sam's notes

notes on government, sports and popular culture

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Hoggard says the Toys R Us and the Montgomery Ward are dust.

I realize I'm comparing apples and oranges here, but the whole incentives debate surrounding the location of a Wal-Mart on the old Carolina Circle property makes the Supreme Court's Kelo decision even more interesting. Why? Because who can deny that even a Wal-Mart serves the greater good more than an abandoned mall? What if, for some reason, the land was owned by a not-so-willing seller. Or Bill Agapion.

The shirt-and-tie guys at work don't like what they're seeing when they're peering into trucks these days. They're obviously clamping down on "load quality". As one of them told me, "We don't make money shipping air."

Fair enough. If they don't make money, people don't have jobs.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy the challenge of building a sturdy box wall packed tightly into the truck. But sometimes when the boxes are flowing heavy, you don't have time to "make good decisions," as supervisors have told me to do when loading.

Besides, I had their "load quality" anyway. I nice square box rolled down the chute. I looked above my head and there was nice square space. But it was out of my "power zone," so I couldn't use the "hand-to-surface" method. So I shot the box, and it rolled around at least three other boxes before landing in the hole like Rashad McCants jump shot.

It sucks that the ACC's most talented stars are going to be lost in the NBA wasteland when we could be watching them right here. Call me selfish. True, Felton and May will be right down the road. But Cone said, or rather asked, it all: Did you know there was an NBA team in Charlotte?

Footnote: Jawad Williams goes undrafted.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Pretty cool radio station.

Monday, June 27, 2005

N&R editor Allen Johnson reflects on his father's post-professional employment at Winn-Dixie, which just announced it was closing its North Carolina stores.

While Winn-Dixie represents the twighlight of Allen Johnson Sr.'s lifetime of work, the grocery chain symbolizes the beginning of my working days. My very first job was as a bagboy at the Winn-Dixie on Capitol Boulevard in Raleigh. By the time I quit Winn-Dixie four years later, I'd just about done it all: bagging groceries and carrying them to the customer's car, checking, which I hated, and stocking shelves including produce and frozen foods. The only thing I didn't do was cut meat.

One Saturday night, I was blocking shelves with my co-worker Nate when we heard a loud blast and the sound of breaking glass. Nate went to inspect and came running back down the aisle as fast as a 300--pound man could.

"It's goddamn robbers!" he said, flying past me.

Not knowing what to do, I followed Nate. We ran upstairs and crouched down by the railing next to the men's room. Then the head cashier came over the intercom and asked everyone to come up front. My gut reaction was to do as asked in case the robbers decided to hurt people to prove they were serious. Looking back on it, we should have run straight out the emergency exit and set off the alarm. But hey, it was my first experience with criminals.

But I'd also just finished reading In Cold Blood. I walked to the front and a guy in a ski mask, guarding the door with a sawed-off shotgun, turnerd and told us to hit the floor. I saw the manager, the produce manager and another bagboy lying on the floor. I knew there were other employees elsewhere on the floor. I figured the robbers thought there were too many employees in the store to methodically shooting everyone. I like to think my survival skills would have kicked in had they rounded us up in the produce cooler.

But nothing happened. The robbers shouted something TV, like "Count to 100 or your dead!" before taking off. The cops showed up and took everyone's story. To my knowledge, the robbers were never caught.

Lefty reaction to the Supreme Court's Kelo decision, via Reason. Excerpt from "nauseating" N.Y. Times editorial included:

"The Supreme Court's ruling yesterday that the economically troubled city of New London, Conn., can use its power of eminent domain to spur development was a welcome vindication of cities' ability to act in the public interest. It also is a setback to the 'property rights' movement, which is trying to block government from imposing reasonable zoning and environmental regulations."

I thought liberals hate Wal-Mart.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Walter Williams analyzes Canada's healthcare system:

"In my book, it's medical Naziism for government to prohibit a person who wishes to purchase medical services from doing so."

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Today I was moved to the infamous Myrtle Beach truck. I can always hear the pick-off yelling "Heavy flow Myrtle Beach!"

It's a two-man truck, and my new partner wasn't real happy with his previous partners. The last one was a girl with a few years experience. But the heat got to her the other day, and she wasn't much help on the load. for some reason she thought chocolate milk would make her feel better. Instead, she barfed all over the trailer floor.

"I think you and Sam will make a good team, because he has the most positive attitude of anyone on the belt," my supervisor said.

Me? A positive attitude? I had no idea. So, in honor of this new outlook on life, unearthed by a fellow human being, I'll skip the pee-yew post I was going to make about the essay on new fatherhood in today's Go Triad.

More negative press for Krispy Kreme.

If I remember correctly, the business media (of which I was a member at the time) was pretty rah-rah over KK's meteoric rise. The only person who expressed any skepticism was my father-in-law, who said, "I don't get it. It's flour and grease."

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

My thoughts these days have been scattered and inconsistent.

But I had a feeling Dave Miley wouldn't last the season as Reds' manager. Pitching coach Don Gullett got the axe, too, a necessary move considering the team has no pitching. Zero.

Miley joins Tony Perez, Ray Knight, Bob Boone and ( I can't believe I'm writing this) Jack McKeon on the list of Reds managers who have been fired in the last 12 years. I'm not sure if Davey Johnson counts because it was agreed upon beforehand that Johnson would make room for Knight because he was a favorite of Marge Schott's.

The Cincinnati Enquirer's Paul Daugherty is pretty damn doom-and gloom about the Reds' future:

"The Reds are a dysfunctional organization. Top to top.They're ranging closer and closer to 1990s Bengals irrelevance. (My note: Aren't the Bengals still irrelevant?) During the Lost Decade, we stopped cursing the Bengals and started laughing at them."

Daugherty urges the Reds to "make Miley's firing mean something" by hiring a decent manager, not someone "loyal, humble and cheap."

I don't know what, if anything, can be done about the Reds' pitching situation short-term. There are bright spots, though, the brightest of which is Wily Mo Pena. And though the team batting average is modest, they don't seem to have trouble scoring runs.

So it might be possible that a seasoned manager might turn things around quickly, as McKeon did in 1999. But who's available? One crazy thought: Art Howe may be ready to return to a small market after he was run out of New York. But he worked with Billy Beane in Oakland.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Congressman Howard Coble not only rips George Pence for his letter to the editor, but also takes the N&R to task for publishing such scurrilous accusations:

"....I have never had a newspaper publish such an accusation against me....Perhaps the News & Record published such an irresponsible letter because, under North Carolina law, state legislators can still pocket their campaign funds when they retire, but ignorance of the law is no excuse to print this letter accusing me of a criminal act when I retire."

So what responsibility do the editors have to fact check the letters they print? Every now and then, you see a tag line correcting a fact a statement a letter writer has made, but obviously a few slip under the radar.

But how closely should the editors monitor the opinions of its readers? I'm amazed by the apocolyptic visions of our country that many citizens express in letters to the editor. Surely the powers that be down at the N&R can't believe this, I often think to myself.

A good example is today's letter from from Vickie Currin of High Point, who writes:

"Michael Jackson has been found not guilty. O.J. Simpson was found not guilty. What does this tell us about our justice system?

"I love my country, but I fear my government."

This does letter does not make sense to me, because Ms. Currin is comparing apples and oranges, right? True, government lays out the template of our justice system, but the ultimate fate of accused criminals is in the hands of citizen jurors just like you and me. So, in my mind, Ms. Currin should fear her neighbor more than her government. So why did the editors think this was a letter of interest?

I don't necessarily agree with the Jackson verdict, either. To paraphrase David Letterman, it's as clear as the nose on Michael Jackson's face that the dude's not right. But, despite troublesome comments from some jurors that indicated a personal distaste for the accuser's mother, I believe the jurors took their responsibility seriously.

Contrary to what many believe, "we the people" still have the power in this country. We just don't use that power enough.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

A college football playoff isn't such a far-flung fantasy, says Adam Russell of Sports Central. (Scroll to the middle of the page.) They're some pretty powerful organizations out there who don't care for the BCS and have voted with their feet.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Grunkle Guru strikes a chord with the N&R.

N.Y. Times article on John Madden's deal with NBC's Sunday night football telecast, which starts in 2006:

"Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Sports, said that after the NBA finals, he expected to speak to Al Michaels, ABC's lead pro basketball announcer and Madden's play-by partner" on Monday Night Football.

It's pretty interesting that Ebersol is lining up network football deals six months after surviving the serious plane crash the killed his son.

Ebersol on Madden:

"I've always been blown away by his passion. His and Arnold Palmer's passion for what they do is manifest; they're out there among the people. They don't jump in their SUV's with a security guard and pull away."

Flexibilty of schedule will be the key to NBC's Sunday night broadcast:

"For now, NBC will be able to choose, about 12 days in advance, one game each week from CBS or Fox's Sunday afternoon schedule and shift it to prime time."

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Hoggard praises the N&R for putting springsteen above the fold instead of the Jackson verdict. I'm not so sure. The verdict, which I considered somewhat surprising, is still a big story. Perhaps not a banner headline, but certainly above the fold, at least in this subscriber's opinion.

I know our jury system's not perfect, but it's all we have. The Jackson jurors deliberated longer than OJ's jurors, which would lead anyone to believe they considered the matter carefully.

But is it unreasonable to be disturbed by comments from jurors following the case? One believes Jackson has molested children in the past, while another expressed personal disdain for the accuser's mother.

Better that a guilty man go free than an innocent man be locked up.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Two Johns:

Cone wishes John Edwards a happy birthday, while Guarino, in the comments section of this post on the state of medical malpractice legislation in N.C., has an interesting view of our former senator.

I was watching the Braves-A's game last night when Chip Carey and Joe Simpson began a broader discussion of interleague play. True, there were some intriguing matchups this weekend, including Cubs- Red Sox, meeting for the first time since 1918, and Giants-Indians, meeting for the first time since1954. But other matchups such as Marlins-Rangers and Rockies-Tigers were a little flat.

The other major issue is the unbalanced schedule. The most glaring inequity is in late June, when the Braves and Marlins play a crucial home-and-home series. But sandwiched between that series is the last round of interleague play where geographic rivals square off. The Marlins get Tampa Bay (20-41) while the Braves play Baltimore (36-24). Who has an advantage there? Then again, who could predict the Orioles would be so strong this season?

Carey's solution: Balance the schedule so that everybody plays everybody, period. Two home-and-home series against division rivals, one home-and-home against league rivals and then a single series against teams in the other league. The Braves go to Boston one season and the Red Sox come to Atlanta the next season, for example. If you're going to do interleague play, then do it, Carey reasons.

I like it, because interleague play is just a reality we pruists have to accept. It will also make crucial games between division rivals a hotter ticket, so to speak.

Friday, June 10, 2005

N&R editorial on the salary gap between men and women:

"But if the salary gap is to close at last, the persistence of gender stereotypes alos must be recognized — and challenged— by men as well as women."

I can't say I've ever been a champion of women's rights, simply because I believe women don't need my help to make it in this world. It's obvious — every day I see women who make more money than I do and hold more high-powered positions.

Besides, is it not a form of chauvinism to assume that the only way women are going to make more money is if men recognize the disparity?

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Katie Couric's interview with British prime minister Tony Blair.

I was surprised she didn't press him harder on the intelligence issue. She did ask him to compare Presidents Bush and Clinton. Fair question? I guess.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Busy, busy day. Now I've got to finish an article on the possible consolidation of Chapel Hill-Carrboro with Orange County Schools. Basically, Chapel Hill has a special school tax that generates $12 million more in funding than county schools. So many believe merger will address the inequity in funding. More here.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Just who is Greg Popovich? Gr8ful Coach tells us.

Take one guess about who had a hand in shaping Popvich's coaching career. Then find a copy of the book. Trust me, it's a great read.

Unfortunately, I gave a copy to my dad for his birthday, and he refuses to read it.

More tears over the demise of the BI building, literally. Am I the only person who was happy to see that symbol of evil corporate domination go down in a cloud of dust?

Actually, Donna Combs of Gibsonville, in her letter to the editor in this morning's N&R (can't find it), sheds tears over the trees that were sacrificed in the process:

"I was traveling down Northline Street behind the property. A large bulldozer was pushing over one of the mammoth trees. My stomach lurched, tears actually came trickling down my face. I was physically sick."

Ms. Combs should go have lunch at the City Club sometime so she look out over out city and see just how green it is.

Oops, I just remembered.That symbol of evil corporate domination's gone, too.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

More problems than just water in the basement:

Sidebar to N&R story on the International Civil Rights Museum:

Executive director Amelia Parker said "no one has been hired to replace Robert Haynes, who was hired last year but let go after several months. Officials declined to discuss the reason for the dismissal."

Curator. That's a pretty important job in a museum, isn't it?

Anybody see the irony in the fact that psychiatric services director Larry Ray ($176,232) is the highest-paid Guilford County employee? Who are the patients? Who should be the patients?

Friday, June 03, 2005

Panthers tackle Kris Jenkins on his adversary Warren Sapp:

"He's ugly. He stinks. His mouth stinks. His breath stinks and, basically, his soul stinks. Too many people can't have personalities like that like that and survive in life. I don't know how he does it. I guess because he's big and went to Miami."

Meanwhile, Ricky Williams has some calories to consume if he's returning to the NFL. No munchies allowed.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Politically speaking, Jay Ovittore and I hardly agree on anything. But I was glad to see where he leveraged his blog into a piece in Yes! weekly.

Then I read over at Hoggard's where Yes! didn't pay Jay anything for the piece. No publication deserves such a favor from its contributors. You're helping them fill copy space without digging into the ad revenue. Too sweet a deal. Hold out, Jay.

An old writing teacher once told me told me never to write for nothing. Make the rag pay you something. I was once a struggling writer (check that: still am) and I would have gladly written just for a byline. I was never paid for work I did for TV Party, but president Billy Ingram took me out for dinner and drinks a few times.

But after that, I made a resolution: No pay, no piece. I remember I submitted a review of a book on the siege at Waco to a local publication. "On spec" if you will, admittedly a sign of amateurism. I got a call from a lady at the publication who said they were interested in running it. I asked how much they paid.

"Oh," she said, "we don't pay contributors."

As bad as I needed the clip, I thought about what my teacher said. Don't run it, I told her. I haven't written for nothing since.

The publication? The Rhinoceros Times. The writing teacher? Scott Yost.

Guess not:

Duncan has the killer instinct; Spurs reach the finals.

Lowell Ponte puts Woodward, Bernstein and Deep Throat in context:

"The coup that overthrew President Nixon......had unexpected consequences. It led to the election of Democratic President Jimmy Carter in 1976. Carter withdrew support from America's key ally the Shah of Iran, which led to a medieval Islamist dictatorship in Iran, the 500,000+ deaths of the Iran-Iraq war, the militarization of Saddam Hussein, the destabilization of the Middle East and Islamic world, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the creation of Al Qaeda under terror mastermind Osama bin Laden, and bin Laden's eventual attacks of 9-11 on the Pentagon and World Trade Center. All this and more has come from the media coup that removed an overwhelmingly reelected President Nixon."

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

City councilman Tom Phillips comments on Hoggard's post regarding water quality near the FedEx construction site:

"We do have a water treatment plant."

No shit.

I'm doing an article on a possible trend toward school system deconsolidation in North Carolina. Mecklenburg County is leading the way. Here are a couple of primers on the movement in Mecklenburg, including the rejected legislative bill that would allow for a countywide referendum.

Here's the question: While Guilford's school system is not growing at the rapid rate of Mecklenburg's, it's growing nevertheless. At 650 square miles, it's already a large school system geographically, a point school board members have brought up many times. How long will it take for deconsolidation to become part of the debate in Guilford, considering the fact that county and city schools merged a mere decade ago?

Deconsolidation would wrangle control of the schools from our bureaucracy-riddled administration and school board, which means they'd probably fight it all the way.

The N&R weighed in on the subject back in March.


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