GARY D. GADDY
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Thursday, September 27, 2007
Espousing free speech in academe

RECENTLY, THE BANNER OF FREEDOM OF SPEECH was raised high across academe, including on our very own Chapel Hill campus, in defense of Duke Law professor Erwin Chemerinsky. And, in the end, he got his deanship in California.

But espousing free speech for people who think the way we do is not really espousing free speech. Does anybody actually think that liberals are more likely to be denied academic jobs because of their political views? Anybody?

So, who should UNC academics be defending? I think they should be fighting for the un-liberal evangelists who were recently evicted from the Pit, the University of North Carolina campus equivalent of Hyde Park in London.

I'm not a big fan of the Pit preachers, in general, because as they preach sin and repentance while challenging passers-by with their version of Christianity they tend to be abrasive, abusive and thus more likely to keep people from Jesus than draw them to him.

I think that evangelical Christians who don't believe that "Satan says that God loves everyone" (as one of the Pit preachers' signs reportedly said) have more reason to wish such preachers would go away than the atheists, Satanists and LGBTIQ folks. Their preaching style is so generally offensive that it pushes many more people away from the Gospel than it pulls to it, creating sympathy for groups and behaviors that many might otherwise find problematic.

But, you know what? Speech is only free when the speech that we hate is just as free as the speech we love.

To the best I can figure the only thing that happened in the Pit the day the evangelists were evicted is that a loud shouting match took place. During my 14 years on the UNC campus, vociferous shouting matches between some of the more provocative Pit preachers and their audiences were practically a daily occurrence. I never saw anyone "led off campus."

I taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for four years, a place more liberal, if such be possible, than UNC-Chapel Hill. A place that was second only, at one time in the 1960's, to the University of California at Berkeley as the head of the "free speech" movement.

By the time I got to Madison in the 1980's, the worm had turned --180 degrees. The primary speech concern was "hate speech," that is, speech that offended some particular demographic group.

The ultimate solution at UW was a speech code. The way a speech code works is this: White supremacists, for example, could promote any idea they like as long as it was not something anyone found offensive, like, say, white supremacy.

Why a speech code was necessary is beyond me. There was already an informal "speech beats speech" policy in effect. I am sure you are thinking: That's the way it should be. The free exchange of ideas and, in the end, the best ideas will win out. Good ideas trump bad ones. Solid rational arguments triumph over flimsy fallacious ones. Truth defeats lies. Sorry. That's not how it worked.

During that time period in Madison, controversial speakers with offensive philosophies (that is to say, any conservative) were simply shouted down. Not questioned and found wanting. Not out debated. Not presented with points they could not refute. Simply shouted down. Not given a chance to even present their own ideas -- which may have been silly, stupid, puerile, inane, evil or just plain wrong (in someone's opinion) -- not that we would ever know because we never got to hear them.

UNC Campus Police would have made life for the pre-speech-code goons of Madison much easier. Now, it is apparent, to silence any public voice all that UNC "students" have to do is start a shouting match. Campus cops will do the rest.

My question: Why weren't the "students" who were shouting with the evangelists also led off campus? UNC is a public university, last I heard. If there was a shouting match that had to be stopped, how was it determined who was at fault?

The evangelists were "escorted" off campus "for the safety of all those involved," said a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, quoted in the Daily Tar Heel. One of the evangelists was quoted as saying that "there was no threat to security." It seems he should know whether he is safe or not.

Here’s an idea. Let’s let the Pit preachers preach, loudly if they like. Let’s let those who disagree with them argue with them if they like, loudly if it suits them. Let’s take the Department of Public Safety off the "silence speech we don’t like" beat.

Question: If the next anti-war rally in the Pit draws loud counter protesters, will campus police escort the anti-war ralliers off campus? Just wondering.

 

Gary D. Gaddy listens to Stephanie Miller and Rush Limbaugh; both tend to shout.

A version of this article was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Thrusday, September 27, 2007.  Copyright 2007 Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 11:34 AM EDT
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Thursday, September 20, 2007
Mixed results at the state championships

IT HAS BEEN SAID that 90% of life is just showing up -- but that's not always true. I held a job working for the state once and based my observations, if not my behavior, sometimes just showing up is 100%. But, generally, in tennis, just showing up won't get you much at all.

On the other hand, when you're the only team in your league, just showing up means you win the league and get to go to the State Championships.

On occasion, life is fair, so our reward was commensurate with our effort. The championships were in Durham. Our first matches were held at Hollow Rock, meaning last Friday Sandra and I had to travel nine-tenths of a mile to "go to the North Carolina Senior 7.0 Mixed Doubles State Championship."

Once there the reality of being "in the State Championship" struck us in the face like a crisp Roger Federer backhand. Our team had played in an "adult league," since there were no other senior teams (senior being defined, at the youngest, as turning 50 during 2007). We weren't ready for real "seniors."

One fellow my wife and I played (I'll call him Ken -- because that’s his name) was supposedly a senior. My best guess is that he actually was a senior -- in high school. He had muscles like Barry Bonds – a product no doubt of the healthy mountain air. Further, he wore a red tennis outfit. I don't need to tell you this, we all know it intuitively, but no senior male is going to wear a red tennis outfit. To top it off, Ken was left-handed and played that way. He and his supposedly 3.0-rated partner beat us left handily 6-4 and 6-2.

The other match my wife and I played was more typical of our challenges. Our opponents, Steve and Carol Berg, were a very pleasant married couple from Wilmington. Being the hale fellow well met that I am, I bantered casually with them before the match. I said, "I know wagering on a match is illegal but how about if the winner pays for the losers' marriage counseling?" They laughed. I wasn't joking.

We lost the first seven points of the match. It looked to be blowout of bagelesque proportions. But I know my wife is a notoriously slow starter but a great finisher in doubles of all sorts. We won the next eight games, winning the first set 6-1 and were sitting at 2-0 in the second. Then we (by which I mean me) let up a little, they stepped up a little and we lost the second set 4-6. Tie-breaker time, time to separate the cream from the skim milk: we lost 5-10.

My wife was not available to play with me on Saturday. (She had a case appearing before the North Carolina Court of Appeals on the following Tuesday morning so, of course, it was essential that she be at Reno Sharpe's Store deep in Chatham County to play bluegrass on her banjo with a bunch of 80-year-old farmers.) I paired with our team captain West (with a "t") Dupuis. She played great. I did OK (that is, great for stretches and brain-dead at others).

Tiring of winning the first set, then losing the second, then blowing the tie breaker, we tried a different strategy that had worked previously for West and me. Namely, we were to get destroyed in the first set, get behind in the second then come back, and, finally, win the third-set tie breaker.

West and I didn't get destroyed but we did lose the first set 3-6 to our formidable opponents from Lake Norman. Then we edged them in a tie-breaker to win the second 7-6. And we got ahead in the third-set 10-point tie breaker 6-3, were tied at 8-8, and then lost 8-10, when my ground stroke went six inches long. Two points from my personal goal: winning one measly match. Very disheartening.

But little did I know that one of our opponents would be the one who most needed comfort. When we congratulated them at the net at match's end, our female opponent (I'll call her Meredith -- because that's her name) sullenly said, "I didn't enjoy this at all." Graciousness personified. I said, "It could have been worse."

Poor Meredith had to win all three of her matches in tie breakers!

As a team we did accomplish two goals that I had set for the team beforehand. The team won one match, thanks to a great effort by West and Greg Schulwitz. Our team didn't finish last. We finished 10th out of 12 teams -- which is not bad at all for a team that finished dead last in its own league.

 

Gary D. Gaddy, inexplicably, actually has gone to two state tennis championships in two consecutive seasons.

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald Thursday September 20, 2007.  Copyright  2007  Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 1:53 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, August 23, 2010 7:03 AM EDT
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Thursday, September 13, 2007
Still watching "The Man Watching"

THIS IS DEFINITELY IT, Coach Dorrance.  After two decades as a fan, you had convinced me there was no need to pay attention to home openers. Then I open up the paper and find out we lost. Have you no sense of tradition? We had never lost a home opener in the history of the program. What made you think this would be a good time to lose one?

I'm so mad I'm not talking to you anymore -- except maybe to yell at you from the stands.

* * * *

Many irate readers (OK, all of my readers -- both of whom happen to be irate) have written to ask me when I am going to apologize for my (and these are their words) "shameless and disgusting treatment of UNC women's soccer coach Anson Dorrance" ("Get onboard with FireAnsonDorrance.com," September 5, 2006.) After a year's reflection, the answer in brief: Never. I have nothing to apologize for.

"They" say, "Don't you feel just a little embarrassed about beginning to call for the firing of a coach five games into a season in which he won a national championship?" First of all, I did not begin calling for his firing five games into the season. I began formulating my thoughts immediately after he lost the first game of the season. The primitive paper-and-ink technology employed by the Paxton Media Group should be blamed for the delay.

No, I am not going to apologize to Dorrance. I'm going to ask Dorrance to apologize to me. And, boy, does he ever have lots to apologize for.

Fans, such as I, were really annoyed at having to watch freshmen play last season. I know they are energetic and enthusiastic and all that, but they are not nearly as disciplined and precise as the seniors you used to play. They make us nervous.

Starting five freshmen (and six to begin the second half) for the national championship game borders on a sick torture of loyal fans like me. You really need to get some older players -- and don't think we have the patience to wait while you "develop your youthful talent." UCLA, Notre Dame and Florida State all had some nice players, who weren't, I might add, freshmen. You could get some of them.

We really would like players with simpler, shorter and more pronounceable names. We long for the days of Mia Hamm. Three simple syllables. Yael Averbuch? What kind of name is that? Oh, it's great to score a goal four seconds into the game for an NCAA record for all-genders, all-divisions and all that, but it took the announcers the rest of the half to get her name right -- if they ever did.

And Casey Nogueira? College Cup All-Tournament Team and First-Team Freshman All-America sound good, but what are they worth to me if I can't brag to my friends about her because I can't even say her name?

More goals need to be scored. At every level of soccer fans want more scoring. I know, I know, "The Tar Heel women are one of the highest scoring teams in all of soccer." Well, goody for them! What about the teams your teams play against? Wouldn't it be nice if they scored every now and then, too?

While some dimwit fans, of whom there are many, enjoy always watching their team win in a blowout, the real fans, like me, prefer some hard-fought contests that we win in the end. The point is if the other team scored more it would make the games more interesting. I really do hate leaving before halftime because the match is "over."

My advice: maybe instead of just standing on the sidelines with your arms crossed watching, you could actually coach every once in while -- instruct some of your players to get red cards, for example, so we could play nine or ten against eleven. Then I wouldn't have to re-score the game in my head by counting the other team’s goal kicks versus Tar Heel goals just to make the games seem competitive.

But please, please don't misunderstand me, I'm not offering permission to the Heels to lose "every now and then" to add drama to the games -- I really don't need that. And I hope that wasn’t what you were up to with that "home opener loss."

Finally, I tire of reading of you winning "another coach-of-the-year award." If you had any versatility, any range, any creativity, you could come up with something else you could win so I, and other dedicated fans, would have something more to read about besides "another coach-of-the-year award."

Gary D. Gaddy once ran into Anson Dorrance in "Play It Again Sports." He didn't recognize him.

This article was published in the Chapel Hill Herald Thursday September 13, 2007. Copyright 2007 Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 9:19 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, November 11, 2007 9:13 AM EST
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Thursday, September 6, 2007
Celebrating Club Nova's community

I HAVE HAD THE PRIVILEGE of being part of several exceptional communities. One of the more remarkable is Club Nova. In case you have never heard of Club Nova, it is, in technical terms, a psycho-social rehabilitation clubhouse for people with severe and persistent mental illness. That doesn't make it sound like that much fun, does it? Well, it is.

Despite having "illness" prominently listed in its mission, Club Nova is a very healthy place. Club Nova focuses on members' strengths and potential rather than their illnesses. Club Nova is, among many other good things, a loving, caring and accepting place.

What makes Club Nova a great clubhouse? That's simple -- community. When you belong to a club, any club, you are a member. If the club really works like it should, it belongs to you. Club Nova works like that. Club Nova is a community of members: club members, staff members and board members who belong to Club Nova and to whom Club Nova also belongs.

The people Club Nova serves are club members -- not its patients, its clients or even consumers of its services. That distinction is especially significant for the members, since in large part at some point they have been disenfranchised by larger society.

Many people know Club Nova from the pretty purple Club Nova Thrift Shop on West Main Street in Carrboro. The Thrift Shop operates as a place where club members can help develop or re-capture job skills, where the public can see Club Nova at work while finding remarkable bargains in everyday items -- and at the same time support the work of the clubhouse, just like the volunteers who work alongside the club members there do.

The clubhouse is the little white house next door. While Club Nova has a clubhouse, it is not a building; it is an organization of people. It's a membership club. And like with American Express, membership has its privileges. Club Nova follows the successful clubhouse model pioneered by Fountain House in New York City.

Part of that model is what is called a Clubhouse Community Bill of Rights. These rights are simple, and sometimes mystifying to those who don't understand the devastating impact that mental illness can have on a life. These rights are to a Place to Come, Meaningful Work, Meaningful Relationships and a Place to Return.

Where mental illness has so displaced someone that he has no place to go, a place to come is essential. Where mental illness has destroyed someone's job, career and even prospects for work, a place where she can do meaningful work and reacquire lost job skills is key to regaining independence. Where mental illness may have broken social ties and even family bonds, meaningful relationships with club staff and other club members fill the gap in a person's life. And, when an episode of mental illness strikes again, for a member to know that he has a place to which he can return gives hope.

The people who are part of Club Nova make it the therapeutic community that it is. Like in any family, love starts at the top. From Club Nova's executive director Karen Dunn to the newest staff member to the long standing members each help make it a healing place by caring for each other

Perhaps you may think that my praises of Club Nova are a little over the top. But consider this, according to someone who may be the best positioned individual in the world to make such a judgment, Ralph Bilby, Program Director of the International Center for Clubhouse Development: "Club Nova has long been on the short list of the best clubhouse programs in the world."

Or you could take the word of former Carrboro mayor Mike Nelson, who says, "Club Nova makes Carrboro a better place to live." Carrboro understands that you don't make a place better by excluding those who don't quite conform to social norms but by including them.

Founded in 1987 to address the needs of Orange County citizens living with mental illness, Club Nova has done just that for 20 years, providing a holistic, caring environment designed to promote rehabilitation and reintegration of people with mental illness into the community. So now it's time to celebrate.

Friends, supporters and neighbors, please join Club Nova for our Grand 20th Anniversary Celebration on Friday Sept. 7 at the Carrboro Century Center. Entertainment starts at 9:30 p.m. with music by Jay Miller, Lise Uyanik and friends to follow. Put on your dancing shoes, and come dance with us to celebrate 20 years of community. It should be fun.

For more information, call Club Nova at 968-6682 or email Jessica at jjerald@clubnova.org.

 

Gary D. Gaddy serves on the board of Club Nova.

This article was published in the Chapel Hill Herald Thursday August 30, 2007. Copyright 2007 Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 1:25 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, September 6, 2007 1:30 PM EDT
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Thursday, August 30, 2007
One long day at Trinity School

FADED AND JADED AS I AM after teaching all sorts of things at all sorts of levels to all sorts of ages for the past 40 years (I have done everything from managing a daycare center to teaching law school faculty), I pretty much got cured of my cynicism – in one long day.

Several years ago I decided to offer to be a substitute teacher at Trinity School of Durham and Chapel Hill as a way of paying them back for helping out my nephew who had attended Trinity the year before.

Mark is a bright kid, a really bright kid. I first met him at age five. The question I asked myself then was not, "Will he win a Nobel Prize?" but "I wonder which one?" At four and five Mark would have his mother read him science books, especially, biology and botany, that, she says, she didn’t understand. Other kids at his age ask for "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish."

As smart as Mark was, and is, he was a round peg in square hole all through school.

Mark came to Durham for the Hill Center, whose programs "for students with learning differences" are half day, so he needed a "home school" for the other part of the day. He ended up in Trinity School mostly because in was where he could get in at a late date, and they worked to help get him qualified.

The Hill Center was very good for Mark; Trinity was course changing.

As he said to his mother one day after he had been at Trinity for a few weeks, "I didn’t know that teachers could be nice." His time at Trinity was clearly the best school experience he had ever had -- educationally, socially and spiritually.

* * * *

Then one night at 8 p.m. I get called by a teacher at Trinity School asking if I could sub for a fifth grade class the next day. My immediate thought/prayer: "Dear Lord, what have I gotten myself into?" The answer was to come.

The next morning I woke early, after a night of fitful sleep, and headed to Trinity, just off Erwin Road, just few minutes from my house. I wore a tie. The other fifth grade teacher showed me the classroom, gave me the day’s lesson plans and told me she would be in the classroom next door if I needed her. I tried to figure out how to knock a hole in the wall so we could communicate continuously.

I did my best to understand what the day’s schedule was – but mostly I depended on eleven-year olds to tell what we were supposed to do next. Believe it or not, they did.

We did some serious math. We did a stint of spelling. Then they went out to recess and ran around and played games happily without any assistance from me. Later we studied ancient Roman history and culture. I read to them during lunch – and they listened.

At one point, I definitely realized I was not in the Chapel Hill/Carrboro school system. The schedule read: "10:00–10:20 – Prayer." My fearful thought was: "Oh no, I’m going to have to pray out loud for 20 minutes?"

In a moment of inspiration, I asked, "So, the schedule says, ‘Prayer,’ how does that work?" Two girls quickly answered, "Today’s our day to lead prayer!" And they did. The students each made prayer requests and then they prayed sincere and heartfelt prayers, mostly for their fellow students and their families.

Now, I don’t want to candy-coat my experience. It was largely unsuccessful in one respect. As hard as I worked, as much as I tried, nothing, nothing I could do would cure them of being 11 years old. They’re just like that. They were as full of energy at the end of the day as they were to begin it.

The worst experience of the whole day was when another teacher, rightfully, had to ask me to quiet my class. They were being too enthusiastic in asking questions.

As I lined them up for dismissal, at least 10 minutes before I should have, one of the girls ran up to me with arm extended and her palm raised, and said, "Stop! Stay right there!" Then she ran back to a group of students who were in a tight circle.

I’m standing there -- and I’m worn out -- and I’m mystified. When they break their huddle they deliver this cheer: "Thank you for being our teacher today, Dr. Gaddy!!!"

Does that give you any idea why I love Trinity School?

 

Gary D. Gaddy really is a sometime substitute at the Trinity School, though, he is, as you might expect, on the very bottom of the sub list.

This article was published in the Chapel Hill Herald Thursday August 30, 2007.  Copyright  2007  Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 10:59 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, September 4, 2007 7:15 AM EDT
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Thursday, August 23, 2007
One last chance for Butch Davis

NOW THAT A FEW WEEKS  have passed and I have had a chance to recover from our defeat in the Blue-White Game, I think I have calmed down enough, I hope, to let University of North Carolina head football coach Butch Davis know exactly what I think of his performance so far without embarrassing myself. In short, not much.

This is it. We are giving one last chance to you, Coach Davis. Fans here at UNC are very patient. We are willing to give someone the benefit of the doubt. But we have to draw a line somewhere -- so here it is. For all the hype about you when you were hired, what have you done? I mean what have you done for us lately?

Going nine months (that's almost a year) without a victory to celebrate, without having a single set of opponent's fans to taunt, is hard, really hard, on a fan like myself. And I am sure that I speak for many of us here in the Tar Heel Nation.

If you want to be the head football coach at a Division I school, which I would like to remind you, the University of North Carolina is, and think you can keep the job without winning a football game, you're deluded -- or you think you've been hired by Duke. Some people say a head coach's job is all about wins and losses; well, here it's not. It's all about wins. We don't like losses.

I am sure you're going to say: Hey, give me a break; we have even played a game yet! Look, coach, we don't make the schedule. Talk to Dick Baddour about that.

The only reason you're even going to get this last chance is because even though you haven't won a thing, not a doggone thing, at least you haven't lost anything -- yet.

* * * *

Just in case my little diatribe has started to make you re-think your decision to come to North Carolina, Coach Davis, please know that it could be worse. You could be somewhere else.

I know you're thinking I mean you could be the head football coach at the University of Alabama, where they fired their last coach one season after he won ten games and lost two.

Or maybe you're thinking I mean the University of Nebraska, where they fired their last coach immediately after he went 9-3 in the regular season, even though he had an overall record of 58-19, and had led the team to the number-two national ranking after one season and played for the national championship in another.

Well, that was not where I was thinking of at all. Those, everybody knows, are good coaching jobs.

No, I mean you could have been hired locally by NC State where they fired their coach because we fired ours. (They take this keeping up with the Joneses very seriously.) Until John Bunting was let go here at UNC, Chuck Amato's job, as seen by most observers, seemed secure. But if State had kept him after Bunting was fired, who had a winning record against almost nobody but State (excepting Duke -- but that doesn't count, of course), it would have meant State has lower standards than UNC -- and we all know that that could not possibly be true.

I also mean you could have been hired by Duke. There it's much worse. At Duke they don't care whether you win or not. You don't think that's possible? Well, the Duke football lost every game last season, and currently has the longest losing streak in Division I-A, and nobody is talking about Ted Roof "being on the hot seat." You want to know why? Because he's not -- because nobody cares. See?  It could be worse.

So, enjoy the home opener, coach.  Just remember, when the honeymoon's over ('round about halftime) and we start booing, it's only because we really love our football -- and basketball season hasn't started yet.

 

Gary D. Gaddy, despite the apparent sentiments expressed in this column, does not boo or otherwise vocally diminish any of his teams, any time, anywhere -- and sometimes razzes the so-called fans sitting around him who do.

A version of this article was published in the Chapel Hill Herald Thursday August 23, 2007.   Copyright  2007  Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 9:39 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, November 5, 2010 3:26 PM EDT
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Thursday, August 16, 2007
Helping ourselves while helping others

WHAT IS THE BEST treatment program for people with alcoholism?

On a number of occasions I have asked this question to groups of people, and I have always gotten the same answer: A.A. Alcoholics Anonymous. I have never heard another answer. There are several interesting things about that. One is that I don't think any of the people giving that answer have ever read a scientific study showing that A.A. is the most effective alcohol treatment program, because I am not even sure that there has been one, or at least one that has gotten any notable publicity.

I think that people know A.A. works not because of something they have read but because they have seen its results among their family, friends and co-workers. One recent count shows over four million A.A. members throughout the world.

How does A.A. work? A.A. is self-help in the best sense of the word. As such it does not accept money from sources outside A.A., either private or government -- and it does not charge for its services. So how on earth does it keep on going and growing? Besides the obvious answer of a Higher Power, another may be that it operates according to higher principles such as the Golden Rule and that it is "better to give than to receive." Longtime A.A. members give to newcomers because that's what they would have wanted, and in fact got, when they were in the same situation.

There are other self-help programs that also work, even if they are not as well known as A.A. The National Alliance on Mental Illness Family-to-Family course is one such program which depends upon those who have been through a life crisis to help those who are still in the midst of theirs.

Like A.A., Family-to-Family operates on the principle of the wounded healer. Those who lead Family-to-Family programs are, like those who take the course, the secondary casualties of serious mental illness. We are children who have survived a childhood damaged by a parent's illness. We are brothers and sisters who have been traumatized by the psychotic episode of their sibling. We are husbands and wives who have to carry a family while their spouses go through yet another relapse in their disease. And we are parents who have watched the hopes and dreams of their children be shattered by a life-changing illness.

What we know, we know from experience, not from books. We have felt what they are feeling. We have walked down the same paths. So, we may be able to help keep them from making the same mistakes. So, we may help them find the help we found much quicker.

While we have seen the harm and felt the hurt that these serious illnesses can wreak on the individuals who have them as well as that of their families, we also have experienced the care and compassion of loving caregivers, have seen real healing and recovery and have hope yet more. Many of us have come through these events, as hard as they were, stronger and determined to help others who are still in a current crisis. This is what Family-to-Family helps us do.

The F-2-F course offers a professionally created curriculum which teaches about the nature of mental illness including how it impacts the brain and its functioning. It incorporates up-to-date information on the treatments for the major classes of mental illness, including schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder (also known as manic depression), major depression and borderline personality disorder.

It also helps teach communication skills which can help family members communicate more effectively with their ill relatives, and offers them self-care strategies so that they can better take care of themselves. It teaches skills which will help them better manage in times of crisis, which are an expected part of life with a family member with mental illness. The course also works to help these family members move from being victims of their relative's illness who are lost in the system to being advocates for them and helping find resources for others.

In the midst of the bungled "mental health reform," which has created chaos for mental health providers and service cutbacks for those with mental illness, it is more important than ever that those who have met the challenges of mental illness within their families reach out to those in the middle of them now.

Several Family-to-Family courses are scheduled for the beginning of September in Chapel Hill, Hillsborough and Durham. If you have a close family member with a serious mental illness and would like to participate in this challenging and valuable yet tuition-free course, call 929-7822 for more information and to register.

 

Gary D. Gaddy is on the board of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Orange County and one of the more than 115,000 graduates of Family-to-Family.

A version of this article was published in the Chapel Hill Herald Thursday August 16, 2007.   Copyright  2007  Gary D. Gaddy

 


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 9:27 AM EDT
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Thursday, August 9, 2007
Handicapping our future president

BEFORE TOO LONG (in 15 interminable months) we'll be electing a president here in Chapel Hill. Since, as a member of the mainstream media, I must retain my devout neutrality, rather than boosting any of the candidates I will handicap them all -- or at least as many I can in my allotted space -- by giving them my sage consultations.

We will start with Democrats: Snow White and the seven other candidates of lesser stature. At the top, we have Hillary Clinton. Mrs. Clinton's biggest problem is that she, well, comes across like a Mrs. Clinton. What she really needs is to forge a closer association in the public's mind with the warmest and most likeable member of the Clinton clan. Unfortunately Buddy died several years ago, so perhaps Bill will have to do. Cleavage looks like a good idea as well.

John Edwards should cultivate the perception that he is less precisely groomed than he actually is. The personal style consultant used by Al Gore during his bearded, plaid-wearing phase certainly could help, if he is within Edwards $1250-a-day hair-fashion budget (not including stylist's travel expenses).

"Joe" Biden, in contrast, should clean up his image. More specifically, he needs to become more "articulate and bright and clean." He'd be a "nice-looking guy" with a few more hair plugs.

Chris Dodd, whoever he is, needs to develop more name recognition.

Barack Obama needs to develop less name recognition. His middle name is Hussein. I'm not making this up. Hussein, you know, like Saddam Hussein. Name change, though unusual for politicians -- as opposed to actors or rock stars -- is the way to go. My wife wrote the North Carolina General Practice Deskbook entry for name change, so she could consult with him on it. If the change were only for North Carolina I would recommend Jesse Hunt, but for the national stage, I think John F. Reagan would be perfect.

Dennis Kucinich needs to develop more stature. Perhaps if he compromised on his vegan diet just enough so that he could take human growth hormone, that might do it. Stopping having nutty ideas would be another approach.

"Bill" Richardson could stop trying to pass himself off as Hispanic -- with a name like "Bill" Richardson, the ruse is never going to work anyway. Besides, where did he ever get the idea that actually being qualified for the presidency would even give him the remotest shot at getting nominated much less elected?

Now.let us advise the Republican candidates starting with "Rudy" Giuliani. As there is very little that Rudy can do about being pro-gay rights, for abortion rights and in favor of gun control, or being married three times, he might want to consider moving to some very red state, such as Nebraska or Utah, so he will have something in common with some Republican.

John McCain, having alienated most of the traditional party base with his push for immigration reform which included amnesty for current illegals, should consider a meet-and-greet session on Arizona's southern border with some Republicans who may still like him – that is, people from the Republic of Mexico.

Being a multi-millionaire politician from Massachusetts, Mitt Romney distinguishes himself from Republican-favorite John Kerry by being a Mormon but a little more distinction would be useful. He might give up waterskiing.

As the former Governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee would be a shoo-in as the Democrat nominee. As a Republican, he needs to gain a little gravitas -- so he might consider putting some of those 100 pounds he took off back on.

"Newt" Gingrich, being named for a relative of a salamander, is saddled with a definite liability. Our society has a clear and uncontestable mammalian bias in its esteem for animals. (If, for example, the boyz of Bad Newz Kennels had been electrocuting lizards or strangling chickens, there would be much less hubbub about it.) Clearly he needs a much more masculine name but I recommend something other than Mitt or Arnold or Barack.

This leaves us with Fred Thompson, the likely Republican nominee and even more likely next-president, who having held no office below admiral in any of his major motion picture roles, needs to change very little to be nominated, elected and canonized. My view on Thompson is this: if a bad actor can become a great president, the potential for a good actor is unlimited. The only thing he needs to work on is reading his acceptance speech off a TelePrompter.

 

Gary D. Gaddy, with his first presidential ballot, voted for George McGovern -- and hasn't done much better since.

A version of this article was published in the Chapel Hill Herald Thursday August 9, 2007.  Copyright  2007  Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 10:56 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, August 9, 2007 11:16 AM EDT
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Thursday, August 2, 2007
A very, very questionable column

SOME OF MY MOST DEDICATED readers, who seem to have nothing better to do than try to figure out what I mean by my columns, have sent me a series of very questionable queries, all of which indicate that they really should be spending their time on something more worthwhile -- perhaps watching re-runs of Jackass.  But, even so, being the man that I am, I will answer these queries to the best of my ability, which ain't much.

Terry O'Culligan of Durham wants to know: Why are you always making fun of liberals and Democrats?

My brother-in-law says I'm a contrarian.  Though I'm not sure he could spell it, I think he may be right.  Because the dominant ethos of this area is liberal (Republicans only being allowed within the Chapel Hill city limits during hunting season), it is more fun to make fun of liberal Democrats than their conservative Republican cousins.  Further, I simply find that liberal Democrats' general wack-wack-wackiness much more personally entertaining than the banal moronity of some conservative Republicans.  Trust me, I distrust them both.  As it says on every greenback in my pocket, "In God We Trust" – and if that's good enough for the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Dr. O'Culligan, it's good enough for me.

Michael Ratty of Orange County asks: How come sometimes you are funny and others times you are not? 

Michael, sometimes the subject matter does not lend itself to humor.  Sometimes I'm not feeling funny.  Sometimes the jokes just don't work.  But maybe it's your problem, Mike.

Dr. Henry Lesesne of Chapel Hill wonders: Don't you think that it is dangerous to put words in the mouth of God and Jesus? 

Yes, it is, Hank, but at least I know I am making up what they say when I do -- which puts me on much firmer ground than many people "quoting the Bible" -- an especially popular pastime during this interminable election season.

Daniel Crummett of the Chapel Hill Tennis Club asks: Do I need to be careful so you won't put what I say in the newspaper? 

No, Dan, you don't because I won't. You have to say something interesting, or at least that I think might possibly be mildly interesting to any one of the several readers of the Chapel Hill Herald, before I will put it in my column.  Sorry, Dan.  (And, by the way, if anyone ever did say something interesting, I wouldn't use their name, I would just steal their idea.)

David Stickel from the fringe of Carrboro inquires: Why does the Apostles’ Creed, a traditional statement of orthodox Christian belief, say of Jesus that “he shall come to judge the quick and the dead”? 

David, it is not as many suppose because he, like us, will judge athletes for their rampant steroid abuse which leaves them either quick or dead.  Instead, this creed employs an arcane use of the term "quick" meaning living.  Dead means dead.  The reason the creed says this is, well, how can I put this delicately . . . he will.  And if you think about it, Dave, that pretty much covers everybody, so watch out.

Paul Jones of UNC (not to be confused with John Paul Jones, bassist for Led Zeppelin) questions: Is it true that you are a published poet? 

Although I am humbled by the very thought that you, Paul, so world weary, would pose such a query; yes, I must confess I am.  If you don't believe me, right here is one of my published works.

The Poet Would Be

The would-be poet sleeps with pen in hand,
reads each morning his ink-stained sheets;
hoping, waiting for the masterpiece
that comes so often in dream.

Every morning it is the same.
The spots and splotches yield not a word.
Try though he may, he cannot find a line,
remember not a word from these great works,
only the echoes of the praises
and the prizes, and his name.

Now you will have to admit that that is poetic, don't you?


Finally, Sandra Herring, from the next room, asks:  Are you coming to bed or not? 

Yes, darling, just as soon as I finish one more

 

 

Gary D. Gaddy was a poet in both high school and college where he found it to be the best way, short of learning to play lead guitar, which is really hard, to pick up chicks.  (Go to GaryGaddy.com to see past columns and such.)

A version of this article was published in the Chapel Hill Herald Thursday August 2, 2007.  Copyright  2007  Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 8:36 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, August 2, 2007 9:03 AM EDT
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Thursday, July 26, 2007
It's time to throw my hat in the ring

THE TIME HAS COME for me to throw my hat in the ring -- where it will be trampled by a herd of jackasses and pachyderms.  I am today unofficially declaring myself a candidate for the office of president.  After canvassing the field, I feel that if these guys (and gal) are of made of presidential mettle, so am I.

But that's not for me to decide.  To help you, the voters of Orange County and beyond, determine whether I am the kind person you would like to pummel, debase and degrade while I bring disgrace and dishonor to the office, I will answer some of the questions from this past Monday (7/23/07) night's CNN/YouTube debate.

Davis Fleetwood from Groton, Massachusetts: How would America be better off with you as president than we would be if either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama became president? 

Answer: We have looming before us two families being in charge of the presidency for 28 consecutive years, or longer, if Hillary Clinton were to be elected and then re-elected, with likely prospect that Jeb Bush would succeed her.  With me as president, that bi-familial stranglehold would be broken.  Obama would do that as well -- but set an uncomfortable precedent, which I would not, of being a president with an unAmerican name.

Rob Porter from Irvine, California:  Would you use the word "liberal" to describe yourself?

Yes, and proudly so.  I am also a progressive, regressive, moderate, forward-thinking, tradition-holding, radical conservative with libertarian values.

Jordan Williams from Coffeyville, Kansas:  Are you authentically black enough, or satisfactorily feminine to be president? 

Yes, in fact, I think I will be blackest president since Bill Clinton left office, and although I am not nearly as hair-stylish as John Edwards, that I can hold my own in tennis playing ladies doubles certainly suggests a certain feminine touch.

Reverend Reggie Longcrier of Hickory, North Carolina:  Is it right for your faith beliefs to be imposed on the American people when you're president of the United States?

When I'm president I will not impose my beliefs on the American people, heck, I barely impose them on myself.  As long as atheist, agnostic, secular humanist and non-sectarian beliefs are not being imposed on the American people, it will all be fine with me to keep mine out too.

Would you meet with Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, Kim Jong Il? 

Yes, preferably in a convenient, yet neutral location such as Guantánamo Bay Naval Base.

Who was your favorite teacher and why?

Jane Delano Brown because she lives in Chapel Hill, and therefore might read this, who was my dissertation advisor, and who through her kindness helped me obtain my doctorate in mass communication research, which places me head and shoulders over Dennis Kucinich who has a mere master of arts in speech and communication.

What will you do to ensure that snowmen live a full and happy life?

I will supply free chest-type freezers to every home in America where each family can store snowmen or snowballs (which may be used for snow cones or snowball fights in July), as will be their free choice.

Do you believe that nuclear power is safer, cleaner and provides a quicker avenue to energy independence than other alternatives? 

Yes, and it's the best way to reduce carbon-dioxide production for the near-term future as well.  Nuclear waste storage is a political problem, not a scientific or technical one.  Encasing nuclear waste containers (along with environmentalists who warn of the doom of planet earth from global warming and still oppose nuclear power) in concrete blocks and placing them in the proposed Yucca Mountain Repository in Nevada, which is conveniently not only the home of Reno and Las Vegas but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, will do much to solve this political problem as well as others.

In the wake of the elections in Florida in 2000, what do you think of dangling chads and paper trails?

I promise not only to dangle chads but hang jeremys as well.  Also, having learned from Nixon's mistakes, I promise not to leave an audio, video or paper trail.

Would you serve as president at the minimum wage?  (All of the Democrat presidential candidates excepting Chris Dodd said yes to this question. But note, as far as I know, none of them are "serving" for that now.)

No.  I have worked for minimum wage before as the weekend night desk clerk at the Econo-Travel Motel in beautiful inner city Norfolk.  Risking your life for $3.35 an hour (in 1978 dollars) won't worth it then and ain't worth it now.

 

 

Gary D. Gaddy is not really going to run for president -- for those of you who are still trying to separate fact from fiction.

A version of this article was published in the Chapel Hill Herald Thursday July 26, 2007.

 



Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 10:02 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, July 26, 2007 10:30 AM EDT
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Thursday, July 19, 2007
News in briefs by Fruit of the Loom

Today's news snippets are being brought to you by Fruit of the Loom all-natural undergarments and through the generous support of writers like me.

Horace Williams to become spaceport

CHAPEL HILL -- The University of North Carolina announced today that it is dropping all plans for developing Carolina North into an academic campus and instead will convert Horace Williams Airport to an inter-galactic spaceport. UNC chancellor James Moeser said that continuing local opposition to the reconfiguring of the Horace Williams location as a mixed use research, educational and residential development had convinced the University administration to look to more "forward-thinking" uses for the property.

"We'll be grand-fathered in as an air transportation hub -- if grand-fathered is the appropriate term to use for transitioning the facility to a 21st century inter-galactic launch and landing site."

According to Moeser, the new complex, which will feature a multi-use, space-themed conference center, will also be the "perfect place for UNC computer science students and other Carrboro residents to hold Star Trek meet-ups, conferences and conventions."

"We had considered offering the airport site to the Navy as an outlying landing field but University ornithologists had recommended against it, saying that there were neither the numbers nor types of birds appropriate for such a use, based on the previously proposed sites in migratory bird pathways in eastern North Carolina," said Moeser.

 

Duke University to drop football

DURHAM -- Duke University will drop football, according to an internal report leaked to an investigative reporter for the Chapel Hill Herald, and this is likely to occur as soon as the first game of the upcoming season. Given the on-field record of Duke's football team over the last several decades, especially the last several seasons, the closest observers of college football were stunned to realize that they hadn't already.

"I had assumed that the reason that Duke had lost 20 games in a row was due to forfeits. I figured as little attention as Duke's athletic administration pays to football they had simply forgotten to inform their opponents for the last several seasons that they had dropped the sport," said Sports Radio 850 The Buzz Program Director Adam Gold.

When told of the report, Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford was quick to note that fielding a football team is a requirement for any school belonging to the ACC -- which would mean that all Duke teams, including their men's basketball team, would be reduced to club sports.

Duke administrators were equally quick to quash the speculation that the leaked report had generated.

"Duke has not and is not terminating its football program," said President Richard Brodhead. "The portions of the report that were released did not reflect accurately the totality of its meaning." said Brodhead. "While I cannot deny that the report said 'Duke to drop football,' the context was a statistical analysis showing that given the rate of turnovers per game, it was highly likely that the team would fumble the ball multiple times in the first quarter of the first game of the season, not including botched extra-point attempts, if any."

Brodhead continued by saying that "Duke football is too important to Duke University to even consider dropping it," noting that in any given year up to one-third of Duke's medical students are former Duke football players.

 

Ex-Speaker says prosecution "racist"

RALEIGH -- Deposed Speaker of the NC House of Representatives says that he was only prosecuted because he is Black.

 

Hybrid sales surge following arrest

Tokyo -- Toyota Motor Corporation reports that sales of its hybrid-energy propelled Prius automobile surged 18% in a single week following a July 4 news report that Al Gore III, 24, was arrested in California for speeding. Al Gore was driving a blue Toyota Prius 100 mph on the San Diego Freeway when he was pulled over at 2:15 a.m., Sheriff’s Department spokesman Jim Amormino said.

IN RELATED NEWS: NASCAR insiders say that they are considering adding a "Car of the Day After Tomorrow" division in addition to the Nextel Cup, which will feature only Toyota Prii. The Joe Gibbs Racing team is said to be currently in negotiation with Al Gore III as their lead driver.

 

Gary D. Gaddy is proud that his parents are one of America’s few multiple Prius-owning households and loves attending UNC-Duke football games at Wallace Wade Stadium where his seat is usually better than the ones he often gets given in the luxury boxes at Kenan.

A version of this article was published in the Chapel Hill Herald Thursday July 19, 2007.


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 9:43 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, July 26, 2007 10:09 AM EDT
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Thursday, July 12, 2007
Global warming thaws Al Gore

SOUTH POLE STATION, Antarctica – In what climatologists say is the definitive sign that the theory of global warming is fact, Al Gore appears to have spontaneously thawed. Gore's frozen visage that many remember from the 2000 presidential campaign no longer exists, say geo-political experts.

Now that he has melted, says North Carolina State University political scientist Dr. Marv Mendenhall, Gore could run more effectively than he did as a solid, changing the whole landscape of the Democrat presidential nomination process.

If Gore begins to run, as Mendenhall expects, this could spell an end to the presidential bid of Chapel Hill's own John Edwards, who, body language experts say, will now come across as the rigid one in comparison.

Frank Paley, Duke University political scientist and economist, points out, however, that his thawing has already cost Gore his position on the Bird's Eye board of directors and will likely lose him the support of the frozen confections industry. Paley also notes that this leaves the frigid vote clearly in the hands of Hillary Clinton.

Gore, the cold and stiff candidate who made fellow northern-state Democrat presidential candidates Michael Dukakis and Walter Mondale seem warm and fuzzy by comparison, is no longer recognizable to even his own family. The change, temporarily hidden by an ecologically correct Grizzly-Adams-type beard, became apparent when Gore shaved it off as part of an "Earth First!" fundraiser. His wife, Mary Elizabeth "Tipper" Gore, onlookers reported, was surprised when she first saw him clean shaven. "He just didn't have that chiseled look that I had grown to love," she said with an edge of despondency.

Gore, according to University of North Carolina art historian Joan Miro-Miro, now looks more like a Salvador Dali painting than the ice sculpture that has been acting as the official Gore vice-presidential portrait. Climate scientists believe the melting began when Gore was onsite in Antarctica observing the photographing of the nature film "March of the Penguins." Wake Forest University political psychologist Dr. Werner von Krankeit said that he believes that the tipping point for Gore may have come when he recognized himself in the Emperor penguins walk.

While environmentalists have hailed the Gore-based documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," as ice breaking, unfortunately, they are also concerned as Gore's new energy and passion are thought to be responsible for most of this year's 0.2 degree (Celsius) increase in the mean global temperature.

 

Congress solution to energy crisis

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Enron, the world's largest natural gas company, today announced during a public ceremony tapping the Capitol Dome that it has solved the world energy crisis. "Our latest tests show that the Capitol produces more natural gas daily than the combined output of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and several other notable Stans," said Enron's Dr. Furken Farzengruper.

Gas generation, Farzengruper said, is primarily a Senate byproduct. While the House of Representatives also manufactures substantial amounts of gaseous substances, Farzengruper noted that its natural gas is diluted by large quantities of hot air. "As a fossil fuel, natural gas is much more naturally and purely produced by the Senate," concluded Farzengruper.

Environmentalists are ecstatic at this news, noting that capping the Capitol would immediately reduce U.S. emissions of the major greenhouse gasses methane, ethane, propane, butane and inane by an amount several times larger than that called for over the next decade by the Kyoto Accords.

Some concern was expressed by a consulting engineer from North Carolina State University about the long-term prospects for this find. Dr. Garland Leipugh said that his mathematical simulations show that the loss of Senator Edward "Teddy" Kennedy (D-Mass.) alone could dramatically change future production rates.

"Senator Kennedy expels each day the natural gas equivalent of 200 rotting whales," said Leipugh. "So, the Senator's health, of course, concerns us. If the Senator were to pass, while it would certainly lead to a temporary spike in production, eventually his quota would have to be replaced. None of the younger senators seem capable of producing even a fraction of Senator Kennedy's daily output," he added. Professor Leipugh also indicated, that if revived, the proposed ban on filibusters of judicial nominees could cut total gas yield by a factor of two.

Alternate gas sources are being sought. Tests on the White House, unfortunately, indicate that the copious volumes of natural gas it produces cannot be harvested at this time as it is quickly sucked into a localized but seemingly permanent vacuum in the West Wing. Early tests on the press briefing room are promising however.

Efforts to apply similar technology in North Carolina have met with little success as experts have determined that both its Capitol Dome and Governor's mansion are filled with holes.

 

Gary D. Gaddy attended the first Earth Day demonstration and teach-in on April 22, 1970 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Go to GaryGaddy.com to see past columns.)

A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald Thursday July 5, 2007.  Copyright 2007 Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 5:55 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, July 12, 2007 8:22 PM EDT
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Thursday, July 5, 2007
Bathe French Month is cancelled

CARRBORO, N.C. -- The Carrboro Board of Alderpersons voted Tuesday to pull the plug on "Bathe French Month." What was to be a month-long celebration of French hygienic culture was terminated by a unanimous vote with minimal discussion.

A proclamation made in April to designate August "Bathe French Month," insiders say, was part of a move by Carrboro to officially become, in alliance with Québec, part of France within the next decade.

Culturally, politically, hygienically, it's where we belong," said Alderperson Jacqueline Gist in April. "As the rednecks from the country around here say, 'America, Love or Leave It.' We have decided to leave it."

The more-than-honorary French-solidarity month passed unanimously, affirming Carrboro's "closeness to the French people." The April meeting ended with hardy cheers of "Vive la France!"

Tuesday's meeting ended in stone cold silence.

"We all understand why we did what we did; no need to talk about it," said Dan Coleman, alderperson, community activist and Green Party stalwart. Coleman clutched a copy of the Raleigh News & Observer in his hand from earlier this year. The clearly visible headline read: "France, U.S. to present draft resolution on Lebanon to Security Council."

With the recent election of conservative Nicolas Sarkozy as French president and France's new-found spirit of cooperation with the Bush regime, Carrboro's plans for being annexed by France are being put on hold.

Carrboro's cancelling of "Bathe French Month" had ripple effects in neighboring communities. In April, the Town Council of Chapel Hill voted to support Carrboro's proclamation -- without adopting a similar one themselves.

"We thought it was great that Carrboro was doing this. It meant more water for us to irrigate our lawns," said Mayor Kevin Foy. "We're obviously disappointed that they cancelled it without consulting us," he added, "though we understand. We share a common foreign policy."

An expert from the University of North Carolina's School of Public Health's Personal Hygiene Curriculum said that changing from American bathing standards to those of the French would amount to water savings of 40 gallons per person per day. "For a town of 18,000 for one month that totals to over 21 million gallons of water," calculated Professor Bernard Zauber.

When it was pointed out to Dr. Zauber that it was Carrboro that was under discussion, he revised his calculations quickly. "I have several graduate students who live in Carrboro, and, trust me; it won't make much difference at all, couple of ounces one way or the other, max."

Carrboro, which touted itself as the "Paris of the Piedmont" in 1970 and proclaimed March 2003 "Buy French Month," is a small town on the western outskirts of Chapel Hill.

 

Congress Passes Equal Heights Amendment

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today the United States Congress voted to amend the Constitution to provide that: "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of height." Heights-rights activists hailed the proposal as the "First Amendment of the 21st Century."

Since, technically, Congress cannot amend the U.S. Constitution unilaterally, the legislation enacted enables the clerk of court of Cuyahoga County, Ohio, to make the changes enumerated in the statute.

One of the House representatives of lesser stature, Dennis Kucinich (D-Oh.), observed that this principled stance, endorsed unanimously by congressional Democrats, will cost the party in the short run.

"We'll lose some of our biggest supporters, no question," said Kucinich. "We realize that Shaquille O'Neal will become a Republican."

"Heightism is rampant in our society. If you don't believe me, ask Katie Couric. O.K., bad example. Still, tell me the last time someone vertically challenged was named MVP of the NBA? Muggsy Bogues never had a chance," added Kucinich.

Political observers note that Kucinich could be the biggest beneficiaries of the amendment. "Forget the 2000 election being stolen from Al Gore. Dennis Kucinich would be president today if it were weren't for pervasive societal height bias. Looking like a lawn gnome shouldn't disqualify someone from our nation's highest office," said Democrat political consultant James Carville.

Republican opponents of the amendment listed many "ramifications of this ill-conceived proposition": Dwarf tossing would become a hate crime; Randy Newman's song "Short People" will be banned as performance accompaniment for free-style gymnastics routines; signs stating "No one shorter than this" will be forbidden at amusement parks; and "Separate-But-Unequal" lowered-height urinals would be outlawed.

Local representative David Price (D-N.C.) voted for the amendment while both North Carolina senators, Richard Burr and Elizabeth Dole, voted against the measure.

An irony expert in the Department of Linguistics at the University of North Carolina, Dr. Meta Imalosa, noted that the "Equal Heights Amendment" will be the shortest in the history of the constitution.

 

 

Gary D. Gaddy bathed French during the school year of 1969-70 and his first girlfriend was vertically challenged.

A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald July 5, 2007.  Copyright 2007 Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 12:31 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, July 8, 2007 12:37 PM EDT
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Thursday, June 28, 2007
A salute to my championship season

WHEN YOU ARE SITTING ON TOP of the bell-shaped curve, resting at the very height of averageness, many would say that it would be hard to go anywhere but down. Well, they'd all be wrong.

After ascending to the pinnacle of mediocrity, I have climbed yet higher -- to the United States Tennis Association's North Carolina state senior men's 3.5 doubles team championships. At these championships the best team of mediocre over-age-50 male doubles tennis players in the state will be definitively determined -- proving conclusively that most members of that winning team should have been playing in a higher division.

I could start this account by regaling you with my many past athletic accomplishments -- but I don't really have any. The previous high point of my athletic career was playing on an undefeated junior varsity football team for George Washington High School in Danville, Virginia, in the fall of 1966.

The coach used me to finish off key games. I played six plays in seven games. I "played" defensive halfback. I say "played" because that is what I practiced for but not where I played for half of my six grand moments of glory. I was put in once on offense late in the fourth quarter at the wingback position. I did not know what a wingback was much less what it was supposed to do. (On both my plays at wingback, I lined up where I thought a "wingback" should line up, and then blocked the guy in front of me.)

I also played the essential last down of the Virginia Episcopal School game (score 28-6, our favor). As one of two kick return specialists back to receive a free kick, my strategy was to pray to God that the ball not come to me. Thanks to the fervency of my request, the ball went to the other sucker who had also never even practiced returning a kick. I, for my part, blocked the guy in front of me.

My three plays at defensive halfback were generally uneventful, except the one where I recovered a fumble by a pass receiver I was supposedly defending and was returning it for a touchdown -- when the official ruled it an incomplete pass. In playing time, my football career took less time than it did for you to read about it.

Tennis is an entirely different matter. The ball is much smaller, for one thing. Further, physical contact is more limited in tennis than it is in football -- unless you count me hitting my partner, inadvertently, in most cases, with my racket.

Actually, I do already have a tennis championship -- but, due to the rampant sexism in our society, many of you will not count it: the 2004 Sweet Briar College Reunion Weekend Doubles Championship. Yes, Sweet Briar, my darling wife's alma mater is a women's college. However, due to the odd number of women enrolled in the tournament, they took me, an odd male, to fill out the bracket.

In the finals, I (playing with a member of the class of '64) beat my wife (playing with a member of class of '99) to take the championship. (My lovely and talented wife can explain why her 27-year-old former Sweet Briar tennis team member was not the asset that she could have been, and why my 62-year-old partner actually looked younger than hers. It involves a "party-like-it’s-1999" party the night before in her room which lasted until 5 am.)

Anyway, back to men's tennis, before the season I felt that our Hollow Rock team could easily finish in the top two in our league -- given there were only two teams. Then, when I had to explain the rules of the game before our first match to our opponents (specifically, how a tie-breaker is played), I calculated our chances of winning the league to be 50-50. I was, as it turns out, being pessimistic.

As a team, we crushed them to a smudge, winning seven of eight matches. Out of pure generosity I won't mention our opponents' name, but suffice it to say that it these pleasant gentlemen were from an expensive, exclusive, gated-community with a name-brand golf course in northern Chatham County. I, personally, as would be expected, won four and lost three matches, the closest to perfect mediocrity that one can get in seven matches.

Coming soon: First-round elimination from the state championships!

 

Gary D. Gaddy really is going in June to the state senior men's 3.5 doubles team championships, where he expects, if the stars align properly, his team will still be crushed to a smudge by an under-rated team from Mecklenburg County.

A version of this article was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Thursday June 28, 2007. Copyright 2007 Gary D. Gaddy

 


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 9:16 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, November 11, 2007 9:18 AM EST
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Thursday, June 21, 2007
Schadenfreude and other sports terms

IN MY CONTINUING QUEST to educate the not-so-squalid masses of the Orange County vicinity, I have decided to fall back upon one of my more dependable areas of expertise: modern foreign languages.

As Americans we are trained from birth to believe that English is all we need to get by in life. And while that is true, the many foreign languages still spoken by the less sophisticated in obscure corners of the globe do provide some educationally entertaining tidbits to keep us occupied before globalization brings us an entirely English-only universe.

My brother-in-law said it was kind of sad that he spent the past football season in schadenfreude -- but he did anyway. (Schadenfreude, for those of you unversed in the Teutonic tongues, is a German word for finding joy in the misfortune of others.) In the midst of a woeful football season for his Tar Heels, he found solace in the many close losses and game-ending collapses of the NC State Wolfpack team.

I was not surprised at his schadenfreude; I was surprised that he knew the word. Perhaps, I shouldn't have been since he is a graduate of the world-renown University of North Carolina, but I was because I knew that the only foreign language he took was Portuguese -- the then-preferred language of study for the UNC football team (being rated on the scale of linguistic difficulty as Spanish Lite). Anyway, schadenfreude is our first word of the day.

The next is the Greek term hubris. According to its modern usage, hubris is exaggerated pride or self-confidence. You've heard the expression "everybody loves a winner." Well, briefly, maybe. Sometimes very briefly. (Consider the fifteen minutes of love the 2006 national champion Maryland Terrapin women's basketball team got.)

Mostly, everybody hates a winner. Don't believe me? Ask the New York Yankees, the Dallas Cowboys, or the Tar Heel men's basketball team. ABC fans have been around for quite a while. (ABC standing for "Anybody But Carolina." A sentiment immortalized in the bumper sticker: "My Two Teams are State and Whoever's Playing Carolina.") The problem is the perception by the vanquished that the regular victors over them are haughty, prideful, and therefore displaying hubris. (Which they usually are.)

Despite all its success, Duke has not taken on its parallel ABD mantle well. It just doesn't seem to fit comfortably. They can't even handle teams celebrating their victories over Duke. For example, the Duke men's basketball fans were not happy when the Florida State players danced around the floor of Cameron Indoor Stadium after defeating the Blue Devils in January, poking out their jerseys at the crowd.

Crazies, if I may be so familiar in calling you that, don't be sad when opposing teams celebrate after defeating your team. Understand that you want opponents saying, as Virginia Tech guard Jamon Gordon said in January, "To beat Duke in Cameron, that's one of the sweetest things you can do." When you should be sad is when they don't -- because it ain't worth celebrating about.

However, if the Seminole roundballers continued to win and puff themselves up about it (like their football team used to do), we will all start hating on them, because, now you're catching on, they will be displaying . . . hubris.

I am, generally, a uniter not a divider. When it comes to contests outside the ACC, I am a conference loyalist. During the ACC-Big Ten Not Quite a Challenge, I always pull for every ACC team (with the exception of remaining mostly neutral when my Wisconsin Badgers play). Likewise, when the national tournaments start (NIT or NCAA, men or women), I pull for conference teams, mostly because every time they win it makes my Heels look better, whatever its record is against them.

I am not the kind of fan who wishes pain on the fans of other teams, even those of my chief rivals. I wouldn't just pull against Duke for "pulling against" sake. Instead, in the process of viewing a game, I let myself flow to the team with which I hold a natural affinity.

During the recent March Madness, in doing so, I discovered my great commonality with Virginia Commonwealth University, recalling my roots as a native of that great state and realizing, in an epiphany, that their ram is our ram's brother and that we are thus bonded together with their supporters as soul mates. So, it was not with schadenfreude but, with our final and French phrase of the day, joie de vivre, the joy of life, that I exclaimed, "Go Rams!"

 

Gary D. Gaddy majored in the modern foreign language of German at Furman University, graduating a couple of hundredths of a point short of magna cum laude, which is Latin for "almost pretty hot stuff," qualifying him to work as a waiter at Das Schnitzel Haus, though he never did.

A version of this article was published in the Chapel Hill Herald Thursday June 21, 2007. Copyright 2007 Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 8:09 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, June 21, 2007 8:19 AM EDT
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Thursday, June 14, 2007
Coming down from the mountain

MANY OF YOU, I know, are sitting on the edges of your seats waiting with bated breath to hear how I did at USTA North Carolina Senior Men's 3.5 Doubles Tennis Championships. You can slide back now; I will get to that indirectly.

Asheville is nice. It's kinda like Carrboro on steroids. For example, one of our waitresses at Tupelo Honey Cafe (which I would highly recommend), was pleasant, efficient and educational -- appearing to have the collected works of Hieronymus Bosch tattooed on her body.

We didn't really see a lot of the town, though we did go to the Chamber of Commerce -- twice in one day. (They had computers for checking email that we used to email to see how we could get email at the place we were staying. So much for "getting away to the mountains.")

While there I bought a t-shirt for my lovely wife at the whitewater rafting booth. It says: "Paddle faster! I hear banjo music." She thinks it means head toward the music.

The Senior State Championships in a nutshell: lots of old guys, as well as some well-preserved gals, hitting balls back and forth. That’s pretty much it.

Our team, which represented the aging yet middling tennis players of the greater Durham/Orange/Northern Chatham County area, did not fare so well -- if winning and losing are any standard. In the thin mountain air, our balls tended to go long, while our opponents' managed to just dribble over the net onto our court.

I know that many of you would like to know how I did in the championships, wondering what happens when mediocrity meets excellence. Briefly, it's not pretty.

But this is not just about me. As many of our coaches over the years have repeatedly pointed out to us, there is no "I" in team. (Experience, unfortunately has shown me that it usually does include both an "M" and an "E".)

How did our team do? We exceeded all expectations -- of which there were none. Just as I had so presciently predicted: first-round elimination! We finished second in the four-team Group III -- just behind three teams tied for first, including the team from the mountains where there is barely enough level ground to build a tennis court, and the team from Wilmington where bikini-clad women are a constant distraction. Finishing behind Greensboro we expected. (Civic motto: America's Most Boringest City).

We did not embarrass ourselves – mostly because we are not easily embarrassed. During three team matches, each with three "individual" doubles matches with two sets each (for a total of 18 sets), we won one. (Thanks, Doug and Dave – for making the rest of the team look bad.)

But, hey, but nobody bagelled any of us! For those not versed in the technical language of competitive tennis, "to be bagelled" means to lose a set at zero games, derived from the similarity in the torus shape of the bagel and the number zero. (Speaking of zeroes, know how to tell winners from the losers at the tournament post-first-round party? The losers are drunk; winners are sober, still having matches to play.)

In a completely unexpected turn of events, my regular partner, Terry O’Culligan, the esteemed manager of the Hollow Rock Racquet and Swim Club, despite being saddled with several disabilities (including me as his partner) ended up with the best results for our team, winning an average of seven games per match.

Still, my readers ask: how did you do? OK, I’ll say. To help you visualize my matches, for those of you who don't know me by sight, I have a body a lot like that of Rafael Nadal -- just distributed a little differently. Our opponents didn't look much better -- until they hit the ball. Many of them appeared to have played this game before.

My results? Losers just lose. So I didn’t do that. Winners just win. So I didn’t do that either. Mediocre players? They get leads and blow them. That characterized the whole weekend for me and whichever poor sucker was paired with me. (For example, ahead in games 4-1 then 5-2 in the first set of our first match, we lost 7-5.)

However, I really had only one personal goal going into the tournament -- for my partner and me to win the Misses Congeniality Award -- and although there was no official vote, the consensus was that we walked away with it. We are sure, given our conduct on the court, all of our opponents would have been glad to play us again -- and again and again and again.

 

Gary D. Gaddy grew up with public tennis courts practically in his backyard in Danville, Virginia -- for what little that turned out to be worth.

A verion of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald June 14, 2007.  Copyright  2007  Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 11:17 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, June 14, 2007 11:27 AM EDT
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Thursday, June 7, 2007
Truth vs. fiction, and vice versa

MANY OF MY LOYAL READERS, it appears, are, as might be expected, confused. (By application of the principle of contraposition, I conclude that many of my disloyal readers are confused as well, just not as much so -- and one can only imagine where this leaves my first-time readers.) I come to this conclusion of confusion because I am continually being asked: "Is what you write true or not?" The short answer: yes. But as you might figure, it's more complicated than that.

To help in this confusion, here are several essential principles for distinguishing fact from fabrication. If a story seems so outrageous that it couldn't possibly be true, it probably is. Truth is stranger than fiction. So, in order to keep a spoof credible, one must often tone down the truth. For example, if I had run a spoof suggesting that George Bush actually got better grades at Yale than John Kerry, who would believe that? (And since it is true, imagine how bad off the country would have been if Kerry had been elected!)

Anyway, last week's story seemed particularly problematic to my readers as indicated by this succinct email (an actual letter from an actual reader):

Dear Gary:

Please confirm that your article is a parody. The narrative is so close to the truth that the distinction is without a difference.

Ralph Heinz

While this letter could refer to any number of my top-notch columns (e.g., "Hooters Carrboro encounter" or "UNC's cure for political incorrectness," or "Duke discovers it's in North Carolina"), it in fact references "University of North Carolina to hire Republican."

Dr. Heinz appears to be one of my few readers who understands what I am trying to do. Something I often don't myself. Unfortunately, while I would like to confirm that this story is a parody, I cannot. My stories are not generally parodies.

My columns are usually premonitionary news stories based upon certain suppositions. As such, they might be more accurately called suppositories. With the exception of names, times, dates, spelling and grammar, they detail what almost certainly is exactly what would happen if my suppositions were to come to pass. (It is worth acknowledging that it is doubtful, however, that in our lifetimes, Duke will ever discover that it’s not in New Jersey or that UNC will knowingly hire a Republican.)

Nevertheless, my readers demand: "How can I tell which of what you write is spoof and which is true?" Very easy, consult Wikipedia. If it's not in Wikipedia, it didn't happen. Granted, for some localized truths, this may not work. For example, how many plays I played in a particular game for a high school JV football team (Go Cardinals!) 40 years ago may not be in Wikipedia -- yet. (Gimme a chance, guys, I'll get to it!)

For now, you're just going to have to trust me on my JV football career -- not that I would myself. Many of my columns should include a tagline disclaimer that says: "To the best of my recollection."

Still, I might note that even my lovely and trusting wife did not believe all of my claims about high school until she went with me to my 30-year class reunion and observed the behavior of some of the people I am happy to call my former classmates. I had told my wife, for example, that I kissed every girl I wanted to in the school, with the exception of Jeanne Russell. The more the darlings of the class of 1969 drank, the clearer it became to my wife that this certainly could have been true.

Further note, to the deacons and elders of my church: my high school years were before, repeat before, I became a Christian. And, my lovely classmates, not me, were the ones becoming progressively inebriated. In fact, the entire experience was very sobering to me.

To tell the truth, despite the protestations of my supposedly question-laden readers, I'm not sure anybody is really interested in The Truth. I doubt either Dr. Heinz (whose name adorns the list of "Friends of Duke University") or Mike (whose email came suspiciously from @duke.edu and who requested an electronic version of my story), cares one wit about The Truth. They both merely wish to ridicule my beloved alma mater. The very thought of which incites me to say: "Hey, that’s my job!"

Finally, relax, guys, don't you remember, up here on the Chapel Hill, and over by Mr. Duke's Chapel, we stopped believing decades ago in such out-dated, out-moded, obscenely obsolete, pre-post-modern concepts as "truth"?

 

Gary D. Gaddy says that every word in every biographical blurb that has appeared in this space is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, more or less.

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald Thursday, June 7, 2007.  Copyright  2007  Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 5:09 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, October 4, 2011 11:23 AM EDT
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Thursday, May 31, 2007
University of North Carolina to hire Republican

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- In a split vote, the University of North Carolina's Board of Trustees voted to today to broaden its affirmative action policy on hiring to include a Republican. Board chair Jim W. Phillips, Jr., said the new policy will put in place for the fall of 2008.

Chancellor James Moeser said that while he welcomed the "experiment," as he called it, he also thought that the university must move "cautiously" into this unknown territory.

"We take our mission as a liberal arts institution very seriously," said Moeser. "We will remain a safe place for our ideas, and to do so it is very important that we speak with one voice to and for our students. A cacophony of thoughts will just lead to confusion the part of the student body.

"As a musicologist I understand that euphony is what makes music to our ears," said Moeser, who began his academic career as a professor of music and is still an accomplished organist.

Professor Ellis L. Suede, who headed up the working group on campus intellectual diversity which advised the Board in formulating the new hiring policy, said he wanted to allay any fears that this decision may diminish the university in any way.

"Those concerned about how this may impact the integrity of the educational process on our campus should rest assured that this decision has been carefully considered. The only place for a Neanderthal on our campus is as subject matter in the anthropology curriculum, not in front of a lectern," said Dr. Suede.

"Other schools have experimented with such a policy in the past to their regret," said Suede. "We're trying to learn from their experiences. We're looking for a Republican who will understand the 'Carolina Experience.'

"To aid our search, we're asking that the Log Cabin Republicans for the names of nominees that they think would be appropriate for us to consider," said Suede.

The UNC Young Republicans (Bob Allison and Reggie Smith) were jubilant at the news. "The possibility that we won't have to travel to Buies Creek to meet with our advisor is really exciting to us," said Smith, a junior from Lincolnton.

UNC's Young Republicans have not had a regular, on-campus faculty advisor since history professor emeritus Beauregard P. Smaples died in 1957.

Chancellor Moeser was adamant that it was a "misconception" that UNC currently had no Republicans on its staff. "We have not just had a Republican," said Moeser, "we have had a reserved slot for a Republican for years. How on earth do you think we could ever get the CEO of a major corporation as dean of the business school if we only took Democrats? We've just been careful to limit them to that position and to make sure that we monitored the dean's contact with students.

"We have never looked at having Republican as head of the business school as a liability to the university but rather as an opportunity to improve our external relations both with the corporate world and wealthy individual donors," said Moeser.

Not everybody on campus was happy with the the Board of Trustee's decision. Students for a Democratic Society staged a sit-in in the chancellor's office to protest the change in the hiring policy. "When our name says 'for a Democratic Society,' it means what it says. There is no way anyone can look at today’s decision as anything but turning away from that lofty ideal," said SDS Minister of Communications Dante Donatelli, a senior from Evanston, Illinois.

Dr. Bernard Kleinschmidt, an intellectual diversity expert at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says that there is little reason to fear that this will "open the floodgates" to hiring a rash of Republicans by UNC.

"Although the Supreme Court rulings limiting quotas in admissions and in hirings present a challenge in theory, in practice they have not been necessary," said Kleinschmidt. "There are so few Republicans who can put two thoughts in a row that the number of qualified applicants will always be constrained. Further, with the requirement of a terminal degree of in their field of expertise, the sifting and sorting process of our graduate schools will have eliminated most of the most bothersome candidates. And I don’t think UNC will never have to worry about getting too many 'highly recommended’ Republican applicants," said Kleinschmidt.

A late report by the Associated Press that Duke University head basketball coach Michael Krzyzewski is a registered Republican has many on the Chapel Hill campus saying that UNC’s trustees will almost certainly repeal this policy at its next meeting.

 

Gary D. Gaddy, whose parents supported Barry Goldwater for president in 1964 (favorite bumper sticker from the era: Au H2O) and then George McGovern in 1972, grew up in a community in Virginia that went for George Wallace in 1968.

 

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald, Thursday May 31, 2007.  Copyright  2007  Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 10:55 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, May 31, 2007 11:47 AM EDT
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Thursday, May 24, 2007
A salute to my championship season

ALTHOUGH MY RECENT TENNIS NOTORIETY ("Hollow Rock's Most Mediocre Member," Thursday April 5, 2007) was recognition long overdue, thanks to the high-speed printing press, it is just getting going.

When you are sitting on top of the bell-shaped curve, resting at the very height of averageness, many would say that it would be hard to go anywhere but down. Well, they'd all be wrong.

After ascending to the pinnacle of mediocrity, I have climbed yet higher -- to the United States Tennis Association's North Carolina state senior men's 3.5 doubles team championships. At these championships the best team of mediocre over-age-50 male doubles tennis players in the state will be definitively determined -- proving conclusively that most members of that winning team should have been playing in a higher division.

I could start this account by regaling you with my many past athletic accomplishments -- but I don't really have any. The previous high point of my athletic career was playing on an undefeated junior varsity football team for George Washington High School in Danville, Virginia, in the fall of 1966.

The coach used me to finish off key games. I played six plays in seven games. I "played" defensive halfback. I say "played" because that is what I practiced for but not where I played for half of my six grand moments of glory. I was put in once on offense late in the fourth quarter at the wingback position. I did not know what a wingback was much less what it was supposed to do. (On both my plays at wingback, I lined up where I thought a "wingback" should line up, and then blocked the guy in front of me.)

I also played the essential last down of the Virginia Episcopal School game (score 28-6, our favor). As one of two kick return specialists back to receive a free kick, my strategy was to pray to God that the ball not come to me. Thanks to the fervency of my request, the ball went to the other sucker who had also never even practiced returning a kick. I, for my part, blocked the guy in front of me.

My three plays at defensive halfback were generally uneventful, except the one where I recovered a fumble by a pass receiver I was supposedly defending and was returning it for a touchdown -- when the official ruled it an incomplete pass. In playing time, my football career took less time than it did for you to read about it.

Tennis is an entirely different matter. The ball is much smaller, for one thing. Further, physical contact is more limited in tennis than it is in football -- unless you count me hitting my partner, inadvertently, in most cases, with my racket.

Actually, I do already have a tennis championship -- but, due to the rampant sexism in our society, many of you will not count it: the 2004 Sweet Briar College Reunion Weekend Doubles Championship. Yes, Sweet Briar, my darling wife's alma mater is a women's college. However, due to the odd number of women enrolled in the tournament, they took me, an odd male, to fill out the bracket.

In the finals, I (playing with a member of the class of '64) beat my wife (playing with a member of class of '99) to take the championship. (My lovely and talented wife can explain why her 27-year-old former Sweet Briar tennis team member was not the asset that she could have been, and why my 62-year-old partner actually looked younger than hers. It involves a "party-like-it’s-1999" party the night before in her room which lasted until 5 am.)

Anyway, back to men's tennis, before the season I felt that our Hollow Rock team could easily finish in the top two in our league -- given there were only two teams. Then, when I had to explain the rules of the game before our first match to our opponents (specifically, how a tie-breaker is played), I calculated our chances of winning the league to be 50-50. I was, as it turns out, being pessimistic.

As a team, we crushed them to a smudge, winning seven of eight matches. Out of pure generosity I won't mention our opponents' name, but suffice it to say that it these pleasant gentlemen were from an expensive, exclusive, gated-community with a name-brand golf course in northern Chatham County. I, personally, as would be expected, won four and lost three matches, the closest to perfect mediocrity that one can get in seven matches.

Coming soon: First-round elimination from the state championships!

 

Gary D. Gaddy really is going in June to the state senior men's 3.5 doubles team championships, where he expects, if the stars align properly, his team will still be crushed to a smudge by an under-rated team from Mecklenburg County.

 A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald Thursday May 24, 2007.  Copyright  2007  Gary D. Gaddy

 


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 3:03 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, May 31, 2007 11:10 AM EDT
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Wednesday, May 23, 2007
The Democrats 'undemocratic' proposal

OBVIOUSLY, you missed the hearings, town hall meetings and the referendum, because the North Carolina Senate voted late on Monday, May 14, 2007 to pass, by straight party-line vote one the most significant pieces of legislation ever to come before it. Senate Bill 954 is a proposal to join a "compact of states" to change the way the president of the United States is elected. And, no, there wasn’t any debate or discussion among the people of this state. Our Democratic legislature is voting to make the United States "more democratic" -- by an undemocratic fiat.

The aim of this "compact" sounds good: to have the president of the United States elected by a simple majority of the voting populace of the United States. If this compact is agreed to by enough states to represent a majority of the nation's electoral votes, the law would require North Carolina to give its electoral votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote nationwide, not the candidate the state's voters voted for.

That is not, of course, how the president is currently elected. We do not hold a popular vote election; we hold 51 elections in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The electoral college, which elects the president, is apportioned by state by the number of U.S. representatives (in proportion to the state’s population) plus two senators per state (so small states are given a modicum of voting power).

This "compact," the idea for which was hatched in San Francisco, would effectively amend the Constitution of the United States, without having to go through the messy process of amending the Constitution of the United States. Once a simple majority of enough state legislatures, constituting a majority of the electoral votes, enacts this "compact," the winner of the popular vote nationally in all subsequent presidential elections would become president.

Sounds democratic, doesn't it? Sounds like letting "the people" elect the president, doesn't it? Well, if it is, how come "the people" aren't part of the process to make this change? Perhaps because how North Carolinians vote in a presidential election will hardly matter, except as they agree with the majority of voters in the country, in allocating our electoral votes.

The framers of our constitution had reasons for setting up our electoral process as they did, and also for the process for how it can be changed: an arduous process of constitutional amendment, guaranteeing a protracted public debate. What they were trying to avoid is exactly what we are seeing here, under-the-table backroom deals that fundamentally alter our system of government.

Our country was created as a republic (a limited representative government) rather than a pure democracy (a government solely of the majority) and a federal system (having states as actors within the national government). If we want to make such a very consequential change, that’s something that should be done with public debate and careful deliberation and not while we’re not looking. If the legislatures of the 11 largest states ratify this "compact," our presidential electoral system is changed -- without any input from the other 39.

Our current system still makes plenty of sense because it preserves some power to the already marginalized rural areas and less populous states. If this "compact" for popular majority presidential elections takes effect, many areas of this country will be almost completely ignored, not just occasionally but in perpetuity. As it is now, "swing states" get lots of attention in each election, but those states change with the current candidates and particular issues at election time.

Under this "compact," presidential elections would become elections by the people of the urban areas of the country. The rural, less populated, parts of our nation would be effectively disenfranchised by this "compact." To do so by so undemocratic a process is ironic to say the least, and it will be a sad day for our republic if we let this happen.

Why are the Democrats doing this? This is not democracy in action; it’s partisanship run amok. In every presidential election since 1976, the voters of our state have opted for the Republican nominee. So, what the Democrat-controlled legislature is trying to do is simple: not to make North Carolina "more democratic" but to make it "more Democratic."

If this process seems acceptable, because the end justifies the means, the next "compact" could say our votes go to, not the majority winner, but the majority party’s nominee. This dictatorship of democracy would be no more or less constitutional than the current proposed "compact."

What’s a better way to bring more democracy to North Carolina? By confronting our state house before it also passes this Trojan horse (House Bill 1645). And by disenfranchising any legislators who are trying take, by an extra-constitutional process, our presidential vote from us, without our permission, so they can advance their national agenda, one not in our state’s best interest.

Gary D. Gaddy is a voter from Orange County.

An edited version of this column appeared in the Durham Herald-Sun on Wednesday May 23, 2007.  Copyright  2007  Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 5:31 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, July 17, 2007 9:18 PM EDT
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