Dependable Erection

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Comet watching

I was reading the other day about Comet Holmes, and went out last night about 9:30 to see if i could find it. Even with the streetlights on my block, it was easy.

If you can find Cassiopeia, you can find the comet. Cassiopeia is a large "W" in the northeast sky, turned 90 degrees counter clockwise this time of year, so that it's open on the left side. Follow down from the "W" towards the horizon, and you'll see an obvious triangle of stars. The comet is the one in the lower left corner of the triangle. Even with my poor vision, i could see the difference between it and other stars - no twinkling, a somewhat larger and fuzzier circumference - but with a pair of binoculars its nature was much clearer.

Comets, of course, were long considered harbingers of bad news in the past. What disasters await in the wake of Comet Holmes?


Continue reading Comet watching

Noted without comment

From the AP:
Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Convertino and Harry Smith III have pleaded not guilty to charges of obstruction of justice, making false declarations before a court and conspiracy. Jurors heard closing arguments Tuesday in the trial, which has lasted three weeks.

For two years, Convertino led the government's case against four North African men in Detroit accused of operating a "sleeper" terrorist cell. Smith helped in the investigation and testified for the government at the trial.

Two of the four men were convicted in 2003, and Convertino won praise from the Bush administration for his successful convictions.

A federal judge overturned the verdicts after prosecutors discovered that some documents that could have aided the defense during the trial were not turned over by the government as required.

Convertino's indictment last year said he and Smith conspired to keep from defense lawyers photographs of a Jordanian hospital that would have undermined the government's argument that the alleged cell made surveillance sketches of the place.

A former federal prosecutor was acquitted Wednesday of withholding evidence from the defense during the nation's first major terrorism trial after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The government said Richard Convertino wanted so badly to win convictions in the case that he broke the law. But Convertino's lawyers insisted he did nothing wrong and had no reason to hide evidence against four North African men accused of operating a "sleeper" terrorist cell.

"It's a just end to a politically motivated prosecution," Convertino said after the verdict was read.

The jury reached its decision after less than a day of deliberations. It also acquitted Harry Smith III, a former State Department investigator.


Continue reading Noted without comment

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Duke and the drought

I was re-reading the post below about Duke's "news article" which talks about how they're reducing water consumption. Here's what jumped out at me:
Duke is among about 40 commercial water consumers that received a Stage III license, allowing for minimal watering of critical areas such as select trees at risk and some athletic fields for safety.

The Stage III ordinance requires all customers to document efforts toward a goal of 30 percent water reduction.

Umm, actually, no. Stage III bans all outdoor watering except for drip irrigation and hand watering, and that only on Saturdays between 5am and 8am or 5pm and 8pm. To qualify for an exemption, according to the city's website:
Customers may secure a written license from the city manager (or his designee) to use water contrary to the Stage III mandatory conservation measures if it can be shown to the manager's satisfaction that the licensee's use of water will result in an overall thirty (30) percent or greater reduction in water use. Any license issued pursuant to this provision: (1) must be in the possession of the licensee whenever water is used contrary to the Stage III mandatory conservation measures; and (2) is subject to amendment or revocation by the city manager at any time for good cause.

Duke's interpretation of the exemption is far from the case. It's not a question of "documenting efforts," according to the city. It's a matter of achieving "an overall thirty percent or greater reduction in water use."

We ask again. Has Duke (and any other exempt entity) achieved this 30% reduction in water use? And who's keeping track?

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Continue reading Duke and the drought

Chillin' at the Regulator

Continue reading Chillin' at the Regulator

Cranky old man

Someone once commented to me that there's no point in being an old fart unless you get to be old and farty. With that in mind i just want to point out that daylight savings time really should end in early October. I know the clock says 8am, but my body doesn't want to hear it.

UPDATE: Well, according to the New York Times, it's the candy maker's fault that DST was extended into the Halloween season. Makes sense to me. (And yes, as far as i can tell, her name is really Jennifer 8. Lee. Don't ask what the 8 stands for.)

Continue reading Cranky old man

It's just a coincidence

Notice anything unusual about this page?

I thought not. Just business as usual for the Bull City, especially if you're observing from, say, Wake County.


Continue reading It's just a coincidence

Monday, October 29, 2007

Separated at birth

Democratic Senator and presidential candidate Christopher Dodd.

Vulcan Ambassador to the Federation Sarek.

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Continue reading Separated at birth

Drought reporting

As we noted a week or so back, the N&O reported that Duke University had an exemption from the city to water the artificial turf where the field hockey team practices and plays.

Business exemptions to the "no outdoor watering" provisions of Stage III water reductions are supposed to be accompanied by an overall 30% reduction in water usage by the business.

We still have not heard back as to how well Duke U. is doing in meeting this reduction. But an article in today's Herald Sun certainly gave the impression that Duke is doing its share.
Across Duke, conservation efforts are in full swing, even in medical facilities that account for nearly half of Duke's overall water use. On Monday, a memo was sent to Duke Hospital leadership with conservation tips, such as less frequent bed linen changes and encouraging the use of waterless hand sanitizer.

"As an institution, we are honoring our commitment to complying with the city's necessary mandates for water usage," William J. Fulkerson, Duke Hospital's chief executive officer, said in the memo. "All this is being done while still honoring our commitment to sanitary, safe practices -- which always takes precedence."

Water use at the hospital and university has already been cut by discontinuing pressure washing and lawn watering during the drought, among other methods, such as an operations adjustment at the chilled water plant that saves 9,000 gallons daily.

Daily changes to conserve water use are evident across campus.

Most irrigation systems, which only account for 8 percent of Duke facilities water use, have been turned off for weeks. Duke is among about 40 commercial water consumers that received a Stage III license, allowing for minimal watering of critical areas such as select trees at risk and some athletic fields for safety.

The Stage III ordinance requires all customers to document efforts toward a goal of 30 percent water reduction.

Sounds good.

That is, until you look at the byline of the article.
Duke University News Service
Oct 28, 2007 : 9:31 pm ET

That's right. The piece on how Duke is meeting its goal of reducing water usage was written by the Duke University News Service. In fact, you can read the article on Duke's website here.

Meanwhile, last week's rains only added about a week to our water supply (we're currently at 75 days, according to the city. We were at 68 days before the rains.) Hopefully, Duke and all of Durham's water customers are reducing consumption by that magic 30% number. It would sure be nice to get a report on how all of the exempt businesses are doing in meeting that mandatory reduction.

There's no rain in the forecast for the next 10 days, and Tropical Storm Noel doesn't look like it'll be making landfall in the southeastern US at all.

h/t to reader JS.

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Continue reading Drought reporting

More thoughts on the mayor's contest

Election Day is just over a week away. This year's race between incumbent Bill Bell and City Councilman Thomas Stith verifies at least one point i've been making in private conversation for a while now: Durham isn't a small town anymore.

Read the latest campaign finance reports, filed this week, to see what i mean. It's clear that the developers and real estate lobby, not to mention folks from Art Pope's empire, many of whom hail from Raleigh and Charlotte, have a favorite candidate. And they're dropping contibutions between $1,000 and $4,000 Thomas Stith's way.

Bill Bell is listing a handful of contributions, totalling a little over $2,000, from employees of the Marcum and Kliegman accounting firm, which is based in new York, and about $3,000 from a couple of other New York residents affiliated with the Sprung Monument Company. No idea what their connection with Bill Bell might be, but it's unlikely they'll be angling for any favors from the Durham mayor's office.

There's no doubt that the mayor's race is the most partisan seen in Durham since Bell first defeated Nick Tennyson 6 years ago, and probably for quite some time before that. Stith plays down his Republican and Art Pope ties on the campaign trail, but it's important to recognize that his campaign is in many ways a petri dish for testing out 2008 themes in other Democratic strongholds in North Carolina. If he does win, expect to see a lot more mud in next year's campaigns. Not to mention another attempt at a statewide run.

UPDATE: Two things i should have noted in the post. First, i'm a contributor to the Bill Bell campaign. After this weekend, i'm in for a total of $140. I don't show up in any of the campaign filings as of yet, though.

Second, Kevin's running a contest. Whoever comes closest to picking the results of the mayor's ection race next Tuesday gets a $25 certificate to a "local restaurant." Don't know if that means you pick the restaurant or he's already got the gift card, but why not give it a shot?

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Continue reading More thoughts on the mayor's contest

Morreene Road

If you've been following the Morreene Road/D&L Warehouse saga, then you'll probably want to know that that the neighborhood has started a blog to discuss their side of the issue.

If you haven't, there's some background here, here and here. (If the Herald-Sun has more on the story besides the Brackett's op-ed piece, it doesn't show up in a search of their site.)

Basically, former Planning Department Director Frank Duke made a decision to approve the Brackett's application to build a warehouse on the site of a former restaurant in the Turnage Heights neighborhood under the existing Neighborhood Commercial zoning. Residents balked at having a warehouse constructed in the middle of the neighborhood, and felt the approval was mistaken. Construction began and continued while the neighborhood made their case. Two weeks ago, after Mr. Duke had already left his position for a similar position in the Virginia Beach/Norfolk area, Interim Director Steve Medlin endorsed the neighborhood's position that the warehouse was not a conforming use under the Neighborhood Commercial zoning.

Getting a variance or a rezoning under these conditions is going to be difficult. The Brackett's are into their construction for the better part of a million bucks. The neighborhood's case is pretty strong.

I'll be surprised if this doesn't end up with a long and drawn out lawsuit.

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Continue reading Morreene Road

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Break up the Red Sox!

If Colorado can come back and push this to game 5, i'll be stunned. The only question left is who's the MVP.

Right now i've gotta say Dustin Pedroia.

Oh, and ARod and Scott Boras? One of the most classless duos in the history of American baseball. Right up there with Tottenham Hotspur's ridiculous managerial moves. At least wait till after the Series is over.

UPDATE: Go figure. Atkins hits a two run dinger as i hit the publish button. Hey, maybe there's a couple of games left in the season after all.

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Continue reading Break up the Red Sox!

Just sayin'

There's a difference between snarking and stalking.

Some people need to learn it.


Continue reading Just sayin'

Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Carver St., Durham, NC


Continue reading Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Friday, October 26, 2007

Things we'd like to see

Whenever i come across an article like this one, i cringe. Not so much for the desperate picture it paints of the American, indeed, the global, future. But for the absolute lack of context it provides.

For example, this paragraph:
The price tag for ensuring a reliable water supply could be staggering. Experts estimate that just upgrading pipes to handle new supplies could cost the nation $300 billion over 30 years.

Would be much more informative if it were just edited slightly:
The price tag for ensuring a reliable water supply could be staggering. Experts estimate that just upgrading pipes to handle new supplies could cost the nation $300 billion over 30 years, or about 1/8th of what the US is expected to spend on the Iraq War over the next 10 years.

In fact if every "staggering" projection of how expensive one damn thing or another is going to be over our lifetimes could be put into the perspective of how much we're spending, and have already spent, on this stupid war, we'd probably have a better grasp on just how "staggering" the cost of mounting Bush's Folly has been. And that's without even talking about the toll in human lives.

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Continue reading Things we'd like to see

Water, water everywhere

At least, it's starting to seem that way, as this week's rains are now well into their third day. Current forecasts call from rain well into tomorrow, with additional accumulations of perhaps 2 inches.

Good news all in all, and hopefully no-one will need to use the Saturday garden watering window, further reducing demand.

did you know that you can get a near real time graph of flow into both Lake Michie and the Little River Reservoir, just by clicking on the links?

As of an hour ago, the discharge at the Flat River into Lake Michie was just a touch below the historical mean for this time of year at 11 cubic feet per second, up from zero as recently as Tuesday morning. I'm sure it will continue to rise for the next 36 hours ar runoff from the watershed makes it's way to the lake.

In other good news, the city website, and an email sent out earlier this week by Vicki Westbrook, Deputy Director of Water Management, confirms that Durham will be significantly increasing its water storage capacity in the next 24 months:
Q: Why isn't the Teer (Hanson Aggregates) Quarry ready to be used as a water storage site?

The City is in the second of a three-phase development process to use the quarry as a long-term storage facility to provide an additional 1.32 billion gallon capacity for the City. The current timetable to have the Quarry available for long-term storage calls for 2009 completion. Staff is also developing an emergency operations plan to access and utilize the approximately 500 million gallons currently in the quarry. This is in addition to other options to supplement existing supplies.

it'll cost about $15 million to bring the Teer Quarry on line as a reservoir which, if you'll pardon the pun, is a drop in the bucket.


Continue reading Water, water everywhere

Thursday, October 25, 2007

It's magic

I was in Bull McCabe's last night having a beer with a couple of folks. We had the first table on the left when you walk in the door, and i was watching the rain fall as much as i was taking part in the conversation.

And then this guy walked by, made eye contact, and proceeded to do a sleight of hand show with me as his sole audience.

I didn't get a chance to talk to him. He vanished in a flash. But it was as interesting as the time, my first summer in Durham, that a young man stopped my on Ninth St., explaining that he was a free lance philosopher, and for only five bucks he would help me draw up a philosophy of life on the spot.

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Continue reading It's magic

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


My free time is somewhat constrained, what with having to earn a living and all, and a lot of that has been spent on the upcoming local elections. But that doesn't mean i'm unaware of the larger elections on the table for next year.

In addition to electing helping elect a new president, North Carolinians will be voting to either retain or replace Liddy Dole in the US Senate.

Couple of developments recently in both of those races are worth noting.

Chris Dodd, (D-CT) who has long been my dark horse presidential candidate, has really stepped it up in the past week when it comes to the issue of retroactive immunity for telecoms that may have provided information about their customers to the federal government in violation of the law. Here's an email he sent out earlier:
Dear Barry,

Let's get right to it and talk about how we stop retroactive telecommunications immunity from becoming law.

The way I see it, there are three ways to get this provision stripped from the final bill:

1.) The first step would be to make sure the idea doesn't make it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee -- where it will be considered shortly.

If we can get it stripped there, it will have to be offered as an amendment to the overall bill where it will be a lot easier to get 41 votes against retroactive immunity than 41 to sustain my filibuster if necessary.

Take a moment and call up members of the committee, let me know what they said, and join others in tracking our progress in stopping the provision right there.

The other two ways:

2.) If retroactive immunity does make it out of committee, Senate leadership can honor the hold I've placed on any legislation that includes retroactive immunity.

3.) If leadership does not honor my hold, I remain committed to filibustering, and working to get the 41 votes necessary to maintain it.

This has the potential to be a long fight -- so let's build a solid foundation for our effort today by asking members of the Judiciary Committee to vote against any FISA bill that includes retroactive amnesty.

I'd like to see a little more spine, frankly, on these issues. People tell us they want to lead, but a little leadership right now would certainly be welcomed on these questions.

I don't want to, but I'm not afraid to do this alone.


This may not be The Most Important Issue of Our Times, but it is pretty major, and goes to the heart of the attempted transformation of the US from a democracy to a banana republic.

In the NC Senate race, Jim Neal, who is the only declared Democratic candidate for the seat, joined in a live discussion over at BlueNC the other day. Read the transcript here.

Now, Jim had a lot of good things to say about his candidacy. But as it turns out, the only thing people are really interested in talking about is that he's gay.

For lots of folks, that seems to be an impediment to being elected. Even some of Pam's commenters think it's a problem.

Let's get real, folks. We ran that perfect "moderate" candidate against Liddy in 2002. In fact, he was so perfect, we ran him again in 2004, when he couldn't lose. But Richard Burr is our junior Senator, and Erskine Bowles is running our University system, hopefully not into the ground.

As i said elsewhere, Liddy Dole can be beaten by a candidate who is smart, committed, and passionate, and who can articulate and stand for core Democratic values. I don't know if Jim Neal is that candidate or not just yet, but first reports are promising. If Democrats stand with him, why can't he win?

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Continue reading Elections

Memo to Farad Ali

I understand your reasoning behind running as an unaffiliated candidate for City Council. But i think you're misinterpreting what "non-partisan" means in terms of municipal elections:
City Council elections are deemed “non-partisan”, meaning it is the responsibility of the candidates to represent themselves without the bias of political party affiliation, explaining their own individual merits and qualifications and demonstrating why they should be elected to represent and serve the citizens of Durham.

I don't consider political party affiliation to represent a "bias," and i have to say it's a bit of an affront to encounter someone running for office who does. I've been a voter for over 25 years, a party member for about 15, and an active member for about the last 6. It's not a question of "bias" that led me to the Democratic party. Rather, it has been a combination of factors, on the one hand, the relentless fear-mongering tactics practiced by Republicans at all levels of government (see, for instance, the Kansas school board elections of the past decade, as well as our own current mayoral elections, if you don't want to look at elections at the national level), on the other the general disingenuousness of those claiming to be "above the fray" and looking to find some sort of "middle ground" between the two extremes of partisanship.

Non-partisan, as it relates to our municipal elections, means that party activists do not get to select the candidates in a party primary. It means that there's no straight ticket voting option available at the polls. But it doesn't mean that not being a party member is, or should be, considered advantageous by the voters of Durham.

I've been able to develop a vision of what i think civic life and good citizenship, not to mention a thriving community and a just society, might look like. That vision doesn't fall "somewhere in between" the visions espoused by the two major parties. But the Democratic party vision comes the closest to my own. So choosing to work with people who, as much as can reasonably be expected in the real world, share my vision, is not an indicator of bias on my part. It's a commitment to working together with like-minded folks to implement and bring to fruition a common goal.

I don't see "being able to work with Republicans" as a benefit at this point in time. The vision articulated by the Republican party, especially by its mayoral candidate Thomas Stith in the current Durham campaign, is anathema to me. And, i suspect, to a great many members of the community. There has been nothing in Mr. Stith's campaign or agenda that i'd wish to see enacted in this community.

And that's why i'll be voting for David Harris on November 6.

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Continue reading Memo to Farad Ali

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


# Tonight: Partly cloudy skies this evening. A few showers developing late. Low near 70F. Winds S at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 30%.
Tomorrow: Showers and thundershowers likely. Warm. High 82F. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 60%. Rainfall near a quarter of an inch.
Tomorrow night: Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm during the evening, then some lingering showers still possible overnight. Low near 60F. SE winds shifting to NE at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 60%. Rainfall near a half an inch.
Thursday: Cloudy with occasional rain showers. High around 65F. Winds NE at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 50%.

More promising than it's been for quite some time. A couple of days of rain would be plenty helpful, and might save my fall cabbage crop.

UPDATE: If i'm reading the current forecast correctly, we could be in for as much as 4 inches of rain over the next two days. We're at a deficit for the year of about 10 inches, so this will go a long way to helping if it in fact comes to pass. Normal rainfall for the whole month of October is somewhat under 3 inches.

I had a brief conversation in the comments at Kevin's place last week about rainfall and California, among other things. If you look at a precipitation chart for NC, you'll see that historically the Piedmont averages about 45 inches of rain a year, and it's fairly well distributed throughout the year. (Rougly 4" during the wettest summer months, and 2.9" in the dryer fall months.)

Compare to California where most of the rain falls in the mountainous eastern part of the state, and most of that between November and March. Add in the snowmelt releasing large amounts of water in a very short period of time, and you can understand why it's been necessary for California to develop an extensive series of reservoirs and aqueducts to capture pretty much every bit of precipitation that falls in the state and control its movement between the mountains and the ocean. One below normal rainy season and the state is essentially going two years without rain. So the reservoirs, when full, usually have enough water for 3 years or so.

In NC, where we are used to a fairly steady supply of rainwater, our reservoirs usually top out at about 9 months capacity, and they tend to be smaller and local, with no mechanisms in place for diverting water from one part of the state to another. If it turns out that our current drought is an anomaly, and we return to a more historically normal pattern of ranfall over the next year or two, that'll probably be sufficient.

But what if we're looking at something more than that? In the past 5 years this is the second summer where rainfall has been essentially non-existent. If long term weather patterns are changing (and it doesn't really matter for this discussion what the proximate cause of this would be if it is the case) the whole water storage system for NC, and the entire southeast, actually, is going to have to be rethought and re-engineered, as well as the entire philosophy of development in the region. Water may turn out to be a much more limiting resource than energy supplies in the long, and even the near term. One reason why it's so disappointing to read news items like this one, and see that water supplies aren't even on the agenda.


Continue reading Forecast

Stith/Bell forum at Duke tonight

At Page Auditorium, 6:30 to 7:30 pm.

This should be interesting, given the increasingly negative tone of the campaign.

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Continue reading Stith/Bell forum at Duke tonight


Back in the day, we were supposed to be relieved that the adults were going to be in charge again in Washington.

Good thing, that.
The State Department does not know specifically what it received for a billion-dollar contract with security firm DynCorp International to provide training services for Iraqi police, a U.S. watchdog agency said on Tuesday.

The Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) said it was forced to suspend its audit of the DynCorp contract after administration officials told investigators they had no confidence in their own accounting records.

"As a result, INL does not know specifically what it received for most of the $1.2 billion in expenditures under its DynCorp contract for the Iraqi Police Training Program. INL's prior lack of controls created an environment vulnerable to waste and fraud," SIGIR said in an interim review.

I don't know about you, but i can think of a few things to be spending 1.2 billion on right about now.


Continue reading Adults

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Off base - a few thoughts about Game 7

As game 7 of the ALCS gets ready to start, just a couple of quick thoughts.

I'm appreciating watching a game that's played in a stadium that is not full of fans screaming at every pitch waving those stupid-ass towels. Don't get me wrong. I like seeing Crazy Towel Guy at Cameron whenever i go there as much as anyone, but i don't think i'd want to be in a stadium with 50,000 more like him.

Unfortunately, Cleveland is going to win this game as Dice-K comes up short once again, and we'll be treated to a total towel waving spectacle.

You read it here first.

UPDATE: I like the sign they just showed on TV - "We never wave a white flag at Fenway." That's right. Prove me wrong, guys.


Continue reading Off base - a few thoughts about Game 7

Is it a miracle?

Mrs. Dependable is not a big fan of greens. In fact, Alton Brown's Mustard Greens Gratin is about the only recipe i've tried that she likes, so i try to make it four or five times a year. I picked up a pretty good size bag of greens over at King's this afternoon, and set to work washing them in the sink.

Fortunately, i recycled all of the water that was left in the sink when i was done, so the image that the dirt made in the bottom of the sink was left undisturbed when they were clean.

Is it a miracle? You be the judge.


Continue reading Is it a miracle?

Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Little Richmond, NC


Continue reading Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Durham election update

I've been out all day, but in my inbox is a note that the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People has endorsed Bill Bell in the Mayor's race, and Farad Ali as the only candidate they are endorsing in the Council race. Bell apparently has gotten the nod from the Committee over Thomas Stith which, according to the Frank Hyman Theory of Durham Politics, should propel him to election. (Frank's theory is that receiving the endorsement of two of the three main PACs in Durham, the Committee, the People's Alliance, and the Friends of Durham is necessary to win a citywide election. Bell has been endorsed by the PA and the Committee, Stith by the Friends.)

David Harris continues to be passed over by the Committee, reportedly due to past conflicts with Chair LaVonia Allison. That leaves only two candidates for Council receiving more than one endorsement, Eugene Brown and Dianne Catotti, who have both been endorsed by the Friends and the PA. David Harris has been endorsed by the PA, and Laney Funderburk by the Friends. It will be interesting to see which of the three (Ali, Harris, or Funderburk) manages to eke out a victory in what will probably be a very close race for the third at-large seat in this election. Steve Monks is the remaining candidate on the ballot. I suppose if the Friends revisit their endorsements things could get even more complicated.

If you are not yet registered to vote, North Carolina has a new, same-day voter registration program. You'll need to go to BoE headquarters on Corporation St., and register and cast your ballot as part of the early voting program. Early voting is underway from now through Saturday, November 3. Details here.

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Continue reading Durham election update

Friday, October 19, 2007

A message missing from Thomas Stith's campaign

I wonder why Thomas Stith doesn't talk much about the Reagan legacy on the Durham campaign trail?

UPDATE: Here's why i posted this. In a single 75 second clip, Thomas Stith uses the word "conservative" to describe the organization he represents, and by extension, the movement to which he belongs, seven times. About once every 10 seconds.

Can you find the word "conservative" anywhere on Thomas Stith's campaign website or in his literature? Neither can I.

Why is he hiding his participation in the conservative movement from the voters of Durham?

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Continue reading A message missing from Thomas Stith's campaign

Does this make sense?

Here's an excerpt from an email i just received earlier, apropos of a discussion about the applicability of the sign ordinance section of the Durham UDO to the campaign signs around town urging people to vote for the "ticket" of Monks, Parrish, and Funderburk:
The Planning Department has ruled that the signs do not have to come down. The department may suggest a change to the ordinance in anticipation of future multi-person tickets.

Let's give a little background. Despite the "non-partisan" nature of municipal elections in North Carolina, three Durham Republicans, Laney Funderburk, Melodie Parrish, and Steve Monks, banded together to run a joint campaign for City Council. The three had a combined website (which has been updated) and yard signs around town urging a vote for all three candidates by name.

Here's the rub.

Section 11.5.1 paragraph F of the Unified Development Ordinance, which governs the placement of campaign signs throughout the city, says:
The following signs are allowed within the public right-of-way in all zoning districts.

(City only) Signs erected in connections with elections, referenda, or current political events provided that they do not exceed six square feet per sign in area and are no more than four feet in height. The signs shall be located so as not to obstruct drivers' vision clearances at intersections. Such signs may be posted 45 days prior to an election and shall be removed within 15 days after the election or cessation of candidacy by any candidate no longer participating in the election, whichever comes first. Along State rights-of-way such signs may require permits from NCDOT.

There is no dispute that Melodie Parrish is no longer participating in the election. So, by what reading of the ordinance are signs encouraging citizens to vote for her allowed to remain standing? Whether other names are on the sign or not has no relevance to a clear reading of the law. Melodie Parrish's candidacy has ceased. Whether or not her running mates chose to save their own campaign money by putting their names on the same signs as her is not germane.

I've got an email into the Planning Department asking to explain their reasoning. I'll post the answer if and when i get it. I'm not holding my breath.

UPDATE: Steve Medlin from the Planning
Department responds:
As you may imagine there are no simple answers when it comes to application of the UDO requirements and how they may relate to campaign signs. The signs that have three candidates identified on them have raised an issue that we have no precedent for here in Durham. Therefore, I have discussed the issue with the City Attorney’s office and internal Planning staff. A strict interpretation of the UDO provisions would indicate that should any candidate lose during the primary that the signs must be removed within 15 days of the election or cessation of candidacy. However, when drafted there was no consideration of multiple candidate signage and therefore no provisions were defined for these types of situations. Conversely, the ordinance could also be interpreted as meaning that as long as any of the candidates are still involved in the election that the signage could remain.

After discussing the issue among staff and the attorneys it was decided that the most appropriate interpretation, based on what was felt to be the intent of the ordinance, is to allow the signs to remain as long as any of the candidates are still eligible for election. In this case, only a single candidate is no longer in the race so to remove the signs could unreasonably penalize the remaining two candidates and subject legal challenge.

Because of this new approach in signage here in Durham, staff feels that an UDO text amendment is needed to clarify this issue for any future elections. We feel that a relatively minor amendment to the current language could clarify that signs must be removed when all candidates represented are no longer in the election or language needs to be added that specifies that if multiple candidate signs are proposed that should any of the candidates lose then the signs must be removed within 15 days. We will be bringing this item to the Joint City-County Planning Committee for direction on how to proceed.

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Continue reading Does this make sense?

N&O: Duke gets exemption to water artificial playing field

From the N&O:
Durham, which has about 69 days left in its water supply at the current use rate, has banned all outdoor watering. Duke, which could not supply a number for the gallons used on turf watering, gets a business exemption to spray the field and other places on campus as long as overall consumption decreases by 30 percent.

I wonder who'll be checking up on that 30% reduction?

UPDATE: I should add, kudos to N&O reporter Ann Blythe, for braving the barely civilized wilds of East Campus and Broad St. to report on this issue. I myself have been scared away from that part of town.

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Continue reading N&O: Duke gets exemption to water artificial playing field

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Detailed Local Forecast

* Today: Cloudy skies with a few showers this afternoon. Areas of dense fog. High 79F. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 30%.
* Tonight: Showers this evening becoming less numerous overnight. Low 68F. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 40%.
* Tomorrow: Mixed clouds and sun with scattered thunderstorms. A few storms may be severe. High around 80F. Winds S at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 60%.
* Tomorrow night: Scattered thunderstorms in the evening. Partly cloudy skies overnight. Low 59F. Winds SW at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 40%.

Come on, rain!


Continue reading Forecast

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Not enough bathroom stalls?

Kevin shares the bad news that the 305 South Anti-Mall is closing next week.

Here's the rub:
The music/performance space at 305 South has been closed since mid-May after the City of Durham determined the establishment needed a minimum number of bathroom stalls. The facility has operated as a 'furniture store and art gallery' since the venue shut down for live shows earlier this year.

Do you mean to tell me that the City couldn't figure out a way for the Lee's to keep the performance space open with a temporary variance? It's not like that area of Dillard St. is busting out with thriving businesses that were being hurt by 305 South. Or is it the city's philosophy that only American Tobacco Campus-like venues deserve the city's support, financially and otherwise?

Most of the time, i think the city is doing a decent job in supporting new business growth in town. But this is a ball that got dropped big time.

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Continue reading Not enough bathroom stalls?

Heard around town

City Councilwoman Cora Cole-McFadden has asked her fellow Council members to express at Thursday's work session what they each are doing personally to reduce their water consumption during the current severe drought. Councilman and mayoral candidate Thomas Stith is expected to announce that for the duration of his campaign, he will refrain from slinging mud at incumbent Bill Bell, and will instead hurl only dirt bombs.

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Continue reading Heard around town

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


The New York Times notices that the southeast is getting a bit dry. (Reg. required).

Here's a thought.

Why don't the Planning Department, or the City and County managers, or our elected officials, declare a moratorium on new commercial and residential development until we can keep our water supply above 120 days for six months or so?

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Continue reading Drought

Off base - random sports thoughts

Since i'm too busy to formulate a coherent thought about anything remotely interesting, here's some stuff mostly about the baseball playoffs, with a couple of other items thrown in for variety.

The Guardian proves yet again that British sportwriters kick their American counterparts' collective asses all over the interweb:
Even here on the virtual pages of the virtual paper most Americans think is a cross between Pravda, Spare Rib, Gay Times and the Al Qaeda Gazzete, the Truth - that women, while perfectly capable of voting, cycling and smoking, will never be any good at football - is carved in flaming letters 100 feet high.

Such shibboleths take time to wither and die. But die they do. The myth of the inferiority of black players in northern climes has crashed and burned in my football-watching lifetime. And the stupidity about Asian players (they're too small, they lack speed, aggression and stamina) seems to be going the same way. But women, say the Guardian Men, are the new Asians - too small, too slow and too fragile to compete.

David Ortiz' baserunning blunder last night was one of the more, umm, curious plays i've seen at this level in a long time. (Maybe Chuck Knoblauch arguing a safe call with the first base umpire while runners dashed around the bases back in, oh, was that 1996? is probably still ahead.) Another three inches to the right, and Ortiz could have won $10,000 in America's Funniest Home Videos, 'cause guys getting hit in the swingers by hard objects are always a winner.

I'm thinking Brian Gorman, who called balls and strikes for the Indians-Red Sox game last night, is probably working his last post-season. His strike zone was consistently 5 inches out of alignment with home plate, and you could argue that his calls changed the outcome of the game. Sad to see. But give the players some credit. Even with so much on the line, no one lost their cool arguing.

When i was a kid, going to a World Series game would have been the highlight of my life. Watching the idiotic towel waving going on in both games last night made me appreciate being able to watch from the comfort of my sofa, and fall asleep when i was ready. Speaking of which, are the ratings for a game that starts at 10 on the east coast any better than they would be for a game that starts at 4pm? As they say, there's only one October, and it was made for afternoon baseball.

Finally, how come the World Series of Poker gets better commercials than the MLB playoffs? Chevy is not an American Revolution, and their 30 mpg highway is still less than my subaru DL was getting back in 1978. And don't get me started on John Cougar Mellencamp.


Continue reading Off base - random sports thoughts

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Roxboro St. Durham, NC


Continue reading Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Friday, October 12, 2007

Benefit concert tomorrow - Coaliton to Unchain Dogs

Sometimes after i get carried away with talking about how great a place Durham is to live, someone will ask, pointing to Durham's obvious flaws, what the hell i'm talking about.

The Coalition to Unchain Dogs is an example.

The problem: dogs that are chained all day tend to be more unsocialized, more likely to bite people, especially children, harder to control when they get loose, noisier (which diminishes their usefulness as watch dogs, since they're barking almost all the time and their owners are ignoring them anyway), and in general unhappy with their lot in life.

The solution: ban the practice of keeping dogs chained continuously.

That's why the Coalition was formed, to lobby County Commissioners in Durham and Orange to ban this practice. I'm not sure what's happening in Orange, but in Durham, commissioners have essentially responded to this effort by launching an extended study of the problem.*

So here's what makes the Coalition special. Rather than shrug shoulders and mumble about the difficulties of fighting City Hall, they adopted another tactic, and decided to directly get dogs, one by one, off of their chains and into fenced yards. By raising money, attracting volunteers, and approaching dog owners. They've built a couple of dozen fences over the past year, on an essentially shoe-string budget. It's an approach that is typically Durham.

Tomorrow they're holding their first major fundraiser, a benefit concert at Durham Central Park.

You should buy a ticket and go.


* To be fair to the Commission, there are a lot of obstacles to implementing a change in the laws this drastic, most significantly in figuring out how to enforce it. According to people who should know, at least one third, and possibly more, of Durham's dogs are unlicensed with the county. Many of these dogs are unvaccinated against rabies. Solving that problem needs to come first, given our limited funding for Animal Control. Loose dogs killing other pets ahs recently resurfaced as a problem, most notably in the Watts-Hillandale neighborhood, where the listserv has had about half a dozen accounts of cats being killed by packs of stray dogs within the past 10 days or so. Rounding up strays, and convincing dog owners that letting their dogs roam free is another priority that the AC department has to implement before taking on new tasks.

But in the long term, banning the practice of long term chaining of dogs is going to be the norm, and there's no reason for Durham not to be, if not at the vanguard, at least not trailing the pack.

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Continue reading Benefit concert tomorrow - Coaliton to Unchain Dogs

Death cults?

Here's a photo i took this morning on the way to work. Seems the megachurch on highway 70 is running a series through October on marriage, specifically on marriage encounter, which, as i recall, seeks to prevent married couple from choosing divorce as an option when they reach that point in their marriage where the cons begin to outweigh the pros. To the best of my knowledge, encounter began within the Catholic Church, which does not recognize divorce at all. A quick google reveals that a whole lot of denominations have taken up this program. There are Jewish encounter programs, Mennonite programs, and geographically based programs in practically every corner of the globe.

Here's my question.

I know that designing billboards and attempting to catch the attention of people whizzing by in their cars at 55 mph is a difficult task. But why the ultra-prominent use of the word "death" in this sign? Isn't marriage one of the most life affirming acts we can undertake? Why focus on the end of the marriage, rather than its ongoing process? (Maybe "For better or for worse" is already trademarked by that comic strip, but there are other phrases commonly associated with marriage vows that are equally recognizable. For that matter, my own recently undertaken vows used the phrase "for as long as you both shall live" in preference to the more morbid "til death us do part.")

And the larger question, which i ask sincerely, is why the focus on death and the afterlife in so many monotheistic practices, not only many Christian denomnations, but Muslim as well. I understand, from a sociological/political viewpoint the advantages to an elite of having a group of followers willing to discount their current material conditions, and thus be more willing to donate the fruits of their labor back to the elite, in favor of promised but undefined benefits in some unverifiable future.

But studies consistently show that, in the US in particular, overwhelming majorities believe in Heaven and Hell as actual places in which individual human consciousness, and perhaps human bodies as well, will reside for a very long time. Which i don't get at all.

I'm one of those people who believes you're born, you die, and if you're very lucky, you get to do some good stuff in between. So i'm asking any of my readers who do believe in the afterlife to chime in and talk about this. Help me understand what it is about this concept that explains the world around us in a way that makes sense to you.


Continue reading Death cults?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Floyd Lee Brown update

Michael's got a powerful piece up today with the latest on the Floyd Lee Brown case. As i've noted previously, Brown was held at Dorothea Dix Hospital for 14 years after being judged incompetent to stand trial for a murder he couldn't possibly have committed. Durham judge Orlando Hudson ordered Brown released this past Tuesday. It would seem that law enforcement has no further claim on his life.

So why is Anson County District Attorney Michael Parker making it impossible for Brown to find a place to live?

Go read Michael's piece, and when you're done, maybe drop DA Michael Parker a line. His contact info is here.


Continue reading Floyd Lee Brown update

Inferiority complex?

Been a number of commenters, here and on other Durham blogs, slamming D-Town over the past few weeks. For the life of me, i really can't understand what they're saying. Durham is, far and away, the best place i've ever lived. (For the record, that list includes various towns on Long Island, Brooklyn & New Paltz in New York State; Stevens Point, WI; Phoenix, AZ; Stockton & Sacramento CA; and extended visits in San Francisco, and towns in Florida and Pennsylvania. San Francisco had a lot going for it, which i guess explains why it's so damn expensive to live there. But i digress.) I can't imagine spending fifteen years of my adult life anywhere else.

So it was somewhat of a shock to me to discover an aspect of life in which Durham is markedly inferior. Our political scene is nowhere near as entertaining as Atlantic City.

Frankly, i like it that way. But i'm sure there are plenty of folks out there who'd be willing to stir things up even more for a better show.

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Continue reading Inferiority complex?

Ann Coulter is a fucking moron

From Media Matters:
During the October 8 edition of CNBC's The Big Idea, host Donny Deutsch asked right-wing pundit Ann Coulter: "If you had your way ... and your dreams, which are genuine, came true ... what would this country look like?" Coulter responded, "It would look like New York City during the [2004] Republican National Convention. In fact, that's what I think heaven is going to look like." She described the convention as follows: "People were happy. They're Christian. They're tolerant. They defend America." Deutsch then asked, "It would be better if we were all Christian?" to which Coulter responded, "Yes." Later in the discussion, Deutsch said to her: "[Y]ou said we should throw Judaism away and we should all be Christians," and Coulter again replied, "Yes." When pressed by Deutsch regarding whether she wanted to be like "the head of Iran" and "wipe Israel off the Earth," Coulter stated: "No, we just want Jews to be perfected, as they say. ... That's what Christianity is. We believe the Old Testament, but ours is more like Federal Express. You have to obey laws."


Continue reading Ann Coulter is a fucking moron

Breakfast of champions

Southport, NC

Once you spend a couple of weeks in a place, you get beyond the typical tourist traps and find where the locals go to eat.

(Photo by Mrs. Dependable)

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Continue reading Breakfast of champions

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Welcome to the South!

In case you weren't paying too close attention, Mrs. Dependable and i just spent two weeks at one of the Tar Heel state's finest beaches, celebrating our nuptials and doing what the old folks call honeymooning.

I am, as i seem to be a lot these days, swamped with work and meetings, but i'm going to try and post some of the photos we took during that time here over the next week or so.

I guess this is the local Visitors Bureau and Welcoming Committee for out of staters.

Supply, NC

They sure do know how to make a yankee feel welcome down here.


Continue reading Welcome to the South!

The hazards of being a man

The Thorington Road Baptist Church in Alabama is in the middle of a men's Bible study series on "Overcoming the twelve challenges all men face."

Presumably, learning how to untie yourself while bound within two wetsuits engaging in auto-erotic activites is one of them.

Continue reading The hazards of being a man

Municipal primary - some other numbers

Kevin, once again, has a pretty good analysis of yesterday's election results, focusing on the geographic distribution of votes, and which candidate is strong where.

I want to take a look at some different numbers, distributed over time rather than place. Durham County Board of elections has turnout numbers going back to 1994 online. (Earlier election results are archived in PDF format here.)

Here are the numbers for the last seven municipal primary elections:
Year Races contested # eligible # voting % turnout
===== =============== ========== ======== ========
10/10/95 Mayor, City Council 92,26 14,272 15.4%
10/7/97 Mayor, City Council 115,326 15,843 13.0%
10/5/99 Mayor, City Council 124,740 20,400 16.0%
10/9/01 Mayor, City Council 127,858 15,387 12.03%
10/7/03 Mayor, City Council 104,384 16,993 16.28%
10/11/05 Mayor, City Council 118,376 13,103 11.06%
10/9/07 City Council 121,026 12,740 10.53

(Apologies for any formatting issues with the numbers, i think they're readable.) There are a lot of ways to spin those numbers, and i'm not going to try to deal with any of them. I think the downward trend in turnout, both in raw numbers and as a percentage of registered voters speaks for itself. Other key figures in the BoE's numbers:

The number of registered voters peaked at around 164,000 for the 2000 general election. The highest turnout, both in actual numbers and as a percentage of the electorate, came in the 2004 general election with 73% of nearly 153,000 registered voters turning out (111,685 to be precise.)

The general trend in municpal elections has been a slight (1997, 1999, 2005) to significant (2001, 2003) increase in the number of eligible voters between the primary and general elections, accompanied by a significant increase in turnout. Turnout doubled in 97, 01, and 03, and increased by 60% or greater in all other years.

North Carolina now has a modified form of same-day voter registration in effect. the details, as posted on the BoE website:
A North Carolina resident who is qualified to vote but who misses the 25-day deadline for voter registration may register and vote at a One-Stop Site during the One-Stop Absentee Voting period. The One-Stop Voting period extends from 19 to 3 days before Election Day.

The process is sometimes referred to as "Same-Day Registration," but it is important to recognize that it not permitted on Election Day itself.

To use this process, a citizen must:

(1) go to a One-Stop Voting Site in the county of residence during the One Stop Absentee Voting period.
(2) fill out a voter registration application.
(3) provide proof of residency by showing the elections official an appropriate form of identification with the citizen’s current name and current address. The new registrant may vote ONLY at a One-Stop Absentee Voting Site in the county of registration during One-Stop Absentee Voting period and not on Election Day.

So, residents who are eligible to vote, but not yet registered, may still vote in the upcoming general election, but only at the BoE offices on West Corporation St., near the old ballpark, and only up to the Friday before Election Day proper. We'll see if this noew process increased either registration or turnout for the general.

I think the most important knowledge to be gleaned from this is that there are a lot of votes on the table between now and November. No candidate should take their position for granted, and individuals or organizations with strong interest in seeing their candidate elected need to take the necessary steps to see that happen. I can't imagine Durham electing one, let alone two or three Republicans to the City Council and/or the Mayor's office, but stranger things have happened.

Let's see if any of the PACs modify their endorsements in light of yesterday's results (especially the Durham Committee, which now only is backing a single candidate for the 3 Council seats), and which groups are best able to get out the vote in an election year that strangely seems to be inspiring complacency.

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Continue reading Municipal primary - some other numbers

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Durham elections - nearly final results

UPDATED:From the Durham Board of Elections, with about 98% of precincts reporting:

Diane Catotti . . . . . . . . . 7,228 20.22
Eugene A. Brown . . . . . . . . 5,945 16.63
Farad Ali . . . . . . . . . . 4,891 13.68
Laney Funderburk . . . . . . . . 3,750 10.49
David Harris . . . . . . . . . 3,376 9.44
Steve Monks. . . . . . . . . . 3,198 8.95
Victoria Peterson. . . . . . . . 2,678 7.49
Melodie Parrish . . . . . . . . 2,617 7.32
Joe Williams . . . . . . . . . 1,487 4.16
David Thompson, Jr. . . . . . . . 579 1.62
Total . . . . . . . . . 35,749

COMMENTARY: Biggest surprise for me is Steve Monks making the cut. I assume his base of support in the Republican Party would still be pissed at him for his write-in campaign for the DA's office last year, which essentially allowed Mike Nifong to retain his office with less than a majority vote.

more comments on the results later. i'll probably be at Kevin's place discussing things as well.

UPDATE: the gap between third and fourth place (1100 votes) is significantly greater than the gap between 4th and 6th (550 votes). Chaz over in the comments at Kevin's thinks that this result gives David Harris a chance to pick up votes in the general. I'm not so sure. We'll see if any endorsements change as a result of people dropping out of the race.


Continue reading Durham elections - nearly final results


I had a revelation earlier today, from a couple of things i read on Durham blogs. First, what i'll charitably describe as an unintentionally offensive comment on Michael's post on the lacrosse case. Here's the nub:
I fully believe that this could happen in other places. Which is one of the reasons I want to see Durham hit with a financial judgement that it will feel for decades - and that will make mayors, city councimen and police chiefs all over the country sit up and take notice. After all, one of the primary purposes of punitive damages is deterrence.

I agree that many previous miscarriages of justice have slid by with the wrongdoers getting a relative slap on the wrist. I'd like to see that change. I'm sorry Durham has to be first, but only in the sense that we can't go back in time and fix the others, too.

My initial response, which you can read at Michael's place, was pretty angry. (After all, for an enlightened and tolerant guy, i get pissed off pretty easy.) But i reread something at Kevin's place:
it seems that if you can’t see poverty, it really isn’t there. And so many of us do our best to live in isolated pockets at the demographic extremes.

See, it just occurred to me that for people like Ralph Phelan, the Duke lacrosse case is the first and only time they've ever encountered injustice like this. They really do live in a world where this kind of thing just doesn't happen; and if word of something like this does penetrate, then there's obviously a reason why it happened to say, Dwayne Allen Dail.

Which is why, i guess, Ralph Phelan is able to say, without any trace of irony, that he's sorry Durham has to be the first. For him, and i suppose for many of the commenters on this blog who have expressed similar sentiments, the world in which this kind of thing happens to many undeserving people just doesn't exist.

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Continue reading Blinders

Judge orders release of Floyd Lee Brown

Floyd Lee Brown has been in state custody for 14 years, accused of robbery and murder. He's got an IQ of fifty, and the evidence linking him to the crimes has been scant to non-existent. He was ordered released earlier today.
A mentally retarded man ruled incompetent to stand trial on robbery and murder charges but held in state custody for 14 years while he fought his case was ordered released on Monday.

A judge dismissed the charges against Floyd Brown, 43, even though prosecutors said he was dangerous and refused to drop the case. He's been held at a state mental hospital while he challenged the allegations.

"Somehow, it is possible for him to be held until he dies," said Durham County Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson. "To me, it doesn't seem right."

Let's see how much compensation he gets for fourteen years of his life.

(Previously discussed in DE here)

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Continue reading Judge orders release of Floyd Lee Brown

Good stuff from Kevin at BCR

As usual. Go read it all:
To those seeing Durham through the lens of the lacrosse case alone, it might appear to be your stereotypical post-Drudge, post-Hannity pile on. A one-off flurry of arrows and barbs that will disappear at the next media conflagration.

Except for the fact that Durham is, collectively, used to such rhetoric. Web message boards at the local TV stations already fill up with comments any time a shooting happens in the Bull City. At the least, expect snide comments about the need for a bullet-proof vest in Durham. Followed more typically by comments of the need to get the “thugs” out of Durham, where thug generally seems to be a code-word for young African-American male. (Occasionally, such comments about thugs are followed by jokes about fried chicken, you see.)

The external negativity about Durham did not begin with Duke lacrosse. It won’t end with Duke lacrosse. At its heart, to my mind, is the same source of the rabid complaints about New Orleans after Katrina, or the jibes at other major urban centers: namely, Durham is a diverse, socioeconomically integrated city in an increasingly fragmented United States.

One of the reasons I chose to live in Durham, despite the presence of so many other cities I could have called home in the Triangle, was that I wanted to live in an economically diverse community, a place that looked like America. I mentioned this to a former colleague in my old lefty haunts of Boston last weekend and he looked at me, completely puzzled. The expression seemed to say, why would you want that?

After all, the American dream is to move up the economic ladder, and in a world of suburban and exurban lifestyles, that means moving to new subdivisions surrounded by the comfortable trappings of a mass retail existence. Wake Forest’s boom, linked so closely to Triangle Town Center and I-540, is one example of what is, for many, the desiderata of modern life. I mean, who wants to live where there’s poor people, right?

To abuse the late Douglas Adams for a moment, to many Americans, it seems that if you can’t see poverty, it really isn’t there. And so many of us do our best to live in isolated pockets at the demographic extremes.

Which leads many on the outside to a typical conclusion: if poverty exists, it’s certainly due to dysfunction in whatever place the poverty resides. Be it an inner city, or a mobile home park, or a Native American reservation. If they’d just work a little harder, if they’d just stop having kids, if they’d just put down the bottle, if they’d give up the drugs -- their life would be like mine.

Frankly, a large segment of the U.S. population can’t understand why anyone would choose to live inside Durham. What they may not realize is, many of us who are here wouldn’t choose to live anywhere else.

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Continue reading Good stuff from Kevin at BCR

Carolina Chocolate Drops sighting

In the current issue of Sing Out! magazine (the one with Ry Cooder on the cover), is a nice article on the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Sing Out! does not, alas, make their featured articles available online, but i'm sure you can find a copy of the mag at the Regulator, or order it online.

When you do, be sure to check out the photo on p.69, of the Drops at last year's LocoPops anniversary.

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Continue reading Carolina Chocolate Drops sighting

Go vote

Today is a municipal primary election day in Durham. Municipal elections are, by state law, non-partisan in North Carolina. This means, among other things, that there are no party primaries to determine an "official" party candidate for office. Anyone may file and run for a municipal office.

The purpose of the municipal primary is to reduce the field to no more than two candidates for each open seat. There are three at-large seats open in this year's election; ten candidates filed to run. Following today's primary, the top six finishers will have a place on the November general election ballot. There were only two candidates filing to run for mayor, hence no primary election for that office.

Municipal primaries generally have a very low turnout, usually around 10% of the eligible voters. This means that a handful of votes, yours included, can decide who advances to the general election. Good candidates can, and have, fallen out of the field as a result.

So get out and vote today. Polls are open until 7:30 pm.

DE voted this morning for the People's Alliance slate of recommended candidates: Incumbents Eugene Brown and Diane Catotti, and David Harris, who is a past president of the Inter-Neighborhood Council, co-facilitator of Partners Against Crime, District 2, and all around voice for strong neighborhoods in Durham. I encourage you to do the same, but even if your choices are different from mine, get out there and cast a ballot.

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Continue reading Go vote

Monday, October 08, 2007

Lessons in modern American history - pt. 8

Tyler Peterson:

The rampage raised questions in the remote northern Wisconsin community of 2,000 about how Peterson could have met requirements to become a law enforcement officer, especially after police acknowledged Monday that Peterson received no psychological screening before he was hired.

Some questioned the wisdom of hiring someone so young.

"No person that I've ever known at 20 years old was responsible enough to be a police officer," said Steve Bocek, of Oak Creek, whose nephew Bradley Schultz was killed. "It's unbelievable. You don't have the mind to be a police officer. It takes a lot."

But Crandon city attorney Lindsay Erickson said age doesn't matter as long as officers do their jobs well. Peterson testified for her in several cases. He wrote good reports and was "true to his job," she said.

"From what I saw of him, I didn't see any warning signs or red flags," Erickson said.

Peterson was hired as full-time deputy sheriff on Sept. 11, 2006, at the age of 19, according to personnel records released by the Forest County clerk. His yearlong probation ended last month.

Dr. Phil Trompetter, a police psychologist in Modesto, Calif., estimated at least 80 percent of states require psychological testing of prospective officers.

"Wisconsin must be in a very small minority of states," he said.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice Law Enforcement Standards Board requires only that applicants be free of any emotional or mental condition that might hinder them in their duties. It does not say how that is determined.

No formal national standards exist for hiring police, although individual states are adopting requirements such as mandatory psychological tests, said Craig Zendzian, author of several guidebooks for police applicants.

In Minnesota, for example, police officers must be licensed by the state Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training — a process that includes an evaluation by a licensed psychologist.

. . .

The rifle used in the shootings is the type used by the sheriff's department, but investigators had not confirmed whether the gun came from law enforcement.

Continue reading Lessons in modern American history - pt. 8

Postseason All-name team

Joe asked, so here it is, the 2007 postseason baseball all-name team, composed solely of players from the 8 teams which made the postseason. As always, the main requirement is how good i think the guy's name sounds during the call of the game, and has nothing at all to do with playing ability.


Joba Chamberlain - NY Yankees
Daisuke Matsuzaka - Boston Red Sox
Jonathan Papelbon - Boston Red Sox
Antonio Alfonseca - Philadelphia Phillies
Carlos Marmol - Chicago Cubs
Josh Fogg - Colorado Rockies
Ubaldo Jimenez - Colorado Rockies
Dustin Nippert - Arizona Diamondbacks


Robinson Cano - NY Yankees
Ryan Garko - Cleveland Indians
Trot Nixon - Cleveland Indians
Jacoby Ellsbury - Boston Red Sox
Chone Figgins - Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Kendry Morales - Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Vladimir Guerrero - Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Abraham Nunez - Philadelphia Phillies
Chase Utley - Philadelphia Phillies
Geovany Soto - Chicago Cubs
Robby Hammock - Arizona Diamondbacks

Starting Lineup (includes a Designated Hitter)

Coco Crisp - CF - Boston Red Sox
Asdrubal Cabrera - 2B - Cleveland Indians
Troy Tulowitzki - SS - Colorado Rockies
Jacque Jones - LF - Chicago Cubs
Shane Victorino - RF - Philadelphia Phillies
Jhonny Peralta - 3B - Cleveland Indians
Yorvit Torrealba - C - Colorado Rockies
Ryan Theriot - DH - Chicago Cubs
Bronson Sardinha - 1B - NY Yankees
Fausto Carmona - P Cleveland Indians

and since i did so well in predicting how yesterday's games would go, tonight, i'm afraid that Yankee fans are going to go home disappointed as Cleveland takes the early lead and hangs on to win. Joe Torre, if he's as smart as i think he is, will tell Boss Steinbrenner where to stick it, and announce his retirement.

UPDATE: Damn, i'm good. And no, i'm not picking any stocks for you.


Continue reading Postseason All-name team

Lessons in modern American history - pt. 7

Another bunch of people you've never heard of.

All of these folks spent time, as much as two decades, in jail for crimes they didn't commit. Which means they were arrested, investigated, indicted, and prosecuted by the state. Many of them were on death row. They are, unfortunately, the tip of the iceberg.


Continue reading Lessons in modern American history - pt. 7

Do i smell a lawsuit coming on?

From an anonymous commenter below, discussing the Amadou Diallo case (about which, the last time i checked, the man was still dead):
Unlike the duke case, it didn't involve a whole community involved in the witch hunt, a corrupt D.A., a corrupt DNA lab, etc.

As far as i can tell, in the November general election last year, Nifong received somewhat less than 50% of the vote in what was essentially a referendum on the Duke lacrosse case. From which it's a fair stretch to say "the whole community" was "involved in the witch hunt." (Which is an interesting metaphor of choice that will perhaps be the topic of a future blog post.) I wonder if that 51% of the community which expressed its disapproval of the Durham DA will appreciate having its reputation tarnished in this fashion, or if it will seek financial compensation? Perhaps i should post a disclaimer that i'm not responsible for the views of my commenters?


Full disclosure: I voted for Nifong. So sue me. Oh, wait, you already did.

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Continue reading Do i smell a lawsuit coming on?

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Lessons in modern American history - pt.6

This one's for Locomotive Breath:

A whole bunch of people who you've never heard of.


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Lessons in modern American history - pt. 5

Floyd Lee Brown


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In memoriam: Susan Blake

Catching up on the many emails that collected unread in my inbox the past two weeks, i found this:
I just heard from my friend Deer Spirit (Kemi Nahal) that Susan Blake of Peacesmiths has passed away. I'll post more info as I hear it.

I worked with Susan back in the 70s in the fight against the Shoreham nuclear plant, on the north shore of Long Island, and saw her briefly in June 2006 at a 50th birthday party for a mutual friend. She was already ill then, but facing her mortality with the same courage and strength with which she faced many injustices over her too short life. Long Island is a better place for her having lived there.

Rest in peace.

Read more here, here, here (scroll down), and here.

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Lessons in modern American history - pt. 4

2004 RNC protestors


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Lessons in modern American history - pt. 3

Amadou Diallo.


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Lessons in modern American history - pt. 2

Kathryn Johnston.


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Lessons in modern American history - pt. 1

Abner Louima.


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Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Fayetteville, NC


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Phuck the Fillies

It shouldn't have taken a baseball genius to predict that the Cubs and Phillies, with one World Series win between them since 1908, wouldn't advance beyond the first round of the playoffs this year. But i'd hoped that the Cubs, at least, would show a bit more spunk instead of rolling over and surrendering.

Fans of great baseball names will be rooting for a Rockies - Indians matchup in the Series, with the possibility of Ubaldo Jimenez striking out Asdrubal Cabrera, or Fausto Carmona retiring Troy Tulowtizki on a pop up to Ryan Garko. Not to mention Jhonny Peralta simply taking the field.

Today's prediciton: Roger Clemens doesn't make it past the fourth inning, but the Yankees come back and send their series to game 4. The Red Sox will finish their sweep of the Angels. Gotta see Coco Crisp in the ALCS.

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Saturday, October 06, 2007

Back in D-Town

so, besides, Pride, Beer Fest, and cleaning up every stream in D-Town, what did i miss?


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Friday, October 05, 2007

I wonder what Sacco and Vanzetti would say?

Duke lacrosse players:
. . . one of the most chilling episodes of premeditated police, prosecutorial and scientific misconduct in modern American history. . .

I suppose if by American you mean "Durham, North Carolina," and by modern you mean "since 2006," yeah, i guess they might have a point.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Play ball!

All right, we've got the last of the detritus (oyster shells, empty bottles, plastic forks) picked up by the trash collectors or on their way to the recycling center. The last of the guests made it to the airport yesterday an dare home. We got to do some of that married stuff, too.

And late last night i found the TBS HD channel so i can watch the Mets in the first round of the playoffs later this week.

What's that you say? The Mets didn't make the playoffs?

How could that be? Last time i checked the standings they were 2 games up with 5 to play. How could they miss?


Those bums.

Let's go Cubs.


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