Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Couple of things

- Got to say, I'm not sure what to make of the bill that would enable residents of a city to de-annex their property. It says there are provisions that will prevent isolated pockets of non-city people, but this whole thing seems mighty weird.

- I think every six months or so Bob Bowen writes a letter about the three-laning of Hawthorne Avenue. There's a very simple reason why Hawthorne exists as a three-lane road now - logistics. It's incredibly narrow, and I can't even begin to fathom how that road could function, particularly between Atlanta Highway and Oglethorpe Avenue, as a four-lane road. I think there are a lot of things that need to be done on that corridor, primarily an extensive beautification project, but returning the road to a four-lane street isn't one of them ... and I'm saying this as one of those guys who does deal with that traffic every day.

- Actually having known people who attended the Georgia Democratic Party Convention and folks who worked with Jane Kidd during the election process has just solidified one of my newest beliefs ... that Bill Shipp is growing more and more out of touch.

- This story is kinda baffling for a variety of reasons. First, it seems partially absurd to me that either party would be offended by the other campaigning on congressional pay raises, particularly in the light of another campaigning on a minimum wage increase. Second, it seems absurd to me that the party that did campaign on not permitting increases was willing to permit any pay increase to go through. Third, it seems absurd to me that the party that wanted the COLA increase didn't flip it around against the opposition party and say something to the effect of 'they opposed yours for political reasons and now they oppose ours for political reasons.'

- Uh ... not that I'm completely opposed to having campus security carry handguns, but is anyone else troubled by this ..

Campus security chiefs could use the handguns as a last resort and only after exhausting other lawful means of force, including verbal warnings, restraints, pepper spray and a baton.


The district has no plans to buy batons or spray, according to Frank Platt, the school district's police chief.

- Adrian's talking about the closed-doors policy of purchasing land.

- There are things which are simply awesome, and then things which absolutely transcend awesomeness.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Couple of things

- This is awful. Charles DeVaney was a pretty good mayor who did a lot of things to help renovate downtown Augusta, and he was a high school classmate of my parents. What's really weird about the story is that DeVaney was returning from the beach house of my former neighbors.

- I've already stated some of my views on the whole 'buying-property-behind-closed-doors' policy here, but I think, in light of this editorial by the Athens Banner-Herald, it's worth noting that I don't necessarily have an opinion either way on whether or not it should be public or private. My point in all of this is to stress that the fact the commission is purchasing land in closed-door votes is not cause for concern. As I previously noted, this is money that comes out of our existing budget which is debated and approved in public. Along with the fact that one of the central points of the editorial is to suggest keeping the negotiations private and the purchase public. I would think their logic would suggest just the opposite ... that it would be the negotiations which would be cause for concern since the price tag could get too high. However, they concede keeping the negotiations private keeps the final price lower, which makes me wonder what we're talking about here. If we trust the commission to negotiate in good faith with a private land owner behind closed doors, then what's so important about seeing what is, in essence, the mere technicality of the purchase of the land in public?

- Republicans complaining about Republicans is forcing me to ask some questions.

- Let me just say one thing regarding the whole minimum wage increase debate that continues to rage on ... anyone from either side of the specturm who refers to a minimum wage increase as a 'pay raise' is missing the point. From a purely sementics point, yes, it is a raise. However, as both sides have conceded, raises are done as either a reward for hard work or an incentive for hard work. That's not the case here. The increase is purely being discussed because the purchasing power of our current minimum wage level has dramatically decreased. This is just a return to the status economic quo. There are legitimate economic and moral arguments both for and against, but couching it in the guise of a 'pay raise' isn't the most appropriate way to discuss this thing.

- In a most unfortunate turn of events, I actually watched The Sentinel a few weeks back.

- Miss Georgia, Amanda Kozak was third in the Miss America pageant. The way the contestants in these things are getting booted off left and right, she might be the winner before the week is out.

- I'm one of the few guys who still kinda like some of Joe Klein's writings, but it was odd to see him go after Matthew Yglesias. I will say, on a somewhat related note, that I strongly dislike Atrios ... partially for what appears to be a lack of an ability to develop a rational thought or, shall we say, a criticism that doesn't include a curse word and is longer than two sentences.

- Thank the Good Lord. I'm already upset enough that the Red Sox let Trot Nixon - long my favorite player on the team - go without a fight, only to replace him with an overpriced and often disgruntled outfielder who consistently puts up strikingly similar statistics. Had they landed Todd Helton, I might have stormed Theo Epstein's office and inquired about where he had placed his good sense.

- I'm curious as to what beverage of choice was the best.

A simple observation

The majority of the folks at Peach Pundit are conservative, so we don't necessarily line up ideologically, but they seem like good enough fellas, and I enjoy going their for discussion.

We have been finding some common ground regarding some issues as of late ... including imposing restrictions on MySpace and Facebook, banning drivers under 18 from using cell phones, removing foreign language courses from schools, banning transfats from our foods and, of course, Sunday sales of alcohol.

The thing is, it's not as if I'm the lone Democrat screaming in the wilderness about these issues. No, these are examples of legislation brought forth by Republicans in the Georgia General Assembly, and these are the things which are dominating large portions of the debate over there. So my question is ... why do you keep voting for these guys? It's not like we're talking about one or two issues here, but a bevy of them which feature the most far-reaching, intrusive and impossible to enforce laws out there (really ... how are we going to ban transfats without decimating the entire grocery industry in this state).

I'm willing to concede it would be hard for most conservatives to consider voting for a Democrat, but could you guys at least ponder that it might be time to quite shamelessly supporting folks who propose nonsense like this?

Monday, January 29, 2007

At the movies

Continuing my shockingly original trend of watching movies ...

King Kong - Not bad. Though other folks really loved it, I was kinda skeptical. But it does a very good job of flipping the whole story around and making the monster the 'good guy' in the plot. Plus, Peter Jackson did an excellent job in the re-creation of the final scene atop the Empire State Building. It's not often you have to try to redo one of the five most memorable scenes in movie history, but he delivered nicely.

An Inconvenient Truth - The partisans are going to say it's an Al Gore lovefest, and to an extent it is, but it's much more than that. It presents a compelling case for man's influence on global warming based on existing data, and somehow makes a PowerPoint presentation interesting enough to devote an hour and a half to as well.

Little Miss Sunshine - An excellent film all the way around, and it was just honored by the Screen Actors Guild as Best Picture, which was good to see. It's terribly odd, but beautifully scripted and marvelously acted. If Abigail Breslin doesn't win Best Supporting Actress, something ain't right.

The Sentinel - Remember how good I said Little Miss Sunshine was? Let's go all the way to the other end of the cinematic spectrum and just when you reach the crushing black void that is movie hell, The Sentinel is still a four-day car ride away. Absolutely awful. Nowhere near enough shouting by Keifer Sutherland, which is the primary reason I watch him on 24. And the movie ends so abruptly, it's almost as if the director said 'Whatever, screw it ... I've devoted enough of my life to this piece of crap.'

Syriana - Another quality film, though I might suggest that Alexander Siddig might have been more deserving of the Best Supporting Actor honor than George Clooney. One of those movies which leaves you absolutely infuriated by the end of it, and that's part of its charm I suppose.

Economic decisions

For those of you who followed the adventures of my buddies and I during the football season, you remember that I made it a mission to bring a cheap beer to each tailgate. You'd be surprised what that does to your sense of taste ... one could argue it enhances it, while another could claim it denigrates it.

Still, I'm a fan of cheap beer in a can. So I'd like to see what you think. Which cheap beer that I brought over the year was the best selection? I'm already partial to Schlitz, which is actually a pretty good beverage (and available for only $1.50 for a 16-ounce can at Flicker).

Western Kentucky - Schaefer's Light

Colorado - Coor's Original

Tennessee - Lone Star

Vanderbilt - Schlitz

Mississippi State - Old Milwaukee

(Kinda) Couple of things

Typically, I put up a 'Couple of things' each morning during the week, but, quite frankly, there aren't enough things to justify doing a couple of 'em.

So, I'd recommend you check out this story on homeless children in our area schools and, if you must, this story on the General Assembly's budget negotiations.

Present and future?

There are two things to take away from Tiger Woods's seventh consecutive PGA Tour win ...

- Tiger Woods, yes, is ridiculous and, without a shadow of a doubt, the best player alive;

- The only person to challenge him was my boy Charles Howell III.

Howell, who played with him at the 2003 Presidents Cup, nearly pulled it off. He made three birdies in a four-hole stretch and had a 50-foot eagle putt on the 18th hole to that would have forced a playoff, but he played it too high over the ridge and three-putted for par and a 68.

"I gave him a run," Howell said. "Anytime you try to win a tournament against that guy, it's tough. I played well down the stretch. He just never flinched."

This is Howell's second second-place finish in three weeks, moving him to seventh place on the PGA Tour Money List, which puts him in an excellent position to earn an invitation to The Masters. After a horrible 2005 and 2006, Howell set about to completely redefine his swing and approach to the game ... and it appears to be paying off.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Open vs. closed

Maybe it's just me, but I think there's going to be a temptation to read way too much into the story on the closed door policy of purchasing private land. Obviously, right off the bat, some misguided folks are going to jump the gun and lay the blame at the current mayor and commission, but there are considerable points to consider in this piece, which is a pretty interesting one ...

- Athens-Clarke County clerk Jean Spratlin says the local government has been following this policy for more than 35 years, which would include a variety of mayor and commissions of all sorts of ideological stripes;

- Athens-Clarke County is far from being the only community following this policy, as noted by the Georgia Municipal Association, which acts as the guiding organization for local governments;

- The GMA is officially on record as opposing the attorney general's opinion that votes to buy land must be in the open, and that office's opinion hasn't yet been challenged in court;

- While you hate to play the numbers game, we're talking about $7 million to buy 80 acres in this community over the past four years. Contrast that with the example of Gwinnett County which doled out $150 million to buy land behind closed doors;

- The land being purchased is not being done to put something up like a strip mall. Rather it's going toward space for a parking deck or a fire station, things which are necessary and vital to the continued growth of our community;

- The votes are being done after good faith negotiations between the seller of said property and the local government, as is the case with every other transaction in our country;

- It's not money we're secretly funneling anywhere or randomly pulling from another section of the budget. The actual votes to approve the transactions, though done behind closed doors, come from an existing budget that was debated and voted on in public.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

News flash ...

And we have a new chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia ... and that would be Athens's own Jane Kidd.

It took four ballots, but Kidd defeated Mike Berlon on the final ballot. After the first ballot, she was down by 16 votes, but went into first place for the final three ballots to win the chair.

Congrats to her and her team which worked so hard on getting her this seat. This is good news for Georgia's Democratic Party.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Couple of things

- You want to know what this writer really means? That two folks who I stereotypically and simplistically think would disagree with me wrote something I agree with. Wanna take a bet that he also loves what Bill Cosby's been saying the past few years?

- Speaking of letters, Ann Teague says she's not racist, but her letter actually is loaded with some implications which don't really help her out too much.

- I'll probably go into this a bit later, but the Athens-Clarke County Commission recently took up the issue of whether or not to rezone a parcel of land located behind the Chevron on Barnett Shoals Road and is in Green Acres neighborhood. It's a an odd-shaped parcel and a developer wants to build an office park there. The problem is, it would isolate two existing houses, remove one and replace it with a driveway, offer only one entrance into the complex off of a residential street and, well, put an office building smack in the middle of a neighborhood. The thing is ... compared to previous proposals for this 4.5 acre chunk of land, it's the better one (or, as Kelly Girtz referred to it, the 'less worse' one). Apparently a few years back,someone had pitched a 19-house mini-subdivision for that spot. It's going to be an interesting issue to look at.

- It's nothing fancy, but Blake profiles Jane Kidd and looks at her candidacy for the DPG chair. That election is tomorrow, and it appears to be between her and Mike Berlon.

- I'm also hoping to go into the debate over Sunday Sales too. The Athens Banner-Herald has a story on the divide in the alcohol sales community, while the folks at Peach Pundit have been following this pretty good.

- Childhood celebrities grow up!

- I agree with the latter point in Matthew Yglesias's argument here ... that is it's kinda silly to be discussing policy specifics for presidential candidates in January 2007 when they wouldn't be able to actually govern for two more years. Hence why I think the criticism in the comments at Talking Points Memo regarding Barack Obama's call for universal health care of some kind is terribly misguided.

- A bobcat attack? Bobcats? Rabid ones at that? Man. That would really be a lousy day right there.

Music for the moment

They grow up so fast

You know your night's wasted when you get sucked into a 'Where Are They Now' type of special involving child stars.

Who knew ...

Jeremy Miller of Growing Pains fame is now the featured celebrity in a really odd McDonald's commercial.

Stephanie from Full House is a recovering crystal meth addict.

And, somewhere along the way, former pop singer Mandy Moore became an acclaimed actress and pretty darn good looking.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Couple of things

- The annual bonanza of fun known as the Athens-Clarke County budgeting process is in full swing, and we've got some tough decisions to make. We could use a new jail, possibly a new water reservoir, a way to deter juvenille crime, additional police officers, cleaner water and, oh yeah, the tax base we have to draw this revenue from is being limited both naturally by the market and unnaturally by the folks in Atlanta.

- I agree ethics reform is good, but there's a whole lot more to this story than you think ... or actually, a whole lot less. While it was arguably awful timing for the governor to insert the tax break into the bill and it did indeed benefit him directly, it isn't as if this is something that was done that was out of the ordinary. In fact, all the governor was doing was enacting a tax break that the rest of the country operated on and, in turn, ultimately benefitted several Georgians not named 'Sonny Perdue.' Listen, I've got plenty of reasons why I don't like Perdue - see education, blue laws, etc. - but this isn't high on my list.

- 'Anti-business?' Turns out ... not so much.

- This has already been picked up by numerous blogs, but I've got to give a link to this kid. Seriously ... he's just a 44-inch vertical away from being ridiculous.

- There's a distinct difference between being a prophetic voice shouting in the wilderness and being a foolish voice shouting in what has become the wilderness because everyone else has left.

- Georgia beat Kentucky in basketball last night. That's refreshing. And, yes, I linked to Kyle solely because of the Ashley Judd picture.

- Mattthew Yglesias offers some links and insight on the history of the progressive netroots and the Clintons.

- Hillary pleads for her 'liberal firebrand' in the presidential field. I like our candidates. We talk about this.

- There's a rash of bloggers putting moving pictures of themselves on the internet.

The sky ain't falling

Every once in a while, you start to see the wheels turning, and the folks at the Athens Banner-Herald are steadily chipping away at a one of the biggest misconceptions in our community - that we're 'anti-business.'

First, Don Nelson penned a column where he traced where this falsehood came from. And now Blake covers a meeting and reports on the findings of a survey that take a look at entrepreneurship in our community. Turns out the overwhelming majority of those local business owners who were surveyed seem to think business in Athens-Clarke County is good.

Those who had critical words said things had dramatically improved in the past six years ... which would be the opposite of what this guy would have told you.

Cutting edge of technology

Apparently video-blogging is the new thing.

Matthew Yglesias has new recorded two movies. Of course, he got the idea from Josh Marshall's own SOTU response.

They are a bit creepy, but I'd be lying if I didn't say I wasn't intrigued about doing one myself.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Hitting back

Note to Fox News ... don't screw with Barack Obama:

In the past week, many of you have read a now thoroughly-debunked story by Insight Magazine, owned by the Washington Times, which cites unnamed sources close to a political campaign that claim Senator Obama was enrolled for “at least four years” in an Indonesian “Madrassa”. The article says the “sources” believe the Madrassa was “espousing Wahhabism,” a form of radical Islam.

Insight Magazine published these allegations without a single named source, and without doing any independent reporting to confirm or deny the allegations. Fox News quickly parroted the charges, and Fox and Friends host Steve Doocy went so far as to ask, “Why didn’t anybody ever mention that that man right there was raised — spent the first decade of his life, raised by his Muslim father — as a Muslim and was educated in a Madrassa?”

All of the claims about Senator Obama raised in the Insight Magazine piece were thoroughly debunked by CNN, which, instead of relying on unnamed sources, sent a reporter to Obama’s former school in Jakarta to check the facts.

If Doocy or the staff at Fox and Friends had taken [time] to check their facts, or simply made a call to his office, they would have learned that Senator Obama was not educated in a Madrassa, was not raised as a Muslim, and was not raised by his father – an atheist Obama met once in his life before he died.

Later in the day, Fox News host John Gibson again discussed the Insight Magazine story without any attempt to independently confirm the charges.

All of the claims about Senator Obama’s faith and education raised in the Insight Magazine story and repeated on Fox News are false. Senator Obama was raised in a secular household in Indonesia by his stepfather and mother. Obama’s stepfather worked for a U.S. oil company, and sent his stepson to two years of Catholic school, as well as two years of public school. As Obama described it, “Without the money to go to the international school that most expatriate children attended, I went to local Indonesian schools and ran the streets with the children of farmers, servants, tailors, and clerks.” [The Audacity of Hope, p. 274]

To be clear, Senator Obama has never been a Muslim, was not raised a Muslim, and is a committed Christian who attends the United Church of Christ in Chicago. Furthermore, the Indonesian school Obama attended in Jakarta is a public school that is not and never has been a Madrassa.

These malicious, irresponsible charges are precisely the kind of politics the American people have grown tired of, and that Senator Obama is trying to change by focusing on bringing people together to solve our common problems.

McKinney (appears) to make good

You've got to give the hat tip to Winders for this, but this story about Larry McKinney's first few days in Daytona Beach is interesting for a variety of reasons.

- I love this part ...

McKinney said he'll experience those impacts firsthand when he and his wife start looking for a home to buy later this year. For the time being, he is renting.

"We've got a house in Athens to sell first, and real estate there has slowed like everywhere else," he said.

By 'Athens' you really mean 'Oconee County' right? I mean, they are two distinctly different communities last time I checked. Remember you worked to promote the economic well-being of one, but opted to live, shop and pay taxes in the other?

- As the president of the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce, and one who was incredibly politically active too (and by that I mean whatever the folks on the Athens-Clarke County Commission support, I will automatically oppose), don't you think you played a hand in at least somewhat encouraging this overdevelopment in the housing market? I mean, a good portion of the policies McKinney backed did nothing to prepare our community for the rampant development he was advocating. It was just clear-cut, put up condos and sell them for $225,000 ... consequences (or the existent of enough legitimate buyers) be damned.

- As an aside, check out the sweet deal George H. Mirabal is getting down there. First, he resigns as chairman. Then he sets up a consulting firm and his first client is ... The Chamber of Daytona Beach/Halifax Area. Mirabel will offer consult and advice to McKinney through a contract. If I was a member of that organization, I'd be upset I was giving so much money to the new guy and still paying some to the old guy.

Tom Brown is the business writer down there, and I think you should cordially let him know about McKinney's relationship with our community ... that whole damaging-a-credible-and-worthy-organization, setting-up-a-PAC-to-advance-personal-grudges and ignoring-the-wishes-and-sentiments-of-the-majority-of-this-community's-citizens thing he was so good at.

Couple of things

- The confusion in this story regarding even why the ticket was dropped is enough reason to revisit the ordinance. Considering some commissioners have gone on record as saying it wasn't their intent to restrict smoking outside, even in partially enclosed structures, I think it merits revisiting the language (particularly since a ban on indoor smoking should only apply to, you know, indoor structures). Former Solicitor General Mo Wiltshire dropped the charge due to ambiguity. Mark Bell and his attorney Bill Overend think they've won. Athens-Clarke County attorney Bill Berryman doesn't plan to change his interpretation at all. And current Solicitor General C.R. Chisholm is no where to be found.

- Lady, please. We're going with regional bias now? Did you actually read the article on the Clarkston refugees? It was a great read.

- Ugh. Banging proverbial head against proverbial wall after reading Brian Hall's letter. Because an 'either-or' response to an 'either-or' column is clearly the best way to go ...

- Bill Shipp isn't as cranky today as he talks about Bobby Kahn heading out and continues to perpetuate the falsehood that Mike Berlon is the 'frontrunner' to become the next chairman of Democratic Party of Georgia.

On the SOTU

- One of the more puzzling things is why people are so quick to praise President Bush for acknowledging that Nancy Pelosi is, indeed, the first female Speaker of the House. What does it say about the actual speech when the first thing his defenders on the right - a steadily shrinking number - tout in his courtesy?

- The speech itself wasn't terribly bad, and it included lots of interesting ideas regarding energy policy and fuel consumption. In the past, with a Republican Congress, those ideas never saw the light of day. Now, with a Democratic Congress, you might actually see some of these ideas discussed and implemented.

- Regarding Iraq policy, when your best counterargument is 'give it a chance to work' then you're doing a bang-up job of selling this thing. Of course, it's a pretty lousy idea to sell anyway.

- Probably worth noting as well that this is one of those times where the opposition party response is generating more attention than the actual State of the Union speech. Sen. Jim Webb nailed it.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Couple of things

- It's a shame they're having to close up their office, but Carole Middlebrooks's comment that it was 'a waste of taxpayer money' seems odd. If it's an organization you believe in - one so much so that you're now going to run it out of your home for free - then how is it a waste of money? Of course, for that matter, how can you not turn something in on time?

- This forum is about something which hasn't gotten much coverage, but is worth mentioning ... and it's that the Bush Administration has gone on record requesting that the federal judiciary defer to them on any matter connected with national security (i.e. cases involving Guantanamo Bay or domestic wiretapping).

- There's a new political blog in Georgia as Georgia Politics just launched. It seems that anyone can post over there if they so desire.

- Ah ... the 'I hate Jimmy Carter' letters have started rolling in, including a terribly ineffective one by Bob Marable (you're shocked?) who claims Carter is a 'wimp.' Why? Well, according to Marable ... he just is!

- I'd support this trade. Two All-Pro receivers and the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft? For Michael Vick? That's a steal.

- The problem with this isn't the fact that you want to crack down on fraud in absentee voting, but rather that you want to put people in jail for three to five years for it.

- The Red and Black looks at a guy who almost abolished the Student Government Association and mentions that, again, it may be abolished in this year's upcoming election. I'd like some clarity here ... what exactly does SGA do? I didn't understand during my time there, and I still don't today. It appears that the University of Georgia administration, understandably, still holds final say on most issues. If it's nothing more than a big ole training exercise for future politicians, that's great ... so is it?

- In case you were wondering, CNN is reporting that Barack Obama was, indeed, not trained in terrorist camps as a child.

Family trees

In what hopefully isn't interpreted as an anti-Clinton statement, I think this column in the Los Angeles Times is pretty interesting, and it hits on something that Hillary and I were talking about.

And that's namely that, if Hillary Clinton is elected in 2008 and serves two terms, the United States will have gone through 28 years of leadership from just two families. Some folks at Daily Kos are rebutting this, but I think their counterargument is a bit soft.

There primary claim is that while the current President Bush benefitted largely from the fact that his father was rich, powerful and, at one time, the president ... Hillary Clinton could have succeeded on her own.

I don't doubt the fact that Clinton is smart enough or that she didn't possess the proper amount in drive to succeed in life (from a political standpoint), but I do doubt that we'd be considering her as president if her husband hadn't already held the job and relied on her extensively while in office. The other Clinton is a remarkable politician who is savvy, smooth and comfortable in almost any setting.

If Hillary Clinton had not had a husband who had already held the nation's top office - and left that position with impressively high approval ratings - I just don't think she'd be a serious candidate for president. Senate Majority Leader, sure, but not president.

Monday, January 22, 2007

This just in - Obama not a terrorist!

Just in case you didn't know any better, that whole thing about Barack Obama being educated in an radical Islamic madrassa? Yeah, it's patently false and was generated by a rabidly partisan magazine owned by a Republican-friendly newspaper and then trumpeted by Fox News.

The part about Hillary Clinton's campaign uncovering it? Yeah, also false.

Remember that study about the average Fox News viewer being less informed? Well, all due respect ... but case in point.

Couple of things

- Buddy, I ain't happy with this whole handling of the war thing either, but to suggest the paper deliberately didn't cover an anti-war event because of any personal differences is ridiculous. There's an anti-war event downtown almost every day ... plus the Athens Banner-Herald has Ed Tant.

- I don't necessarily disagree with Rev. Beth Long's intent, but I think it's a rather shaky argument on the whole. I think there are, indeed, economic arguments as well which are more valuable considering folks who sincerely believe a minimum wage hike will hurt low-income folks could couch their disagreements in the same moral cloak.

- The race for the chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia is in the homestretch with the election set for next Saturday, and Peach Pundit picked up some interesting comments from Jim Butler regarding Michael Berlon's candidacy. Berlon, as I've noted here, is having a rough time as of late. Word is that he's continuing to lose delegates ... which, seeing how I'm a Jane Kidd guy, is good for the lady I'd like to see take over the party's leadership. Grift picks up some good quotes from last weekend's forum, and rumor is some video from that event will pop up soon on YouTube.

- If you've got some free time and are interested in helping out our school district, then swing by the H.T. Edwards Building today between 4:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. to participate in the community involvement aspect of the Clarke County School District's Continuous Improvement Plan.

- I'm for repealing our outdated blue laws, as well as thinking that Sadie Fields's counterargument is a tad silly. I didn't realize that, you know, allowing local communities to choose whether or not giving citizens the voluntary option to purchase beer or wine was infringing on worship. I had a beer last night and went to the grocery store ... that didn't infringe on my ability. Peach Pundit's all over this as well.

- Alice Kinman and Kelly Girtz were kind enough to share some of their thoughts regarding the possibility of some sort of hunting ordinance.

- Don Nelson's being doing some good work at the Banner-Herald blogs, so I give him some props for it.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

What goes around, comes around

Winders must hardly be able to focus these days.

Just a few short years after two of my favorite teams - the Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots - captured world championships in the same season, going through his two favorite teams - the St. Louis Cardinals and Indianapolis Colts - to do so ... he gets a little payback.

First, the Cardinals win the World Series, and now the Colts erase an 18-point first half deficit en route to defeat the Patriots to advance to the Super Bowl (two observations real quick ... on Tom Brady's game-killing interception on the final drive, he had Heath Evans wide open near the sideline but missed him and if you want a textbook example of how not to play second half, 'protect-the-lead' defense, just watch New England's fourth quarter).

And yes I'm a Patriots fan, though my NFL allegiances are pretty shaky since I'm not necessarily a big pro football guy. I never really had much of a connection with the Atlanta teams as I put most of my energy into Georgia football and the Red Sox. From what I could gather, most Red Sox fans were Patriots fans as well, and I kinda liked being the only kid at the bus stop who pulled for New England rather than Chicago in Super Bowl XX.

In fact, the only true sports allegiance I had to an Atlanta-based team was the Hawks ... primarily because of Dominique Wilkins and Spud Webb. Of course, I'm a closet NBA fan, so there's that.

Makes your head spin

I never really know what to do when the other guys offer an idea that, well, isn't half bad. Now with two ideas worth exploring, what's a good Democrat to do?

First Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and State School Superintendent Kathy Cox call for an expansion of charter schools and then, of all people, President Bush ponders ways to increase health care coverage. The latter's proposal is far from a perfect idea, but it's a positive start.

Of course, he stubbornly clings to his management of Iraq and refuses to discuss mandates regarding global warming, so there's that.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Guess I saw it coming

I had been hoping she'd sit this one out, but Hillary's in.

And, of course, after deriding her for the better part of the past year, folks like MyDD are falling over all themselves to give her props ... including taking stupid pot-shots at Barack Obama:

And as blogger savvy as John Edwards was in outreach, Clinton internet team had the email's of bloggers to notify them separate from the press (no such outreach from the Obama camp).

Because blogger outreach is more important than, you know, the actual positions a candidate has.


It's no George O'Leary, but ...

Don Nelson is all over the now departed Athens Area Chamber of Commerce community development director Tom Wyatt. Seems like he found his resume somewhere.

Tom's not a bad fella personally, but he does appear to be taking a lot of credit for things he had little control of. He also conveniently leaves out the whole 'repeatedly losing elections' thing.

As an aside, while Don's going here ... he's also on the proposed Target on Lexington Highway.

A little insight on hunting proposals

Lest we let it slip from our minds, folks are still working on trying to find an appropriate proposal for possible hunting restrictions. After exchanging some emails with both Alice Kinman and Kelly Girtz, I wanted to share some of their observations on the matter.

Girtz, who told me he's accompanied Doug Lowry on a few of his fact-finding missions and meetings on this topic, sent over some interesting background facts on hunting in Athens-Clarke County.

- There are very few parcels of land where discharging a firearm in Clarke County is legal, given the current ordinance requiring discharge to occur 300 yards from a structure and 150 yards from a public road (though there are some exceptions in that code - such as an Agricultural Permit for the benefit of growers who seek to limit damage to their crops). Lowry had the Planning Department put together a map of the county including all streets and structures, along with circles scaled to 300 yards and 150 yards drawn on clear acetate. The parcels of land where discharge is allowable are largely in the Morton Road/Barnett Shoals Corridor, along with just a few other parcels near the northern county border.

- The local deer population is quite dense. As many have read in the Athens Banner-Herald, our deer management region, as designated by the DNR, has approximately 45 deer per square mile of forest. The Quality Deer Management Association believes this is almost twice what the land can sustain. This often leads to deer that are in poor health because of competition for food. Because there are some "refuges" for deer in Clarke, where deer can wander freely (but where hunting is not permitted), the population tends to remain high. This results in high deer/vehicle collision rates, prompting special designation by the DNR of Highway 78 E and W and Highway 129 as "high accident" roads.

- In the 15 years since the ACC Police Department has been keeping electronic records, there has not been a reported hunting-related death in Athens.

It's worth noting that the first two background facts appear to pose a contradictory problem. Our deer population is quite high - the number of deer that stream through my inside-the-perimeter neighborhood off Oglethorpe Avenue is alarmingly high for instance, however there just aren't many places where you can fire any type of firearm, legally or safely, without posing a possible threat to an existing structure and the individuals who might be in that building or on the property.

It's also clear this is something which is in direct response to the intentional shooting of the dog, Ivy. Kinman acknowledges this and said "The (no doubt) depraved person who shot Ivy was not acting as a hunter. He/she was using a firearm illegally on county property, and, according to the police, probably shot the dog deliberately. This is not the way hunters act."

As a result, it's going to be important for the commission to not overreach on this issue because, quite frankly, no amount of hunting restrictions would have deterred the fella who shot Ivy. The shooter was taking a deliberate and intentional shot at the dog and was doing so illegally on county property. This wasn't an accidental shooting where a hunter missed his mark and struck a dog a couple of hundred yards away.

And though this sounds a bit critical of the response, it actually isn't meant to be at all. I think Lowry is doing a very good job in researching this matter - as is Girtz based on the volume of knowledge he has acquired on this subject in just a short period of time - and it's prompted us to take a look at an issue which, with increased development coming in our more rural areas, is going to be becoming bigger down the road.

Both Kinman and Girtz acknowledge this:

With these things in mind, we need to focus our efforts where we can make a difference to ensure that our ordinances are written to protect lives, homes and property; make sure enforcement measures are adaquate to keep tragedies like the recent shooting of Ivey on county property; and ensure that safe, legal hunting continues, so as to manage the deer population.
- Girtz

I'm an urban dweller, so I don't have to deal with the possibility of bullets whizzing by my ear while I'm out for a jog. But if this really is a problem in parts of the county where residential development has gotten dense around hunting areas, then, yes, perhaps we need to acknowledge that our land use plan, if built out, will require restrictions on firearms in certain areas. I'm open-minded about this and will need to hear from the people who live in those areas and the commissioners who represent them.
- Kinman

So what's the solution? Kinman said she felt my 'tiered approach' was a strong possibility, though I can't take credit for it. Girtz had mentioned that to me right after Lowry began investigating the matter. Girtz said limiting the areas where one could hunt with a rifle to larger parcels of undeveloped land - such as in eastern portions of Athens-Clarke County - was a possibility, and that it might be interesting to explore extending the length of hunting season in conjunction with a targeted rifle ban.

"Counties are allowed to extend the season, and several have done so to limit the deer population," Girtz said. "... I mention (extending the hunting season), as Quality Deer Management Association biologists believe it would allow the deer population to stay at present levels, rather than rise further."

They both stressed Lowry's ability to seek answers and solutions from all sides of the issue and expressed confidence in his ability to find a workable solution, if one is even necessary. I, for one, think the guy's been getting a bad rap on this whole thing as the 'commissioner who wants to ban hunting,' and I said so on Tim Bryant's show last week. Lowry has met with numerous stakeholders in this thing and if any proposal does emerge, it will only be after he's done extensive research on the topic.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Forum redux

If you recall, I was kinda hard on Doug McKillip during the campaign season. I still stand by much of my questioning, but it's worth noting that McKillip answered much of those questions. And it's also worth noting that he's done a pretty darn good job in his short time in Atlanta so far.

Last night, both he and Rep. Keith Heard chatted with some folks about some of the upcoming plans at the Georgia General Assembly. It was a pretty good crowd. Some of the highlights ...

- McKillip pointed out how much of the burden for paying for services is being shifted from the state level to the local level, to which Mayor Heidi Davison concurred adding that the state is also taking measures to handicap how revenues are raised to provide those services;

- McKillip, who is serving on the Natural Resources and Environment Committee, briefly discussed how there's the possibility some what to 'redefine' what a marshland is to open them up to development ... how you 'redefine' a geological feature is beyond me;

- Heard is opposed to Sunday sales of alcohol in Georgia and plans to vote against any bill which permits its sales while McKillip supports it;

- Large portion of discussion focused on the governor's proposal to invest in biomedical training and resources in Athens-Clarke County, something which both McKillip and Heard hope to see happen but cautioned that the budget will go through some changes before it's all said and done.

Check out Blake's story on the forum.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Couple of things

- Yesterday I mentioned the fact there will be a TDR committee meeting at the Planning Department today at 5:30 p.m. Also today will be a question-and-answer session with Rep. Keith Heard (D-Athens) and Rep. Doug McKillip (D-Athens) at 6:30 p.m. at the Athens-Clarke County Library. For more information, call 770.314.2487.

- Jane Kidd has launched a blog detailing her bid for the DPG chair, as well as some of her ideas for the party. There's a forum this Saturday in Atlanta where all of the candidates for chair will participate. I believe Georgia Podcast Network is involved with this event.

- Thanks to a tag by Paul, I put up dream jobs.

- Alluded to earlier here, but Barack Obama has taken the first step by forming an exploratory committee.

- Economic growth is a good thing, but I'm not entirely sure building an entirely new shopping center for this Target is the best idea. Aren't there plenty of empty big-box shopping centers around here? Why not move the store into the vacated Winn-Dixie Marketplace at the corner of Gaines School and Lexington Highway? Why build another shopping center which will, inevitably, be left to die within 10 years as Target wants to find the 'new' site to set up shop on?

- Happy Birthday Champ.

- Matthew Yglesias talks about some of the odditites of the American health care system.

Dream a little dream

By default, Paul tagged me ... asking me to think up my five fantasy careeers. I can think of three, but five is hard. The final two could be shaky, but we'll give it a go ...

1. Communications Director, Augusta National Golf Club - I interned a couple of times for the current director back in college, and this has long been at the top of my wish list. Being an Augusta native, having the chance to work for The Masters and the ANGC would be nothing short of a dream come true.

2. Political Strategist/Policy Advisor, Barack Obama for President - I tell you what senator ... you make up your mind, and then you shoot me an email.

3. Owner, Random Seaside Bar/Grill - I've already got it mapped out too. The only bottled beer we'd serve would be Miller High Life ... everything else would be in a can for, like, $1.25. That and fried food. And we'd have to have a funny name and great view.

4. Matthew Yglesias - Blog and write on politics - intermixed with some sports and pop culture - all day? I can handle that. Though I'd have better hair.

5. Personal Chef - Sort of ties into No. 3, but like I said, I'm reaching here. Still, I love to cook, but wouldn't want to work for a big restaurant or catering service. Something where I could map out and prepare meals for four to five folks would rock.

Who should do this now? How about Russ and Nikki.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Time is on our side?

Blake's chatting about the possibility of Charlie Maddox: Redux, and it's interesting post. I think, however, he puts too much stock in some things.

And the commission is going to be busy, busy, busy the next four years. At the end of it, we'll know if Partners for a Prosperous Athens worked, if rural landowners will have relief from a TDR program, if the tax burden on homeowners is lessened, if neighborhood-level planning is feasible, if city services can be extended to everyone, if we can build an economy around biotech and entertainment. There will be plenty to talk about.

Lots of things on top over the next four years - lots of important issues - but I think, with regard to PPA and developing our economy, it's going to take substantially longer than four years to see how all this pans out. It takes a while to adequately develop an economy, just as it takes time to attempt to break the cycle of poverty.

But politics is politics, and the next mayoral race - rightly or wrongly - will probably be a referendum on these types of issues.

Let me misread that again

Over at Peach Pundit, regular Athens Banner-Herald conservative contributor Jeff Emmanuel has highlighted a fascinating speech by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA).

Fascinating in the sense that it offers no enlightment whatsover and contributes absolutely nothing to today's dialogue.

We should be honest about what government can and cannot do. The economic prosperity we all crave flows from the entrepreneurial inspiration of the American people, not from their representatives in Washington. Mandates, protectionism, isolationism, high taxes are all bad for America and bad for Americans.


This debate is a classic contrast between two very different philosophies. Ours believes in the marketplace, the competitive system that has brought the United States of America so much prosperity. The other argument says government and Washington know better.

This would be a compelling argument if the actual debate going in our country was between socialist forces determined to reinstitute 19th-century tariffs and close up every single overseas U.S. military base and purist libertarian types who want to bring an end to all sorts of government activism.

In the real world, however, the discussion is focused on the minimum wage ... and Isakson is lukewarm to an increase in the minimum wage. But he hasn't called for its abolition either.

So in one fell swoop, the junior senator has completely misinterpreted the entire political dialogue in our country while grasping to a position that betrays his own utopian vision of government.

Hey, I like grand ideological and philosophical discussions, but I also like them to be consistent and within the appropriate context. Creating a false argument to score some cheap bonus points isn't exactly the best way to do so.

Of note

Principles are what people have instead of God.

To be a Christian means among other things to be willing if necessary to sacrifice even your highest principles for God's or your neighbor's sake the way a Christian pacifist must be willing to pick up a baseball bat if there's no other way to stop a man from savagely beating a child.

Jesus didn't forgive his executioners on principle but because in some unimaginable way he was able to love them.
- Frederick Buechner, "Wishful Thinking: A Seeker's ABC"

Couple of things

- It's worth noting that Sunday's Athens Banner-Herald was chock full of great reads. Joe Johnson's look at Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway and the challenges it faces is very interesting. Blake examines the University of Georgia's plan to take over all of the Naval Supply School property, something which I'm not terribly thrilled about. Finally, Don Nelson's column attempts to break the misconception that Athens-Clarke County is 'anti-business', and I think he does a good job.

- What's interesting about this pretty good editoral from the Banner-Herald is considering all of the University's plans. Understandably, UGA wants to expand, but the problems this poses is that it, in some instances, forcibly removes students and puts them into the community at large, which the editorial discusses. But also it should be noted that UGA's desire to keep expanding, particularly in light of its plans for the Naval Supply School, means more and more of this community's property is gobbled up and removed from its property tax rolls. Now, this isn't earthshattering by any means, but it's an issue we kinda dance around, and it's going to be a pretty big one in years to come ... and the struggle for the Naval Supply School property is just one example.

- I thought this was a nice letter.

- On Wednesday, the committee studying TDRs is meeting in the Building Inspections Conference Room at the Planning Building at 5:30 p.m. We've chatted about those here a bit, so I wanted to plug the meeting. There's no public input, but it does give you a chance to see what they're working on.

- In career development news, C. Trent has taken over the Reds beat for Marc ... who has moved to cover the Devil Rays. The upside? Living in Tampay-St. Petersburg. The downside? Covering the Devil Rays. Oh, and Marc just got engaged ... so congrats to that fella.

- Matthew Yglesias breaks down some semantics regarding health care coverage.

- No conversation regarding last night's 24. Missed it. Hoping I can find it somewhere ... perhaps iTunes.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Three speeches

But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco-Roman world, so am I. compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 'Letter From A Birmingham Jail'


There are changes we can make from the outside-in - those are the job of the President of the United States and the Congress and the governors and state legislators and mayors - raising standards, community policing. And there is something each of us here can do - from the inside-out - and in the spirit of my faith, I count myself as one of you to turn this thing around from the inside-out as well as the outside-in. Otherwise the outside changes won't matter.

Sometimes, there are no answers from the outside in. Sometimes, the answers have to come from the values and the love and the stirrings and the voices that speak to us from within.
- President Bill Clinton, 'Speech in Memphis, Tennessee on 1993 MLK Day


That’s the thing I find the most important about the sermon Dr. King delivered here that day. He did not direct his demands to the government of the United States, which was escalating the war. He issued a direct appeal to the people of the United States, calling on us to break our own silence, and to take responsibility for bringing about what he called a revolution of values.

A revolution whose starting point is personal responsibility, of course, but whose animating force is the belief that we cannot stand idly by and wait for others to right the wrongs of the world.

And this, in my view, is at the heart of what we should remember and celebrate on this day. This is the dream we must commit ourselves to realizing.
- John Edwards, 2007 MLK Day Speech

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Good read

This is an excellent piece by Ben Emmanuel from Flagpole taking a look at the political realities for the new Athens-Clarke County Commission.

From a journalistic standpoint, I'm very impressed with not only how engaging his writing is, but also with how he was able to get such frank, honest and sincere quotes from folks from all sides of the spectrum in this community.

There are two really interesting passages.

The first one, regarding David Lynn's 'independent' streak ...

There have been other aberrations, too. The Mayor and some of the commissioners will admit to having been surprised by Lynn on some votes. An example is last year’s decision to allot a large chunk of road-building money to building a four-lane Jennings Mill Parkway parallel to Atlanta Highway near the Loop, despite concerns about encouraging growth versus redeveloping parts of that area, and about saving some money for alternative transportation projects. Lynn stands by that vote today, and adds, “Every transportation issue isn’t a decisive vote for the future of alternative transportation in this community.” He goes on, “I get a little impatient with every issue being some kind of indictment on where you stand on alternative transportation.”

The other, regarding promising comments from folks like Lewis Shropshire ...

Shropshire also serves on the PPA steering committee, and says it’s “critical” that the five co-conveners of the initiative (which include the local government and the Chamber of Commerce) accept their responsibilities when the time comes to implement PPA recommendations. “We have some very difficult decisions to make,” he says. “Change is going to be difficult because nobody wants their ox to be gored.” Shropshire says thick skins will be required on everyone’s part when the PPA’s time comes, “because otherwise we’ll do what we’ve always done and get what we’ve always gotten, which is unacceptable.”

Friday, January 12, 2007

Couple of things

- I wouldn't say I defended Joe Lieberman during the last election cycle, but I wanted to keep things in perspective regarding his longtime service to the Democratic Party. However, the fact that he has reversed on a campaign promise to hold oversight hearings on the response to Hurricane Katrina infuriates me. Not because I want to see any particular leader from any particular party get humiliated, but rather because it would be invaluable to see how we screwed up so royally and try to find ways to ensure it doesn't happen again.

- Let me tell you what's wrong with Tony Arnold's letter ... that he calls for a 'proactive' approach to panhandling. OK, fine. However, by that he apparently means not necessarily showing concern to their Constitutional rights by accosting them prior to any complaint and/or offense has occurred. Is aggressive panhandling a bad thing? Of course. Any sort of aggressive behavior toward another individual is bad. However, I don't know why we think that because we happen to have a little extra change in our pocket and happen to be, say, downtown that we should be enclosed in a protective bubble. If something merely asks you for some extra change ... give it to 'em or don't give it to 'em. It's not a big deal. If they harass you, that's a whole different story.

- Kudos to our local legislators for picking up some leadership slots. Two observations ... is there anyone other than Charles Bullock who can be academic source for these types of things? And is anyone else not surprised that Ralph Hudgens is on the insurance committee and very troubled by the fact that he holds a 'high-ranking' slot on the environmental committee?

- Coinciding with the governor's speech, UGA President Michael Adams wants to improve our biomedical research, education and facilities. It's a good call. If done properly, it can be a boon for our local economy.

- This whole thing gets odder and odder, but Georgia Unfiltered Politics has gone on a hiatus ... just days after becoming the first blogger with press credentials for the Georgia General Assembly and hours after Andre withdrew his endorsement of Mike Berlon.

- Because this could be kinda funny, the Athens Banner-Herald is starting a podcast series where readers can submit questions - any questions - for Jason Winders to answer. I'm leaning toward 'Which Darren did you prefer in Bewitched?' but I'm not sure yet.

- Y'all aren't off the hook that easy.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Couple of things

- Somewhere, someone thinks I've got something worth saying. Tim Bryant was kind enough to ask me to appear on his show this morning and discuss, well, who knows what. It's on 1340-AM at 9:05 a.m. Only a bit nervous right now, so tune in and see if I make a complete fool of myself!

- I like the fact House Democrats voted to increase the minimum wage, but I'll be honest ... I'd like to see some tax relief for small businesses involved in the final piece of legislation. Fortunately, the Senate seems willing to help out.

- I've got some questions involving the DPG chair race ... and some surrounding circumstances.

- Good to see the multimodel center moving to its next phase of development. It's still hard for me to wrap my mind around how the whole thing will look when it all shakes out, but I know it's a good thing.

- Not a big fan of the governor, but his call for increased investment in our health education industry is quite welcome. If folks up in Atlanta follow through with this and it's done right, it could go hand-in-hand with some of the things we're hoping to do on the local level ... and would be a shocking, but pleasing example of how government should work.

- Audience participation! Seriously.

- I meant to plug this earlier, but there's an interesting discussion going on over at Athens World on what makes a subdivision a sudvision and a neighborhood a neighborhood.

More questions than answers ...

Purely speculation on my part, but does anyone else find the following events kinda weird?

Andre from Georgia Unfiltered Politics linked to this post at Political Vine discussing some rumors involving Mike Berlon and the Gwinnett County Democratic Party election schedule, where he inserted some of his own commentary saying that, yes, it did seem kinda odd.

Later in the day, Andre's entry is removed entirely. Even later in the day, he resigns from his voting position on the Democratic Party of Georgia State Committee. Sid Cottingham, who is listed as a delegate supporting Berlon, then posts at Georgia Unfiltered Politics ... with a weird, pseudo-threat that reads 'Don't even think about applying for press credentials' ... a reference to the fact that Andre is the first Georgia blogger to gain press credentials to the Georgia General Assembly.

I don't know either gentleman, and I don't know the circumstances. In fact, they're quite possibly benign. However, on the surface and just processing the existing information we have ... don't these events kinda give the wrong impression? One with a ulterior motive?

Audience participation! Musically!

I was involved in an interesting conversation on Saturday night at Flickr, and Blake managed to capture part of it at the end of this post. So, first, hats off to Kelly Girtz for giving Public Enemy props.

Blake and I agreed that Illmatic by Nas was one of the greatest rap albums of all time, though he and Martin both felt that Tupac was vastly overrated. Needless to say, I couldn't continue much more in a rational manner after that.

I did happen to witness the following exchange, however ...

Martin: I'm a Chubb Rock apologist.
Blake: That's a pretty severe position to take.

Why do I mention such randomness? Good question. Namely because I want you to consider this - if you had to pick only 10 songs you could listen to for the rest of your life, what would they be? What 10 songs could you not live without?

And, I'm serious ... I want audience participation here. Post in the comments. Write it up at your own blog and let me know.

My list? I'm glad you asked. Though, as with most musical lists, it's in no particularl order and always subject to change ...

Long Time Gone by Dixie Chicks
Are You Sure Hank Done It That Way by Waylon Jennings
Atlantic City by Bruce Springsteen
Cocaine Blues by Johnny Cash
Something In The Way She Moves by James Taylor
Miss Grace by The Thymes
Elsewhere by Sarah McLachlan
The Only One (Remix) or The Only One by Evanescence
To Live And Die In L.A. by Tupac
Rabbit Run by Eminem

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

More news on DPG

I had already expressed my concerns over Mike Berlon's bid for DPG chair, and apparently I'm not alone.

Both Georgia Unfiltered Politics, Peach Pundit are picking up on this posting from The Political Vineyard regarding the meetings, or lack thereof, for Gwinnett County Democrats.

Berlon currently is the chair of the Gwinnett County Democratic Party. Sources claim he's delayed state-mandated meetings while he works on his campaign for state chair, while others note the Gwinnett County party hasn't met for months.

Some folks I've talked to also say that of those close-to-80 backers Berlon has listed on his site, a substantial portion have withdrawn their support and begun to look elsewhere ... most notably Athens's Jane Kidd.

UPDATE: Steve over in the comments at Georgia Unfiltered Politics says Berlon abstained from any votes pertaining to county party elections.

Couple of things

- Bob Bowen does't have a clue ... and for a variety of reasons. First off, while there is a legitimate argument to be made about not having the Georgia General Assembly tamper with the Georgia High School Association, it's ridiculous to claim that the newspaper can't voice its opinion about the matter. Second, just because you cite the shared state title from Athens High School from 1969 doesn't mean the system works. If these kids are allowed to play overtime in every game except the state championship, something's not right.

- I think the Athens Banner-Herald editorial on the development of Jekyll Island is good, but let's be honest about this ... those folks are going to stack up overpriced condo after overpriced condo on that island with little to no concern about the natural environment.

- This isn't a terrible idea by any means, but I have some doubts about whether or not the 'average Peach State motorist travels at 75 mph, which is 20 mph over the speed limit.' On what road? Lord knows I'm not flying down Atlanta Highway at anything over 55 mph.

- I've never really thought that panhandling was that big of a deal. In fact, I more frequently encounter folks who want to convert me to Christianity ... and when I tell them that I am, in fact, already a Christian, they proceed to tell me I'm really not ... presumably because I don't give money to their church.

- Folks actually involved with hunting pretty much say we don't need a new ordinance. Over the past few weeks, I've come to agree with them. While I'm still open to some sort of tiered approach, it does seem somewhat foolish to lay down an outright ban because of the irresponsible actions of a few who would violate said ban anyway.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Couple of things

- Two things from this - My dad already regrets voting for him and I really hate the 'review the troops' thing the governor has started.

- After the absolute domination of Ohio State by Florida in the BCS National Championship Game, I felt the need to do some gloating at The Cover Two. On a somewhat related note, where is the logic in ranking Ohio State No. 2 in the final Associated Press poll? After the collapse of Michigan in the postseason as well, can anyone honestly say that either LSU or Southern Cal don't deserve to be ranked ahead of them? And if we're basing it on the final overall record, why is Boise State No. 5?

- Congrats fellas.

- At least the Republicans in control of the Georgia General Assembly are honest about their blatant misuse of power. Just two years after stripping the Lt. Governor position of its traditional powers, solely because a Democrat held the office, they're poised to restore them. Said Sen. Eric Johnson - '"It is now time to return to more traditional rules.' That's comforting, isn't it? That your elected officials are more concerned with petty, stupid grudges than, you know, actually doing the people's work.

- Speaking of the Georgia General Assembly, Andre from Georgia Unfiltered Politics recaps his first day as the first blogger with media credentials there.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Geographically speaking

I really hadn't thought about this too much, but Jim Thompson's column on the in-town commissioners is a pretty darn good read, particularly because it's very open and honest in its questions. It's not critical, nor is it damning.

The scenario is simply this: Girtz resides on Pulaski Street and, as such, is one of four county commissioners living within a few square miles of each other in a county that covers 120.8 square miles. Commissioners (Kelly) Girtz, Alice Kinman, Kathy Hoard and David Lynn all live within or near the Five Points and Cobbham communities, in a roughly north-south line stretching between Five Points and the edge of downtown Athens along Milledge Avenue.


Still, even without (George) Maxwell and (Harry) Sims in the mix, what you're left with is the fact that four of the county's 10 commissioners - almost half, that is - live in what is, essentially, the same neighborhood. The same, that is, in terms of what residents are looking to the county government to provide for them - such things as tightly controlled vehicular traffic, including concessions to pedestrian and bicycle traffic, and tightly controlled commercial development.

Now, J.T.'s a fan of this group, and he says so throughout his column. But it's worthwhile to note that four commissioners will have such strong connections to two very influential neighborhoods, and how will the legitimate concerns of those neighborhoods balance out against the legitimate concerns of other sections of Athens-Clarke County.

For what it's worth, I'm not worried in the slightest. I know Girtz, and he's one of the most open-minded and fair individuals you'd ever meet, so it's ridiculous to think he'd be in anyone's pocket. Likewise for Kinman, who continues to hold the title of 'Jmac's favorite commissioner.' I don't know Hoard or Lynn, but nothing about them seems to suggest they'd act in a manner that would detract from areas outside of their district.

So, it's a good read, though I'd say I disagree with J.T. over how this could affect the proposed hunting ban (Girtz, for instance, has been very involved in this process and is working to find a suitable compromise). The only issue where it may - understandably - come up would be if the commission moves to do something to reshape Prince Avenue.

State-wide baby

I got quoted in a Morris News Service story as the 'blog expert' for a piece on the Georgia General Assembly's web site. It's not bad work by Tom Marine, though I think he kinda makes me come across as really critical of the web site when I recall discussing how it was improving year-in and year-out.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Fireworks at the planning commission

This is an interesting story because, quite frankly, you don't hear a whole of exciting comments coming out of a planning commission meeting. Mazelle Graham wants to transform her two existing lots along Boulevard into three smaller ones and then, presumably, either sell them or develop those lots.

Graham argues - somewhat correctly I feel it must be noted - that if you are going to establish a greenbelt around the edges of the community, then you need to be able to encourage more high-density development in town, which she feels she's trying to do.

Members of the commission disagreed, and their concern appears to be they fear it could lead to a slew of rezonings and development in that neighborhood which would completely change its appearance and feel.

I think those are real concerns, so don't misunderstand me, but I think Graham has a point. We want to preserve our greenbelt, and as a result, we have to start considering how best to encourage high-density development.

Now, whether or not this development is the appropriate one, who knows. But it does seem to me that it's easy for some folks to say things like 'we need to increase our density to preserve our greenspace ... just don't do it in my neighborhood.'

It's going to have to go somewhere. Again, Boulevard may not be the best place for that, but I think Crissy Marlowe made the most sense in this whole thing by calling for a more thorough and comprehensive neighborhood planning system. She recommended neighborhood planning units, which is a good suggestion ... though it may have the inadvertant effect of resulting in the same mindset I just mentioned.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Couple of things

- Is it just me, or is there a weird rash of letters in recent days focused on the evolution debate? H.D. Lott and Neal Priest chime in today.

- While I agree with the editorial from the Athens Banner-Herald, I don't necessarily think that Doug Lowry is preparing to enact a complete ban on rifles in the community. From what I can gather from other folks is Lowry said that was one potential option, but that what might work better is some sort of tiered-level approach to hunting with some of those areas on the outyling parts of the country being open to use with rifles, and in more populated areas mandating the use of, say, just a bow. James Garland had some nice thoughts in an earlier discussion here.

- Republicans are talking about raising taxes in Atlanta ... I never thought I'd see the day.

- What's important to note about this story is the graphic. Look at the drastic rise in carbon emissions since just 1950. What's maddening is that carbon emissions is something that be reduced by individual efforts ... shorter hot showers, switching to energy efficient appliances, purchasing hybrid cars, buying energy saver light bulbs, etc. Bigger steps should be taken to curb emissions from factories and the like, but there are things the average Joe can do which make a difference.

Music for the moment

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Couple of things

- Programs like this one are the types of positive things which go on all the time in Clarke County schools, but get lost in the shuffle of test scores and calls for reform. Clarke Central, for instance, has one of the state's top vocational programs for its students that offers training in computers, finance and other trades.

- Doug McKillip has launched a blog where he'll keep tabs on legislation as it moves through the Georgia General Assembly. That's a good idea. It's been successful for other state politicians, and I know that Sen. Eric Johnson is a regular contributer at Peach Pundit.

- Speaking of Peach Pundit, they've got a short blurb saying Bill Shipp wants Jane Kidd to replace Bobby Kahn. Naturally, being a supporter of Kidd, I think this is a god idea ... though I don't remember the column actually saying that. I'm not high on the concept of Mike Berlon replacing Kahn, that's for sure.

- Doug Lowry and Kelly Girtz met with some folks from Quality Deer Management Association, and the former is plugging a public meeting hosted by the Department of Natural Resources. I'm still not sold we need a complete ban on rifles, though I'm not sure Lowry is either. What we seem to be the best would be whatever the folks from QDMA and DNR think, since this is sorta in their wheelhouse.

- Busta! Put your hands where my eyes can see!

- David Bill's blog has a link to the Saddam Hussein execution video, and he's asking whether or not folks would watch it. I said no because, well, I don't want to watch someone being hung.

- Who knew that Thomas Jefferson owned a Koran? Anyway, I have commented on any of the fiasco involving Virgil Goode's completely idiotic statements regarding the election of a Muslim to Congress. When you reveal such blatant bigotry, there's little need to actually criticize it because you've pretty much done a good job of looking like a fool on your own.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Not bully on Berlon

Now for some inside-baseball talk.

Thanks to another fairly nonsensical column from Bill Shipp, we're looking at the race for chairman of the Georgia Democratic Party. He dubs Mike Berlon 'the favorite' ... despite the fact that, well, things like this don't really have a favorite.

Regardless, as someone who is greatly interested in seeing the Democratic Party find its feet again in this state, I've got plenty of reservations about putting someone like Berlon in the top leadership position of our party.

- What the party needs more than anything is strong efforts in candidate recruitment and development. Putting good people out there means better chances for victory. Berlon is currently the chair of the Gwinnett County Democratic Party. How are his efforts going there? There are five members of the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners ... all are Republican. There are five members of the Gwinnett County Board of Education ... all are Republican. There are two U.S. Congressmen representing the area ... one is Republican John Linder, while a sliver of the county is picked up by Democrat Hank Johnson. There are 15 state representatives ... 11 are Republican. There are six state senators ... four are Republican.

Sure, Gwinnett County is a pretty red county. But Georgia is one of the reddest states in the nation, and nothing coming out of the electoral situation there gives me much confidence that Berlon has the ability to change that scenario.

- We also need to raise more money, and Berlon hasn't done that terribly well. He's run for two offices - Public Service Commission and U.S. Congress - and in both cases he underperformed. In the former, he had lots of cash on hand ... but it was his own. And, even then when he had some extra capital, he was trounced by 43 points.

- I, for one, think the party needs to reconnect with rural and small-town voters across the state. Those folks have been flocking in droves to the Republican Party, partly because we're not talking to them and partly because the other guys have put together a message friendly to them. We should work to get them back, and that means getting outside of the bubble of Atlanta. Bringing in someone who heads up the party operations for one of the city's most populated counties doesn't fit the bill ... particularly when only 27 of his 80-plus committed supporters reside beyond the Atlanta metro area.

- I don't necessarily like the rationale behind transforming the party into nothing more than a 'rah-rah' organization, which is ultimately what I think it would become based on what I can tell from Berlon's plans. We don't need a booster club, but rather an effective party structure that will raise money, recruit candidates and work closely with them to get them elected.

Couple of things

- I understand politics and I understand negative campaigning, but I really think Barack Obama's past drug use won't be that big of a deal. Not to say folks won't make it out to be, but I think he can use his story of recovery and determination in putting that behind him to his advantage. The folks who wouldn't vote for him because of this issue probably wouldn't vote for him anyway.

- Call me crazy, but I'd like a little more pomp with our swearing-in ceremonies. Wrapping the whole thing into a regularly scheduled commission meeting is a bit anti-climatic for me. Plus, I'd like to see a 'State of the City' report like other communities do.

- You can knock a few back in Watkinsville now, which means I'll never again see a group of frat boys, decked out for a formal, drag in an 18-pack of Bud Light into Maison Bleu again. You stay classy fellas.

- Bill Shipp looks at the Georgia Democratic Party race for chair, calling Gwinnett County's Mike Berlon 'the favorite.' Listen, the guy can't raise money to save his life, can't recruit candidates to run for office (meaning he's run for some seats, including a 43-point loss for Public Service Commission) and has a weird view of what he wants the party to do. I know Jane Kidd's the local person, so perhaps I'm a bit biased, but seeing how she can raise money and has made recruiting candidates a vital aspect of her party platform, she's easily the stronger candidate.

- But, James, comparing the Athens-Clarke County school system to the rural ones that surround us isn't fair. Those counties have different socioeconomic and environmental circumstances than our schools do, which means it isn't as easy as simply saying 'well Oconee County has good grades for less money.' There are a wide variety of factors that are affecting our schools and some of them are financial while others are more societal.

Buckin' Broncos

Randomly inserted in my posting over the possible ban of using rifles for hunting in Athens-Clarke County, Al asked my thoughts on Boise State's 43-42 overtime win over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl ...

- Easily the best bowl game of the year, and short of Florida and Ohio State going through three or four overtimes, it'll be hard to top it. A hook-and-lateral and the Statue of Liberty? Are you kidding me?

- That hook-and-lateral play was flawlessly executed. I don't think folks realize how hard that is to execute, and how well the Broncos sold that thing. With Oklahoma play four of its defensive backs back at the goal line, Boise State did an excellent job getting them to come up and shift to the right.

- The Broncos are a good team, but wouldn't make it against Ohio State, Florida, Southern Cal or Michigan. They're a feel-good story, but beating one of the two weakest teams in the BCS doesn't mean the mid-majors have legitimacy all of a sudden.

- One of the best five games I've ever seen? Possible. It's arguably one of the two or three best endings, but the game itself was rather boring for the most part. Not until Oklahoma began its furious comeback did my interest peak and Boise State's character emerge. I still can't see anything surpassing last year's Rose Bowl between Texas and Southern Cal ... with everything on the line. It was Ali-Frazier of the college football world.