sam's notes

notes on government, sports and popular culture

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Education follies in Mecklenburg County, via Cone, via N&R editor John Robinson.

I go to Charlotte quite frequently, and it's fun to listen my father-in-law's views on the Mecklenburg school board. And he doesn't even have a child in the system. He should become Guilford County's version of Joe Stafford, the old guy who sits through every Guilford County school board meeting in its entirety. And nobody knows why.

Interesting comment from N&R education reporter Bruce Buchanan on Robinson's blog. Buchanan said that while he was covering the Cleveland County school board, interviews for a new superintendent were held in public instead of closed session. That reminded me of the time when superintendent Terry Grier said one time that superintendents' evaluations were held in public at his former school system in Tennessee.

Grier's remarks were made in the lobby during his evalaution, which took about 12 hours over two sessions. It was excruciating to cover, though thank God I didn't stay until 1 am during the first session in High Point. Then the board comes out with this bland two-page statement that doesn't really say anything, except that they're not giving him a raise. I think the board owes it to the public to express their concerns about the superintendent's performance in public.

Speaking of our school board, I watched the last meeting on TV for a while yesterday as the board struggled with the budget. It apparently was very late, and everyone looked tired, especially chairman Alan Duncan. There were four people in the audience: the reporters from the N&R and the HPE, Joe Stafford and Rhino publisher John Hammer, covering the beat himself.

Friday, April 29, 2005

The N&R's Doug Clark thinks President Bush handled himself "very well" during last night's press conference. I also thought he handled himself well, though I admit he does come off as a bit condescending at times. But how are you supposed to act when standing in a room full of people who don't like you and wish you would go away?

Bush got feisty toward the end, when a reporter asked about the National Education Association's lawsuit against the federal government for failing to fully fund the No Child Left Behind Act.

Again, I'm somewhat sympathetic because I have witnessed our local school board struggling with NCLB mandates. But by the same token, the federal government issues unfunded federal mandates all the time.

Note the quote from Candace Donoho, director of government relations for the Maryland Municipal League, who said that federal regulation can be "hugely expensive" for local governments. The most expensive regulations? Those handed down by the Department of Homeland Security guessed it.....the Environmental Protection Agency.

Now, I don't hear too many complaints when environmental regulations are handed down without funding to support them. Local governments and/or businesses are supposed to find the money themselves. And perhaps they should, considering the greater good such federal mandates are promoting. But can the same thing not be said about educating our children?

Thursday, April 28, 2005


"A few of our elected officials and some die-hard redneck racists would like things to stay as they always have been, with wealthy white people in charge, and the rest cowed in submission."

Raise your hand if you're cowed in submission.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

ESPN's David Schoenfield on the Yankees:

"The 2005 Yankees are looking like a historically awful defensive team, one of the worst of all time. And that, Yankee fans, is why your team will miss the playoffs."

She's beautiful, but is she bright?

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Ambleside Gallery is hosting a large exhibit by Chinese watercolor artist Guan Weixing. It's Guan's first major exhibit in the U.S. and a major sciore for both Ambleside and the Greensboro arts district.

I met Ambleside owners Jan tucker and Jackson Mayshark a few years while I was doing an article for Triad Business News. Jackson's traveled and lived around the world and could have picked anywhere to set up a gallery. The fact that he believes Greensboro has a big enough market for fine art is a testimony to our city.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Interesting N.Y. Times mag article on the efforts of Steve Stanley and Mark Teahen to become major-leaguers as non-power hitters.

Teahan made it to the major leagues last season following a trade from the Oakland A's organization to Kansas City Royals. Michael Lewis' thesis was that Teahan has a better chance of making it in the big leagues because he at least looks like a power hitter.

Stanley's a different story, however. At 5-7 and 155, it's obvious he's no power hitter. He slumped at the AAA-level follwing organization efforts to get him to pull the ball. But back a AA, he went back to his old style of hitting and went on a tear. His prospects for making it to the major leagues look considerably brighter than they did a year ago.

Is "small ball" dead in the big leagues? Steroids not withstanding, it is true big-league players have been getting bigger over the years through weight training. But I would point to Ichiro Suzuki and Tony Womack, both 5'-9" and 160 lbs (exactly my height and weight), as evidence that there is still a place for the little guy in big-league ball.

As for Teahen, he can look to the Reds' Sean Casey for inspiration. At 6'-4" and 215 lbs, Casey hits for a high average. Still, this Reds fan would like to see a little more pop in his bat.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Vice President Cheney enters the filibuster debate.

The interesting quote was from minority leader Harry Reid, who "accused the Bush administration of going back on a promise to stay out of the judges fight in the Senate.

"'Last week, I met with the president and was encouaged when he told me he would not become involved in Republicans' efforts to break the Senate rules,' the Nevada Democrat said. 'Now it appears he was not being honest, and that the White House is encouraging this abuse of power.'"

But why is Reid assuming Bush's direct influence over Cheney's statements? As president of the Senate, Cheney's obligations to the legislative branch require him to take a stance on the issue. Nobody honestly thinks Cheney, being who he is, would side with Democrats on this issue, even if he was just another legislator?

Friday, April 22, 2005

As I've said before, time constraints have prevented me updating my blog as much as I'd like. As a result, I've held off on commenting on the recent controversy surrounding the Greensboro Truth and Reconcilation Project and the city council.

In the end I gues I don't give a crap. Why? Because nobody besides the TRP, the city council and the blogosphere does. That's politics in Guilford County. Bring up the TRC or the latest doings of county commissioners at a cookout and people will tell you they hadn't heard about it.

That said, I've coalesced my thoughts on the subject. N&R editor Allen Johnson writes, "It is still a mystery to me why the Truth and Reconciliation supporters sought the council's blessings in the first place. Was it an attempt to manipulate the council, as (Florence) Gatten charged, or a naive attempt to actually sway the council to their views?"

A little bit of both. I think what bothers most people about the TRC is the fact that it seems intent on getting the city to accept responsibility for a tragic event that happened 25 years ago. The best it could do would be an acceptance of responsibility through the city's endorsement of the TRC. It's kind of like Jeffrey MacDonald refusing to go on parole: To do so would be an implicit admission of guilt.

I think the majority of the council realized this, which is why it stuck to its guns. Now the TRC can go about its business. I have no problem with that. History is a living breathing thing, and different versions of the "truth" about our country's history are revealed every day. I would hope that whatever the TRC uncovers, it touches on the dangerous crossroad our country was at in 1979. There was an incredible void in leadership, and people obviously felt compelled to take violent means to institute change. Our country's stature was lower than it ever had been and, contrary to the views of many today, ever would be. I fully believe that, had the people not radically changed our leadership in the presidential election the following year, the U.S. was prime for an implosion.

Which is why the man we buried last June is such an important historical figure, if not the most important.

Anybody else see something weird in this (unposted) N&R sidebar on Earth Day events:

"The city will host an Earth Day celebration from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. in the Wal-Mart parking lot at 4424 W. Wendover Ave."

The sidebar accompanied the story on ecologist Thomas Berry, who asserts that "trees, birds, all living things have rights."

I thought about Mr. Berry briefly as I contemplated the ants crawling around in my sink. Then I assumed the roles of judge, jury and executioner.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The N&R’s Rob Daniels addresses information overload in baseball boxscores.

The N&R sure can’t be accused of that when it comes to baseball. In addition to the one-sentence game summaries, the paper has gone back to printing the more traditional boxscore, with only at bats, runs, hits and RBIs for hitters and innings pitched, hits, runs, earned runs, walks and strikeouts for pitchers. While I’m not inclined to study all the stats Daniels mentions in the modern boxscore, it is nice to get a daily update of batters’ averages and pitchers’ ERAs.

I thought it was interesting that Daniels highlighted the newest, albeit unofficial, baseball statistic: the “hold,” an “appearance by a middle reliever in which said middle reliever doesn’t mess up.” Daniels considers it “disturbing” that “some fantasy baseball leagues now include ‘holds’ as official stats.”

But what bothers me about the “hold” is that they are awarded to the wrong pitchers. Growing up as a kid, I regularly watched the “Game of the Week” with Joe Garagiola and Tony Kubek. Back then, Garagiola was calling for a hold as an official stat. But he believed holds should be awarded to middle relievers who came in after the starter was knocked out and “held” the opposing team, providing his teammates with a reasonable chance to rally.

Last night’s Dodgers-Brewers game is a perfect illustration.
Note the pitchers’ line score. The Brewers’ Derrick Turnbow was credited with a hold for his inning of shutout pitching. But in my mind, and Garagiola’s mind, the hold should have gone to the Dodgers’ Steve Schmoll. True, he gave up two hits, but neither baserunner scored. His two innings of shutout pitching held the Brewers at six runs and allowed the Dodgers’ offense to rally for eight runs against the Brewers’ bullpen for an 8-6 victory.

Something to think about.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

I'm still here, but constraints on my time have forced me to slow down. As you know, blogging can suck incredible amounts of time. Keep checking in.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Local residents fight a planned Wal-Mart off Peters Creek Parkway, to no avail, just one day after after the mega-retailer withdraws plans for another store on Reynolda Road.

I'm a regular at the Friendly Center Harris Teeter, because I know where everything is. Otherwise, I try to avoid the big boxes. Just too many people.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Some days, there's just nothing in the paper, and other days there's just too much.........

I'm glad to see many of the N&R's readers are quickly seeing through a state house bill championed by Earl Jones that would require companies seeking state contracts to determine whether they profited from slave trade.

Once again, I'll ask the same question I've asked twice already: What is the value of a piece of property with environmental obstacles that prevent development that is across the street from a mall that is considering housing a public school?

The question is, why would Oak Hollow consider such an arrangement? My guess is it has the space. That's not good.

Meanwhile, PART needs a truckload of money.

Coincidentally, the Reason Public Policy Institute's blog, Out of Control, posted excerpts from a (PDF) article by the Journal of the American Planning Association:

"For 9 out of 10 rail projects, passenger forecasts are overestimated; the average overestimation is 106%......We speculate further that rail patronage will be overestimated and road traffic underestimated in instances where there is a strong political or ideological desire to see passengers shifted from road to rail, for instance for reasons of congestion or protection of the environment."

With this in mind, we'll return to the N&R article, where Mayor Keith Holliday "asked PART to increase public awareness about the benefits of a rail system in an effort to thwart criticism he said is already developing.

"'I would just urge you to put together some sort of counterattack,' he said."

What am I missing here? Amtrak hasn't made money, ever, yet we need rail service here in the Triad?

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

This is why Bush won the election.

I know detractors will point out that the British made the bust on these guys, but Tony Blair has stood steadfast next to our leader in the fight against terrorism. Most Americans realize this.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Nanny 911, Supernanny.....Nannies are hot. No, not in that sense, although I could picture Jo Frost in a Playboy spread.

Here's an interesting article where nannies share some of their woking with mommies.

Christy Ochs, a mother and grandmother who has worked as a nanny for five years, said her first job "was with a woman who clearly loved her kids, but she would sit in her jammies most of the day and read the paper. Once she asked me to drive her to get coffee because she didn't want to get dressed."

Debra Dorris, an 18-year veteran, "recalls one job in which she showed up for the interview and without a word the mother handed her a 6-week-old baby and his 16-month-old brother.

"'You're hired,' the woman said. She then turned and walked out of the room."

Hoggard and Wharton (via Cone) on the N&R's rah-rah for First Horizon Park.

On the subject of new stadiums, there's this from an (unposted) N.Y. Times article on 40 year-old Busch Stadium's swan song season. Busch will be demolished this fall when the St. Louis Cardinals prepare to move into a new downtown stadium:

"The new red-brick stadium is already taking shape just south of the current stadium. City leaders hope it will be the centerpiece that will spur additional development to a downtown that is showing signs of life after years of decay."

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Bryan Chitwood of Greensboro in the N&R:

"I have one simple message regarding oil exploration in the Arctic national Wildlife Refuge: over my dead body."

Pretty strong stuff. My gut reaction: Is that a threat or a promise?

I watched with interest our county commissioners' "inquiry" into Craytongate.

I think the most disturbing thing about the whole situation is no one really knows what's going on. The Democrats say they have all this evidence against Crayton, yet they're not saying exactly what it is. I have no idea where commissioner Kirk Perkins is coming from with his revelation that he contacted the Greensboro police department about activities going on in the tax department. If nothing turns up, I'd say Perkins' credibility is severely damaged.

I'll say N&R has done a good job covering all the bases. They mention in this morning's article what could be the smoking gun: Crayton's alleged influence over the Board of Equalization and Review, which granted commissioner Steve Arnold's tax-value appeal.

But Arnold claims that the property that he wanted to develop into a shopping center is owned by 20 different people. One of the main reason the property was never developed (in addition to the many environmental hoops Arnold had to jump through) was the fact that the property could never be successfully assembled, which was a condition of the rezoning process. So Arnold's point is he was only one of a group of 20 people to have their property restored to its original tax value.

Once again, I have to ask: What is the value of an abandoned boys' camp which has no hope of being developed?

Friday, April 08, 2005

Presidents, past and present...

While doing some research, I stumbled upon President Bush's medical history.

Meanwhile, former President Bill Clinton on Pope John Paul:

"He could work a crowd."

In case you're interested, here's Clinton's medical history.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

The squabbling in our county government never ends.

If my memory serves me right, there were also property valuation issues at this time last year involving tax director Jenks Crayton. But they didn't revolve around the county commissioners; they revolved around ordinary citizens who were angry about the inflated tax value of their properties. One of my neighbors sent around a petition protesting the assessments. I personally was pleased with mine, so I felt as though I couldn't sign in good conscience.

I remember the meeting when then-commissioner Mary Rakestraw (a Republican, mind you) called Crayton to the podium and informed him that she had been deluged with messages from her constituents protesting their assessments. While she was speaking, Crayton starting grinning.

"Have I said something funny, Mr. Crayton?" Rakestraw asked him. Crayton wiped the smile off his face and informed Rakestraw that any citizen had the right to challenge their property assessment.

With regard to commissioner Steve Arnold's property, I have one question: Just what is the value of an abandoned boys' camp with environmental issues that prohibit development?

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

John Smoltz gets rocked in his first outing as a starter in quite some time. Same story for the Braves? Slow April and May, everybody says they're done, then they end up with the division title once again?

What might be more problematic for the Bravrs is Johnny Estrada's bruised hand. Catchers often suffer nagging injuries like this early in the season and they just linger on.

Monday, April 04, 2005

I've been pretty busy lately, which is why posts have been sporadic. So busy, in fact, that I temporarily forgot today was the start of baseball season. What a start it was.

Friday, April 01, 2005

It's going to be rough for Sean May under the glass.

At least May knows it. He said this about Michigan State:

"These guys attack the glass better than anybody. Their guards attack the glass."

With this in mind, May will be Carolina's most important player on Saturday.

Once again, Lance Armstrong is accused of using performance enhancing drugs..

This time, it's part of Armstrong's legal fight against Mike Anderson, an Austin bike mechanic who buddies up with Armstrong and eventually becomes his personal assistant, performing duties ranging from "building bike trails on Armstrong's Hill Country property to doing his grocery shopping in Spain."

Anderson had a key to Armstrong's apartment in Girona, was "cleaning the bathroom in early 2004" when he found a bottle of andro. He kept quiet about it until he and Armstrong started suing each other. Armstrong actually sued Anderson first, saying Anderson demanded $500,000, a signed Tour de France jersey and future endorsements to set up his own bike shop.

So basically, it sounds like one of Armstrong's flunkies is using steroids as a means to get some cash. Perhaps he and his lawyers think throwing performance enhancing drugs out there will draw a quick settlement.

Armstrong has said repeatedly that he is randomly tested for drugs. Most importatant to him is his reputation, and he says he will continue to fight all allegations of doping. Anderson has also admitted he never saw Armstrong take banned substances.

But something bothers me. Anderson also said he and Armstrong had a conversation about cyclists doping, and Armstrong told him, "Everyone does it."

But Armstrong's attorney Hal Gillespie

"said that conversation took place before anderson allegedly found the steroid."

Note that Gillespie does not deny the conversation took place. Is that not a bit strange?


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