sam's notes

notes on government, sports and popular culture

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Paper route day.

I realize the scenic corridor ordinance has been settled, but here's my version of the Nov. 18 county's commissioners' meeting, as it appears in today's Greater Greensboro Observer:

Two more meetings. That’s all Bob Landreth, chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, has left before he leaves office. After the Nov. 18 meeting, he probably can’t wait.

Nobody said it would be easy passing a scenic corridor ordinance that allows billboards, even with restrictions. But most expected the majority of protest to come from the public at large, not the county commissioners themselves. Once again, Landreth was in the middle of it all.

The issue had been building for some time, from the Guilford Planning Board’s controversial late-night vote to a plethora of newspaper editorials bemoaning the “clutter” billboards create to campaign signs around town proclaiming “Not one billboard, not two, not any.”

But in the end, the billboard industry made the strongest showing and the issue should have been a slam dunk in favor of the ordinance. It was just a matter of the commissioners hashing out the issue amongst themselves.

Planning director Mark Kirstner presented the commission with three options: Pass the ordinance as written; pass the ordinance with amendments (which, in fairness, could have gotten somewhat complicated) or vote down the ordinance.

Former planning board chairman Mary Skenes also made a presentation, saying the ordinance was the best compromise for all landowners along the Urban Loop, many of them farmers who might wish to rezone their land in the future.

Another factor the planning board had to deal with was pressure from the City of Greensboro to adopt its ordinance, which bans billboards altogether.

“This ordinance was not arrived at willy-nilly,” Skenes said. “We heard loud and clear from Guilford County farmers. The city ordinance was much too restrictive and practical for application in the county.”

Basically, the ordinance allowed billboards but restricted them to land zoned highway business, light industrial and heavy industrial. In the future, landowners who successfully had their land rezoned to those designations would be able to erect billboards, which troubled some commissioners.

“The scenic corridor will have billboards all up and down it. Is that correct, Mr. Kirstner?” commissioner Linda Shaw asked.

“The property would have to be rezoned,” Kirstner said.

Commissioner Billy Yow maintained that the placement of billboards was primarily a zoning issue.

“If this is a zoning matter, whether there’s a scenic corridor or not, then why are we even having this discussion?” Yow asked.

During the public hearing portion, only three speakers spoke out in opposition to the ordinance. When it came time to vote, Landreth asked for a positive motion, meaning commissioners would vote yes or no to adopt the amendment. But Yow and fellow commissioner Steve Arnold insisted on putting forth a motion in the negative state, setting off a confusing round of back-and-forth on procedure.

“Mr. Chairman, our rules do not state that our motions must be made in a positive state,” Arnold said. He then made a motion to overrule Landreth’s decision and make the motion in a negative state.

For at least the next hour, confusion reigned as motions and subsequent counter motions were made and voted on. Commissioner Carolyn Coleman then made an attempt to amend the ordinance, but it was clear she was confused about how she would do so.

Landreth then called a five-minute recess to regain control of the meeting. Afterwards, Coleman stated her proposed amendment: To allow billboards only on land currently zoned industrial or highway business. Such an amendment would have been overly restrictive, considering the majority of county land along the urban loop is zoned agricultural.

“That sounds like a ban for everyone else,” said commissioner Bruce Davis.

After much discussion and further delay, Coleman’s motion failed by a 6-4 vote.

Commissioner Mike Barber, who earlier confessed to having a “melancholy moment” over his pending departure from the board, proposed adopting the ordinance to take effect Dec. 1.

Arnold argued that motion had already failed. Say what you will about Arnold, one can’t help but respect his political game. While Yow used the big-picture land-rights argument, Arnold was the parliamentarian, keeping track of every motion, using every angle he could to see that the ordinance died one way or another.

“Mrs. Shaw’s motion is in no way a substitute motion to my motion,” he said at one point.

Earlier, he argued that fellow commissioner Skip Alston, a lobbyist for the billboard industry, could not recuse himself from the debate and voting. If anything, Arnold said, Alston was required by law to vote on the matter.

At other times during the debate he moved to go into closed session and to adjourn pending remaining items on the agenda except new business.

Though he remained calm, it was clear Landreth, perhaps seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, had enough.

“A motion to adjourn is a motion to adjourn, period,” he said. “Now would you please cast your vote on that motion or be quiet?”

The motion passed by 6-4 vote, with Yow, Arnold, Jeff Thigpen and Mary Rakestraw voting against it.

“Welcome to the county with no land rights,” Yow said. “Pay your taxes and do what we tell you. Right Mr. Chairman?”

“Whatever you say, Mr. Yow,” Landreth replied, without looking up. “I’ve got two more meetings to go, and I thank you very much.”

I went out to the bar tonight and watched the Packers- Rams game. While it's good for the Panthers that the Packers won, I have to acknowledge that the Rams played a good game. They moved the ball well against the Packers, but turnovers killed them.

So what if the Rams play as good a game against the Panthers but hang on to the ball?

Monday, November 29, 2004

If you think sports culture in America has problems, check out this N.Y. Times article on on the racist atmosphere surrounding soccer in Europe.

"In Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu stadium- the Yankee stadium of soccer- Spanish fans bellowed out monkey noises recently each time a black English player touched the ball in a match between England and Spain.

"A month earlier, the Spanish national coach, Luis Aragones, was caught by a TV crew using racist language when talking about the French star striker Thierry Henry. He kept his job with little protest at home.

"Spain isn't the only European country where racism leaves its stain on soccer...."

Ah, Europe, that wonderful standard of society toward which the U.S. should strive.....

Playoffs possible? Hell yeah. So I'm hanging with my good buddy John, not to mention The Shu, rooting for a Packers win tonight over the Rams.

I loved the quote from Todd (Meat Loaf and Mashed Potatoes) Sauerbrun on Bucs kicker Martin Gramatica, in this morning's N&R:

"I don't feel bad for him....I'm glad he missed as many as he did. He might even be lucky to have a job tomorrow, you know what I mean?"

Every game counts, Panthers fans.

As nice as the Thanksgiving holiday was, I'm glad to be back. I had to go to the coast to watch my sister get married- again.

While getting caught up on my newspaper reading, something weird happened- I almost agreed with N&R columnist Rosemary Roberts.

In her Friday column, Roberts worried that "Thanksgiving crowds Christmas. Check your calendar, fair reader, and you'll notice that Thanksgiving and Christmas are only one moth apart. "That's much too cloaser together."

I have similar concerns, though mine are the mirror image of Roberts' concerns: I believe Christmas crowds out Thanksgiving. I can't stand to see the sight of Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving, especially this year, when they're still plenty of leaves on the trees.

I was so concerned about the issue while in high school that, as part of a project for political science class, I wrote our esteemed Sen. Jesse Helms to see if anything could be done. Perhaps he could help pass a law preventing merchants from putting up Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving.

The senator kindly wrote back:

Dec. 31, 1981

Mr. Samuel Hieb
American Political Process Class
Millbrook Senior High School
Raleigh, North Carolina 27609

Dear Samuel:

Thank you very much for your recent good letter.

I can understand and appreciate your concern regarding early competition merchants to start the holiday season. It seems that too many have forgotten the true meaning of Christmas.

While I am all for the free enterprise system, I would prefer that we observe our Thanksgiving holiday before we start thinking of Christmas. If the consumers will hold off of their shopping until after Thanksgiving, maybe the merchants will get the message.

As to the other subjects on which you were going to write, allow me to say that I am against abortion and gun control. As for ERA I am for the equal rights but not the amendment. My objections are based on section 2 of the amendment.

Thank you for writing.


Jesse Helms

Yeah, I was once pro-control and more radically pro-choice. But the ERA amendment? I must have been watching too much Phil Donohue.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Logging out for the Thanksgiving weekend. Back on Sunday. Check in with ACC Hoops.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Yet another look at the tape of last Thursday's Guilford County commissioners' meeting- what can I say, it was a rainy day. It was interesting the third time around, from the comfort of my living room.

I know I was kind of hard on Steve Arnold in earlier posts, but say what you will about Arnold, one can’t help but respect his political game. While Yow used the big-picture land-rights argument, Arnold was the parliamentarian, keeping track of every motion, using every angle he could to see that the ordinance died one way or another.

“Mrs. Shaw’s motion is in no way a substitute motion to my motion,” he said at one point.

Earlier, he argued that fellow commissioner Skip Alston, a lobbyist for the billboard industry, could not recuse himself from the debate and voting. If anything, Arnold said, Alston was required by law to vote on the matter.

At other times during the debate he moved to go into closed session and to adjourn pending remaining items on the agenda except new business.

He knows the rules.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Last night, I took another look at the county commissioners' meeting to see if I could hash out their debate over the scenic corridor ordinance. Some things became clearer, but they still took way too much time bickering.

There was one item I had forgotten about: the decision to award $90,000 over four years to Transportation Systems, LLC for an expasion that will create 25 new jobs.

The expansion will involve a relocation to the old Brayton Furniture building on Swathmore Ave. I covered Brayton when I was working with Triad Business News. Brayton moved across the street into a newly-constructed building, and I followed what would happen to the old building before TBN shut down. It's sat empty for two years, and I'm glad another High Point company is going to make use of it.

This is a good example of infill development and should be encouraged, even if it means some help through economic incentives.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Look, I'm willing to let the election go. I agree with John Appel of Greensboro, who, in a letter to the editor begged the N&R to "please, please stop running presidential election outcome letters. It's over but you're still providing a forum for the sour grapes and gloating winners to scream at each other. Please, give us some relief."

Author, author! Then I came across the letter from Andrew J. Young. I thought I'd heard it all when I read this:

"There's no doubt the country is leaning heavily (no pun intended) to the right. Repubicans rejoice in the virtues of personal responsibility ('ownership society') and individual choice. What they haven't figured out is whether government should take corrective measures when the population chooses a lifestyle dangerous to the indivudual and the nation.

....In fact, promoting SUV ownership so tubby Americans can lumber across walkable distances would seem to reward moral and personal irresponsibility, to use the language of Christian fundamentalists."

Bottom line: It's Republicans' fault Americans are so fat.

I feel compelled to respond, but it would take all afternoon to get my arms around that logic.

Instead, I'll share a couple of observations over the course of the election season:

A large number of Kerry-Edwards stickers on SUVs;

Guilford County, the heart of the Piedmont and where Young asserts 50 percent of residents are overweight, went for Kerry;

Bill Clinton and my neighbor up the street, both liberals, underwent heart bypass surgery, my neighbor for the second time.

Okay, no more election talk.

Bob Landreth at the last Guilford County Commissioners' meeting:

"Whatever you say, Mr. Yow. I have two meetings left."

The N&R story touched on the confusion that reigned as the commission debated the billboard ordinance. But you had to see it.

It was real simple: Either pass the ordinance as written (which, in my opinion, was the best compromise that could be put forth), amend the ordinance (which could have gotten complicated) or vote it down.

Two commissioners I normally agree with are the guys who screwed things up: Yow and Steve Arnold. They insisted on bringing the ordinance to a vote on a negative motion. In other words, they made motions to turn down the ordinance, will all they had to do was vote against it as written. Real simple. But what should have taken an hour (including the public hearing) took seemingly forever and required Landreth calling a recess to regain control of the meeting.

It never fails to amaze me how our county commissioners can confuse an issue.

I realize I was doom and gloom about the Panthers a few weeks ago, going so far as to say another 1-15 season was not out of the question. Now, I'm suddenly encouraged.

If you look at the Panthers' schedule a 9-7 finish and a wild-card spot is definitely not out of the question. They have two games each with New Orleans and Tampa Bay, divison opponents that have struggled all year. So they could easily leapfrog over both teams to second place in the NFC South.

If you look at the overall NFC standings, you'll note that there will be wild-card spots up for grabs at the end of the season. With that in mind, note the Panthers also play the Rams, right now a competitor for a wild-card spot. So hang in there.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Lex Alexander calls the EPA's Children's Environmental Exposure Research Study (CHEERS) "morally repugnant on so many levels it's hard to know where to start criticizing it." One commentor compared it to the Tuskegee Experiment. I had to find out if it's really that bad.

So I went to the EPA website, where it has posted information on CHEERS. According to the EPA's news release (PDF), "Families will be asked to keep records of their pesticide and household product use and children be monitored in their homes. The study is designed to measure the concentrations of chemicals in the children's homes and determine how children are exposed to chemiclas that are present in consumer products used in the home.

"The purpose of the study is to obtain more information about how children may be exposed to chemicals in household products, whether it is through the air they breathe, food they eat or the surfaces they touch. This study will help indentify the potential exposure routes and pathways of these chemicals and provide real-life data that can be used to improve risk assessments for children."

Parents will not be asked to apply any pesticides in their home and will not be asked to change any household routines.

So it sounds to me like families are being asked to keep a record of their chemical use so the EPA can better understand how children are being exposed over the course of normal household routines. Look, it's a fact that kids and chemicals exist in the same house. We scrub our bath tubs, clean our toilets, scrape the burned soup off the bottom of the pot, use bleach in the load of whites. Any rational parent keeps these chemicals away from their kids. But how do they still come in contact with them? EPA hopefully will gain a better perspective through this study.

So what will the EPA do with the results of the study?The problem some groups have is the American Chemistry Council is kicking $2.1 million for the study. Such funding will help guarantee favorable results for the chemical industry, critics claim. Such favorable results would allow ACC to lobby Congress to weaken regulations on chemical household products.

But how does one loosen regulations on bleach? On Comet? On Easy Off oven cleaner? By the same token, how do you strengthen regulations on these products? To me, it's real simple: Keep them away from kids.

Just another point of view. Help me out if I'm missing it.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Steelers chairman Dan Rooney weighs in on the Monday Night Football fiasco.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

More reaction to the steamy Monday Night Football intro.

The best quote is from Donovan McNabb, who knows something about controversy.

"Some people do different things," McNabb said. "Not saying my wife would allow me to do that, but it's just something that was done and you move on."

I don't know what to think about Tony Dungy's view that the intro had racist overtures. I think people would have complained even if it had been Kurt Warner (bad example) or Tom Brady. I started watching Monday Football when I was 9, and I assume there are a lot of kids, many with straight-laced parents, still watching.

I saw the spot on Hollywood Extra and I wasn't as "outraged" as I thought I would be after reading and hearing about it in the news. It was blatantly a spoof, and it's hardly mentioned that the two other "Desperate Housewife" babes are shown sitting there watching it and mocking Nicole Sheridan.

Even Terrell Owens, who takes himself way too seriously on the field, was obviously hamming it up.

What was ABC thinking? How many people do they think watch both Monday Night Football and "Desperate Housewives?" Here's the problem: ABC is so desperate for a hit it is overexposing, so to speak, this program. I remember reading an N.Y. Times article last year about ABC's situation. They were getting slaughtered by NBC on programming and CBS on reality. They thought they finally had a corner on the family sitcom with 8 Simple rules, then John Ritter died.

Then they sat by and watched the phenomenal success of The Apprentice, which ABC passed on.

Even worse is the fact that "Desperate Housewives" is a dumb show. I watched the first episode out of curiosity and that was enough. Sleeping with the gardner's an old plotline. The worst was one scene when Teri Hatcher's daughter was working on her school project, a castle made out of popsicle sticks. So in order to get the studly plummer to come over, mother and daughter get the idea to stuff the project down the sink drain.

What's even funnier is ABC thought it was doing such good by showing "Saving Private Ryan" last week. They've got the FCC's attention now.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Cone's promoting it, so I might as well, too: Check out ACC Hoops Blog.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Paper route day. Blogger sightings:

Hoggard pulling out of the Cook Out on Summit Avenue;

Billy the Blogging Poet cruising down Bessemer Avenue. We drive side-by-side, yelling out the car windows at each other.

Joel Schwartz, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, just recently released his report, Finding Better Ways to Cleaner Air (PDF download). Schwartz maintains those ways are certainly not through the

"compulsively detailed administrative system that places process and centralized power ahead of results and devotes great resources toward small, expensive slow and ineffective pollution reduction measures."

Schwartz maintains that air quality has indeed improved since the passage of the Clean air Act in 1970. (Who was president at the time? Nixon, I believe.) Unfortunately, there is no hard evidence stating the cleaner air is a direct result of the CAA.

With that in mind, Schwartz says the biggest problem with federalized air pollution control is it has become heavily bureaucratized. He's not necessarily knocking federal mandates on air quality. All the federal government would have to do, he says, is dictate the standards, attainment levels and penalties for failure.

"Such a Clean Air Act could be written in a few pages and would require few or no EPA regulations," Schwartz writes.

Instead, "the Clean Air Act is hundreds of pages long, and EPA has written thousands of pages of regulations to implement CAA requirements, along with tens of thousands of pages of guidance documents to explain what the regulations mean."

Such a process is an overbearing burden on industry. Schwartz quotes law professor David Schoenbrod, who says, "Clients can't help but violate the law, no matter how hard they try, because the legal requirements are too confusing and complex...The point of this compulsory system is power, not environmental quality."

What do Schwartz and Schoenbrod propose? Returning air pollution regulation to the states, except in the case of interstate pollution. Such a move would "require air pollution policy to be made by legislators closer to the people affected by the laws they enact."

Even at the federal level, legislators should be given more power to enforce pollution policy instead of an administrative body like the EPA. As with local legislators, federal lawmakers would feel the sting of unpoplar environmental policy.

Last, in cases where there is real injury, make the penalty severe. But do away with criminal and civil penalties for violating administrative requirements.

If you have the computer power, check out the report. It's a different view of maintaining air quality in this country from what you read in the newspapers.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Perfect mountain biking conditions yesterday. Sunny, slight chill in the air. When you're flying down the paved portion of Owl's Roost trail, you're worried that you're underdressed. But you soon warm up once you hit the single track.

While we're on the subject of cycling, there was a big N.Y. Times article yesterday on pro cyclist Tyler Hamilton, who is under suspicion of doping and could face a two-year suspension.

Now I thought the matter was resolved when Hamilton's tests following the Olympics proved inconclusive and he was allowed to keep his gold medal. Apparently, the issue of Hamilton and doping is not resolved, according to this article.

Here's the situation: Two samples are taken from cyclists following races, an "A" sample and a "B" sample. If the "A" sample proves positive, then the "B" sample is tested. If that sample proves negative, then the test is negative.

In Hamilton's case, the "A" sample following the Olympics was positive, but the "B" sample had been frozen, leaving too few red blood cells to analyze. Tests indicated that Hamilton had received a transfusion of another person's blood to increase oxygen-carrying red blood cells.

Then, during the Spanish Vuelta, both Hamilton's blood samples turn up positive. Now both the Russian and Australian Olympic Committees, whose riders received the silver and bronze medals, respectively, are seeking to have to strip Hamilton of his gold medal. The Russian rider, by the way, is Viacheslav Ekimov, a U.S. Postal Service teammate of Lance Armstrong.

Probably the most damning quote in the article came from fellow American cyclist Bobby Julich, who said that suspicions about Hamilton "go against everything I know about the guy."

But, "The rest of us at the Olympic passed the test. Why didn't he? I'm sick of people who cheat, sick of cleaning up their mess and trying to explain it. There is heavy evidence against him. With that much evidence, I don't know how he's going to get out of it."

Hamilton could not only lose his gold medal but face a two-year suspension from competition. That could cost him a shot at winning the Tour de France in 2005, especially if Armstrong does not comptete.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

I'm watching MASH again on the kitchen TV as I'm fixing lunch. This time Klinger's marching around in full uniform in preparation for his West Point entrance exam. His shady uncle called in a favor with a shady congressman to set it up.

The plan: Klinger gets in West Point, cheats on the first exam, gets kicked out and is finally free.

"That brilliant screwball's finally done it," BJ said. "He's getting out of the army by joining the army."

Friday, November 12, 2004

Sinclair press release announcing its decision not to broadcast "Saving Private Ryan."

I guess Sinclair was afraid of an FCC crackdown afterall. Its decision puts a hole in political conspiracy theories.

Lex Alexander weighs in.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

No "Saving Private Ryan." I can't tell from the disclaimer whether or not Sinclair or WXLV made the call.

Apparently, Sinclair Broadcast Group will broadcast "Saving Private Ryan" tonight. I guess Sinclair isn't afraid of an FCC crackdown. I wonder why?

In my mind, this is the question: Who's really taking the whole situation to extremes? Admittedly, the FCC upped the ante by fining networks for situations they had no control over (except booking Janet Jackson for the halftime show in the first place).

According to this AP article, the FCC has "made it clear then that virtually any use of the F-word-which issued in 'Saving Private Ryan'- was inappropriate for over-the-air radio and television."

But the article goes on to say that FCC guidelines "say that the context in which such material appears is of critical importance."

I'd say guys constantly getting shot at is the proper context for using the F-word. I just can't see the FCC going after stations for broadcasting "Saving Private Ryan" when it's clearly meant to be a tribute to the armed forces on Veterans' Day.

But then there's this quote from Ray Cole, president of Citadel, which own three stations in the Midwest:

"We're just coming off an election where moral issues were cited as a reason by people voting one way or another and, in my opinion, the commissioners are fearful of the new Congress." Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Man, this is weird. The Midwest was "red," and a "red" station manager cites Bush as the reason for not running a movie made by Steven Spielberg who, correct me if I'm wrong, is no friend of the administration.

What's really weird is I took all this time trying to figure this thing out when I'm watching the State-Florida St. game anyway.

Very busy today with other projects. Besides, most of my wayward thinking is directed toward the State-Florida St. game tonight.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Based on what I know, I don't see Guilford County coming up with the free 150 acres Dell wants. Forsyth County's ongoing strategy of working with the private sector to acquire land for such a project gives them the upper hand.

But free land, no property taxes, and possibly free water and sewer? Let's just go ahead and throw the workers in free, for heaven's sake. If the benefits of a Dell plant are truly regional, then go ahead and let Forsyth have them.

Interesting review of a football book in the N.Y. Times Book Review: Michael MacCambridge's America's Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured a Nation.

According to reviewer Richard Sandomir,"America's Game" is "rarely about players, except those who became symbols," like Johnny Unitas and Jim Brown.

The book is more about what makes "sensible businessmen worth billions fork over admittedly illogical sums for a sports team."

Owners like Dan Reeves, who prospered greatly after he moved the Rams from Cleveland to Los Angeles, and Paul Brown, for whom the Cleveland Browns are named and who is widely credited for developing the modern game.

But the central figure, Sandomir writes, is Pete Rozelle, the former public relations man and Rams general manager who oversaw the sport's phenomenal rise in the 1960s after he became commissioner. Rozelle's "sophisticated marketing led him to realize that the gospel of pro football he preached would be spread by having its own studio, NFL Films, and licensing division, NFL Properties," Sandomir writes. Rozelle also secured the anittrust exemption that allowed the NFL to negotiate its TV package with CBS.

While the game is thriving today, the NFL's days of executive glory are over.

MacCambridge's narrative "becomes disjointed in search of a continuing theme after Paul Taglibue's election," Sandomir writes. "There are few great men now. Oh there is a character like Jerry Jones, the Arkansa oilman who bought the Dallas Cowboys in 1989 and fired one of the great men, Tom Landry."

So the book is basically a business history of the NFL, which fascinates me because pro football because, unlike baseball, evolved so quickly into the game that we know and love today. And we do love it.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

As I've written before, I've got a liberal buddy who busts my chops about Bush and the environment. His big thing is the administration's changes in regulations for mercury emissions. In his mind, Bush is making millions off the power industry while people everywhere are suffering from mercury poisoning.

To quote John Kerry, "It's never that simple."

No one's saying mercury emissions aren't a problem. Power plants, which heat our homes and power our TVs and computers, out 48 tons of mercury into the air every year. The EPA estimates eight percent of women of childbearing years have levels of mercury that exceeds the level it considers safe.

And there's no doubt the power industry is a powerful lobbyist. Even Ronald Bailey of the Reason Public Policy institute writes, "The Bush administration has sometimes been a bit too eager to reward its donor base in industry with regulatory relief rather than grapple honestly with real concerns raised by scientific data or propose market-based solutions to environmental problems."

The most informative and balanced article on the situation was this one in the Washington Post. Basically there a difference in philosophy between the Bush and Clinton administrations in the regulating mercury emissions.

In December 2000, the EPA, under the Clinton administration, put in place regulations to reduce stating that mercury emissions should be reduced 90 percent by 2007. But it's questionable whether or not the technology exists to meet that goal. The original idea was that equipment used to reduce greenhouse gases would also reduce mercury. But EPA and DOE officials didn't find this out until 2002, which renders the 2007 deadline practically impossible, the power industry says.

So, in the meantime, the Bush administration reccomends the "cap and trade" approach, where companies can buy "credits" from other companies that have have met mercury emission goals. The cap and trade program has been successful in reducing other emissions and was supported by Kerry to help reduce greenhouse gases.

But the problem is the EPA, under the Bush administration, wants to stretch the cap-and trade program until 2018, which is, needless to say too long for environmental groups. So hopefully some sort of compromise can be worked out.

So I'm not too worked up about Bush and the environment. Help me out if I'm missing the point.

Monday, November 08, 2004

What bothers me about the Panthers is how they consistently find a way to lose. I seriously fear another 1-15 season.

I regret to say that Greater Greensboro Observer is going to a bi-monthly publishing cycle for the time being.

Since I don't know the fate of this article on Kris Cooke and Dot Kearns, which was to be in this week's issue, here it is:

The Guilford County Board of Education will indeed have some new faces later this year: Walter Childs and Amos Quick, who were elected to serve their respective districts in last Tuesday’s election.

But, to the chagrin of more than a few voters, two familiar faces will be sitting on the board for four more years: Kris Cooke and Dot Kearns.

Cooke, who represents District 7, defeated challenger Bill Davidson, while Kearns defeated challenger Jim Kirkpatrick in a race that went down to the wire. Both races were hotly contested as opposition groups sought to oust both incumbents, mostly due to their votes supporting the High Point school choice plan.

The election is now behind them, and they’re ready to move on. But Cooke and Kearns do not have pleasant memories of their respective campaigns.

While Cooke has served on the school board for seven years, she has never had to run a campaign. She was appointed to the board in 1997 and ran unopposed in 2000.

“I’ve never seen like that,” Cooke said in a phone interview. “It was mean-spirited, it was personal, and it was full of lies. It was for many a one-issue campaign. I simply stood on my record, what I’ve done and what I’ve believed in, and what I continue to believe in. I think the voters understood that. To me, the negative campaign backfired.”

Cooke said another thing that bothered her about the campaign was that she was portrayed as being out of touch with school issues, an image magnified in campaign ads that depicted her and Kearns as robotic followers of superintendent Terry Grier.

“The biggest misconception, which just floored me, was that I didn’t do my homework, that I didn’t listen to my constituents, and I don’t return e-mails and phone calls. That was just a bold-face untruth,” Cooke said.

Kearns, on the other hand, is a political veteran, having served not only on the school board for several years but also on the Board of County Commissioners.

She said her unsuccessful 1990 reelection campaign for the county commission was almost as nasty as this year’s. Schools were a dominant issue then, too, as officials were considering merging the Greensboro and High Point school systems. As a county commissioner, Kearns supported the merger.

“That was a real tough election,” Kearns said. “It was, I would say, as intense. There were so many in the county who were so harshly opposed to merger. They accused me of practically everything.”

Like Cooke, the part of this campaign that bothered her the most was the political ads.

“I wasn’t any closer to (Grier) than anybody else on the board,” Kearns said.

During their campaigns, both Cooke and Kearns defended their decisions to vote for the High Point plan.

But they differ somewhat about what to do about the lottery, the part of the plan that raised the most ire among parents in north High Point. Cooke is open to taking a closer look at the lottery in the near future, while Kearns favors letting the plan evolve as it is, at least for the time being.

“Speaking for myself, I would look at what can be done about the lottery,” Cooke said

“Hopefully, we’ll have a better sense of what the programs are all about and how successful they are. I think in time, as the programs gain in stature and longevity, students will self-select without a lottery,” Kearns said. “ But I think it’s too early to tell right now.”

The problem, both recognize, is without a lottery, the board would have little choice but to look at redistricting students in the north High Point and Jamestown areas to Andrews High School. The board tried to formulate a redistricting plan a couple of years ago, but was unable to come up with one that satisfied everyone.

“Redistricting is never pleasant. Trust me,” Cooke said. “I don’t think you can make everybody happy. That’s not the nature of the beast.”

“When you simply redistrict a school, you have no choice,” Kearns said.

At any rate, the board will have to look at redistricting when new schools in the northern part of the county come on line in the next few years.

“We’ve got new schools being built, so the first thing we’re going to have to do is redistrict and set up those attendance lines,” Cooke said.

Both Cooke and Kearns are concerned with funding issues, considering the fact that unfunded mandates at both federal and state levels strained the schools’ budget. In addition, the architects of those unfunded mandates, President Bush and Gov. Mike Easley, were both reelected.

However, there’s fresh blood on the county commission, which not only elected new members Kirk Perkins and Paul Gibson (who served as a county commissioner in the 1980s) but will also have a new member filling Jeff Thigpen’s seat when he officially becomes Register of Deeds.

But the relationship between the school board and county commissioners is never cozy.

“The state cut almost $3 million from our budget. Do they not think that impacts us?” Cooke said. “Then we have to rely on the county commissioners to make up the shortfall, and that strains our relationship.”

“There’s just a natural antipathy toward those who need the funds and those who provide the funds,” said Kearns, who added that she supports giving the school board taxing authority.

Bob Herbert's anger over the election overwhelms him and he says what's really been on his mind: Those who voted for Bush are just too dumb to know any better.

I'll let John Wiley Jr. of Midlothian, Va. respond for me in a letter to the N.Y. Times:

"I quickly related to the sense of bewilderment and alienation many New Yorkers feel in the wake of President Bush's victoty.

"I, along with tens of millions of other voters, felt the same way when our fellow Americans chose Bill Clinton as president not once, but twice."

It's OK, anyway: Bush's henchmen will soon pick Herbert up in the middle of the night and we'll never have to read his columns again.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Beautiful day. Been out this morning, going to go back out again before heading to a wedding at Hodgin Family Farm. I've got MASH on in the background while I eat lunch and do some blogging. Klinger's dressed like Goldilocks.

Interesting article from the Reason Public Policy Institute: George W. Bush, Man of Science. It takes alook at science policy under the next four years of the Bush administration.

The part that caught my eye, of course, was the analysis of environmental issues. It's my goal to disprove the liberal contention that Bush is destroying the environment. I had a liberal friend of mine shouting that in my ear over and over during the campaign season. His implication, of course, is I don't care about the environment because I voted for Bush. Au contraire, I care greatly for the environment.

"Environmental issues," writes Ronald Bailey, "played almost no role in the campaign this past year....And why not? Air pollution is way down; water pollution levels have improved and forests are expanding."

During the next Bush administration, Bailey writes, "We're going to be stuck with the clunky and expensive regulatory system we currently endure. We will not soon see the environmental improvements that private property and markets could bring about."

Molly Ivins' island of optimism amid the liberal sea of sour grapes:

"The Bush administration is going to be wired around the neck of the American people for four more years, long enough for the stench to sicken everybody."

I'm glad she's taking the election so well.

Then this from that other ray of sunshine, Leonard Pitts:

"Maybe this is where America ends."

Pitts writes on: "Social conservatism is another thing entirely, a mutant strain unhindered by critical thought. These are the nominal Christians whose Bibles are so long on judgment yet so short on compassion, the soldiers of the new American theocracy who want to force creation 'science' on the schools and deportation on the Muslims....And their chosen leader is about to embark on his second term as president of the United States."

Gee, I hadn't thought about it like that. I'm moving to Canada.

Friday, November 05, 2004

The misery continues for the Diamondbacks, who hire, then fire,, new manager Wally Backman amid revelations about his somewhat drunken, abusive past.

It's hard to believe exactly how bad the Diamondbacks sucked last year. Their 51-111 record is the 11th-worst record in modern baseball history. Several teams lost 111 games with a 154-game schedule, while only the 1962 Mets, the 2003 Tigers, the 1965 Mets and the 1963 Mets have lost more games in a 162-game season.

All I can say is Randy Johnson must like Arizona pretty good to stick it out with the D-backs. The question is, will he pull the trigger on a trade to a contender in December, or will he stick it out until next season's stretch run?

You know who needs pitching? The Braves.

A further sampling of opinion:

Paul Krugman: "President Bush isn't a conservative. He's a radical — the leader of a deep coalition that deeply dislikes America as it is." The pot calling the kettle black.

Bob Herbert: "(President Bush) said, essentially, be very afraid. Be frightened of terrorism, and of those dangerous gay marriages, and of those in this pluralistic society who may have thoughts and beliefs and values that differ from your own.

"Tuesday's election was a dismaying sprint toward intolerance, sparked by a smiling president who is a master at appealing to the baser aspects of our natures." No, it was Americans exercising their right to vote. The outcome just wasn't to Herbert's liking.

Cal Thomas (unposted):"For conservatives, part of the thrill of this election is that filmmaker Michael Moore, rockers like Bruce Springsteen billionaire George Soros, and the rest of the left-wing rabble must be wearing long faces."

I think that was on a lot of people's minds as they walked into the voting booth.

Rosemary Roberts, last week: "So now we're bogged down in an Iraqi quagmire that resembles the Vietnam War."

Rosemary Roberts, this week:"The war in Iraq is rapidly becoming a Vietnam-like quagmire."

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Here's an interesting analysis of the Dell incentives package from the News & Observer.

I'm not sure what to make of the situation. I will say this much: while the salaries listed in the article won't get you much in Raleigh or Charlotte, the cost of living here in the Triad is considerably lower. So $27,000 would go a lot further.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

JW cuts me no slack:

"I'm going to assume by 'chick' you meant a woman.

How PC of you, Sam, to, in 2004, refer to a woman as a chick.

I'm losing patience with you, my dear."

I noticed where my old UNCG sociology professor Paul Luebke was re-elected to the state house. Luebke's a hard-core liberal who is responsible for my conservative conversion about twelve years ago.

He introduced me to Thmoas Edsall's The New Politcs of Inequality. A major theme of the book is the Democratic party in the mid-1980s was being taken over by rich guys.

Luebke's answer, of course, was the party needed to be radically pulled back to the left. My point of view was, if rich guys dominate both parties, then I'll vote for the rich guys who embrace wealth and believe that I, too can be wealthy if I work hard enough. He understood my point of view and respected it.

Would I vote for Luebke today if I could? Probably not. But I'm I'm a better person for spending three hours a week in his classroom a few years ago.

One name floated through the rumor mill to replace Jeff Thigpen's county commissioner's seat: J.P McIntyre, now a member of the Greensboro planning board.

Other election news....

Voters in Arlington approved tax increases worth $325 million to build a new retractable roof stadium for the Dallas Cowboys.

I didn't realize Texas Stadium was as old as it was.

Dan Rather: "We reminded you when the evening started we wanted to be 'Accuracy Central.'"

I swear Bob Schieffer's voice cracked a couple a couple of times when it became apparent Bush would win Ohio. Mark Shields of PBS looked like he was about to cry as he frantically searched for counties that might pull it out for Kerry.

Fox is the first to call Ohio for Bush, then NBC follows suit. ABC and CBS are holding out.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Took about two hours to vote. The chick sitting outside the polling place wearing the "Bush is an Idiot" T-shirt got under my skin a bit, but I took a deep breath and stood patiently in line.

Right behind me was Joya Wesley, the experienced journalist who is now handling PR for the Truth and Reconciliation Project. She and I had talked on the phone previously, at which time we agreed to disagree on what purpose the project serves. I got to know her a bit and we mostly discussed the ups and downs of the newspaper business.

I saw several other neighbors and chatted with them about various subjects. It was a pleasant experience. I've done my part. The sun will rise tomorrow.

So far, it seems like any other day in Greensboro. I'm coming off the route now to go vote.

Paper route day. Election day. It should be a very interesting day. I bummed some Skoal from my buddy Glenn to help me get through it.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Interesting article on the vote against gay marriage in Ohio.

The Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, "who marched alongside Martin Luther King Jr. for the right to vote, has appeared in campiagn literature and told his congregation to support the gay marriage ban."

But, as the article points out, support for the gay marriage ban does not necessarily mean votes for Bush.

Kerry spokesman David Wade: "When legions of Red Sox fans go to the polls on Tuesday, they'll remember that if George Bush had his way the Red Sox wouldn't have ever won the World Series."

While we're on the subject of baseball, the N.Y.Times mailbag had some comments from fans regarding the World Series.

One came from Patrick Henry of Walla Walla Wash. who called for a stop "to the insane notion of giving home field advantage in the World Series to the team that comes from the league that wins the All-Star game.

The Cardinals labored long and hard to win the most games this season, and they certainly deserved the home-field advantage in the world Series."

Agreed. Especially considering the fact that the idea was conceived by Bud Selig to cover his ass after the debacle two years ago when the All-Star game ended in a tie.

Would home-field advantage have helped the Cardinals? Probably not, the way they were hitting. They were playing under the "Curse of LaRussa," as Dalton J. Brown of Oakland points out.

"This World Series painfully reminded me of the Series between the A's and the Reds in 1990. As you recall, the Reds swept the A's, four games to none," Brown writes.

Yes, the sweep recalled memories of the 1990 Series for me as well. Sweet memories.

I have a strange sense of calm on the eve before the election. Everyone suffers disappointment from time to time, I keep telling myself.

Yesterday, I did exactly what I said I was going to do- pause and reflect. Beautiful day. Went to church and prayed for our country- no matter who wins tomorrow. Then went mountain biking at Owl's Roost with my buddy Dave. Politics came up, but we're on the same side of the aisle, so we reassured ourselves throughout the ride.

The only bummer was the phone call from my dad. He called to talk about the Carolina-Miami game. As I've complained before, I don't have expanded cable, so I totally missed it. I picked up the Sunday N&R sports page and there it was-Heels Boot Miami. Even though I'm a State fan-I listened to the Pack lose to Clemson- I'm glad there's still life in the Carolina football program.

My dad and I are Archie and Meathead in reverse. I think back to 1972 when I stood in the voting booth with him and watched him pull the McGovern lever. In my kid's mind, though, I wanted Nixon to win just because, well, I liked him better. Though I was a liberal for a while, I now know it was probably meant to be that dad and I would be on opposite ends of the politcal spectrum.

I wasn't going to bring up politics.

You vote yet, he asked.

Never got around to it, I'm going to have to gut it out on election day, I replied.

How long you been unemployed now, he asked.

Not unemployed, self-employed, I reminded him.

Then I guess you want four more years of 'self-employment' he said.

Maybe, maybe not, I said.

Then he launched into a long monologue about some conference he went to, they said this, that and the other. Finally, he wrapped it up with, You better think about this.

I have thought about it, and I know which way I'm going. I hung up the phone, took several deep breaths, and went on with my day.


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