Half-Life and Times
Saturday, June 12, 2004
Friday, June 11, 2004
Our little excitementIf any of you got any news from Chapel Hill yesterday, yes, the woods that the cops and sheriffs and deputies and all were combing for a murder suspect are in fact the ones next to our neighborhood and are in fact the ones I go running in a few mornings a week. And where was I? For once I was actually in the office in RTP instead of home with my sweetie since the guys doing roadwork outside the neighborhood cut the phone line (and therefore also my DSL). That was not good. But by the time I got home, it was all over - they'd caught the guy, realized that he wasn't actually the murder suspect, then soon after DID find the murder suspect, so all was cool.
Between that and the little anti-G8 prank in RTP (which was seriously uncool, but I guess this is as close to Sea Island, GA as they're letting protesters get) and finding out today that Wendell Williamson walked out of Dix last night and apparently spent the night hanging out by Lake Wheeler, it's been a very weird 24 hours. In the end, none of this was all that bad, but when things are as quiet as they usually are around here and with general world tension being what it is, we did have our little adrenaline rush. I'm looking forward to a nice quiet weekend...
Minimal posting for another dayI've got about a dozen posts knocking around in my head and no time to actually get them down on virtual paper - maybe this weekend. If nothing else, I'll follow up my "greatest Pres of 20th Century" post tomorrow. Cheers!
Thursday, June 10, 2004
From the whitehouse.gov biography of Ronald Reagan:
Dealing skillfully with Congress, Reagan obtained legislation to stimulate economic growth, curb inflation, increase employment, and strengthen national defense. He embarked upon a course of cutting taxes and Government expenditures, refusing to deviate from it when the strengthening of defense forces led to a large deficit.From Paul Krugman's editorial in the NYTimes Tuesday:
But Ronald Reagan does hold a special place in the annals of tax policy, and not just as the patron saint of tax cuts. To his credit, he was more pragmatic and responsible than that; he followed his huge 1981 tax cut with two large tax increases. In fact, no peacetime president has raised taxes so much on so many people. This is not a criticism: the tale of those increases tells you a lot about what was right with President Reagan's leadership, and what's wrong with the leadership of George W. Bush.I don't really have anything to add to that.
The contrast with President Bush is obvious. President Reagan, confronted with evidence that his tax cuts were fiscally irresponsible, changed course. President Bush, confronted with similar evidence, has pushed for even more tax cuts.
Why rename Airport Road?For those of you that don't watch news of Chapel Hill very closely, there's a lot of heat right now over the Town Council's likely renaming of Airport Road after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It's been an odd discussion, with Carrboro wanting to get in on the act by having Estes Dr. Extension (which runs through both towns) renamed instead, with residents and businesses of Airport Road having a personal and financial stake in the decision and feeling that this is a done deal (probably rightly) without their really having any input and no doubt some (muted) objection to having anything named for Dr. King at all. Personally I think there's merit to the Estes Dr. Extension idea - its current name is kinda dumb and while it gets LOTS of traffic, there are only a dozen or so residences and a church on it that would have to worry about changing their address. That idea apparently went nowhere.
There is an organized move among conservatives (the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project) to get something significant named for Ronald Reagan in every county of the country. The NAACP and other groups appear to be trying to do the same for Dr. King. I think both are asinine but for different reasons. You can probably guess my objection to the first. My objection to the second is that I believe it creates an impression that the only African-American worth remembering is Dr. King. Where are the landmarks named for W. E. B. DuBois or Andrew Young or John Lewis or Julian Bond? Sure, in other communities they might be considered too radical but in Chapel Hill? I know CH is getting less and less liberal as it becomes more a bedroom community for the execs at RTP, but I still think it would be possible. Why not someone local like Howard Lee or Libba Cotton? Heck, I'd vote for naming a Chapel Hill landmark for Howard Lee any day! We named a major thoroughfare after Chancellor Fordham and a bridge after James Taylor - why not a name a road after the first black mayor in Chapel Hill and the current head of the state Department of Education?
Personally I don't like renaming existing stuff - we build enough new things that it makes more sense to me to honor people by naming new things after them from their inception. If you want to name something after Dr. King, name the planned third high school after him (since the second HS was named "East Chapel Hill High", there's obviously a dearth of ideas for names out there). Better yet, name it after Howard Lee, who has done so much locally for education. Just leave the existing stuff alone.
Wednesday, June 09, 2004
Happy Belated Birthday, Donna!I pretty well suck at being a brother. Yesterday was my only sible's birthday and I didn't send her a card and forgot to call her. Yep, I suck. I can't even use this blog entry as a cheap-ass birthday card since she doesn't have Internet access. Guess I'll have to print it out and send it to her.
So, thanks for all the many, many hours of playing two-hand Monopoly and Life and Dealer's Choice and Rummy Royal and Sorry growing up. Thanks for not leaving permanent scars on my forearms from the "claws of doom" during any of our backseat fights during those interminable family vacation road trips. Thanks for introducing me to your roommate in Boone that summer - I almost scored (well, at least she let me think I almost scored and I had fun trying!). Thanks for not killing me later for having convinced you as a child that you were adopted. Thanks for my very cool nephew - it's not your fault he's such a goofus! Well, yeah, I guess it kinda is.
So happy birthday! And I promise I'll try to be a less sucky big brother. Really. I mean it. Honest.
Oh, obligatory picture...
Are we better off?I just sent the following letter to the editor to the Durham Herald-Sun - I'll let you know if it sees print.
In 1980, Americans were asked whether they were better off than they'd been four years earlier. We looked around at high gas prices, Middle Eastern-based terrorism, prices rising faster than wages, job uncertainty, skyrocketing national deficits and enough people answered no that Jimmy Carter became a one-term president.
The same question should be asked today and I for one can tell you that as I see friends and former coworkers who have been out of work or greatly underemployed for two years now, as I look at the hold that terrorists have gained on our national psyche, as I watch the folks at the gas station raising the prices on the sign out front multiple times a day and as I watch wages going nowhere fast while my future is mortgaged against the biggest budget deficit in history, my answer is clearly no. I feel less secure in my job, I feel less secure in my family's safety and I feel less secure in my future and my ability to retire at some point and enjoy it.
Will this inform my vote for President this fall? You betcha - clearly the precedent has been set. We need to make George W Bush a one-term president.
Comments problemsApparently the moment I actually asked for comments (previous post) my commenting ability went south - I'll try to figure out what's going on...
Update: Appears to have been a Haloscan problem and also appears to be resolved. Comment away!
Tuesday, June 08, 2004
Greatest President of the 20th Century?I'll wager that none of you guys thinks it was Reagan. So who? Post your comments and I'll give you my thoughts in a day or so...
Things I Think about while Running (Safety Edition)I was lumbering along after about 25 minutes this morning when this 19-year-old blonde gazelle comes leaping past me down the trail like I was standing still.
My first thought was "Damn, that makes me feel slow!". My second thought, realizing that she'd barely broken a sweat and had to have been running at least 15 minutes given where she passed me was "Damn, that makes me feel old!". And I know from sweat, boy, let me tell you! I don't sweat like a pig - in fact, pigs have been overheard to exclaim "Dang, it's hot! I'm sweating like Tony Plutonium!".
My third thought was a recurring one - is it really a good idea for women to be running by themselves in the woods? Most mornings I run in the UNC-owned Horace Williams tract - the thousand or so acres currently home to the Horace Williams airport and targeted for development as Carolina North (more on Carolina North in a later post). While the paths through the woods get used by dozens of people a day for running, dog-walking and biking, at any one time you are usually not in sight of anyone else. I gotta say that, as sad a statement on the human condition as it is, it's a pretty damn dumb idea for a woman to be out there alone - particularly the ones running or walking with headphones on. I'm sorry, but that's just stupid. A number of recent attacks in Chapel Hill and Carrboro (including a sexual assault in our neighborhood last fall) should dissuade anyone from thinking that this is some safe haven where the outside world doesn't intrude and bad things don't happen. Maybe I worry too much, but I just don't think so.
Monday, June 07, 2004
Prisoner of AzkabanJennySlash and I saw it last night and we definitely belong in the "best Potter movie yet" camp. It also happens to be my favorite book of the 5 so far (although Order of the Phoenix is pretty close). I know many people won't have seen it yet, so no spoilers here - just generalities (I know you've all read the book, but this one strays a little further from the text than its predecessors). Much less focus on veteran English actors and much more on the three principals - while I have absolutely enjoyed the performances of Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, etc. the dominance of Harry, Hermione and Ron (primarily the first two) was fine with me. I think Emma Watson really steals this movie, actually - of the three, I think she's so far shown the most genuine acting talent. Excellent work by David Thewlis as Lupin and Gary Littleoldman [sorry, Mel Brooks reference - TP] as Sirius Black - Oldman doesn't get a lot of screentime (yet) but makes good use of what's there. Kudos to Cuaron - Hogworts is given a much more expansive feel this time through - the grounds are freaking HUGE! CGI is good but not overwhelming. I know there are a lot of other movies coming out that are competing for our entertainment bucks, but we'll definitely want to see this one at least one more time on the big screen.
Reagan1980 was the first year that I was eligible to vote for President. I proudly cast my vote for Jimmy Carter, warts and all, because I knew what a Reagan presidency was capable of. Somewhere in my files I still have an article from the Washington Post with a list of a number of Heritage Foundation aims that the Reagan campaign appeared to be adopting, many of which are only now coming to fruition in the current regime. Whatever Carter's faults were as president (and I believe there were fewer than the sort of snap judgements that one gets of him today would have you think), I'd be hardpressed to find a better man that has held that office, while being willing to concede that he may not have been particularly well-suited for the job.
On the other hand, it astounds me that so many people appear to regard Reagan as one of the great presidents. Iran-Contra should have been enough to keep anyone from suggesting naming any damn thing after him (other than maybe a Federal penitentiary), regardless of whatever good happened in his administration. Couple that with his denial of the existence of AIDS for many years as many thousands of people died, growing deficits, policies that turned thousands of sick people out of mental hospitals, disastrous environmental policies, the list goes on and on. That's not to say that I think that the administration was a TOTAL disaster (unlike the current one) - I just think there are plenty of strong enough negatives that any discussion of him as a great President is ridiculous.
I've seen a lot of stuff the last couple of days around the political blogosphere about how this affects the current campaign. Anybody who thinks it'll have any lasting effect at all has yet to give me any good reason why. Dubya looks so puny and scattered in comparison to Reagan that I really can't see him getting anything positive out of coverage of Reagan - on the other hand, the wingnut policies that first received discussion in the Reagan administration will be aired as coming from someone other than Bush, so maybe that strengthens Republicans that are wary of Bush's nuttiness. But it'll all be non-news within a week.
Finally, nobody but nobody deserves Alzheimer's - I'm sure the last ten years were a nightmare for him and for his family. For their sake, I'm glad it's over.