March 2010 Archives

Is a Mug Shot Worth More Than a Thousand Words?

            By way of a personal update and a thoroughly contrived segue into this post, let me say that the Ol' Bloviator's general condition has improved in the seven weeks since he was struck down by a mysterious hit-and-run driver--or actually hit-apologize-then-run driver. It came as no surprise, I'm sure, that, even in the way he gets himself run over, the O.B. is a trend-setter. Note this report from over there in suburban Hotlanta about Carol Floyd, a lady in his age bracket who was knocked down in a crosswalk, which in Georgia is seen as similar to a "free-fire" zone, by a woman who, like O.B.'s assailant, stopped to apologize and gave evidence of intending to hang around, only to think better of it and shag ass. Floyd was reportedly "angry" that the woman who hit her had "fled the scene." Carol, I've been there, honey. Just try not to let your anger eat at you from the inside.

There's a related story here as well that may well explain this spate of vehicular assaults on honest, hard-working oldsters like Carol and me. It seems a Florida lady recently caused a two-vehicle accident while trying to shave behind the wheel. (Warning:  Some may think that the Ol' Bloviator  briefly succumbs to insensitivity and bad taste in the paragraph that follows.  Those who wish to continue to hold him up as a role model might be wise to skip down just a bit.)


I'll grant you that this good sister doesn't exactly come across as a former Miss America or even Miss Sylacauga, for that matter, but you can see that she ain't sporting so much as a five-o'clock shadow. The fact is she wasn't shaving her face or nose or ears or even her armpits and legs. She was doing a little trim job in what the reporter euphemistically called her "bikini area." The hell of it is that her ex-husband was in the car with her, but apparently only riding shotgun, although the two of them tried to switch places after the accident. I don't know anything about why that ol' boy would be in the car with her on such an occasion, especially since she explained later that she was on her way to meet her boyfriend and was just trying to tidy up a little bit down there in order to be "ready for the visit." I will say to the ex that he, of all people, should have known better. If there could be anything worse than seeing his former wife in a bikini, it surely must be seeing her landscaping the terrain that a bikini is supposed to conceal. It wouldn't do, I guess, to get into what "look" she might have been working toward--the "airstrip" (Think 747, I'm guessing), the "Hitler" (She does have something of the neo-Nazi look, I'd say) or (God help us!) the "Yul Brynner." The latter, of course, is not recommended for inexperienced drivers or trimmers or trips shorter than 100 miles, and this entire activity is especially discouraged in Alabama, where the pothole problem is just plain out of hand. It's small wonder that, so I'm told, the more natural "Willie Nelson" look is popular over that way. I have no proof, of course, that the woman who ran down Carol or me was trying to coif herself down there at the time, but you have to admit that someone who was doing something like that while driving would surely have extra incentive not to hang around and spill her guts about it to a cop.

We're being totally unfair, of course, to read so much into anyone's mug shot, which, let's face it, was not likely taken at a time when a person was at his or her best. Ain't that right, Nick?


 I don't reckon "the Godfather" felt much like belting out "I feel good!" when his photo was snapped either.


Some folks manage though to come through mostly as they are even in this most trying of circumstances. Here's Larry King, for example, who was probably hauled in for inflicting mass boredom on the City of Miami in 1971.


There are others, like poor ol' Hank Williams, here, whose jailhouse snapshots tell us instantly of a promising life gone tragically to hell.


Though it's not quite the same, most of us have been victimized at one time or other by the dreaded driver's license photo.


This guy, for example, looks as though either "Wanted Dead or Alive" or more appropriately, "Is He Dead or Alive?" should be scrolling right beneath his chin. If you can identify this poor soul or know of his whereabouts, please contact the Humane Society right away so that he can be euthanized quickly and be put out of his misery--and everybody else's, too.



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"Read my tusks. No new Taxes!"

As our fabled football broadcaster Larry Munson might say, "Alright, get the picture." It's 3:30 p.m. on March 2, 2010, and the University of Georgia has been closed since 2 p.m. on account of the snow, but there are still a number of faculty types around ye olde History Department, seeing students and working in their offices. There's a 5 p.m. final defense scheduled for a first-rate dissertation. It involves four faculty members who have read and critiqued this dissertation, some more than once, even though they will receive not a cent of additional monetary compensation for what is effectively a wholly voluntary expenditure of their time and energies on their part.     (This, mind you,  is  a group that has not only had no raises in two years but will also have absorbed at least a 3 percent cut in their pay due to state-mandated furlough days by the end of the academic year.)  In addition to time not spent with their families, the hours of off-the-books consulting with graduate students and reading their work outside class also cuts into the research and publication efforts they are expected to maintain in order to advance in salary and rank at an institution like the University of Georgia.  

                Is this group of faculty unusual? Hardly.  This is the way universities are run.  They are not factories where the employees simply show up to teach their assigned classes and collect their checks.   There are no time cards here.   If there were, the outlays for overtime would bankrupt the institution in a heartbeat.   Don't bother telling that, however, to the contingent of  swinish louts in the legislature who have been whipped into a  grunting, gurgling frenzy by the prospect of anointing their porcine snouts with some still-warm left-wing professor blood and can't wait to proceed with a thoroughly orgiastic disembowelment of higher education in Georgia. By that I mean they want to rip an additional $300 million out of the University System budget. Here at UGA, that means $60 million more on top of the $100 million that has already been hacked away over the last two years.

Remarkably, we've been able to maintain an admittedly tenuous verticality up to now, but if these cuts or anything like them stick, we're going horizontal, Honey Child, and we'll be that way for a long time.  Forget the national rankings; our new concern will be accreditation. Although few may realize it as of yet, this is a truly critical point not only for the future of this institution but for the future of the state it was created to serve. We're going to find out in the next few weeks whether over two generations' worth of pompous assertions that our state's accomplishments and vision set us apart from our Deep South neighbors were anything more than rhetorical masturbation.

 As they should, if  the cuts are going to happen as projected, they are going to hurt a lot of people, many  well beyond those who currently fill the 1,400-plus positions here at UGA that are said to be on the line or the 1,500 or so students who will be denied admission (either as freshmen or transfers) next year. For starters, with apologies to Red Foxx, "Look out local businesses,  this could be the Big One!"In addition to its traditional instructional mission, the University of Georgia's storied land-grant tradition will suddenly sink beneath the kudzu if all the 4-H Clubs and half the County Agricultural Extension offices are shut down. Then, we can say goodbye to  the many other things that, by God, make a good healthy public university a state's greatest asset. One of the most prestigious university presses in the country will be utterly destroyed, and The Georgia Review, one of the nation's finest literary journals, will be knee-capped. Ditto our terrific Performing Arts Center and the Georgia Museum of Art, and they'll even have to close the damn State Botanical Gardens, for God's sake! In relative terms, the University of Georgia may well have weathered the Great Depression better than it stands to fare at the hands of the mouth-breathing Philistines now massed at our gates. There is much breast-beating over in Hotlanta about the virtues of making higher education leaner and more efficient (Like a business, ahem!), but the fat was gone long ago. Make no mistake, the next excision--although we should think backhoe, not scalpel--will be pure muscle mass and vital organs.

 All the legislative handwringing over a revenue shortfall would seem a mite more convincing if it came from a body that isn't exposed annually as a haven for tax cheats in its own right. The real problem, though, is that the tax structure for the State of Georgia is inadequate even in relatively good times and utterly pathetic in the face of what we're seeing now. Loathe to raise levies  even a teensy bit, many of the Republicans in the legislature currently insist, probably correctly, that their main man Sonny Perdue's revenue projections for next year are too high. This is no surprise. In fact it's SOP in Georgia to inflate revenue predictions in order to spare the "Guvnuh" the awkwardness of having to suggest a tax increase. In this case, his Sonnyness has actually gone so far as to float proposals like a hike in cigarette taxes and a hospital use tax, but our dimwitted, tight-fisted solons ain't having none of it. Word from the office of our esteemed Lt. Guvnuh  is that the best way to get the state's economy "humming again" is to reject tax increases and pass "a balanced budget that creates the right environment for business to grow." Ah, there it is, the old "favorable business climate" ploy that says increased (or even continued) support for education is actually bad for the state's economic development because it probably means higher taxes.  Never you mind that this argument  isn't much help in explaining why the two hottest growth spots for high-tech industry in the whole country, North Carolina's Raleigh-Durham Research Triangle and the Austin, Texas, metro area, are also home to three of the South's finest universities.

Like many low-tax, practically no-union southern states, ours typically fares pretty well in annual business climate rankings, particularly on certain tax issues. A recent survey showed Georgia with the nation's eighth most favorable corporate tax climate.  And why not?  At a mere 5.6 percent of total state revenue collections, our reliance on corporate income tax as a source of funds is barely three-fourths as heavy as the average state's. On the other hand, at 34.4 percent, our dependence on the intensely regressive and notoriously unstable sales tax for revenue is nearly 10 percent above the national norm.

As a historian, I concluded some time back that most bad people make it into public office not because they are so slick at fooling the people, but because so many of those people simply want to be fooled in the first place. For example, they truly want to hear that any direct and tangible benefit they receive is entirely legit while everything the state offers to anyone else is totally bogus. Hence, in a manner of speaking, more often than not, voters get just about the kind of government they deserve. On the other hand, having spent so much of my career at universities operating on something just a butterbean or two better than a starvation diet, I believe that these schools have consistently given the people of their states far richer opportunities for higher learning than they have had any real reason to expect.  However, if Georgians wish to cheer or even simply stand quietly by while a bunch of  their self-serving legislative porkers fatten themselves politically by devouring higher education in this state, they're finally going to get precisely the public universities they deserve.  I'd like to think the vaunted affection that the people of Georgia are supposed to hold for their state university will ultimately prove to be its salvation (and maybe ultimately theirs as well), but I have to say I'd feel a lot more confident if the Doomsday scenario that UGA officials have presented to the galoots in Atlanta included a provision that cutting courses like "Fundamentals of Hopscotch" and "Philosophy of Badminton" would quickly pose a grave threat to the football program. How long do you reckon our "financial exigency" would last after that?


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