Monday, July 6, 2015

Set Our Urkel Free!

The superficial facts have not changed. We have a successful young and ambitions black politician with an Ivy League education whose peers have declared him a felon sending him to jail. Depending on sentencing and appeals his next stop may well be prison where he will very likely encounter the kinds of black men he aspired not to be. And we applauded him for those aspirations. We still do.

Many will say it is a shame that he is going to prison. But it isn't. He clearly deserves punishment, the same and to the same degree as would any other. What is a shame is that he has thrown away a prized education, all his hard work, his career, his esteem in the community and has done such damage to his wife and children. Add to this his violation of public trust and abuse of power. Should he go to prison? Certainly. Should we feel sorry? Not for him.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Mecca Of Meccas

In the Southeast Atlanta has at one time or another been characterized as a "Mecca" for some self-identifying group. A black mecca all the way from folks fleeing repression in the South on into the Civil Rights movement (though largely around Atlanta, for well documented reasons) thru freaknik and now into Hippity Hop Central. Then there is the gay and lesbian community, originally holed up around Piedmont park but time and tolerance offered geographic dispersion and a general attitude of "OK, you're gay."

But since the ill-conceived invention of freon and the equally ill-conceived expansion of the airport, Atlanta has been a mecca for business. No unions, low taxes, cheap houses (not just inexpensive, but cheap) and access to the finest sports, entertainment and medical care by way of our airport made Atlanta a no-brainer for snow-bound Yankee businesses, their executives and managers. And we got a lot of the no-brainers.

It's not just that these were people willing to uproot themselves, abandon family and community, so that they might carve out a new life just north of the gnat line, but that they did it for money. Resonates in daVille. Dunwoody would not be what it is today were it not for the confluence of white flight and the influx of Yankee migrants and a bit of the former and much of the latter persists to this day. This not only explains the braggadocio of "More Dunwoody Than You"* but also Dunwoody's enduring success at self-segregation.

It also explains one of our biggest problems: lack of identity. When most movers and shakers come from somewhere else and the weight of their opinion (and intellect) can be summed up in "I've lived in Dunwoody for 23 years and I say we..." no one should be surprised that we are eat up with folks who want daVille to be just like [NYC, Chicago, Seattle, Denver, ...] except for [the cold, the snow, the wind, the high prices, ...]. Rather than pretend Dunwoody is (or should be) just like where ever you're from except warmer we should accept that Dunwoody is a Mecca for Whites with convenient access to Hartsfield so you can go visit where ever you're from. Our real brand isn't Smart people -- Smart city, but more like "White Flight Stops Here!" Own it.


* "Dunwoody resident since 1992" is even a tag-line on the City's home page. And yes, the couple pictured are white. Cruise the Dunwoody web site and check out all the pictures and play the Aryan from Darien version of "Where's Waldo" where you look for black people. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Identity Politics

Identifies as...
black.

Identifies as...
white.

Identifies as...
female.

Identifies as...
feminist.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Flag

Nine people are gunned down in cold blood while attending church in a massacre that has all the characteristics of a premeditated hate crime and the best that mainstream media and a passel of politicians can come up with in response is to take down some silly flag that never should have been there in the first place.

It is true that that flag is neither a fitting nor honest tribute to those valiant Southerners who started, fought and lost the War of Northern Aggression. It is a symbol of racial hatred, nothing more and certainly nothing less. It was raised in the early sixties by racist white politicians as a cowardly poke in the eye of an Uncle Sam committed to ending segregation. If that flag stands for anything beyond racism it is a tribute to spineless politicians, then and now, who flap about in the direction of prevailing political winds.

And there are some so bold as to declare that should that flag come down then these lives were not lost in vain. Is life, in their eyes, so cheap that one silly rag flapping in the wind is worth the loss of nine good lives? Is it really conceivable, in their minds, that anyone who lost a friend or relative in that massacre views the loss of their loved one as a just sacrifice if it results in the removal of a banner? Or is it more likely they would fly that rag in their own front yard if it meant their loved ones were returned?

These lives were not lived in vain nor were they lost in vain, not because some flag comes down but because they, their loved ones and their fellow Charlestonians are an enduring testament to what the South and the entire United States can and should be.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Professor Heal Thyself

Hardly a week goes by without us hearing about the downtrodden professor at some college or university. The story starts with "we haven't had a cost of living raise in XX years" and degenerates into "look at the pay (increase) disparity between class-teaching professors and college administrators." For those outside the ivory towers of academia a "cost of living raise" is an automatic pay rise totally detached from an employee's increased (or decreased) responsibility or productivity. The are raises "just for hanging around" and are always a positive bump in pay even in times of deflation. In the real world it is just another entitlement that most do not receive.

As for the pay disparity we are being told that there just are not enough qualified or top-tier administrators being produced to meet the demand which drives up the price. No reliable data on the trends in that demand are available but many, mostly outside the administration, clearly feel it is growing at too fast a pace for the inherent need. That's one side of the equation.

The other side of the equation is more on point. Academia is producing an enormous excess of qualified candidates for the limited positions available in academia. In some cases the excess is between one and two orders of magnitude. We hear of one veteran professor who whines "they are treating us like interchangeable parts." Well, that's because you are. And every year you push out new, improved versions of equally interchangeable parts that can be had for year-over-year decreasing prices. Many of those complaining luxuriate in the guild socialism of "tenure" something else unheard of in the real world and increasingly rare in academia. The gradual elimination of tenure should surprise no one since tenure reduces Administration's flexibility in replacing old, worn out parts with newer and better ones.

It comes down to Econ 101: supply and demand. Colleges and Universities generate revenue enrolling and graduating students. Creating more graduates than academia's employment market demands naturally drives down compensation and other benefits. No surprise there. But when you are creating an enormous surplus of candidates for your own job you should not be too surprised when these same economic pressures directly impact your personal circumstances. Apparently this leaves no sympathy from tenured professors for their PhD students who face a certain barrage of rejection letters that start with "Unfortunately you were not selected for position XYZ but you were amongst our twenty finalists from a candidate pool of over six hundred..." and this was reported by a Math major who recently earned a PhD from an R1.

The solution is obvious. Stop enrolling and graduating students who upon graduation will find themselves,  along with hundreds of others, vying for a limited pool of jobs that may very well include your own. Obvious, but it will never happen. Decreasing the student population in a given field will incur a loss of revenue demanding a reduction in force which immediately converts the I-Me-Mine "I'm paid too little" whiners into "I've been fired" whiners. For tenured faculty it appears far better to complain about salary compression while pumping out graduates well suited for jobs that do not exist than to right-size their own operation because of the chance they might lose their own job in the process. They should not act so indignant when Administrators treat them as disposable as they do the very same with their students. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Called By Name

Wanna piss someone off? Just say "Hartsfield." Hartsfield, Hartsfield, Hartsfield! Really pisses off the close family of Former, Late Mayor Jackson, mostly because his, and their, surname which is officially part of the airport name somehow seems to get dropped in common usage. They are lobbying the City and Airport Management to insist that whenever a cabbie is asked to "take me to the airport" without mentioning "Jackson" that they be taken to the upstart airport in Paulding County. Dey be dissed. And dissed is pissed.

Brother Maynard was one notable dude as was we learned in "A Man In Full" where some say he was the model for Tom Wolfe's mayor who's most memorable line was "We got the power now we want the money." Close relatives and hangers-on now want to bask in the glory of his afterglow as they've become bored with merely spending the rich dividends of his political power. Jackson is also notable for being the "First Black" mayor of Atlanta. He should also be lauded for NOT being the "First Black" mayor to serve prison time. But a lingering problem resurfaces whenever bid rigging or corruption at Hartsfield is investigated as the name "Jackson" comes up all too often and the trail runs cold when you look past Maynard's tenure.

At the end of the day the name "Jackson" is very closely associated with the Atlanta Airport, just not the way current beneficiaries of the Airport's business and political largess would prefer. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Three Pee Uh-Oh

Part of the smoke and mirrors used to push new cities thru the political sausage grinder is the proposition that all good things happen when you build your city around "Public-Private Partnerships." Better Service At A Better Price[TM]. That's what you are (being) told. As existence proofs they will point to Sandy Springs and Dunwoody.

Small problem: that was then and this is now.

As time goes by these "local governments" take on all the attributes of the more distant non-local governments they so detested. Sandy Springs somehow found it in everyone's best interest, certainly the new government bureaucracy, to bring more and more functions in-house. Same with Dunwoody as our 2016 budget calls for replacing contracted services with new hires. Governments. Politicians. Bureaucracy. Bloat. Synonym.

Dunwoody's case is a bit more puzzling than Sandy Springs. Sandy Springs jumped into the deep end of Three Pee Uh-Oh pool, outsourcing nearly everything but the elected offices. To a large degree that includes outsourcing transparency as corporations are not subject to FOIA requests. But Dunwoody was a bit more moderate, modeled more like Sandy Springs as it was at the time Dunwoody incorporated. By then Sandy Springs had already acted on their Three Pee Uh-Oh buyer's remorse which set in very early on.

With Dunwoody, now, it is the temporal juxtaposition of two announcements that raises eyebrows. First, a judge has sided with the medical corporation planning a residential mini-hospital smack in the midst of a neighborhood of McMansions. Apparently our swift thinking and even swifter acting "Staff" gave them an early go-ahead. Council tried to override and the judge got involved. Even better, rules and ordinances crafted by "Staff" and approved by Council were so simplistic in their protection of neighbors' interests that it could be circumvented by a single LLC and only thirty days. Basically the judge called them all out labelling "Staff" and Council as incompetent fools. Who are we to disagree? This was all foreshadowed by Council stepping in to override a Zoning decision on a lot subdivide choosing political expediency over legal process to quell neighborhood whining. Sadly that developer lacked the resources to put them in their place.

So now the 2016 budget calls for boarding more "Staff" on this ship of fools. One could argue that it can only help as these new fools cannot be as bad as the current crop. One would be ignoring the fact that outside sewerage treatment dilution is no solution to pollution. The stinky floaters will still be bobbing on the surface.

The key takeaway for the soon-to-be cities of Cliffside and Tucker is that what you are being sold will not be what you'll have after only a few years. Assuming you even get it in the first place. That's the real Uh-Oh. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Airport Open Carry

The chazerai surrounding the bloke who toted his AR-15 thru the Atlanta Airport lobby is actually quite enlightening. Especially if being confronted with other folks' often willful ignorance is a learning experience for you. It centers around the common (mis)understanding of rights and privileges.

In a world of blurred lines between legit information and entertainment where we're bombarded with the notion that we "have the right to cable TV" and where high school graduates cannot be expected to read the front of a ketchup bottle it should come as no surprise that some folks have no ability whatsoever to differentiate between a right and privilege. This shows up a lot.

In at least one case disingenuous misrepresentation has been purposeful. To wit, the pronouncements of Gun Sense (gunsensevoter.org) representatives who have elevated a discomfort being around a visible display of weapons (when not in the hands of government agents) to a right whilst simultaneously trying to argue all constitutional rights have restrictions and the Second Amendment should not be free of the most onerous restrictions. But there is an agenda here and such deceptions and exaggerations are to be expected. They, as a small but vocal minority, would like to impose their will on a larger majority without regard for that pesky ole Constitution. Were they in the majority they would work to amend the constitution which would be the right way to do it.

More interesting are the other creepy crawlies coming out of the woodwork who somehow equate a privilege, say driving, with a Constitutional right, say "keep and bear arms." The (il)logic goes like this: "if you must have training and demonstrate proficiency to operate a car why shouldn't you have to do the same to own and carry a firearm." We'll skip the part about "not all weapons are firearms" and cut to the chase. In some states you must complete training and demonstrate proficiency to acquire a carry license. Often this is used to prevent "ordinary citizens" from obtaining a license by establishing an extremely high proficiency requirement--often significantly higher than law enforcement. Most states require a background search and fingerprinting. Not the kind of background search that will get you in the back door at the DeKalb School's palace but the FBI kind. These arguments are as easily debunked as they are silly. Since we are talking about Constitutional rights why don't we apply similar training and proficiency to other rights. How about the freedom of speech in the first amendment? Or better yet, let's tackle a sacred cow and suggest that before being allowed to vote citizens must take courses in civics and demonstrate some knowledge retention? That alone would cut the legs from under those who argue "rights be damned, guns are more dangerous than [fill in the blank]."

While it was sad and a bit silly to prance around the airport with an allegedly loaded AR-15 (did anyone actually verify there was a round in the chamber or even in the magazine?) it was indeed legal but it probably was not exactly what the Founding Fathers had in mind. The elitist minority wanting to eviscerate select portions of the Bill of Rights might want to ponder that intent in the context of Ferguson, North Charleston and a host of others before they get too carried away with their pontifications.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Shut Down The TSA

Pretend airport security is "math" and admit we're just "not good at it." It's OK, no one really uses airport security in the real world anyway. Just look at the TSA, they had all that security training and then what happens on the "real" job? 95% failure rate. Security? Just a word they like to use.

Consider this. Suppose the TSA were 95% effective at detecting and stopping the faux threats presented in the latest audit. Pretty good, right? Wrong. 95% effective is 5% fail. That means 100 terrorists presenting a simplistic, direct attack on these "defenses" would succeed five times. That would be five planes at risk. That would be five more twin towers disasters. That would be five nuclear power plants spewing the toxic snow of our nuclear winter.

Or perhaps it would just be five plane crashes, or five planes taken out by our F-16's. That's OK, isn't it?

But the TSA isn't 95% effective, it is only 5% effective. Calls to "fix the TSA" are insane. This is not a car that needs a new battery, this is a car where the battery is the only thing that works. You do not throw even more money down this rat hole, you act on the facts and admit that TSA is little more than a jobs program for a specific demographic that puts on a (rather offensive) show but offers no meaningful value. But does so at enormous costs in money and erosion of our privacy and liberty. It is time to recognize that facts prove that the TSA IS the terrorists' victory and shut it down.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Urkel To Go Free

Most pundits agree that jury selection determines the outcome and the trial itself is "just playing the game." Given that we may as well drop the case, re-instate Burrell Ellis and send Lee May back to the private sector.

This case is a done deal and the AJC report on jury selection makes this clear.

It is impossible to find anyone with the mental capabilities to even find the courthouse let alone sit on a jury who does not have some familiarity with the case so it comes as no surprise that selection looks into "what do you know, when did you know it and what do you think about it?" It is incumbent on the court to find jurors who, in spite of prior knowledge, can assess the case on the facts presented in court and to some degree this is the point of this case's voir dire. But there are disturbing aspects to the variations in "degree."

One prospect reportedly stated "Corruption is endemic in DeKalb County, which I think comes from the top down."

"Thank you for your time. Dismissed."  As expected since this person clearly has made up his mind.

A little less clearly prejudiced is the prospect who said "I find it disturbing and significant that there's a trial against the defendant, so there must be something there in order for that to occur. Something's going on here." This individual did not say "and I think he is guilty" but simply said that we would not be here if there was nothing to be presented to the court. Nor is it clear this individual is incapable of differentiating between what is believed versus what is proven in court. Dismissed nonetheless.

It gets worse.

On prospect said "I heard what was on the news, and looking at the gentleman, he just doesn't look like someone who would be guilty." He just doesn't look guilty. This person is making a pretty clear statement that he comes to this court predisposed to set our Urkel free. So, dismissed for prejudice in favour of the defendant, right? Hell no. Ordered to return for further questioning--still in contention for jury duty. But consider this: suppose instead of saying "just doesn't look" he actually said "looks." That juror would have been back at home in less than an hour--thank you for your service.

Whether this is right or wrong, just or unjust, Burrell Ellis is going to get another jury pre-disposed to  acquittal and that is exactly what will happen. Let's just cut to the chase, drop the case and quit paying for two CEO's when we'll never get even one that is worth having.