sam's notes

notes on government, sports and popular culture

Monday, October 31, 2005

Cone disses Wolfpack football:

"It wasn't always this way. At first, I enjoyed the Amato era. I liked Philip Rivers. But then State fans got confused about Amato's mission. He was hired to lead the program to national prominence, but State fans seemed to decide that hiring Amato was in and of itself enough to make the program nationally prominent. They started talking like Amato was going to lead them back (emphasis on back) to a place they deserved to be, rather than elevating them to new heights."

If you ask me, Carolina fans have had some pretty high expectations over the past 25 years because they're, well, Carolina. Anybody think the Heels have met those expectations?

.....I don't think it was a good idea for Fred Smoot, of all people, to be talking trash before yesterday's game between the Vikings and the Panthers.

Vikings coach Mike Tice on the matchup between Smoot and Steve Smith:

"Fred didn't win that matchup today."

The Charlotte Observer's Scott Fowler rags Smoot, but declines to address the infamous boat party.

From a reader's perspective, it's hard to understand how Fowler took a pass on the incident, considering the fact that it's a major factor in the Vikings' implosion, which has been a big story in the NFL this season.

The N&R's Ed Hardin is tougher:

"Now two weeks removed from their own bye week, the Vikings have come apart. The party-boat controversy, one of the great distractions in NFL history, has split the team and its fan base and exposed the franchise as an undisciplined, ill-coached team capable of losing every game for the rest of the season, even in the worst division in football."

Still, where there's love......

Tice to quarterback Daunte Culpepper, who's out for the season:

"I love you."

Culpepper to Tice:

"I love you."

..While contemplating Marc Rich, this just dawned on me: President Bush could just pardon Scooter Libby. Like, tomorrow.

....In case you weren't aware.....Follow-up to Phred's comment regarding Clinton's buddy Marc Rich and the oil-for-food scandal.....

Friday, October 28, 2005

....N.Y. Times article on the findings of the committee investigating the U.N. oil-for-food scandal:

"Mr. Hussein received $1.8 billion in illicit incomes from surcharges and kickbacks on the sales of oil and humanitarian goods during 1996-2003, when the program ran, the committee concluded in its last report in September.

"The $64 billion program was set up by the Security Council to help ease the effects of United Nations sanctions on the 27 million Iraqis by supplying food and medicines in exchange for letting the Hussein government export oil.

"The report said that Mr. Hussein first steered the program to gain political advantage with political allies and countries in a position to ease United Nations sanctions. Both Russia and France are veto-bearing members of the Security Council."

Paul Volcker, who led the investigative committee:

"Then it got corrupted with a capital C when Saddam figured out how to make money off it by putting on the surcharges and kickbacks."

This is why Saddam Hussein was playing games with U.N. weapons inspectors: As long as sanctions were in place, he was making money hand over fist. Right?

...Final World Series note.....

E-mail from a friend of mine, a Cubs fan:

"The Sox can bite me. I was rooting for the Astros."

juts playinng around, part 111

Thursday, October 27, 2005

......White Sox sweep.

As much as we all like to see championship series go the full seven games, total domination is also a pleasure to watch. That's not taking anything away from the Astros who pushed the Sox to the limit in all four games. But as Game 4 went into the late innings still scoreless, was there a doubt in anyone's mind that the Sox would would get on the board, even with Brad Lidge in the game?

In a way, the 2005 Sox remind me of the 1990 Reds, who swept the Series from the heavily favored Oakland A's. The Reds were no doubt the best team in baseball that year, as the Sox were this year. But they also had to fight off a late-season slump and a surge from the division rival Dodgers, just as the White Sox had to fight off the Cleveland Indians this season. Guys like Willie Harris and Geoff Blum are the Sox' version of Billy Bates and Herm Winningham, guys who stepped in knew what to do and when to do it.

It also never hurts to have a shortstop like Juan Uribe flashing some leather in the middle of the infield.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

.....N.Y. Times obit on Wellington Mara, longtime owner of the New York Giants.

It's hard for some of us to imagine a football team actually in New York, considering the fact that both the Giants and the Jets have been in New Jersey for almost 30 years now. The thing I found fascinating is how Mara built the franchise in a city dominated by baseball, right down to the venues:

"After 30 seasons in the Polo Grounds, Mr. Mara took the Giants to Yankee Stadium in 1956, and they became the glamour franchise of the NFL, winning the league championship that season and playing in the title game five times in the next seven years."

Interesting note:

Mara "scouted, supervised draft selections and during the 1950's became one of the league's early eye-in-the sky aides, taking photos of opposing defenses with Polaroid cameras from atop Yankee Stadium and dropping them in weighted socks to Vince Lombardi, the offensive line coach and his Fordham classmate."

Pull quote from Tiki Barber:

"One of the things I miss the most this year is seeing him at every practice, sitting in that golf chair he always had. After games, you'd walk into the locker room and he'd be standing right there to shake your hand, win or lose. He was such a dignified and in some ways regal character who always respected the game and respected what this league was about."

......I see Bush the elder has returned from his covert mission and has joined his wife behind home plate at the Series.....

....On a similar note, I was impressed that Barbara H.W. Bush lasted 13 innings last night. While watching the highlights on SportsCenter, I took note of the little gray head sitting just to the right of home plate. It was gone by the 14th, though.

I also took note that Mrs. Bush's husband was not with her at the game. I wonder what sort of covert operation he was on.....

....Via Cone, I'm still waiting to download N&R editor John Robinson's explanation for this morning's front page feature on 2,000 dead in Iraq.

What ever it is, I don't care. I'd just like to know why I trudged back across the street this morning in the cold and dark to grab my copy of the N&R to find out which team won last night's World Series game, only to be greeted with the headline "Sox Are Latin America's Team."

So I had to turn on the TV (SportsCenter was on hockey) and go online to find out. I realize press times have to be met, but is this yet another example of why print editions of newspapers are becoming so non-essential?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

...Desperation on both sides of the street....

Pretty depressing N.Y. Times article on the Dorsett family's struggle to pay their son's medical bills even with Arnold Dorsett's health insurance through his job. The Dorsetts were eventually forced to file for bankruptcy in March.

Arnold Dorsett said "one of his hardest moments was telling his father about the bankruptcy. His father had worked two or three jobs during hard times, but always managed to pay his debts. (He) made more money than his father ever had, he said, but what good did it do him?"

Indeed, Dorsett made good money at his job: $68,000 per year as a heating and AC serviceman. But the family was saddled with $29,000 in credit card debt. The article is not clear on whether or not the credit card spending was on consumer goods or doctor bills as the Dorsetts were trying to diagnose their son's chronic illness, or a little of both.

But the bottom line is Arnold Dorsett is breaking his back, working 90 hours per week, arguing with his wife over money and drifting away from his children, all with no hope in sight.

I was really depressed after reading the article, lamenting the fate of poor working-class bastards who just can't crawl out of holes created by illness or other assorted tragedies. Then I remembered that hard times fall on the so-called creative class, too. I remembered this L.A. Times article on Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry, which I first saw in the Sunday N&R. The article pointed out that Cherry was unemployed as a sitcom writer for several years and nearly declared bankruptcy before scoring big-time with "Housewives".

Cherry goes into greater detail in this interview with Titan Magazine, the alumni publication of Cherry's alma mater, Cal State Fullerton:

"After writing scripts for 'The Golden Girls' for three years, Cherry fell into a long slump, both creative and financial, which he talks about freely. He went two and a half years without a job interview. He wrote the initial 'Housewives' script, a process that took 18 months, not because he expected it to get on the air but in the hope that the industry would see him as a writer of hour-long shows instead of the half-hour series on his resume.

"'I felt it might be my last chance,' he says now. 'If it had failed, I wouldn't have known what to do next.'"

Endurance pays off. It payed off for Marc Cherry, and it will pay off for Arnold Dorsett, too.

Monday, October 24, 2005

.....Andrew Young writes about war and sacrifice in today's N&R:

"In 1941, no one knew how long war would last, but four years later, no one wondered how to win or the degree of sacrifice required."

That may be true, but it should be pointed out that the degree of sacrifice in 1945, counting just the number of casualties, was indeed considerable......

......We're still digging out here at the new house, but have placed the the stuff in more manageable piles. Hopefully that will put an end to yet another extended period of blank space. Regular posts will again become a priority.

Again, I respect teams that refuse to panic on the road, as the Astros did last night. But the Sox might just be the better team. When a guy who didn't hit home run all season knocks one out, it's a sign that it's meant to be for the Sox. But we'll see....

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

....Interesting parallel conversations in the truck today.....

One supervisor comes in asks if I want to donate $1 per week of my wages to the United Way. Sure, I said, it was the least I could do.

Mind you, the whole time I'm loading boxes, and flow is pretty heavy. As I'm getting signed up, my direct supervisor, with whom I'm on very friendly terms, comes in and starts bitching me out because some of packages are going down a third slide because the two trucks I'm loading are flowing pretty heavily.

Hey, I can't be everywhere, and things get somewhat heated. So I'm standing there yelling and cussing at one supervisor then turning to the other one and discussing the goodliness of the United Way. Again, boxes are flying down the chute the whole time. Nobody seemed fazed by the whole situation.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

....Cards rally, spoil Astros' party.

I respect teams that refuse to panic when facing elimination on the road. The Cardinals could have easily given up considering the team's meltdown on Sunday night. Extra credit goes to Jim Edmonds, who worked Brad Lidge for a walk on some pretty close pitches. One would think he'd be swinging away after his Game 4 ejection for arguing balls and strikes.

Now it's time for the Astros to keep their cool on the road. Remember, they're a cursed franchise......

Monday, October 17, 2005

....Another extended period of no posting, but this time I have a valid excuse: We moved across the street over the weekend. I won't reveal the the cost of my new home, but, based on yesterday's N&R editorial, I'm pretty well off. Trust me, despite the incredible intelligence on display at this blog, I am not affluent.

I would like to say thanks to my my kind friends who helped with the move. I'm easily overwhelmed, and it seemed like everyone who showed up each had a particular vision that helped me focus on the task at hand.

You collect a lot of stuff after four years in a house....

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

....just playing around, part 11


Have I mentioned I load boxes part-time to help supplement the household income? Inevitably, the old muscles and joints get sore. This is the deal.

Thank you, Mom.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

.....AJC post-mortem on the Braves. Mark Bradley's column takes on the form of a blog, and 69 readers weigh in on what needs to go down in Atlanta.

So now Houston meets St. Louis in the NLCS for the second year in a row. I'm ambivalent about this matchup. I realize the wild card provides quite a bit of excitement to the pennant races as the regular season winds down. Then there's the case of the Red Sox and the Yankees, where teams finish even in the final standings, making an inter-divisional league championship series a fair matchup. (Moot point, I realize.)

But the Cardinals finished with an 11-game lead over the Astros in the NL Central. If the Astros truly are a better team, would they have not played better against other opponents and caught the Cards? Is it fair that the Cardinals' championship hopes come down to a winner-take-all, seven-game series against a team it bested in its own division?

...Tied up as I pursue the loss-of-farmland-in-North Carolina beat.

A very credible source:

“There is no shortage of farmland in the United States. No one in North Carolina should be concerned that, if farming should continue to decline, they’re going to have any trouble eating or paying any more for what they’re buying.”

“This deal where we’re basically saying that the cities are chewing up the farmland — not a chance. The amount of farmland in this country is huge compared to the amount of development. There simply is no threat.”

Sunday, October 09, 2005

.....Bobby Cox is a bit defensive about pinch-hitting for Jorge Sosa in the seventh inning of last night's 7-3 loss to the Astros:

"You got to pinch hit. It's the seventh inning. You've got (Astros closer Brad) Lidge in the ninth. You've got literally two innings to do something.....We had to try to make something happen."

I realize the era of starting pitchers batting in the late innings is over. I recently watched the famous seventh game of the 1992 NLCS, when the Braves rallied for three runs in the bottom of the ninth against the Pirates. I couldn't believe my eyes when Pirates starter Doug Drabek came to bat in the top of the eighth inning. Jim Leyland was (is?) an excellent manager, but he made a fatal mistake on that evening, in my humble opinion. But that was then, this is now.

Yet Cox is in a special situation with the state of the Braves' bullpen. Considering the fact that pinch-hitter Kelly Johnson couldn't spark a rally, would it not have been a better gamble to let Sosa hit so the Braves could remain within striking distance? I guess Cox realizes that if the Braves are to rally and advance in the postseason, he's going to need his bullpen. To give up on his relievers now would send the wrong message.

But no matter how Braves fans feel about Cox's managerial decsions last night, there was a true crime committed last night at Minute Maid Park:

"The retractable roof on the ballpark was closed last night on a gorgeous night, precisely so the sellout crowd could make a din...."

.....I realize people are concerned about the loss of trees in Greensboro, but gosh.....

Saturday, October 08, 2005

....A good primer on purchase of development rights programs:

“An enormous amount of evidence has emerged over the last decade that indicates that farmland conversion has been subsidized by government taxation and transportation policies. If this is correct, the development values of real estate at the urban fringe have been inflated as a result of these policies, and thus really do not reflect true 'free market values.'”

Friday, October 07, 2005

......Ghosts of presidents past......

The N&R's Rosemary Roberts gives all glory to the Man in the Wool Sweater:

"It was February, 1977. Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the United States, was making his first 'fireside chat' to the nation, and his subject was energy conservation. He'd turned down the thermostat at the White House and was dressed in a beige-colored, cardigan sweater. I remember watching it on television and thinking Carter was demeaning the presidency by dressing so casually.

"Today, that sweater is behind glass at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library Museum here in Atlanta.....I along with others touring the museum smiled as we gazed at that sweater. Thirty years had elapsed, and the nation is still wasting energy with our gas-guzzling automobiles and profligate habits. Carter, a man ahead of his time, had failed to persuade us."

Meanwhile, Dr. Sanity has excerpts from Louis Freeh's forthcoming book. The former FBI director has some interesting observations on President Clinton:

"The problem was with Bill Clinton — the scandals and the rumored scandals, the incubating ones and the dying ones never ended. Whatever moral compass the president was consulting was leading him in the wrong direction. His closets were full of skeletons just waiting to burst out."

Thursday, October 06, 2005

......Secret selection:

The University of North Carolina committee that selected Erskine Bowles as its system president is under fire for secretively interviewing the finalists for the job:

"The committee violated the law by failing to tell the public when and where it was meeting to interview the candidates, whom it chose to shield from view, experts in North Carolina's open-government laws say."

UNC vice president and general counsel Leslie Winner said notifying the public of the interviews, which were held in late September at the Hyatt Hotel in Charlotte, was unnecessary because the interviews themselves are legally held in private.


"It's not like any actual information that was required to be given to the public was withheld from the public."

But the public and the media have the right to be on site to glean any information they can, right? Trust me, when covering the school board or county commission, it's tempting to take off when they go into closed session at 10p after a four-hour public session. But it's something you don't do, just in case.

Cathy Packer, a media law professor at UNC, further puts the situation into perspective:

"I want to know who beat Erskine Bowles out. I like him. I'm glad he's going to be president. But I want to know how good the competition was."

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

....So the city is planning to buy the old Canada Dry site next to the coliseum.

If you'll remember, that piece of land was slated for a mixed-use development a few years ago. I was still working for Triad Business News at the time, and I was dogging Carl Essa, then the developer of the property, trying to get the scoop. Then one day I picked the up the N&R and saw the front-page story announcing the development. It was revealed a couple of days later that the land is owned by Susan Robinson, wife of N&R editor John Robinson. The paper took a little heat for that delayed disclosure, and they're careful to include it these days.

At any rate, it will be interesting to see what the city can do with the land that free market forces couldn't....

...Food for thought:

Land for Tomorrow has a plan to save farmland in North Carolina:

"Purchase of development rights (PDR) programs keep the land in private ownership and allow continued agricultural use but restrict buildings and other development on the property with the exception of new agricultural buildings. Depending on the needs of the landowner, development rights may be purchased by a government agency or by a nonprofit land trust at fair market value, or the landowner may donate the easement and qualify for charitable tax benefits. Planning, marketing and technical assistance are crucial to helping protect North Carolina's working family farms.

"Funding needed: $110 million over five years ($22 million per year."

Another view, from a reliable source of mine:

"The idea that we're running out of farmland or that farmland needs to be protected is a myth. As it is, the government spends tens of billions each year subsidizing farmers to grow (or paying them not to grow) crops for which there would be no market without the subsidies.

"One of the reasons forest land has increased in the U.S. over the decades is that land that used to be farmed has reverted back to forest. Only a few percent of U.S. land has been developed, so the claim that suburbs are taking up all our farmland is also false."

Monday, October 03, 2005

....The way Drew Brees is playing, Philip Rivers is thinking about moving on.

....OK, so we're set up for another Yankees-Red Sox showdown in the ALCS. Do we want to see this movie yet again, or do we want some L.A. and the White Sox to make some noise?

Saturday, October 01, 2005

.....So we're having a little porch party last when an 18-wheeler with a USA Truck logo comes rolling down our street. My section of Wharton Street is very narrow with a sharp curve at the bottom, and I wondered aloud how the driver was going to make it. Once he reached the curve, there was backing out, either.

Curious, we kept an eye on the rig. Sure enough, we heard the sound of crunching metal and walked down the street to see what happened. There sat one neighbor's car in another neighbor's yard, about 40 feet from its original parking space on the street. The driver didn't stop, so my neighbor, already in his jammies, hopped in his car and chased the guy down........Then the police came and took stories......


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