Running the Fire Out -- Re-post

It was Athens Ga, 1960s. Vietnam was all the rage, literally. Growing up in a college town in those days, I got to see protests up close and personal. I'd ride my bike over to campus from the 5 Points area where I grew up.

I saw the UGA branch of the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) firebomb the ROTC building on campus. Well, OK, maybe firebomb is too harsh a word. What happened is that somebody had a bottle, or maybe it was a big light bulb, that had gas in it, and a burning rag plugging it up. This was thrown against the brick side of the building, the flames rapidly died out, so did the crowd. But for a young teenager like me, it was all heady stuff.

There were free concerts occasionally over at Legion Field. Crowds of students, lots of tie-dye shirts, love beads, incense, and protest. Protest against 'Nam, protest against the government, protest for protest's sake.

In the 60s bands that had a clear metaphor in their name were drug bands. There was a head shop over on in downtown Athens called Glass on Hill Wall. The clear metaphor meant drugs to more than bands, I suppose. One day, at Legion Field, there was a big free concert. A mobile bandstand was set up and something like 8 or 10 bands were to play. My friend Chuck and I rode our bikes over to Legion Field to check it out. We milled around and behind the bandstand we saw a group of guys, all standing in a circle, arms around one another's shoulders.

Several of them had guitars strapped to their backs, upside down. They were all breathing fast and deep in unison. What the hell, I thought? They broke up and walked past Chuck and me. I asked them what they were doing. One long haired guy looked at me, said they were hyperventilating. ‘It makes the rush better’, he said. He then said ‘Here kid, go have fun’, and he handed me a big ole joint!

Now, I had never seen weed before. We had heard about it in school, they told us how it'd make us crazy and make us have to raise deformed kids later in life. So I had never seen it before, but I damn sure knew what I had. I palmed it, walked quickly over to Chuck. I showed it to him and we high tailed it over to the scrub pines on the hillside that defined one side of Legion Field. About that time, the band had taken the stage.

By now, the guitars weren’t on their backs, upside down. They were hooked up to big amps. The band was called Glass Menagerie. Their first song was a cover of Lady Madonna, a Beatles standard. By the time they were half way through that song, Chuck and I had run the fire out to about 2 inches on that joint. I never felt a thing except the blister on my finger that I got from hanging on too long. I guess my liver didn’t know what to do with that stuff. It learned later on though, I suppose.

By now, all these years later, I guess its forgotten again.


Middle schoolers compete with seat belt videos and university students compete in public relations

Students from sixth and seventh grades at Coile Middle School are competing with seat belt safety videos they have produced. Safe Kids Athens Area and Athens Chevrolet have sponsored a program in which each of these grade made its own unique video encouraging their peers to "sit, pull, cross, click" to wear seat belts when in the car. Each video is posted in the Safe Kids Athens' groups on YouTube and TeacherTube, and the grade getting the most views will win pizza and a visit from a University of Georgia athlete. Views are being counted between yesterday and Feb. 22.

This vehicle safety public relations campaign is being "driven" by five students from the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. They have entered the National Case Study Bateman Competition of the Public Relations Student Society of America, and their client is the Chevrolet's Safe Kids Buckle Up program of Safe Kids Worldwide. (These students are Ashley Beebe, Jarek Beem, Abby Blaylock, Audrey Califf, and Sydney Carroll. And it would look as though they were chosen alphabetically somehow -- I just noticed that.)


Overreactive county government

This is an election year for the Athens-Clarke County Commission. Now go read this letter from Rick Bythewood. I'm sorry to say, but I do think that even our current commission is overreacting and overregulating. The letter mentions the smoking ban, the sign ordinance, and the tethered animal ordinance. Those laws are only the tip of the iceberg of big government in Athens. Are you going to encourage this to continue with your choices in November?

I support the goals of the Mayor and Commission, and we certainly have some good people there, but we continue to see them enact broad and invasive regulations, and they have a long record of enacting legislation that is very poorly drafted.


Planting dogwood trees on Prince Avenue

Athenians are invited to lend a hand for planting dogwoods along Prince Avenue this Saturday, February 23. Volunteers from several groups will be planting 25 trees in the right-of-way between Pulaski Street and Milledge Avenue as part of the Community Tree Council's Trees for Tomorrow program. This planting effort is the second in this program's first year, following the first planting at the Athens-Ben Epps Airport. Prince Avenue has a history of dogwood trees being planted and replenished that started in 1948 with trees from Hugh Haralson Gordon Jr.

Tour of Clarke Co. schools

I didn't receive the attachment, but here is the rest of the info regarding a tour of the Clarke Co. school system.


A tour and discussion of Clarke County public schools is being organized by the Chamber of Commerce and the Junior League of Athens. It will take place next Wednesday (Feb. 20) starting with a 7:30 a.m. breakfast at Taylor Grady House. There's no charge, but they need to know if you plan to attend ASAP.
An email from the Chamber president:
I would like to invite you to an upcoming event called the "Seeing is Believing" tour, which is designed to give members of the community a first-hand look at our public schools to expel myths, demonstrate successes and have a frank discussion about the genuine challenges in our school system.

Last fall the Junior League of Athens and Athens Area Chamber of Commerce approached the Clarke County School District about providing area stakeholders with an opportunity to visit schools and sit down with school district officials and ask the tough questions about the Clarke County public schools. We have invited a broad group of residents and professionals to take part in this event exploring the ins and outs, pros and cons of our school district.

Because of the nature of this event, we believe your organization would benefit from taking part in this tour, talking to participants and reporting their findings to help determine whether public perceptions about our schools are accurate.

The Junior League and Athens Chamber are cosponsoring this program with the school district, but it is not a public relations moment for the district. Questions about high school graduation rates, No Child Left Behind test scores, and quality of service will be asked by the business professionals in attendance and, hopefully, we'll all get some answers.

I am attaching an agenda and schedule for the event. Please let me know if you have any questions about the nature of the event. I hope that you will be able to participate.


Doc Eldridge
Athens Area Chamber of Commerce
246 West Hancock Ave.
Athens, GA 30601


Piggly Wiggly on North Avenue Anti-Environment?

I had to stop at the Piggly Wiggly on North Avenue on the way home tonite. I asked for paper, and was told that "we no longer have paper bags and will no longer be ordering them." Sounds like an environmentally unfriendly decision to me. Any thoughts?


Author William Vollmann coming to town

William Vollmann will be speaking and giving a reading at UGA this Friday. Vollmann is a prolific writer who won the 2005 National Book Award for Europe Central. David Ingle of the Georgia Review tells us that Vollmann has also recently written some interesting nonfiction such as Poor People, a book covering the reasons for poverty around the world, and Riding Toward Everywhere, an exploration into the subculture of hopping on freight trains.

Vollmann will hold a symposium at 4 p.m. in Peabody 115 ("the barn") and give a reading at 7 p.m. in the P-J North Auditorium (the Instructional Plaza).

More information is available on The Georgia Review Blog.


Dave Brubeck

Bob Brussack caught some images of jazz pianist Dave Brubeck during his visit today at the University of Georgia Hodgson School of Music:

Brubeck at UGA

Welcome to the Bio Terror Dome

I strongly and wholeheartedly oppose the siting of the National Bio and Agro Defense Facility in Athens.

Please come out to the meeting on Wednesday, February 13th at 7pm at the Presbyterian Student Center on Lumpkin Street. Kathy Prescott and Grady Thrasher of FAQ will be there to hand out some information my law firm has gathered to help you understand why having this compound in our town is a very, very bad idea. Hillary Clinton won't have it on Plum Island because that's too close to where people live. And Plum Island is a mile and a half off Long Island, with no pedestrian connections.

Don't let the federal government play around with foreign incurable diseases in the heart of our Classic City. No amount of money is worth that risk. (And, you know, the way our university and local officials are acting you'd actually think there was a lot of money coming in from this proposed bio-terror lab. Think again. The projected benefit is shockingly low.)

This is not a scare tactic -- it's just the reality of the situation. The feds want to study these diseases because they know how devastating it could be if a terrorist used them against us. And yet, they want to pretend that the concentration of any number of these diseases in a 500,000 square foot building in the middle of a well-known city is not going to make Athens a target?

But if you want to put terrorism out of your mind, let's think of natural disasters, fire, power outages, water shortages, automobile accidents on the way to delivering the biological agents to the compound, human error in the lab. A host of ways for these dangerous pathogens to escape. Is it likely that this will happen? Hopefully not. Is it possible? Absolutely it is.

I want to talk with each of you about the pros and cons of having this lab in Athens. I hope you can come out to the meeting on Wednesday -- and please give me a call or an email to discuss this more.



Solutions to Teen Pregnancy

There's a very interesting column in today's Banner-Herald by Melanie Wilson Daniel.

Now, I don't much care for her columns thus far based on the fact that occasionally she sounds like a shill sent straight to the Banner-Herald from James Dobson. She is anti-choice and pro-theocracy, and I think that disclaimer should be somehow worked into her bio. But she has an interesting idea in removing poor children from their parents to preclude their becoming pregnant as teens. As well as other forms of government subsidizing church activities, a concept I generally oppose.(Oh, and superfluous quotation marks piss me off, too.)

Here's the plan as she describes it:

...We can offer them total immersion in an environment that fosters education, wise choices, responsibility and the confidence to cultivate aspirations. We can create two single-sex boarding schools, 24/7 safe havens from destructive influences and hopelessness which, according to the people I spoke with, are so overwhelming they eventually prevail over initiatives and good intentions. Staffed by solid role models, these schools would provide academics, trade instruction, standards, structure, guidance and encouragement.

The barriers to this are not, as she claims, "turf wars"* -- they're legality and cost. It's very difficult to take children from people who are not abusing or neglecting them, and I am skeptical that parents who don't value their children enough to provide them a stable environment and who are generally not too trusting of authority would voluntarily hand them over to the state.

However, there is one population in which boarding schools might actually work -- and that is the population of teens in foster care. Teens in foster care are by definition at risk, and they're comparatively unlikely to find stability. Most bounce around in care until they age out. They also can be placed in a facility comparatively easily, and plenty are -- but there are not enough long-term placements of high quality for them. And they're already out of their parents' care. Also, since the state already pays a great deal of money to house them in foster care or group homes, the additional cost would be relatively minimal.

So, what if there were boarding schools for at-risk children that operated like actual boarding schools rather than stigmatized schooling for underserved populations or punitive facilities? What if children in foster care were a large part of the population, but additional children from the community could be educated there as well with parental consent and involvement? What do you guys think?

*Isn't it sneaky and coy to characterize monumental challenges of lengthy standing as "turf wars?" How cute.

Athens on Flickr

I have changed the Flickr box on this website to show interesting photos of Athens from photographers other than myself. You can scroll around to see it. I have added the tag "athensworld.com" to photos from some of my contacts on Flickr. I hope they don't mind me sharing their photos here in a randomly selected fashion.


Hundreds watch carrot decompose

Carrot -- lost, mislaid, or abandoned? Carrot decomposition

On January 11 I photographed this carrot that was dropped on a staircase leading from Jackson Street to the sidewalk between Waddell Hall and the Lustrat House. Twenty-seven days later the carrot is still here. I suppose hundreds of people have been stepping over it daily and watching it decompose. (Or perhaps it is somehow escaping notice. Trash is picked up diligently all around campus, so this is unusual.)

Negotiation tactic: Finley's megalithic wall

University of Georgia professors and their neighbors turned up in droves at the meeting of the Planning Commission last night to speak against the multistory buildings proposed on West Broad Street between Finley and Pope streets. Their impassioning, often hyperbolic, pleas argued that the building would block views, invade privacy, and increase traffic on narrow streets. They said that the blasting required for one of the buildings would threaten the structures of the historic houses in the Dearing Street neighborhood. One resident speaking in opposition called one proposal "Finley's megalithic wall" since it would be on the side of what he said is sometimes called Finley's hill.

The proposals were rezonings to allow mixed-use buildings at 615 and 695 West Broad Street, and they were on the agenda to be received with comments only. The Flagpole website is hard to navigate and the search function is not working now, so I cannot find a link I would like to show you.

I posit that these proposals are negotiation tactics. The developer probably does not expect to build these structures in the first place. These kinds of drawings are shown to shock people on purpose in hopes that they will agree to something else that they normally wouldn't like. For instance, instead of a six-story building at 615, the developer will probably come back and propose a four-story building that would be much less obtrusive. It would be objected to strenuously if shown in the first place, but it will look better by comparison after what was discussed last night.

Athens-Clarke County is not the place where negotiation tactics like this can work, however. We don't play that game. Residents and leaders have a vision of what we want for our community, even if it is hard to flesh out and agree on the details. Planning commissioners discussed stepping up efforts on a corridor master plan that will provide more guidelines for structures on West Broad Street. I'm sure the Mayor and Commissioner would be ready to whip out a moratorium if necessary. Scaring your community with monstrous building ideas will not help your case in this town.


Athens's Poor

This morning in the Banner-Herald several versions of blaming the poor are on full display. From Claude Miller's letter and Jeffrey Moss we have the following, which I'll reply to in my text.
I will never understand, and never support, a political philosophy that believes it is the role of government to take money away from the "fortunate" couple and give it to the crackhead. Despite the ever-expanding initiatives deriving from the Great Society concept, there is little visible evidence of any positive consequence. To the contrary, it seems that most of those well-intentioned but wrong-headed programs perpetuate rather than alleviate poverty.

A) We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, and we also succeed partially on the generosity of others. I will never understand or support people who lack a basic recognition of these facts. While I personally worked hard to get where I am, I didn't do it alone -- and neither did the "fortunate" or "unfortunate" couples.

B) Any positive consequence? Er, what? Thanks to the Great Society initiatives, we have seen huge bounds in public health, to name just one benefit. Furthermore, the portion of people who are "dependent" on government support is pretty small.

C) Yes, support creates conditions which can lead to dependency. But the jury is out on perpetuating poverty. Also, poverty is actually a constant. There is no period in american history when we have not had the poor with us, and when we have not struggled with the best way to alleviate their unique problems.

But why are they not paid enough? Most likely, it's because they failed to develop marketable skills. While it's true some people become impoverished due to conditions beyond their control, such as physical or mental disability, many are poor because they have children they cannot afford to raise. Still others are poor because they had more important things to do than attend free taxpayer-funded public schools.

Ah, yes. They're poor 'cause they chose to be poor.

A) When you are poor, and everyone you're descended from is poor, it's unlikely that you have a role model or community encouragement or something like a trust fund to help you make choices that do not eventually result in your also being poor.

B) True on the kids, though. If a woman can delay childbearing until she turns 30, it has virtually no effect on her earning power. But very few people postpone having children until they can actually afford them, "poor" or not.

C) High school. Let's not even go there. Hey, 50% of ACC students don't. I went to prep school, so in general I don't understand educating people who are not required to demonstrate at least a modicum of interest in being educated. But that's a whole complicated situation, and it's not a justification for abolishing public education entirely.

D) What the hell is a marketable skill? Whatever skills one develops, in Athens one isn't too likely to be employed. We simply don't have enough jobs in any sector or at any educational level. Just ask any of my highly-educated grad school classmates, all of whom are forced to leave each year because there are too few jobs for too many people, many of them well-qualified. On the opposite end, we have lost comparatively well-paid, low-to-moderate-skills manufacturing jobs (national trend) -- and that leaves too many people battling for too few service jobs.

E) Chance. Those born into poverty are far more likely to become disabled than are people who are born into families above the poverty line. This is environmental, it is social, it is economic, and it is a function of our health system. But regardless, anyone can become poor rather quickly due to a convergence of unfortunate factors. My family shells out about $50,000 in healthcare costs every year. I have a friend who is currently in a mental hospital, due to schizophrenia. A friend of mine went on disability and shelled out many, many clams for two years due to a catastrophic accident. Don't think these things won't happen to you -- they happen to people all the time, and our current system does not insulate you from them economically. Furthermore, when they do, your ultimate economic circumstances will be largely a product of the resources you can marshal and the assistance you can rally.

As far as the recent increase in Athens-Clarke County's poverty rate, from around 28 percent to around 31 percent, communities that provide more services to the poor usually draw in poor people from surrounding communities, thus inflating the poverty rate.

Yes, and no. Listen, people -- I'm all for placing blame where it's due. And if people are flocking here, then I'm all for recognizing that. But the spike in the poverty rate has nothing to do with OneAthens. (And for the record, ACC has ALWAYS provided more services than surrounding counties.) It has to do with a more basic issue -- the spike in costs that has been occurring regionally and nationally due to changes in fuel costs and drought, and the foreclosure crisis.

Anyway, there are many ways to acknowledge the roles that various behaviors play in poverty, or capability, or whatever. But to take it to the extent of believing that the poor are poor strictly because they're morally deficient, and therefore undeserving of any assistance, is morally and logically wrong.


Autos entered in Beechwood area

The Athens-Clarke County Police Department reports that there has been an increase of automobile break-ins in the Beechwood area, specifically around Baxter Street and Alps Road. It urges that you leave valuables and even loose change out of sight when you park your car. On January 31 a number of cars were found to have been entered, and items such as music players, a cell phone, and cash were stolen. A suspect was arrested shortly thereafter in connection with the break-ins along with two companions on other charges, but the police have passed along this new warning today.

Jazzy Music / memorial performance for Cayle Bywater

Members of Strawberry Flats, Dan K. Theory and Ralph Roddenbery Band, as well as Roddenbery himself, come together to perform some jazzy, bluesy rock originals as well as a few select covers (expect some Pink Floyd and Jeff Beck). The show is dedicated to Athens resident Cayle Bywater, who passed last month. Proceeds will be donated to Nu├ži's Space, where Bywater volunteered. Nuci's Space has a UGA student affiliated program as well.

Friday, February 29th
Foxz's Tavern on Jefferson Rd.
9:00 pm
706-546-8209. $10 (suggested donation). 9 p.m.

"Clear and present danger"

The grand jury has spoken. Now the judges have spoken. (See "Judges plead with county for bigger jail" in today's Athens Banner-Herald.) "[T]he jail is a clear and present danger to our community," stated the grand jury in July 2006. "The conditions are, in my opinion, horrific," Judge Lawrence was quoted as saying in the ABH today.

Athenians, when are we going to correct this situation? The news reports that the ACC Mayor and Commission will finally be forming a task force. Let's support their efforts.


UGA Basketball

I attended a UGA women's basketball game on Sunday. This was the first sporting event I had attended at the Coliseum in something like 15 or 20 years. In an earlier instantiation of AthensWorld, I wrote about attending a football game for the first time in 10 years. I was struck by the crass commercialization of the stadium and the game itself. Cartoon ads on the scoreboard, the general assault on the senses by incredibly loud music, etc etc. Well, move all that crap inside a cement box and you have a UGA basketball game.
Apparently, athletic officials are scared that the product on the court isn't good enough to hold the audiences attention, because at every halt in the game, even for a 30 second timeout, all kinds of crap was trotted out onto the court. Dancing girls, a cartoon like inflatible mascot, various audience participation contests involving shooting baskets, and on and on and on. All done to blaring music and spotlights raking the crowd. Cacophony would be a good word to describe it. Like the football game I attended (which was not on teevee, but that didn't stop the officials from stopping the game in the third quarter so a St. Mary's ad featuring cartoon bulldogs racing around could run on the scoreboard), it seemed to me as if the game itself was the secondary matter at hand. What is obviously more important to UGA athletics is ad revenue. As a case in point, one of the shooting contests involving a fan was done by the fan shooting from spots on the court that had plastic mats on which to stand. One of these mats was a giant bulldog mastercard. It was truly disgusting.
I once laughed at the poor folks over at tech, during their football games they actually have people come out on the field over there (at the Joke by Coke as we call it) holding signs advertising car lots and insurance agencies. Well, I guess I shouldn't laugh anymore. We are just as bad, and a hell of a lot louder. The game itself? Well, maybe the officials are right in being concerned about the product on the court. The lady Dogs lost to an over matched Vandy team. But thats not what its all about, its all about selling crap and inducing headaches with 100 decibel noise.

Making My Choice for the Next U.S. President

Back in 2000, I was changing flights in Charlotte, North Carolina. We were all crowded into a temporary, under construction terminal. Off in one corner of the room sat a man having a conversation with someone. That man was John McCain. I walked up to the Senator and thanked him for his recent failed run for the Presidency. I told him that I found his candor refreshing. That was then. Tomorrow, I have to go into a voting booth and make my preference known in one of the two primaries in Georgia. You can vote in one or the other in Georgia, but not both. In all of my 45 years on this good Earth, never have I fully realized how high the stakes are for myself, my family, and our country. I cringed watching McCain on Saturday night's debate, trying to make the most upsurd connection that Mitt Romney supported troop withdrawal from Iraq on a specific debate. He honestly looked like an old man grasping at straws.

If you look at my voting history in presidential elections, you might sense a pattern in how I tend to lean:

1980: John Anderson
1984: Ronald Reagan
1988: George HW Bush
1992: Ross Perot
1996: Bob Dole
2000: George W Bush
2004: George W Bush

This year will be different, at least for tomorrow. The Republican party has let the country down. No, this does not mean the Democrats are a bunch of shining stars. Quite the opposite. But I do not see a leader to bring our country together over the next four years. So I will be "crossing over" tomorrow and voting in the Democrat primary. As much as I admire John McCain for his service to our country in wartime and in the Senate, he is just not the right person for the job now. Mitt Romney looks and acts like a used car salesman.

So who do I vote for on the Democrat side of the election? There is no way I would or ever will vote for Hillary Clinton. She is disingenuous, corrupt, two faced and together with her husband, just plain scary. Not that it makes a difference in my decision, it certainly helped firm my mind up when dear old former President Clinton brought the race card up in the South Carolina primary.

When I walk into the booth tomorrow, with my daughters in there with me, I will be casting my vote for Barrack Obama. No one can tell me his is not qualified or does not have the experience. Neither did Reagan, but he was elected and did a great job as a leader and communicator. I am willing to give Obama the benefit of the doubt in the primary. Our country needs a drastic change and a leader than can unite this country if we are going to have any hopes of survival. Obama is the only choice that, in my mind, gives us these hopes.

So I encourage others in Georgia to seek out who you think will be the best leader for our country and vote for this person tomorrow. It does not matter who you vote for as long as you vote.

Ron Paul campaign signs on Public property

I apologize for not including a photo on this post which certainly deserves one. On the way to work this morning I spied a Ron Paul campaign sign stuck in the grass in the median between the Registrar's office and the Mayflower restaurant/Bel-Jean printing, etc.

1. I assume that this is against the law. IANAL (I am not a lawyer), but, clearly that little patch of grass is public property, and election campaign signs have no business there. Perhaps Adrian can enlighten us on this issue.

2. Feel free to follow up with your own post of a photo of the sign if you are so inclined. I will try to do it later on today if I have time but you may beat me to it.

3. An open letter to the Ron Paul supporter who thought it was appropriate to put the sign there: What the f***?! If you think that putting a campaign sign on public property is in agreement with Mr. Paul's old-school, Constitution-respecting conservative/libertarian politics, you are wrong. If you think that putting the sign there is going to win over anyone, you are doubly wrong. Also, Ron Paul is to the Republicans as Nader was to the Democrats. Love, Me.

That is all.


New signs are more reflective

As a followup to "Double vision" here and "Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign" on "The Other Athens" blog, here is a photo of a pair of signs at night. David Clark from the county transportation department tells us that the new signs out here are more reflective to meet newer standards, and this flash photo shows the difference. Presumably the old ones will get taken down soon, but in the meantime drivers can do a double take when they see these.

Sexual harassment at UGA

Winfield is right: the ongoing saga of sexual harassment allegations at the University of Georgia is big news. I just don't have anything to add, so I haven't posted anything about it. Feel free to discuss it in the comments here on athensworld.com, though. And here are some of the Red and Black articles concerning Professor William Bender:

Update: There is an online petition calling on the administration to take several actions to respond to the issue: "UGA Community Condemns Sexual Harassment."