of government. What could be fairer than that?

Some citizens in Madison County say there are several problems. There was absolutely no public discussion or input about whether or not Madison County citizens wanted a change in their form of government or what form that change should take if they did. When the referendum appears on the ballot, it will simply ask if they want to change to a county-manager form of government.

These soreheads point out, moreover, that there has been absolutely no research done to explain how much more money this new form of government would cost. These citizens see this change as a power grab by developers who want to control the commission as they parcel out Madison County for rapid development.

Ralph, no doubt, would tell us that’s the way government works.

Now that the Madison County Commission has voted to rescind its request for a referendum, the logical assumption is that State House will kill the bill (it was passed by the State Senate). But let's break this logic down and reach the maddening conclusion ...

To split Athens-Clarke County into two different voting districts, the Georgia General Assembly - led by Hudgens - ignored an 8-1 vote from the Athens-Clarke County Commission denouncing the split and a petition signed by citizens of this community voicing their disapproval of the move, all the while saying it's OK because the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce and Madison County Commission wanted it. But, it turns out, that isn't true as Madison County commissioners never requested the redistricting and the chamber only came out for the split after the legislation was proposed.

Furthermore, we already know the support of a local chamber of commerce isn't enough because of what happened Thursday night in Danielsville:

"You didn't educate the people. You didn't educate yourself (about the proposal)," scolded one speaker. Another accused commissioners of "kow-towing to the Chamber of Commerce, kow-towing to special interests."

"I believe that we as citizens of the county should be informed of what's going on before it comes to pass," said resident John Stuedemann.

Chip Chandler, a tree farmer and former county commissioner, said it looked as if a small group of people outside government is trying to run the county instead of elected officials.

"We don't need to have a sort of shadow government taking y'all's place," Chandler said.

So ... why is it that Madison County can exhibit almost the same exact forms of opposition to the state government messing with a local community that Athens-Clarke County employed, but Madison County gets its wish? As McCommons showed in his Wednesday column, consistency would stress that the legislature wouldn't care about the wishes of these people.

Instead, what we have is an even clearer indication the redistricing of Athens-Clarke County was nothing more than a bold and craven partisan power grab by the state Republicans, with Hudgens leading the charge. Likewise, we also see that our community's opinion and wishes hold no weight with our elected officials in Atlanta. Finally, we see that Hudgens apparently has no respect - and perhaps even disdain - for local rule, rather opting for nothing less of installing 'little kings' in each community in his district (or, in the case of Athens-Clarke County, out of his district) to do his bidding.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

I like it

Couple of things

- So, Athens-Clarke County has now been cut in two all in the name if 'unifying' Madison County. But, what's this you say? Madison County never asked to be unified? This was possibly the partisan brainchild of one Republican state senator? Shocking ...

You know Sen. Hudgens, if you really wanted to just go ahead and divide Athens-Clarke County, then at least make that argument. Don't go around simply lying about how Madison County asked you to do that.

Let's see ... what else do you want to monkey with in our community? Would you like some property tax revenue too? How about I do a little soft-shoe for ya?

- Speaking of all things Madison County, apparently Prudey McPrude didn't care for the Vanity Fair picture.

- In other news, former Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards will be the keynote speaker at a conference for the University of Georgia law school on April 7. Pretty friggin' cool. Hat tip to my boy Tim Kelly for that nugget.

- Regarding alcohol consumption by Georgia football fans, D. Terry Forshee goes to a completely different Athens, Georgia than I do on gamedays.

- I've always enjoyed this particular quote, but it's kinda weird to see it on a BBQ apron.

- South Gwinnett can't find a Seattle off-weekend to retire David Greene's jersey? A high school baseball game? What, the cross country meet wasn't good enough?

- Whew. Manny reports to spring training. Also, Nick Carfado should be forcibly removed from the Boston Globe staff for using the words 'Roger Clemens' and 'best pitcher of all time' in the lede of his story.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Real work conversations

Tuesday, February 28

Hillary: That's the big difference in townie bars and college/frat bars. They really want to serve you drinks and food. They kept pushing this pineapple martini, and I kept saying I don't want a pineapple martini. But they kept coming by, like, every five minutes so I finally said I'll take a pineapple martini.
Carissa: Was it good?
Hillary: It was OK. Not the kind of thing you want with wings though.