sam's notes

notes on government, sports and popular culture

Saturday, October 30, 2004

I'll be voting a straight Republican ticket on Tuesday, with one exception: at-large county commission candidate Paul Gibson. He impressed me at the GGO candidates' forum as a very level-headed, straightforward individual who bring a much-needed sense of professionalism to the the board.

My other at-large vote will go to Trudy Wade. She did a better job than any other county commissioner of grilling school board members about their use of county funds during the $2 million bond fiasco over the summer. She also is a very straightforward individual and would make a great chair. In my opinion, Roger Cotten is still too close to county staff to be a truly independent voice.

Jeff Thigpen lost my vote because, should he win, I'll be one of the constituents stuck with a county commissioner for whom I couldn't vote. Shu has his reasons for supporting Thigpen, but I've talked to a number of people in the know who think the register of deeds office runs fine.

I'll also vote for at-large school board candidate Jim Kirkpatrick. Again, I have great respect for Dot Kearns, but I think it's obvious the school board needs a fresh voice.

No post tomorrow; I'll take time to reflect, give thanks for my blessings and remember that the sun will rise on Nov. 3. I'll also try not to think about Michael Moore grinning from ear to ear should Kerry win.

Friday, October 29, 2004

This is an interesting article in the Kinston Free Press regarding the differing views on education between Easley and Ballantine. It may have shifted my vote for governor.

But, surprise! I was considering conceding an Easley victory and going with the crowd. I was also considering going for the libertarian Barbara Howe as a protest vote.

But, as I interpret this article, Ballantine exposed Easley's weakness on education.

"The Ballantine campaign see Easley's lower classroom efforts and pre-kindergarten initiative over the past four years as being inefficient and sometimes a burden on local governments," the article reads.

"....lower class sizes amounted to an unfunded mandate on local county commissioners, who are responsible for finding the additional classrooms that sometimes might be required under the proposal."

Ballantine is "also critical of one of the methods used to pay for the additional teachers required for a lower class size-reducing the number of teacher's assistants in elementary schools."

In my mind, Ballantine hit the nail on the head, at least as far as Guilford County is concerned. Easley's programs are unfunded mandates, as is, admittedly, No Child Left Behind.

During its budget process, I watched the Guilford County school board struggle as it juggled the number of teacher assistants to help pay for the extra teachers required by reduced class sizes.On top of it all, the state shorted Guilford County $2.5 million.

One piece of business the board addressed last night (that I did not report in my earlier post) was its legislative agenda. As the board tossed the subject around, board chairman Alan Duncan argued that state funding, or lack thereof, should be a major part of the agenda.

"I do not believe our state legislators understand what what they did to this district," Duncan said.

School superintendent Terry Grier has also made several strong comments about the governor's mandates.

"It's one thing to reduce class size," Grier said at an earlier school board meeting. "It's another to require you to cut other places out of your budget to fund it."

So I can't imagine Duncan and Grier, or any school board member for that matter, voting for Easley.

But I realize I have a problem. I've watched the school board struggle with No Child Left Behind, yet I'm going to pull the lever for Bush. For me to say that I can't vote for Easley because of his unfunded manadates might be a bit disingenuous.

But I'm going to do vote for Bush anyway. What the hell, I'll vote for Ballantine, too. I guess the important thing is everyone realizes that our democratic governor has burdened our schools with unfunded mandates.

While we're on the subject of the environment: Smog levels hit a record low in 2004, declining an average of 50 percent over 2003 levels, which themselves were record lows.

Author Joel Schwartz concedes that "annual variations in weather create the large short-term variability in smog levels, but superimposed on this is a long-term decline in ozone exceedances due to emission reductions."

Rosemary Roberts writes, "John Kerry is an environmentalist." Is he?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but are not the cap-and-trade approach Kerry supports for greenhouse gas emissions the same approach the Bush administration has proposed for mercury emissions?

Not much happened at the Guilford County Board of Education's last meeting before the election. But the board did discuss one major policy issue and hashed out another one.

After honoring teachers and principals (Dot Harper of Kiser was named principal of the year), the board addressed the compressed schedule. State law now says that school cannot start before Aug. 25 or end after June 6. But there still must be 180 instructional days, so days for teacher workdays and weather-related make-up days are limited.

"There are not a lot of days built into these calendars for snow make-up," said superintendent Terry Grier. "People do not like to make up school on Saturdays."

Board member Nancy Routh was more concerned with teacher workdays.

"I still contend that the state has made a very big mistake and I think we'll regret it," Routh said.

School staff presented four schedule options, one of which started after Labor Day and ran until June 8.

But the other three had school started right on Aug. 25 and ending in early June. The board tentatively passed with an 8-1 vote a schedule that in which school ended June 6. It will be posted on the system Web site for a 30-day comment period.

Assignment policy was the other issue the board discussed.

Basically, the system is trying to figure out a policy to allow kids to stay at their regular school even after a change in domicile or creation of new attendance zones.

The board is concerned with interrupting a student's total school experience at certain grade levels.

As it reads, the "student who is moving from one school district and is a rising 5th, 8th, 10th, 11th or 12th grader may choose either to complete his/ her elementary, middle, or high school education in the school he or she is currently attending or to attend school in the new attendance area." Basically the same thing with redistricting. In both cases, students have to provide their own transportation.

Board member Susan Mendenhall was concerned that requiring only ninth graders to attend a newly-constructed school would be a waste of resources.

"We could have a new school that would be underutilized. I don't think that's an efficient use of our dollars," Mendenhall said.

But fellow board member Anita Sharpe countered with the possibility that "Neighborhoods will jump at the opportunity to go to a new school."

But Grier pointed out that this policy would address not just new schools, but future redistricting.

Board member Alan Duncan said he was hesitant to vote for the policy as written regarding change in domicile. He felt like 10th graders should be required to change schools as well. He cited instances of "residency fraud," where families will rent an apartment for a couple of months to establish residency then move outside the school district.

"The way it's written, it would be easy to shop for a school district," Duncan said. "I would delete the 10th grade, which would require a bigger commitment."

Grier then pitched in with a story about a kid whose driver's license gave an address that was a vacant lot off Cone Boulevard.

The policy regarding the new attendance zones passed by an 8-2 vote, but the part about change in domicile passed only by a 6-4 vote, with Duncan, Mendenhall, Marti Sykes and Johnny Hodge voting against it.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

I don't consider the Red Sox' sweep of the Cardinals anticlimactic. It's actually a beautiful thing to watch one team totally dominate another over the course of four games.

Unless, of course, you're the team being swept. Which brings me to an something I'm not sure everyone will pick up on: This will be the consecutive World Series in which a Tony LaRussa-managed team has gone down in four games. The last time was when LaRussa managed the A's in the 1990 Series. The A's came into that Series very cocky, talking about how they were going to sweep the Reds, and ended up getting swept themselves. God, I felt good after that.

Now we can all get some rest and focus on football.

Not a good day for the publishing industry: Right after naming North Carolina as a prime target for companies looking to expand or relocate, Plants, Sites and Parks magazine is canned by Reed Business Information.

Evidently, Blogger was reconfiguring itself yesterday, which is why no one was able to log on. The entry field and the dashboard are now different.

Too bad, because I had the High Point Enterprise story yesterday morning. I received a rapid-fire round of phone calls and e-mails from former HPE colleagues who were spreading the word. I wrote for Triad Business News, which the HPE folded almost two years ago to the day.

I'd been hearing for several weeks that things were not improving under Paxton Media Group's ownership. Things don't appear to be getting any better. The fact that the newspaper isn't planning on filling more news positions and is discontinuing its Web hosting services is not a good sign.

One former colleague e-mailed this grim prediction: "Mark my words: They get rid of the newsroom and sports dept.They rely on wire copy and sell the paper before the advertisers pull out of their contracts so that profitability is at a high and they can make a tidy profit from the sale. They have done the same thing with papers all over the country."

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

e-mail from jw about yesterday's school board post:

Oh Sam! Boyfriend, you stepped in it! Bigtime!

"But I would vote for Kirkpatrick because it is my firm belief that the school board needs some strong male influence" ...I firmly believe in civilized discourse, but ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR FUCKING MIND!

By the way, I used to be the secretary to the School Board and can speak volumes about how influence happens.

Mr. Wonderful complains that the "white male is the most oppressed minority in America." Yeah, well it's about goddamn time!

When it comes to influence, if you think for one minute that that sweet, little, southern belle of a Dot Kearns couldn't kick your, or anybody else's ass, you are dead wrong. She's influential, to the point of being a bully, she's just a little subtle about it.

Damn Sam! I don't care if you get it wrong. Just get it wrong for the right reason.

About those missing explosives...

paper route day.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Jeff Thigpen on the N&R's endorsement:

"I believe this an affirmation that we are heading in the right direction with our campaign and I appreciate their support!"

I'm not sure I would count the N&R's endorsement as a positive affirmation. I guess any candidate would want the endorsement of the city's paper of record. By the same token, the N&R would endorse the donkey.

To tell the truth, I'm going back and forth on my vote for register of deeds. I like Thigpen. I think he's a pretty straightforward guy and, as a reporter, he's certainly media-friendly.

But here's my problem. Thigpen's my county commissioner,and if he wins, Democrats will appoint someone to his seat until the 2006 election. Then I'll be stuck with a commissioner for whom I couldn't vote yea or nea.

With this in mind, I feel as though Thigpen should have resigned his county commissioner's seat to run for register of deeds. In my opinion, he's put his constituents in a tough position.

The at-large school board race between Dot Kearns and Jim Kirkpatrick is also a tough one for me. I think Kearns is a very competent board member who understands the issues and is able to explain them effectively.

But I would vote for Kirkpatrick because it is my firm belief that the school board needs some strong male influence to stand up to superintendent Terry Grier. The board, for way too long, has been dominated by women and African-American males. It would be one thing if Johnny Hodge and the late Garry Burnett made their voices heard on the board. But they hardly uttered five words between the two of them the whole time I've covered the school board.

And while board chairman Alan Duncan is an effective conductor of school board meetings, he consistently knuckles under to the politically-correct concerns of other board members. So, for these reasons, I'm leaning toward Kirkpatrick.

I'm glad I can't vote in the District 7 race between Kris Cooke and Bill Davidson, because I'd be stuck on that one, too. I respect Cooke, with whom I've dealt with as a reporter several times. But I think Davidson has some good ideas, one of which is coming out and saying that if it takes putting cops in the schools to make then safer, then do it. Again, he at least would be a male presence on the school board.

Hey, I'm a white male, though not an "angry white male." I just feel like I don't have any representation on our school board.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

When discussing tattoos, I usually put it this way: I'm just damn glad my mother, now age 70, didn't cover herself with tattoos in a moment of youthful indiscretion.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Saddam Hussein's Philanthropy of Terror, by Deroy Murdock, media fellow, Hoover Institution.

That done, off to the farmer's market.

Friday, October 22, 2004

The Property and Environment Research Center has given President Bush a C+ for his environmental policy.

Now, a C+ might not seem that good to us intellectual types. Besides, there are many groups out there who would give Bush an F for environmental policy.

But here's the catch: PERC is dedicated to "improving environmental quality through markets."

The report card is on PDF, which can be downloaded from PERC's home page. Here are some excerpts:

Air quality: Grade F

"Activists have created the impression that the Bush administration has virtually ended air pollution regulation in the United States. In reality, the administration has taken a series of actions that will eliminate the vast majority of remaining air emissions.
With few exceptions, the administration has continued and expanded Clinton-era policies."

Chemical plant security: Grade B+

"In general, the Bush administration has acted responsibly in dealing with the threats to security that could come from chemical facilites."

Drinking water and arsenic: Grade C+

"The Safe Drinking Water Act is fundamentallly flawed. Even so, after inheriting the Clinton 'midnight regulation' on arsenic, the Bush administration had a chance to save small rural towns from enormous expense. Instead, it kept the stringent rule forcing communities to reduce arsenic to extremely low levels, even where the chemical enters the water naturally. The high costs and minimal benefits will reduce the welfare of many families who will be forced to pay high prices for water."

Global climate change: Grade B-

"Given the uncertain state of scientific knowledge and the economic flaws of the Kyoto Protocol, the Bush administration was right to reject the protocol and to keep reductions of carbon emissions on a voluntary basis. But the administration has not been successful at explaining the reasons for these decisions."

Superfund and brownfields: Grade C-

"For the most part, the Bush administration is not doing anything different from the Clinton administration. The one exception was its appropriate opposition to renewal of the Superfund tax on corporations. The tax was touted as 'polluter pays,' but in fact it taxed corporations simply because they were in a business that might pollute."

I sure hope Toney Baker chooses N.C. State.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

My buddy Kevin Reid points out that the curse of the Babe will not be lifted until the Sox when the World Series. He's right.

For those of you at UNCG in the early '80s: Pedro Martinez looks like a black version of Hell Man. It's been bugging me this whole time, and it finally came to me.

Ok, so what do we want, 1967 all over again, or Clemens' return to Fenway in yet another enemy uniform?

Note the similarities to the 1967 Series should the Cardinals prevail: In '67, the Cardinals ran over the opposition (though Houston has given them a fight in the NLCS), while Boston pulled off the "impossible dream" by winning the pennant after finishing ninth in '66.

With Clemens pitching Game 7 for the Astros tonight, his first Series appearance would likely be in Houston. But the rotation would set up a possible Game 6 or 7 start at Fenway.

Tough call. Everybody just wants a good Series, and there's no reason to believe it won't be. Rest up on Friday, baseball fans.

I love this guy.....and don't drop the soap.

N.C. State's Julius Hodge, today's N&R Grapevine, on Rashad McCants' "prison" comments:

"If that's the way you look at it, I would hate to see what the shower scene is like there."

NY Times' Tyler Kepner:

"It was actually happening. The nerd was kissing the homecoming queen. Paper was beating scissors; scissors was beating rock. Charlie Brown was kicking the football. The Red Sox were beating the Yankees for the American League pennant."

Just a reminder: The Sox were on death's door against the Angels in 1986 when they rallied and won the pennant. Everyone remembers what happened later in the Series against the Mets. They may have erased the curse of the Babe, but the Buckner curse still hovers.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

My afternoon nap never happened, but I'm still primed for a long night.

Stop, thief!

Al Gore:

"President Bush has stolen the symbolism and body language of religion and used it to disguise the most radical effort in American history to take what rightfully belongs to the American people and give as much as possibler to the already wealthy and privileged."

How does one steal the "body language of religion?" In fact, just what is the body language of religion?

No matter what happens tonight, just remember that the Red Sox have already made history by forcing a Game 7.

I thought it was a bad move by Rodriguez to so blatantly knock the ball from Arroyo's glove. I think he could have lowered his shoulder, as if to avoid the tag, then hit the glove with the forearm.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Little did I know that, when I turned on the Yankees-Red Sox game at 5p yesterday, I would be on the couch five hours later waiting for someone to win the damn game.

For a while, it didn't seem like anyone wanted to win. Joe Torre didn't want to win the game, because he left Tom Gordon in for the eighth inning. Why not bring Mariano Rivera in to start the eighth? He ended up pitching two innings anyway, after the damage had been done. If he closes it out, then he has five days to rest.

Though David Ortiz tied and eventually won the game for the Red Sox, his bizarre attempt to steal second in the 12th cost the Red Sox the chance to get him into scoring position. Tim McCarver said Ortiz was actually safe on the play, but I disagree: Jeter got him on the hand a split second before he touched second base.

Had Johnny Damon not walked to start the 14th and eventually score the winning run, he definitely would have been the goat. His attempt to steal in the 9th cost the Red Sox a chance to get the winning run in scoring position. Then he popped up a bunt with two on in the 11th. Had he successfully sacrificed, the Yankees would have been forced to load the bases and pull both the infield and outfield in.

So what's up for tonight? Jeff Carlton of the N&R sports blog predicts another marathon, but with the Yankees prevailing. That's a soild prediction, because I think the Yankees dread the prospect of a seventh game.

I'm going to hope against hope for a pitching duel. I need some sleep, you know.

Video of John Edwards fixing his hair, via Dr. Sanity.

Monday, October 18, 2004

You'd think I'd learn.....

I was about to commit the same mistake I've committed before and regretted. But what can I say, I'm a slow learner.

I was about to state as a fact that no team in professional sports history has come back from a 3-0 deficit. I'd gathered this notion from years of watching baseball and pro basketball when I heard so many sports announcers say, "No team has ever rallied from a 3-0 deficit."

However, there's a fourth major professional sport out there: hockey.(Well, not this year.)
As Jim Caple of points out, there are indeed two professional teams that have come back from the 3-0 hole: the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and the 1975 New York Islanders.

Take heart, Red Sox fans, it has been done. Whether or not the feat can be repeated against the Yankees is another question. I'm just happy about an October afternoon ball game.

ESPN college basketball top 25:

1. Wake Forest
2. Kansas
3. Georgia Tech
4. North Carolina
5. Syracuse.........

Too bad Wake and Carolina only play once this season. But that's assuming both teams will live up to such high expectations.

Safire gets tough: He chastises Kerry-Edwards for their comments on Mary Cheney.

To tell the truth, I wasn't that worked up about the whole thing. It seemed to me at the time that Kerry was making a positive statement about the VP's daughter.

Then I talked to my buddy Glenn about the situation and he pointed out this: Why did Kerry bring up someone who wasn't in the room, whose relatives weren't in the room, someone with no direct relevance to the debate? We felt like it was fair for Edwards to address the issue, since he was speaking directly to Mary Cheney's father. But, Glenn and I decided (in our infinite wisdom), it wasn't proper for Kerry to speak about the Cheneys' daughter without addressing them face-to-face.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

I was holding my breath waiting to see which candidate the N.Y. Times would endorse. Note the editorial is mostly about what's wrong with Bush instead of what's right with Kerry.

I'm still going to wait to see who the N&R endorses before I make my final decision.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Bunker for President.....

Over 30 years ago, Archie Bunker had the solution for airport security:

"Now, I want to talk about something that's on everybody's mind and that's your stick-ups and your skyjackings. If that was up to me, I could end skyjackings tomorrow. All you you gotta do is arm all your passengers. If the skyjacker knows all the passengers are armed, then he wouldn't have no more superiorority there, and he ain't dare gonna pull out no rod. Then your airlines wouldn't have to search passengers on the ground no more, they could just pass out the pistols at the beginning of the trip and pick 'em up again on the other end. Case closed."

Friday, October 15, 2004

I was very disappointed in Thomas Friedman's column in today's News & Record.

Friedman always seems in touch with reality, which is why I was shocked to see the dreamy position he took in today's column. There is no president in our immediate future – Bush, Kerry, whoever — that can "restore Sept. 11 to its rightful place on the calendar: as the day after Sept. 10 and the day before Sept. 12." There are too many people in this country for whom that is just impossible.

Homemade campaign signs along N. Mendenhall Street:

"People who hate freedom of speech:
1. Saddam Hussein
2. Person who stole out Kerry-Edwards sign."

"Some coward stole our Kerry-Edwards sign."

I promise it's not this coward.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

O'Reilly lawsuit, linked via Cone.

While it reads quickly, here are some appetizing (or unappetizing, depending on your point of view) excerpts in case you don't have time to thumb through all 22 pages:

During dinner in May 2002, O'Reilly, "without provocation or warning,said to plaintiff Andrea Mackris:'And just use your vibrator to blow off steam' When plaintiff reddened, defendent Bill O'Reilly asked lewdly: 'What, you've got a vibrator, don't you? Every girl does.'"

"O'Reilly called plaintiff on her cell phone. Plaintiff was at dinner with a woman friend from college. Defendent was flirtatious, repeatedly asking Plaintiff what she and her friend were wearing."

"On or about September 2003....Defendent once again raised the specter of phone sex, repeatedly professing disbelief that Plaintiff had never engaged in telephone sex. Defendent O'Reilly repeatedly begged Plaintiff to have telephone sex with him that night."

"...O'Reilly bragged that he had telephone sex with other young women."

(Mackris leaves FOX for CNN for a period of time.)

"On or about early April 2004, Defendent Bill O'Reilly left a message on Plaintiff's answering machine at home after her boss at CNN was terminated for sexual harrassment, purportedly to determine if anything untoward was directed toward her."

"....O'Reilly bizarrely rambled further about Al Franken....'(Al Franken's) finished, and he's going to be sorry he ever took Fox News Channel on.'"

(Mackris returns to Fox.)

"During the course of O'Reilly's telephone monologue on August 2, 2004, he suggested (Mackris) purchase a vibrator and name it, and that he had one 'shaped like a cock with a little battery in it' that a woman had given him. It became apparent that Defendent was masturbating as he spoke. After he climaxed, Defendent O'Reilly said to Plaintiff:'I appreciate the fun phone call.'"

(O'Reilly describes pornographic fantasy of him and Mackris on a Caribbean vacation.)

"During the course of (O'Reilly's) sexual rant, it became clear that he was using a vibrator upon himself, and that he ejaculated. Plaintiff was repulsed."

Is it me, or is PART trying to shove park and ride lots down the throats of rural counties?

I'm working on deadline today, trying to pin down issues surrounding the $20 million parks bonds, $10 million of which would go toward the preservation of open space.

Based on my research, it appears the bond has a very good chance of passing. Bonds establishing parks and open space are very popular, both nationwide and in North Carolina.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

In case you missed it: John Edwards politicizing Christopher Reeve's death:

"If we do the work that we can do in this country, the work we will do when John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve are going to get up out of that wheelchair and walk again."

Even better is the statement from Kerry spokesman David Wade:

"Can you imagine if a president of the United States told polio victims that they would never walk again because he was going to please his Republican base? That's shameful."


Tuesday, October 12, 2004

John Feinstein on Morning Edition: "Braves fans should be ashamed of themselves" for leaving 10,000 empty seats during the first two games of the NLDS.

Paper route.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Urban sprawl: not as deadly as some might think.

I just received this mass e-mail from Charles:

I want to apologize for ruining the party by biting Carol on the face. It was late, I was tired, and I really just wanted everyone to go home. I probably could have found a better way to express myself.

Note Carol is not getting this e-mail. Instead, I'm sending her a note. On the envelope will be a personalized postage stamp of me, so she can remember me the way I am- light-hearted and lovable.



Instead of making a sarcastic comment about Lorraine Ahearn's Sunday column, I'll write my own real-world column:

As the rain pours, the 1993 Mitsubishi station wagon rolls slowly down Elm Street. It pulls over to the curb, and a solitary figure, wearing a green rain jacket, gets out. After 10 years, the jacket isn't as water-resistant any more, and his faded Pep Boys T-shirt is wet after only an hour. His newsprint-stained fingers grab a bundle from the back of the station wagon, and he walks down the sidewalk and makes a "drop." Then he gets back in the car, drives a few hundred feet, and repeats the process.

He not only delivers the newspaper, he helps write it, too. Due to competition from the Internet, especially Web logs, or "blogs," the print media is seeing a decline in ad revenues. As a result, writers don't get paid much these days. When the publisher offered up a route to help supplement the income, he jumped at the chance.

"If I can get get it done in six hours, then that's $20 an hour," he said with a shrug.

Just a few blocks down Washington Street, a rich white guy, stripped down to his shirt sleeves, is telling a few hundred of the delivery man's fellow citizens what he's going to do for them. A couple of hours later, he hopped into a fancy car and headed toward the airport, where he hopped onto a fancy plane and flew off to another town, where he'll probably tell those citizens bascially the same thing.

As the caravan drove by, our man was still making his drops on Elm Street, this time covering the other side of the street. He wasn't impressed.

"That much, huh?" he asked when told that the rich white guy was worth $550 million. "Damn, best way that dude can help me is with a loan. Not much, just a couple hundred thousand so I can work on my novel full-time. It's a winner, too. A fictionalized account of when I hitchhiked home from Fort Lauderdale after falling down drunk and breaking my collarbone."

The rain was now coming down like a sheet. He shrugged his shoulders, pulled the hood over his head, and got out to make another drop.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Party post-mortem......

The party raged until 1:30a, when someone started causing trouble.

That someone was Charles, the 17-year-old Corgi who is the true master of the house. Things were starting to wind down when I noticed the hosts suddenly moving about with a sense of urgency. Vanessa told me that Charles had bitten her aunt Carol on the face when she bent down to give him a kiss.

Carol stood at the top of the stairs, holding a towel to her face, obviously stunned. She removed the towel and there was a large puncture wound on her chin. A trip to the emergency room was in order, so Vanessa, Carol and her husband Dan piled in the car and drove off to Northside Hospital.

So this morning, every emerged with bleary eyes and bed-head and, over the morning's coffee, discussed last night's events. Charles said he was sorry and wants to make it up to Carol somehow.

Now that's a party.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Greetings from Atlanta......

I'm blogging an awesome wedding reception. Plenty of good food, good wine and good conversation.

My friends' next door neighbors, who've met me all of once, have kindly opened their house to me. It's nicer than any hotel suite, and the price is right.

The next time I think the world isn't treating me right, I'll think again.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Heading down to Atlanta this weekend to a friend's wedding reception.

I, too, am mystified by the N&R's lack of coverage on Erskine Bowles' visit last night. The paper blew him off the last time he came to town. This guy's running for the Senate, for God's sake. He could be one of 100 votes that will chart the course for the future of this country, and he doesn't warrant more than a B9 blurb from the city's paper of record?

I'd like to have the "inside scoop" on that decision-making process, considering the fact that the Depot's right across the street.

Myself? I couldn't make it because, umm, I had to watch the Cardinals-Dodgers game. Hey, I don't have ESPN and was going through intense October baseball withdrawal. I did see Dick Gephardt sitting behind home plate, though.

Seeing Gephardt reminded me of Michael Medved's comments a couple of days ago, when he said Gephardt, because of his leadership in the House, would have made a far stronger VP candidate than John Edwards.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

John Kerry's world, according to Dr. Sanity.

This morning, at the ungodly hour of 7:30a I went to the meeting between assorted county commissioners and school board members. It was kind of chilly this morning, and I could have easily stayed in bed. At least they had coffee and sausage biscuits.

Was anything accomplished? Yes and no.

The meeting was requested by county commissioner Mike Barber, who is concerned about violence in the schools and believes commissioners and the school board should work together to help solve the problem.

I would say the biggest thing was hearing superintendent Terry Grier express the schools' needs in plain English instead of the educational "bureaucratise" he often uses at school board meetings.

"I'm going to get straight to the point, because it's early," Grier said. "We're not going to get from where we are to where we want to be without financial support and funding."

"We do not have the budget. I want to be clear about that," school board chairman Alan Duncan added. "Our board is committed to excellence in schools. We are not funded to achieve that excellence."

That said, Grier, pointed to statistics which state that, overall, suspensions have decreased. In 2003-2004, there were 346 fewer students suspended short-term than there were in 2002-2003. Since 1999-2000, there were 1,206 fewer students suspended.

The number of long-term suspensions tell a slightly different story. From 1999-2000 to 2002-2003, suspensions increased, peeking at 550 on '02-'03. But they went down to 493 in '03-'04.

"The numbers are what they are," Grier said. "Sometimes it's what we think we know that gets us in trouble."

Barber kept pressing the issue of the school resource officers. In his mind, an SRO at every high school could help remedy the school violence problem.

"There's not a single logical argument not to have another adult in the schools," Barber said. "Let's codify a mission statement for our SRO program."

But Grier and Duncan presented a two-front argument to that request.

More SROs, they argued, were a reactive, not a proactive, approach.

"These are societal issues," Duncan said. "School issues are merely a reflection of society. I assure you there is a substantial part of the community that believes (extra SROs) create a police state in the schools. There are a lot of very different attitudes and a lot of bridges to build."

"SROs are a reaction to issues that occur much earlier in life," Grier said.

Grier also complained that additional funding could have helped the school system reduce class size, which helps kids learn better and become less violent. The extra funding could have also included $1 million for the "conflict resolution training" which, Grier admitted later, only about 25 percent of which would have gone toward working directly with the students.

Board member Dot Kearns made an excellent point when she said that unfunded state and federal mandates emphasizing testing had diverted guidance counselors and teachers, for that matter, away from their traditional roles as mentors for troubled kids.

"The demands on our teachers, through no actions of this board, means someone has to be there at all times to deal with testing," Kearns said. "Guidance counselors are now dealing with testing instead of traditional counseling roles. The counseling function is so much less than it used to be."

My sister was, at one time, a guidance counselor at a rural high school and that was one of her major complaints.

County commissioner Jeff Thigpen summed the meeting up best when he said, "We need to develop a plan. The reactive nature of this means we need some guidance from the school system."

So while nothing concrete was accomplished, it was gratifying, as one who covers both the school board and the county commissioners, to see them sitting across the table from each other instead of remaining isolated in their respective bizarro worlds (I use that as a term of affection). Perhaps something can be accomplished. Barber deserves credit not only for calling the meeting, but for drawing Grier out of his shell.

Like we should really care what Gorbachev and Elizabeth Edwards think. Or Teresa Heinz Kerry, for that matter. Then again, I guess I'm an idiot for not voting for her husband.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

My favorite Rodney Dangerfield line: "Boy, I was ugly as a kid. I had pimples, too. One day I fell asleep in the library and when I woke up, a blind kid was reading my face."

This morning I debated whether or not to drive all the way to Summerfield Elementary to hear Bill Davidson address the PTA. I was not at my computer last evening, so I didn't catch the announcement that the meeting was actually was full-fledged candidates' forum.

The lone exception was District 7 incumbent Kris Cooke, who was out of town. When I arrived, a spokesperson was reading a statement from Cooke.

Davidson spoke next.

"Our school board needs some change," he said. "Are the school board and the superintendent doing their jobs? We don't know. Who's running the show, the school board or the superintendent? We don't know."

Davidson criticized the school system for its lack of attention to school violence. He cited the board's inaction on a school watch pilot program as evidence of that inattention.

"We should embrace that, not push it away," he said.

Darlene Garrett, running unopposed, said, "We have raised student achievement and lowered the dropout rate."

Dot Kearns pitched her ability to serve the entire system.

"It has been my duty to develop policies that will serve all the schools," she said.

She also reassured the audience that the $300 million bond passed in 2003 would be put to use in a proper mix of new construction and repairs.

"We will embrace the opportunity to upgrade schools we did not replace," she said.

Jim Kirkpatrick was next, and he promoted the fact that his roots were in Guilford County and he had extensive public service experience as a city councilman and county commissioner.

"I would be the first person elected at large from a northwest quadrant," Kirkpatrick said. "We have some wonderful things going on in the school system. But it's important not to turn our backs on some of the bad things going on."

Kirkpatrick added he was the candidate of true choice in the school system.

"The word choice has been so perverted with that mess over in High Point," he said. "I do not believe in the social experiment of creating a lottery to say where people are going to school."

"Not every parent or child can get into the school where they want to go," Kearns said. "We have to replicate the popular choices so that they're closer to home."

Davidson addressed the concern among many parents that the schools would institute a system-wide "choice plan" like the one that has divided High Point.

"I'm very concerned about the plan coming over here," Davidson said.

Davidson also got a shot in at Cooke regarding the choice plan.

"Kris' vote affected High Point and she did not take it seriously enough," he said.

Cooke's spokesperson took up for her.

"I know that to be so far from the truth," she said. "I know she thought deeply about it, prayed about it."

School violence was the next issue. Davidson struck a chord with me when he said, "School boards want to discuss suspension rates among certain classes of kids," he said. "What I propose to do is empower the teachers."

He's right: The school board and staff are all worked up over the high number of black kids being thrown out of schools, not high number kids (period) being thrown out of school. As a result, that leads some board members to conclude that the school system is institutionally racist, something I'm not too sure about that.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

I bet $20 Johnny "Sunshine" Hammer writes favorably about the new "Grasshoppers" nickname.

Paper route day.

For the second week in a row, a teacher at the First Presbyterian preschool has given me s**t about pulling in to make my drop at Fisher's. It just so happens my drop occurs right when people are dropping their precious children off in the morning. Often, there's no parking space, so I create one. I pull in with my flashers on, jump out of the car with a bundle, run up to Fisher's front door and back and take off quickly as I can.

Except today, I had to take a call on my cell phone regarding a matter of intense personal interest. I kept scanning the parking lot, and I didn't see where I was impeding anyone. Yet this lady is standing on the stairs, staring me down.

While I'm still on the phone, I see none other than my good friend, county commissioner Mike Barber, walk out the door. I guess that's where his kids go to school. He's parked right next to me and, when I see I'm still not impeding anyone, I roll down the window to exchange a few pleasantries.

But I no sooner got "What's up Mike" out of my mouth when the teacher yelled from her perch, "You're going to have to move, you're impeding traffic. Sorry, Mike."

I didn't see how I was impeding traffic, but I rolled my window back up and drove off. Next Tuesday, I promise to be more careful.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Cybercast News Service: Saddam Hussein possessed WMD, had ties to terrorists.

OK, I didn't dig this up myself. I heard about it on Rush.

William Safire: "As the Democratic Whoopee Brigade hailed Senator Kerry's edge in debating technique, nobody noticed his foreign policy sea change. On both military tactics and grand strategy, the newest neoconservative announced doctrines more hawkish than President Bush."

Not to mention the fact that Kerry was quoting scripture in Ohio last night.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

So much blogging, too little time.......

I have much on my mind today but only a slight amount of time to post my thoughts. It's already a big sports weekend, so I would like weight in on Ed Hardin's slightly melodramatic account of the State-Wake game("Wake seemed poised on the edge of breakthrough, the kind Deacons have dreamed about for more than a century"); the Cubs and their fans jinxing themselves; and bogus wild-card teams (Red Sox) partying with champagne when they haven't won anything.

But instead, I'll weigh in on the N&R article this morning about Mike Barber's attempt to reach out to the Board of Education in an effort to curb school violence.

As I've written before, I find it amazing how far apart county commissioners and the school board are. From my point of view, it's clear that one hand doesn't know what the other hand is doing. If the school system truly is the county's most pressing issue, than both entities ought to be visibly working together on a frequent basis to make sure the system not only gets proper funding but efficiently utilizes it.

What jumped out at me was the fact that the $1 million "worth of programs geared toward violence prevention, conflict resolution and reducing suspension rates" was brought up. I was suspect of that funding request from the beginning. I thought for sure they'd find the money from somewhere, and pleasantly surprised when it didn't make into the school's budget.

Superintendent Terry Grier wrote the funding would "provide for a teacher training component that will focus on institutional racism, class room management, and teacher expectation. Training opportunities will also be provided in the areas of student anger management, peer mediation and conflict resolution."

Sounds pretty politically correct to me, with a high price tag to match. Anger management and conflict resolution are so 90s. If the county commissioners and the school board do work together to curb school violence, let's hope they would be a little more specific than that.

I think Barber's intentions are noble (he doesn't write my paychecks any more). I've gotten to know him a little bit, and, while I think he's certainly politically ambitious, I also think he's concerned about getting away from the personalities and getting things done. Unfortunately, I don't think anything will happen until after the election, since both the board and the county commission could have new looks. We'll see what happens if they do.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

So I'm sitting there watching the State-Wake game when I look out the window and I see my neighbor putting a Kerry-Edwards sticker on his car. For all the Kerry-Edwards signs and stickers I see around town, I'd never actually caught anyone in the act. I douldn't do anything about those, but I could do something about this one.

I was able to catch him by surprise.

"I can't let you do that, Mike," I said, putting my hand firmly on his shoulder.

Then he caught me by surprise. Without saying a word, he reached around and caught me on the legs, knocking me down. We started brawling right there in the street. I was worried a car would come rolling through and hit both of us.

Finally, I got a grip on his shirt and with a surge as strong as the State defense, I was able to roll him over and pin him.

I held him down for just a few seconds before he yelled, "OK, OK, I'll vote for Bush!"

I got up and walked away without saying a word. Then I ome back and watch State beat Wake in overtime.

Now will we see Corey Randolph the rest of the game?

I'll go ahead and say it: if Stone doesn't come into the game, then State's up 14-7. I don't think we'll be seeing him back in the game.

I didn't see a hold on the TD that was called back.

Yeah, I realize Wake switched up their quarterbacks, too.

I was standing there making my sandwich and thinking that I disapproved of Chuck Amato's two-quarterback strategy when Wake intercepts Marcus Stone for a TD.

I just don't think rotating quarterbacks works.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Cone thinks Kerry won the debate. Dr. Sanity has a different view.

I went to Fisher's and watched the debate with the sound turned down, standing among a bunch of 40-something former UNCG rugby players. I thought Bush won.


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