Thursday, August 31, 2006

In honor of the start of college football, some UGA and James Brown "old school"

I think this is from the 1976 Georgia/Florida halftime show in Jacksonville. Includes the Redcoat Band's "Spell Georgia" cheer at the end. Goooooooo Georgia Bulldogs!!!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Take A Bow Billie Jean!

photo by Jonathan Fickies/

Billie Jean King, tennis champion and crusader for equality, was honored on Monday night by the U.S. Tennis Association. They attached her name to the national tennis center, site of the U.S. Open. It' s a tribute well deserved and a long time in coming.

King was largely responsible for the women having their own tennis tour. Through most of her career, womens tennis wasn't much more than a sideshow with ridiculously low prize earning opportunities as compared to the men players. She and 8 other women stepped away from the establishment and each signed a $1 contract with Virginia Slims and started their own tour. Thanks to BJK, players like Navratilova, Evert, Graf, Seles, and the Williams sisters have made a fortune playing the game they love. And women have had more opportunities available to them in the world of sport.

But BJK took it a step further when she accepted the 1973 challenge of former men's champion, Bobby Riggs. "Sugar Daddy" Riggs once said infamously, "Girls play a nice game of tennis - FOR GIRLS." With the weight of the womens movement on her shoulders, BJK creamed Riggs in straight sets in front of 30,0000 people at the Astrodome and a national tv audience.

Later in 1980, BJK, who was married then, was sued by her former hairdresser and friend, Marilyn Barnett for alimony. It was shocking at the time. BJK's sponsors began to drop her. Facing the end of her playing days, she lost her financial security. And BJK was blackballed by many in the tennis establishment. She responded by becaming an activist on behalf of the LGBT community.

When I think of equality, Billie Jean always comes to mind. Her stature as a prominent figure transcends the world of sport. She's an icon. And having her name (a woman's name no less) on our national tennis center will serve as a reminder of her legacy.

Help Contain Jack Kingston's Cumberland Island Mistake

Read today's AJC article by Stacy Shelton on the opening of Cumberland Island to further automobile traffic. Most of Georgia's environmental groups are opposed to this. Georgia's "Golden Coast" is still largely unspoiled with Cumberland Island being one of the most beautiful places for scenery and appreciation of nature.

The National Park Service is encouraging people to express their wishes for what they'd like to see done. You may do so before tommorow at:

Relating specifically to this matter, the Georgia Environmental Action Network sent out this email:

Help Preserve Cumberland Island’s Wilderness

Dear Button,

We need your help to protect Cumberland Island and to preserve what is so precious and rare there – eastern, coastal wilderness where one can find solitude and peace in deep maritime forest.


In the fall of 2003, Rep. Jack Kingston attached a rider to the budget bill that removed the wilderness designation from several roads on Cumberland Island and required that the National Park Service provide vehicle tours through the Wilderness to the north end of the island. The Park Service is now requesting input on the plan that will govern those tours. While environmental advocacy organizations remain opposed to the tours because their mere existence will negatively impact Cumberland’s wilderness experience, the details of the plan have yet to be developed and much can still be done to minimize that impact. Therefore, it is critically important that the public urge the Park Service to adopt a plan that will have the least impact to the Wilderness and the island’s natural resources.


In developing the transportation plan, the National Park Service should seek only to meet the minimum requirements of the legislation and minimize the impacts on Cumberland Island’s natural resources, its Wilderness, and its wilderness experience.

Action Needed:

Please write the National Park Service by September 1, 2006 and urge them to develop a plan that has the least impact on Cumberland Island’s Wilderness and wilderness experience. Deadline for responding: Please take action by Friday, September 01, 2006.

The following organizations are participating in this campaign:

Altamaha Riverkeeper
Center for a Sustainable Coast
Georgia Conservancy
Georgia Conservation Voters
Sierra Club - Georgia Chapter
Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

What have Republicans done for Georgia lately?

Sonny Perdue and the Republican controlled legislature have produced about the same results for you as the Republicans have in Washington. For poor Americans, they're doing nothing more than giving misery a little more company. This AP article says that both Georgia's poverty rate and its number of uninsured citizens have increased - yet again. This continues a steady trend, under Perdue, of moving Georgia further and further away from the national poverty average.

From the Macon Telegraph:

Georgia's poverty rate, number without health insurance rise
Associated Press

ATLANTA - Georgia's poverty rate, along with the number of people without health insurance, have both gone up, according to recent Census Bureau data.
The increases are among the fastest in the country, according to the Census Bureau, which released the information Tuesday.

In 2005, an estimated 1.7 million Georgians were uninsured, up from 1.5 million the year before, according to a Census Bureau survey. Georgia was one of eight states whose two-year rolling average of uninsured rose. The state's two-year average climbed to 18.1 percent uninsured in 2004-2005, from 16.9 percent in 2003-2004.

That figure leaves Georgia tied for eighth among states with the highest rate of people without health insurance.

The state's increase "is a pretty big jump - a significant increase," said Bill Custer, a Georgia State University health insurance expert.

Meanwhile, Georgia's poverty rate rose last year to 14.4 percent, its third consecutive increase since 2002, when it had fell to 11.2 percent, according to census numbers. Nationally, the poverty rate was 12.6 percent, the first year since 2000 that the poverty rate did not grow.

These results seem consistent with national trends during the George W. Bush administration.
The Progress Report paints this less than rosey picture:

The numbers "mark the worst performance in recent decades for poverty and median income during an economic recovery." The Bush administration "dropped the ball entirely" on poverty since the issue "forced its way to the top of President Bush's agenda in the confusing days after Hurricane Katrina." ("Does [President Bush] often talk about poverty? No," Tony Snow admitted recently.) But in a "sign that the income inequality may rise higher on the US policy agenda," Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson admitted this month that "many Americans simply aren't feeling the benefits" of economic expansion. Now it's time for Bush to take action.

And on health care:

Since 2000, the Bush administration has created three times as many uninsured Americans as new jobs: six million uninsured versus 1.9 million new jobs between 2000 and 2005. The cost of employer-based insurance increased 9.2 percent in 2005 as hourly earnings climbed by only 3.2 percent. The average costs of providing medical care for a family of four rose 9.6 percent. The Commonwealth Fund found 50 percent of families earning less than $35,000 a year reported having trouble paying medical bills. (The percentages are similar for families earning $35,000 to $49,000, making it more likely medical costs could drive them into poverty.) Ninety-five percent of companies polled by benefits consultants Watson Wyatt expect to restrict health benefits for retirees in the next five years. And recently, the administration angered governors by announcing plans to "cut Medicaid payments to hospitals and nursing homes that care for millions of low-income people." The administration's focus has been on health savings accounts (HSAs) and Association Health Plans (AHPs), proposals that "will not begin to solve the problems of the 46 million Americans without health insurance" and "will cause new dilemmas for those fortunate enough to have health care coverage." "We've had absolutely no federal effort or interest in insuring the uninsured since 2000," Emory University's Ken Thorpe said. "This has not been a priority of the Bush administration." To fill the void, states are working to provide comprehensive health care coverage.

So when Republicans like Sonny Perdue and Casey Cagle come around asking you for your vote this fall, remember the poor people of this state and country. And if you're hovering around the poverty line, remember, you might be next.

Republicans in trouble in Florida?

This year in Georgia, we've seen the Christian Coalition turn its back on its former head, Ralph Reed, who was running for Lt. Gov. Many in that faction either stayed home on July 18th or voted for Reed's opponent, Casey Cagle. Since then, pundits have been trying to figure out if that was a sign of discontent by Christians; or, is it a sign of the once powerful coalition losing its punch?

Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald suggests that the Christian Coalition might have a similar impact in this year's Florida gubernatorial race. She reports that this year's group of Republican candidates have left conservative evangicals "disillusioned" and "uninspired." This is quite a turnaround from 2004 when that group was credited with ensuring a Bush victory in that state.

From the Herald:

Leaders of the conservative Christian movement in Florida say discontent with the national Republican Party and concerns over the war and the economy may keep voters home Sept. 5 because Florida's gubernatorial candidates haven't done much to inspire them.

That could spell trouble for Republican candidate Tom Gallagher, who is trailing in the polls behind rival Charlie Crist and is counting on reliable religious voters to show up in his primary race.

It also could mean trouble for the state's conservative Christian movement -- if it is left with no leader in the governor's mansion and see an end to their decade-long rise in influence.

''We're going to find out once and for all: Does the Christian Coalition/religious right continue to have the muscle that it was thought to have in Southern elections?'' said Matt Towery, an Atlanta-based pollster who last week released the results of a public opinion poll for the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

''Either the social conservatives are going to be motivated by Gallagher's statements and come out to vote,'' he said, ``or that group is going to prove to no longer be the major factor that it has shown to be in major Republican races.''

In the chamber poll of Floridians who labeled themselves likely voters, Crist's 19-point lead over Gallagher had narrowed for the first time in two months to 10 points. Crist's advantage: 39-29.

But a stubborn 29 percent of Republicans said they still hadn't made up their minds with the primary just over a week away, said Marian Johnson, the chamber's chief political strategist.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Evangelical Nancy Schaefer Joins Hands with Scientology?

Wow, Georgia state Senator Nancy Schaefer appeared at a ribbon cutting event in Atlanta for an exhibition sponsored by the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR). A human rights organization? Sounds good right?

CCHR happens to be a group sponsored by the Church of Scientology that labels psychiatry "an industry of death." According to the Savannah Morning News article that I linked, Schaefer's also listed by CCHR as being a member of their board of advisors, which Schaefer denies.

My first exposure to CCHR was about 10 years ago when the group started an aggressive P.R. campaign to influence county and municipal agencies, and to boost their profile with officials that worked with mental health experts and facilities. Their stated goal was to influence these officials to seek routes (totally disregarding the restrictions of state law) other than county mental health departments and hospitals for people suffering with mental health problems. CCHR's literature didn't suggest other routes. But they offered to provide Church of Scientology brochures and books for free.

So isn't it strange that such a staunch evangical Christian, who is probably on the front row pew each time her church open its doors, would join a Scientology group?

In the past Schaefer has advocated doing away with mental health screening in public schools. She's also been an aggressive opponent of gay-straight alliances in public schools. Thanks to sanctimonious people like Nancy, many Georgia teens questioning or curious about their sexuality probably need the very psychiatric services that she purports to be against. Ironic huh?

By the way no offense to Scientologists, espcially Corin Nemec. I'm not worried about Scientology's potential influence on Nancy Schaefer. I'm more worried about Nancy Schaefer's influence on Scientology. ;-)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

AL Democratic Executive Committee Rights a Wrong

Patricia Todd has, once again, been declared the victor in the Alabama Democratic primary for House District 54. Her quest to become that state's first openly gay legislator lives on. Todd received the most votes in the primary election, and then again in the runoff vs. Gaynell Hendricks. Now, a party executive committee has overuled an earlier ruling by a subcommittee to disqualify both Todd and Hendricks for failing to file a financial disclosure report with the party chairman and reinstated Todd's wins at the polls.

"Selective prosecution has been done to black people more than anyone else in this state," Holmes said. "Unless someone can show me the 59 more votes Ms. Todd received were illegal, there's no way you can deny her victory."

-Alabama State Rep. Alvin Holmes

This has been a contentious race with both sexual and racial undertones. Perhaps now that justice has been delivered, the Democratic Party of Alabama can come together for what will be an equally tough battle for them this general election season, as it will be for our Democrats in Georgia.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Democratic Party Committee in Alabama Subverts Will of the People

In an unbelievable ruling yesterday in Montgomery, a Democratic Party committee hearing the challenge of Patricia Todd's House District 54 primary runoff win disqualifies the winner and the loser because of an obscure Alabama Democratic Party bylaw. Todd, attempting to become that state's first openly gay legislator, won the primary runoff by 59 votes.

Todd's opponent, Gaynell Hendricks, contested election results based on the fact that Todd failed to file a financial disclosure report with the party chairman. Alabama's party's bylaws include a requirement that all candidates should file a financial disclosure with the party chairman 5 days before an election. Todd filed her normal report with the Secretary of State's office, but failed to file one with the party chair.

But here's the kicker: Hendricks didn't either. And according to a party official, no Democratic candidate has followed this little known rule since 1988. Hendricks' attorney argued that the committee should disqualify Todd, but not his client, because the complaint is filed against Todd and not Hendricks. He then played the homophobe card and argued that Todd did not want people to see that Victory Fund, a gay PAC, contributed $25,000 to her campaign.

The committee put aside common sense and took the easy way out. They disqualified both candidates and elected to select a nominee to appear on the general election ballot. But the decision must be approved by the party executive committee.

From the Montgomery Advertiser:

State Democratic Party Chairman Joe Turnham was "very surprised" by the decision Thursday, said Zac McCrary, a party spokesman. Turnham believes the party's executive committee might change the decision based on an "archaic bylaw," McCrary said.

Attorney Bobby Segall told the committee earlier Thursday that if the party disqualified Todd for not filing a financial disclosure form with the party chairman it would also have to disqualify the party's nominee for governor, Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley, and for lieutenant governor, former Gov. Jim Folsom Jr.

"Lucy Baxley is out of here. Just let the Republicans take over the state Senate and the House. Jim Folsom is out of here," Segall said in an emotional presentation to the committee. Committee members announced their decision about two hours after the hearing ended.

Lets hope that Mr. Segall is right and the executive committee overturns this ruling. The people of the 54th district have spoken. And they selected Patricia Todd as their representative. Overturning the will of the people on a technicality that has been violated by every Democratic candidate for the last 18 years is very un-democratic.

Hat tip to Birmingham Blues.

*Joe in Alabama has emailed me this response to the committee's ruling from the Alabama Democratic Party Chair, Joe Turnham.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Via Birmingham Blues: The Effort to Defeat AL's First Lesbian Legislator-Elect Continues

Thanks to my friend, Joe, in Alabama, I've been keeping up with the efforts to overturn the results of Alabama's Democratic primary for House district 54. Patricia Todd is bidding to become Alabama's first openly lesbian legislature. However, the race was decided by only 59 votes. And to make matters worse, Todd's opponent's mother-in-law is making an issue of the Victory Fund's involvement.

The blogger, Birmingham Blues, has been doing a great job of following this. She's even attending the contest hearing in Montgomery. For those interested in this ongoing story, I suggest reading her blog. In fact, she's one of my new additions to my blogroll.

Brokeback Walmart

The National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce has announced a partnership with Walmart. Apparently, they want an infusion of gay shoppers. Although their spokesperson said that gays are already a "significant" constituency. I know several of them, including a certain power lesbian. Don't worry I'm not naming names. ;-)

The retail giant is taking shots from the left and the right on this one. Conservative groups say that this will backfire on Walmart in small towns. And some progressives won't be happy to see some of their allies canoodling with a huge company that hardly offers benefits to its straight workers, much less domestic partner benefits.

No matter where you stand on the Walmart issue, the ensuing marketing for this should be priceless!! Any ideas? ;-)

Marilyn Geewax has the story for the AJC.

Coretta Scott King Panel Convenes

A panel created for the purpose of coming up with a way to properly memorialize Coretta Scott King is under way. Mrs. King, the first lady of the civil rights movement, passed away earlier this year. It's only appropriate that her home town of Atlanta come up with some fitting way to honor her.

Suggestions have already been made. But the panel probably won't submit an idea to the city council until the end of the year. I would expect that the panel will also be taking suggestions from members of the public at large.

From S.A. Reid's AJC article:

City Council President Lisa Borders said at least 100 ideas surfaced before the King Commission was formed.

Renaming Simpson Road in northwest Atlanta, an early proposal by Councilmen Ivory Young and C.T. Martin, hasn't yet been discussed, she said.
However, Young said commission members favor proposing a more prominent thoroughfare that cuts through more economically and racially diverse neighborhoods.

"The intent of the commission is to honor the sacrifice and service Mrs. King gave to Atlanta and her work in keeping Dr. King's vision alive," Borders said.

Commission members are appointed representatives from government, politics, business, community and the King family and King Center.

EPD Says No to Fund For Alternative Fuels

AJC editorial staffer, Lyle Harris takes the Envrironmental Protection Division (EPD) to task for "rejecting creation of a fund that would encourage investment in alternative fuels and promote energy conservation." A proposal for such a fund has been studied by EPD and the Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR) in response to the Clean Air Interstate Rule that went into effect last year. Harris goes on to call EPD's decision "pennywise, pound-foolish," and urges DNR to overule EPD and create the fund anyway.

Carol Couch of EPD offers a response below. Unfortunately it sounds more like a Perdue press release than a response to Harris' editorial. Ms. Couch offers no explanation for EPD's decision to reject the alternative fuels fund. In fact, she doesn't mention it at all. She does say that we have the potential to "use biomass from forestry and agricultural resources." But as Mr. Harris reminds us, it's only a promise of words without solid funding.

I encourage readers to look at the website for the state energy plan that Ms. Couch references in her response. To their credit, it seems to be a very user friendly site that encourages public input.

From this morning's AJC:

Energy down the drain
Lyle V. Harris - Staff
Thursday, August 24, 2006

When it comes to building a stronger economy and ensuring a healthier environment that benefits all Georgians, timing is everything. That's why state officials must endorse innovative strategies that move us closer to achieving those goals as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, the state Environmental Protection Division is slowing our momentum. During a briefing this week before the board of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the regulatory agency rejected creation of a fund that would encourage investment in alternative fuels and promote energy conservation.

EPD officials had been weighing the idea as part of their deliberations over new, federal clean air rules. Issued last year, the Clean Air Interstate Rule applies to 28 states, including Georgia.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency predicts CAIR will substantially reduce toxic air pollutants emitted by power plants, especially nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide, which contribute to smog and acid rain.

Affected states have been granted flexibility in how best to achieve the mandated air pollution reductions. EPD had been considering a worthwhile proposal that would require Georgia Power Co., the state's largest electric utility, to either reduce its smog-forming emissions by an additional 5 percent beyond the federal requirements or pay up to $9 million a year. The money would be used for ongoing energy efficiency programs or for grants and loans for renewable energy projects, such as wind, solar or biomass production.
Georgia Power's opposition to the fund is not surprising. The company understandably doesn't want to subsidize possible competition to its effective monopoly.

But while EPD Director Carol Couch publicly praises the potential of renewable energy and energy efficiency, the agency she runs opposes the fund, fearing its implementation may jeopardize the state's ability to meet a March 31 deadline to adopt the federal clean air rules. Couch also worries the fund may conflict with Gov. Sonny Perdue's ongoing efforts to craft a statewide energy plan.

Those arguments are spurious, at best. The EPD had plenty of opportunity to figure out how to include the fund as part of its rulemaking since the proposal was introduced two years ago, and it still does.

While Perdue's energy strategy is a good idea and long overdue, there's no guarantee it will include a reliable stream of revenue to diversify the state's portfolio of alternative energy sources beyond polluting fossil fuels.

The hard truth is that Georgians are energy hogs; on average, we consume 25 percent more energy than the national average. The quickest, cleanest and most cost-effective way to change that is to make conservation a top priority.
When the DNR board votes, it should overrule EPD's pennywise, pound-foolish recommendation and approve creation of the fund. Georgia doesn't have any more time, or energy, to waste.

--- Lyle Harris for the editorial board (

And from Ms. Couch of EPD:

State on target, studying ways to save energy
By Carol Couch
For the Journal-ConstitutionPublished on: 08/24/06

This December, a state energy plan will be presented to Gov. Sonny Perdue and will include sections to address renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Perdue officially launched Georgia's comprehensive energy plan on March 1 and directed the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority to lead the development of the plan.

As director of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, I am pleased to serve on the Governor's Energy Policy Council. The council will work with GEFA to oversee development of the energy plan. The plan will be organized in eight chapters on subjects including energy reliability, energy supply and demand, economic development and the environmental impact of energy production and consumption. The environmental chapter will include sections on air quality, water quality and supply, land use and waste management, and climate.

The principles being studied and evaluated as the plan is developed include:
Using renewable energy and practicing energy conservation are essential for Georgia's future.

Opportunity for renewable energy use in our state is substantial, particularly as it relates to the use of biomass from forestry and agricultural resources.
Renewable energy and energy conservation benefit air quality, lead to more efficient use of our water resources and contribute to energy independence.

The energy plan is being developed with a significant amount of public input. GEFA has created an interactive Web site at through which the public may submit recommendations and comments.

The council will also host a series of public meetings around the state in September to present the latest draft of the plan and to hear comments. More information about those meetings will be on the Web site.

Carol Couch is director of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

John Linder Ducks Allan Burns, Yet Wants to Discuss Issues

Allan Burns is running for Congress in the Georgia 7th district against Republican incumbent "fair tax" guy, John Linder. Allan disagrees with him on many subjects. But thus far, Mr. Linder hasn't agreed to any debates. He says he wants to discuss the issues at a "town hall" meeting tommorow night at 5:30 pm at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center in Lawrenceville. Allan wasn't invited. But perhaps some of his supporters will show up to ask Congressman Linder some pointed questions about what he's doing on the issues.

Here's the text of a Burns email I received yesterday:

John Linder Wants to Discuss the Issues - So Do We!

John Linder has announced a "Town Hall" meeting to "discuss the issues facing our nation." We think this is an opportunity for all of us who are concerned with the direction our country is headed, to voice those concerns and ask Rep. Linder what specifically he is doing about the high cost of gas and our dependence on foreign oil, health care and the uninsured, outsourcing of jobs, budget cuts in Medicare and education, the increasing violence and U.S. casualties in Iraq, and why its OK for members of Congress to get a pay raise but not minimum wage earners.

These are but a few of the many questions we have, and no doubt you have questions as well. An hour is not much time to discuss the significant challenges facing our nation and state, and we will once again ask for a debate to give the voters an opportunity to see where Allan Burns and John Linder differ on the issues and who will best represent the citizens of the 7th District in Congress.

If you plan to attend, let us know:

WHAT: John Linder "Town Hall" Meeting
WHEN:Â Â Thursday, August 24 - 5:30 PM to 6:30 PM
WHERE: Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, 75 Langley Dr., Lawrenceville, GA 30045

Allan's campaign web address is

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Sonny Perdue, State Ethics, And The Firing of Teddy Lee

If only we had known then what we know now. From the AJC, January 6, 2006:

Teddy Lee was never beloved by the General Assembly. As executive secretary of the State Ethics Commission, Lee had the job of investigating lawmakers accused of taking freebies from lobbyists or abusing their positions for personal gain.

Despite a hostile Legislature and a bare-bones budget, Lee served with distinction under four governors. On Wednesday, his tenure ended when the Ethics Commission voted 4 to 1 to fire him.

Derided as a ghost of Democratic regimes past, Lee was on borrowed time in Gov. Sonny Perdue's Republican administration. When Perdue was elected four years ago, he tried to force Lee out, but Lee refused, believing that resigning would undermine everything the commission represented: ethical, transparent and honest government.

Lee also believed that no elected official or political party was above the law. That's why the Ethics Commission sanctioned both Perdue and DeKalb CEO Vernon Jones, a Democrat, for campaign donation violations last year. Because Lee treated Democrats and Republicans alike and could not be denounced as partisan, Perdue had to plot his ouster in the shadows so the decision appeared to come from the commission alone.

But make no mistake, Lee's departure clearly reflects Perdue's wishes. Although it's true that the commission hires the executive secretary, the governor appoints the commission.

What's disappointing is that Perdue is supposed to be the ethics governor, at least according to the press releases his office pumps out with regularity. In support of that contention, Perdue points to the new ethics law that goes into effect Monday.

While the law prohibits legislators from immediately returning to the Capitol as lobbyists and increases fines for ethics violations, it doesn't limit gifts to lawmakers. The worst aspect of the bill may be a self-policing provision that creates a House-Senate ethics committee to determine ethical breaches by colleagues --- which is like leaving the fate of highway speeders up to a panel of NASCAR drivers.

Perdue and the GOP leadership hail the law as proof that a higher ethical bar has been erected in the Statehouse under their tenancy. Lee's firing suggests that if the bar was raised, it was to allow more political skullduggery to slip through unnoticed.


Sonny Perdue, wishing to be known as "the ethics governor" came into office in 2003 and shook things up. He began appointing new commission members, had his minions pass new ethics legislation. And then he targeted the State Ethics Commission's longtime executive secretary, Teddy Lee. As it turned out, Perdue's spiel about ethics was nothing but a smoke screen. In 2005, he became the first sitting governor in Georgia history to be fined for an ethics violation.

Teddy Lee wasn't popular with lawmakers because he made sure that many of them were penalized for their ethics violations. And when they didn't technically break the law, he went public and let the citizens of Georgia know when they broke the spirit of the law. Each legislative session, Teddy pushed to have new legislation introduced to clean up existing law with loopholes that were being taken advantage of. Needless to say, his efforts weren't always successful. But if his work didn't earn him a lot of friends, it earned him a lifetime of respect from those who played by the rules.

When Teddy Lee was on the job, guess what one of the very first assignments was when taking a job in an election official's office? You had to learn who this man was, and recognize him on the spot. Your job might depend on it one day. In some counties, his picture was probably posted on some back office wall like a wanted criminal in a post office. When he got a phone call from a concerned citizen about an election official not allowing him/her to see a financial disclosure, Teddy was never one to pick up a phone. He would make the drive to the offending office unannounced and unintroduced and ask to see the same public documents. If he was told no, the person he was dealing with was given a chance to correct themselves. But if they didn't, he'd pull out his badge and teach them a lesson not to be forgotten right on the spot.

Teddy was effective. He got things done. And anything involving his eyes or his signature was done correctly. He wasn't a purposeful menace to anyone. In fact, to most people, Teddy was (and is) a well-mannered and charming person with a great sense of humor. He merely wanted to make sure that laws were being followed by everyone - regardless of position or party association. He was one person who truly didn't care about partisan politics as it related to his job.

I suppose that's why Perdue knew he couldn't count on Teddy. He wouldn't look the other way when he needed him to. That was confirmed when Perdue was fined. So, Teddy had to go. Perdue couldn't fire him directly. But he was able to stack the commission with Republicans who were willing to fire Teddy. They eventually did.

And Georgia suffers for it.

For a DPG rundown of Perdue's history with ethics, click here.

Monday, August 21, 2006

I'm Glad Someone Else Doesn't Like IKEA

I hope rlpants at Echo and Sway doesn't mind if I repost his rant over here. I've had my own misadventures at the new IKEA in Atlanta. Basically, both times I've been, I felt like something on a conveyor belt waiting to be processed. Something happens to people when they go there. It's hard to explain. And it's just downright bizarre when folks start taking on this Euro-chic front as if their names were Anders and Lars, when their name badges say "Andy" and "Lamar."

With apologies to my friend, Michael Pernfors, the whole thing has caused me to question Sweden as a peace-loving nation. These IKEA's are spreading slowly but surely. And I'm just not sure that the legacy of ABBA will be good enough to overcome this. As far as I'm concerned, they can keep their dollup of lingenberries!


There are pros and cons to any retail establishment. Let it be enough said that...we got the furniture we needed, at a decent price, and very stylish, too.

It's what you have to go through to get it.

The IKEA store in the Atlantic Station area of midtown Atlanta is a big, blue monstrosity--the 15 acre complex includes enough parking for every yuppie in the greater Atlanta area, and some change. There were cars in the lot from all over the Southeast. The building itself is 366,000 square feet and includes a couple of restaurants, a play area for kids, and zillions of pieces of furniture and other home decor items.

There are, as far as I know, two levels to the store--the top level is the furniture showroom, and the bottom level is where you can actually buy shit. Items are classified into two categories--stuff you can pick up yourself, and stuff you have to wait several hours for.

My warnings to those considering shopping at IKEA are as follows:

--there's no signage that explains what to do or how to get things...anywhere.

--there are two people working there for about every 17,000 customers.

--they are both rude.

So we pick out some stuff on the showroom floor, we stay within our budget, and I do an ok job of retaining my sanity through the process.

Then we go to try and actually find the stuff we picked out. No major problems, but we chose two items that fall into the "we get it and then we hand it to you" category.

There was never any signage explaining this. On the nice little slip that explained what the red and yellow tags meant, there was no clue given as to who to approach to get this process started, and well, the two employees on the showroom floor were busy talking to other we asked a young man when we got down to the "pick out your furniture area."

This kid needs an absolute kick in his ass. He helped us, begrudgingly, and laughed sarcastically when Dawn told him the info he needed to look stuff up. She didn't know exactly what the number of two nightstands were, but knew the name. Every time--as they narrowed in to the item--they missed slightly (and it only took Dawn two tries to give him the correct information) he smarted off and smirked sarcastically...

This pissed me off royally and I spoke out--I told him, hackles raised on my neck--that "I could go find attitude somewhere else, I didn't need his" or something.

He ignored me and finally we got what we needed--but I just didn't appreciate that.

IKEA falls into the category of business I despise--the kind popularized in that most famous and for me, most hated episode of Seinfeld, the "Soup Nazi."

They have what people want, the price is right, and the demand is so high that they don't have to exhibit a pleasant attitude toward the customer.

I think the Southerner in me really comes out in situations like this. Let the "Soup Nazi" be rude to this Georgia boy, and he'll wear that soup. I'll just go home and make some brunswick stew. (ROTFLMAO)

I tend to enjoy shopping places where my business is appreciated.

No one's soup...or that good.

Altamaha Coastkeeper Needed to Protect One of Georgia's "Hidden Treasures"

This AP story caught my eye because of the Mighty Altamaha River's importance to our state. The river, that also includes the Ocmulgee and Oconee Rivers as offshoots, is one of the more unique on the east coast and the third largest. Best of all for Georgians, it's completely ours as it flows from north Georgia to Darien on the sea. It's a great resource, and is often referred to as the "Amazon of North America.". But when something goes wrong, we can't blame Alabama, South Carolina, etc. for the problem. It's all out fault. And unfortunately, because of development and industrial waster near the river and coast, a "Coastkeeper" is now needed to help monitor what's happening with polution.

A new coastkeeper would represent coastal issues, since the field work and advocacy roles are more work than one person can do effectively, Sheppard said.

The work is important because development is bumping up against nature across coastal Georgia, including in Darien, where condos now sit on marsh.

"We need the citizens helping. They can smell it," Holland said of pollution.


For those that haven't had a chance to see WSB's special on the "Hidden Treasures of Georgia," please do so. It includes a segment on the Altamaha River that uses more than words to show how important the Altamaha River is to us.

As a native southwest Georgian, I was glad to see the special included Thomasville's "Big Oak" and Pebble Hill Plantation, Albany's Radium Springs, the Okeefenokee, and Georgia's "Little Grand Canyon."

I'm sometimes amazed when my Atlanta friends comment that "there's nothing in south Georgia." They just don't know, or they haven't taken the time or interest to find out. But the truth is our state is one of the most diverse geographically and ecologically. South Georgia is a big part of that. It's not all farmland and piney woods. There are a lot of unspoiled natural riches from Cumberland Island to the Chattahoochee, as well as historical landmarks.

Friday, August 18, 2006

From the WTF File: Chip Rogers Criticizes Mark Taylor On Immigration?

Republican state senator Chip Rogers, the sponsor of Georgia's new immigration law, says that Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor wasn't helpful enough in getting his bill passed. For some reason, the Pubs have decided to label Taylor as weak on immigration. Well, I suppose that might depend on one's point of view on the issue. But months ago, Mark Taylor stated that, as governor, he would've signed Rogers' bill.

From the AJC:

In an interview after the news conference, Rogers said Taylor also did not attempt to contact him about the legislation. In contrast, Rogers said, Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue worked with him on the bill.

"We would have liked to have seen the lieutenant governor stand out front with us on this issue as the governor did," Rogers said.Both chambers of the General Assembly are run by Republicans, and, because of this, the GOP governor has had a much easier time the past two years getting his legislation passed. By contrast, Taylor's proposals have been largely ignored.

Still, Taylor said Thursday that he supported Rogers' bill.

"As governor, I would have signed Senate Bill 529," he said. "I believe it was all that Georgia could do to try to help what is clearly a federal issue.

The news conference was timed to coincide with a Georgia Republican Party ad that claims Perdue "passed the nation's toughest illegal immigration law." "Governor Perdue strengthened citizenship verification for taxpayer funded services, supported and signed the nation's toughest illegal immigration bill, and sent voluntary Georgia National Guard troops to help secure the border with Mexico," Perdue campaign spokesman Derrick Dickey said. "Georgia needed a governor to show leadership on this important issue, and Sonny did."

Bobby Kahn, chairman of Georgia's Democratic Party, said, "Governor Perdue's record on illegal immigration is like his record on so many other issues --- he uses TV ads and press releases to try to create the illusion of action, but he certainly hasn't shown any real leadership. When asked who fails the leadership test on the real issues facing Georgia families, there's only one response: Sonny did."

"Ma" and "Pa" Shorter Would Be Proud

For the sixth consecutive year, my alma mater, Shorter College has made U.S. News and World Report's honor roll. Yes, the college associated with the Southern Baptist Convention churns out less than conservative gradutates too. ;-)

In fact, I give a lot of credit to a religion course that I took there for opening my mind to seriously question what I had been taught all of my life to merely accept as fact based purely on faith. It helped me to play the "what if" game. As in, "what if" every word of the King James version of the bible isn't true? Or, "what if" stories told in the bible and presented to us as factual events by organized religion were merely parables designed to illustrate good deeds? Would it change the basic principles that I hold important in being the kind of person I want to be?

Perhaps, that's a discussion for another day.................

From the Rome News-Tribune:

Shorter ranked 21st among Southern comprehensive colleges focusing on undergraduate education. It is the sixth consecutive year the school has made the list.
“We are pleased that Shorter College is once again ranked among the top-tier schools in the 12-state Southern region,” said Shorter president Harold Newman.

“Remaining among the top-tier schools while in a growth phase is difficult, and we are encouraged that the ranking indicates that we are growing in an intelligent manner.”

U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges” guide is an annual ranking of more than 1,400 accredited four-year schools across the nation.

The “Best Comprehensive Colleges – Bachelor’s” category, which Berry and Shorter both fall into, includes institutions that offer a range of degree programs both in liberal arts and professional fields. There are 320 schools ranked nationally in this category divided into four geographic regions.

Berry and Shorter’s region includes colleges and universities in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

Academic performance is measured on as many as 15 different indicators divided into seven categories including peer assessment, retention, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources, graduation rate performance and alumni giving rate.

Shorter College is located in Rome, Georgia and has several satellite campuses in the metro Atlanta area. It was founded in 1873 by Alfred and Martha Shorter, affectionately known as "Ma" and "Pa" Shorter.

Andrew Young's Year Goes From Bad to Worse

For most of my life, I've looked at former UN ambassador and Atlanta mayor, Andrew Young, as an important civil rights icon, and one of the ultimate voices for peace and equality. He's someone that when he walks into a room, he commands respect. His closeness to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his work in the civil rights movement afford him said respect. But along with that comes a huge responsibility. Far be it from me to criticize Ambassador Young. But I don't think I'm alone when I say that he's been dabbling in things that seem counterproductive to what we all believe that he stands for. During 2006, he has made some controversial decisions, such as defending his fellow former Atlanta mayor, and now convicted criminal, Bill Campbell. And I'm afraid it's just gotten worse.

It seems that recently when a corporate giant runs afoul of public opinion, Young becomes the "go to guy" to help mend their image. He came under tremendous fire in the late 90's when his company, GoodWorks, was accused of painting a pretty picture over the terrible business practices of Nike. Labor groups couldn't believe it. The man who "bridged the gaps between the rich and the poor" was now being said to have "misrepresented" the true nature of Nike and its relationships with employees in third world nations.

Then, earlier this year, Young signed on with mega economy- killer and labor-suppressor, WalMart. I'm sure you've seen the ads featuring Young posing with the smiling faces of WalMart employees. All of which probably make only minimum wage and receive no benefits like healthcare or retirement packages.

But today, Young's association with WalMart ends. He's resigning over statements that he made about the giant corporation putting "mom and pop" operations out of business, and his stated belief that they should. To his credit, he did apologize for what he said. But I think he should further clarify just what he believes. The responsibility afforded by his place in society calls for it.

For the record, my first job was with a "mom and pop" grocery store when I was 15. It no longer exists today as it was hard enough for it and its fellow small grocery stores to compete with the chain stores. When WalMart finally bullied its way into town (against a great effort from locals that lasted several years), the store could no longer keep its doors open. In fact, of the 6 "mom and pop" grocery stores (not counting hardware stores, etc) that I can remember, only two are still in business. And rumors have abounded for a while of the impending closing of the other two.

As for how the store I worked for conducted its business, it was ran by a devout Christian who didn't walk around with his convictions on his sleeves and liberally passing out his judgements on how one should live their life. Instead, he led quietly by example. The family business didn't stay open for 60 years by overcharging its customers and discriminating against them. Rather, it was involved in the community and supported the very customers that walked through its doors daily- regardless of race. When homes were burned or lost in a storm, or when the job of a loyal customer was lost, he was ususally there the next day with a free box of groceries in arm and a promise of further help and prayers. Many, many times I witnessed this man make good on his promises and live out his beliefs.

So, I have a real problem with Young's generalized characterization of "mom and pop" stores and his belief that WalMart should run them out of business. From my perspective, some self-evaluation seems needed for a man whose name has been synonymous with "equality."

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Send A Message To China About Animal Cruelty

I've always appreciated the Olympic Games as a venue where it's possible to put aside politics and unite as a true, peaceful world community. There was no greater example of this than in 1996, here in Atlanta, when Israeli and Palestinian athletes marched into the Olympic stadium together. But when you hear about things like this, it makes me want to boycott the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

PETA has sent out the call for all those who care about animals rights to send a message to China about their recent mass killings of dogs and cats (even those vaccinated for rabies) to fight an outbreak of rabies. While I realize that we here in the United States aren't perfect on this issue, we at least have the freedom to stand up against intolerable acts like the ones that are being commtitted in China.

Regardless as to how you might feel about PETA, read this excerpt of an email that I received from them. And please consider voicing your displeasure to Chinese officials:

Throughout the month of August, I'll be sending you breaking news about the treatment of companion animals around the world as well as easy ways that you can help stop animal abuse TODAY. As you may know, officials in Southwest China ordered the extermination of more than 50,000 dogs in late July after three people died from rabies. Among the animals slaughtered were up to 4,000 dogs who—despite being immunized against rabies—were dragged into the street and strangled or clubbed to death in front of their families. These awful deaths illustrate the Chinese government's insensitivity to animals as well as its complete lack of planning. There are humane ways to prevent rabies outbreaks. Yet China has rejected our offers to help implement procedures—including a simple four-point plan—that would avoid such cruel killings.China has no animal welfare laws whatsoever. That's why millions of dogs and cats are strangled with wire nooses and beaten to death every year so that their fur can be turned into trim and trinkets for American and European consumers. China is the world's largest supplier of animal skin and fur—and it doesn't draw the line when it comes to domestic animals and family pets. The following are ways that you can help dogs and cats in China right now:

Contact the Chinese government and demand that it halt the further slaughter of dogs. Urge the Chinese government to enact a strict anti-cruelty law immediately.

Don't let this massacre go unnoticed. Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper or post the news on your favorite blog. Let the world know about China's recent and shocking mass murder of dogs and the need for a cruelty-to-animals law in the world's most populated country.

Don't buy or wear fur. China supplies more than half of all finished fur garments that are imported into the United States. Because dog and cat fur is so deliberately mislabeled, the bottom line is that if you're buying fur, there's no way to tell whose skin you're wearing. And all animal lives are precious.Right now, China is listening to those who speak out for animals. After intense international pressure, the Chinese government has just halted its plan to give foreigners licenses to hunt wild and endangered animals.

Adding your voice today to those demanding change in China could help millions of animals.

PETA is not calling for an Olympic boycott, just merely asking them to stop animal cruelty and enact laws that would protect animals. However, it is my hope that people will take into account the fact that while many of its citizens live in needless squaler, China is spending billions on state of the art stadia and sports facilities all over the country. It's a little hard to get into the Olympic spirit knowing that there is willful neglect of the citizenry only a few miles away. Neither human rights nor animal rights are a strong point of the government of China.

Perdue vs. Taylor Gets Ugly In A Hurry

I'm sure we all remember that in 2005, Sonny Perdue became the first sitting Georgia governor to be fined by the state ethics commission. So one might be tempted to think that his campaign would not want to bring up the issue of state ethics in his battle against Mark Taylor. But that's not the case as the Georgia GOP has filed a complaint against Taylor with the State Ethics Commission.

The Republicans are accusing Taylor of taking $35,000 more in donations from a corporation than he was allowed to in December of 2005. And they go on to say that the ethics commission should take this matter up before their next business session to stop Taylor from using those funds to "influence voters." The Taylor campaign says they've done nothing wrong, and that this is all a question of the timing of a law change affecting corporate donations. This one seems like it should be an easy one to sort out. But the question is whether or not the state ethics commission will call a special session to deal with this allegation before the November 7th election. I doubt it.

However, Gov. Perdue has a new worrisome bee in his ethics bonnet as well. Unlike past governors, Perdue decided not to put his holdings into a blind trust when he took office. This has traditionally been done to make sure that no decisions made by the governor can influence personal affairs. Perdue says that the types of assets and interests he has would not do well in a blind trust. So he took advantage of the fact that Georgia law does not require him to do so. But, Perdue's land deal with an appointee of his may have given us an example of why that law needs to be changed.

From the AP:

Perdue bought the land from Stanley Thomas, a Georgia mega-developer with a fleet of planes that the governor used at least once to get to a West Coast fundraiser. The 2004 purchase came a little more than a year after Perdue appointed Thomas to the state Board of Economic Development. About a year after the purchase one of Thomas' companies, Fourth Quarter Properties, donated a whopping $250,000 to the state Republican Party.

Perdue said there was nothing improper about the deal. The Republican governor said that he bought the land in Florida because purchasing property in Georgia while he was governor would have created a conflict of interest.
"I like land," Perdue said following an environmental speech Wednesday in Savannah.

"I determined to buy out of Georgia because I didn't want it to ever be said that I influenced anything. If I bought land within 100 miles of a new road construction, I'd be accused by the other side of influencing that. So I chose to go out of state."

But Democrats questioned whether Perdue - who spent a quarter of his net worth on the land without ever seeing it - had violated federal anti-corruption laws. They called for an investigation.

"It appears as though Gov. Perdue sold his office to make himself wealthy," Democratic Party Chairman Bobby Kahn said.

Perdue spokesman Derrick Dickey called Kahn's assertions "laughable."

Perdue bought the land, which borders the luxury Reunion Resort, for $2.038 million in December 2004 from Fourth Quarter Properties, one of Thomas' many companies. But although Perdue ponied up that much money for the land it is appraised at only $185,700. The property was assessed at the lesser amount because the land is partly composed of wetlands and lacks an access road, said Jerry Williams, supervisor of commercial assessments for Osceloa County, Fla.

We haven't even made it out of August yet. So who knows what else is bound to come up? Reportedly, Taylor ran into Perdue at a tv studio the day after his primary win, and the two exchanged congratulations and wishes for a clean race. So much for that..........

NYC Releases More 9/11 Calls

As we approach the 5 year mark of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, NYC releases new calls made from those trapped inside the World Trade Center. Just as those heard on network news and in documentaries, the voices are chilling, especially when one asks, "I'm going to die, aren't I?"

As movies like "Flight 93" and the now playing "World Trade Center" come out, we get asked whether or not this is the right time, or if we're ready for this. Personally, I think we need these reminders. We need to remember that there are people in this world that want to kill us. Allegedly some are even willing to kill their own children in the process.

The sad part is, I think some of our own leaders and their advisors need these reminders too. On the day that he decided to invade Iraq, I wish someone would've reminded President Bush that the target was supposed to be Al-Queda and those states that aided them. Perhaps then Sec. of State Colin Powell did try. But obviously it was to no avail.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Big Oil Must Love These 3 Stooges: Isakson, Chambliss, and Kingston

A week or two ago, I saw some pictures of U. S. Senator Saxby Chambliss touring an ethanol refinery in south Georgia. At the time, I was encouraged to see some Republicans apparently supporting the exploration (and hopefully eventual implementation) of alternative fuels. There has been so much discussion about how Georgia is perfectly suited to jump into such an endeavor and the potential economic and environmental effects it would have. We already possess much of the needed infrastructure via our farm industry to become a national leader in this area. Added to that, most experts agree that our fossil fuels addiction is a major component in our ever increasing environmental problems. All of this makes it hard for me to understand why 3 of our state's leaders wish to lift the offshore drilling ban.

David Kyler, executive director of the Center for a Sustainable Coast, has this to say in an op ed piece in today's Athens Banner-Herald:

Last month's spill of thousands of gallons of oil along Georgia's Savannah River, which degraded water quality and harmed wildlife, is an unfortunate but enlightening example at a time when offshore oil and gas development is being unwisely supported by our state officials.

As suggested by this relatively small oil spill, risks of larger fossil-fuel related industrial accidents or natural events, either offshore or shoreside, could bring catastrophic worst-case scenarios. These would include sustained damage to estuaries, with corresponding loss of fisheries - both commercial and recreational. Coastal tourism also would plummet, with severe economic consequences.

In spite of such risks, Georgia Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss have consistently voted to lift the 25-year ban against offshore drilling, and U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., recently chimed in harmony with them. Likewise, Georgia's draft State Energy Plan includes a statement supporting development of fossil fuels offshore.

Such positions seem willfully ignorant in light of major issues that neighboring states clearly acknowledge. Congressional representatives and senators from both parties in Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina have voiced strong opposition to offshore oil and gas development, citing risks to coastal economic and environmental interests that far outweigh any benefits.

Despite the results of past exploration off Georgia's shore in the late 1970s, when geologists found little reason to think recoverable reserves were available, both the price of fuel and advancements in technology might seem to be cause for reconsideration. However, numerous reports conclude that even the most optimistic estimates of offshore reserves nationally would fall far short of rapidly expanding demand. By the time any of these reserves were made available, we would be even more dependent on foreign sources of oil and gas than we are now.

Once the offshore ban was lifted, any recoverable energy resources that were found would then be "developed." This would include installation and use of massive industrial equipment, shoreside facilities, and - potentially - onshore energy processing, including oil refinement, which is among the most undesirable of all industries. The creation or expansion of industrial operations would have disruptive consequences for both water resources and the native landscape - both of which are essential to coastal Georgia's nature-based economy - worth more than $1 billion annually and supporting some 40,000 jobs.

Offshore fossil fuel development is a precarious policy that wouldn't pass any reasonable evaluation of the public interest test. As an alternative to disruptive exploration, drilling, production and distribution, new and cleaner energy technologies could be put online that would far out-produce conventional sources - provided investors were given comparable subsidies and tax benefits under state and federal policies.

For example, in a single year using existing technologies, enough wind-powered energy generators could be installed to produce more electricity than the average U.S. nuclear power plant. Fiber-based ethanol also is a highly promising alternative to gasoline, with tremendous economic prospects for Georgia's agriculture and timber industries.

Instead of advancing these promising new alternatives, our leadership is taking us in the direction of obsolete technologies with still more risks to the environment and public health. Moreover, generating electricity using fossil fuel resources requires large amounts of water for processing and cooling, which would further compound Georgia's water management problems.

As we face the widely predicted prospect of major coastal storms of greater intensity and frequency, any development of such facilities on our coast would cause greater hazards from such events. By locating major energy facilities in harm's way, hurricane storm surges and winds would likely inflict even more destruction - with threatening implications for communities, water quality, nature-based businesses and wildlife habitat.

It's time for Georgians to speak out on these critical energy issues. If conventional thinking is allowed to prevail, promising new energy technologies will be further delayed in providing their obvious benefits. And ill-considered fossil fuel development offshore will impose unjustified threats on property, income and quality of life.

Our rapidly growing state deserves a more thoughtful, responsible approach to energy policy.

Monday, August 14, 2006

A Haunting in Americus?

I love a good ghost story. Always have. But this one hits close to home. My dad was born in Americus, Georgia and graduated from high school there. With family still in the Americus/Cordele/Lake Blackshear area, we made frequent visits to see them from time to time.

The undeniably most recognizable symbol of Americus is the famous Windsor Hotel. No, Queen Elizabeth and her relatives don't own it or stay there. It just bears the name. Since nearby Plains is too small for appropriate accomodations, the hotel has hosted dignataries from around the world passing through the area to visit Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter. People like the late Egyptian Pres. Anwar and First Lady Jihan Sadat have enjoyed its beautiful old surroundings. I have a cousin that has a vivid memory of George H.W. Bush in 1976, then the CIA director, visiting the hotel. Mr. Bush left rather angry as President-elect Carter had just informed him that he would not be retained. Perhaps Bush decided right then and there to make his first run for the presidency in 1980 within the very walls of the Windsor.

But according to the Albany Herald, the Windsor has a couple of non-paying guests too.

Robinson, who has been with the hotel for six years, said she fully believes the ghost of a maid and her daughter, killed in the early 1900's, still roam the halls of the hotel.

"I am very much convinced," said Robinson, who has not had any paranormal experiences outside of the castle-like hotel.

And now a team of experts is trying to find out if otherworldly spirits inhabit the hotel.

The Big Bend Ghost Trackers, of Tallahassee, Fla., who have been featured on The Learning Channel, the History Channel, CNN, Time Magazine and UPN, spent the night Sunday night to try to catch some evidence of spirits in the hotel.

Betty Davis, a member of a four-woman team at the hotel Sunday, said they use infrared cameras, motion detectors, thermal and electrical sensors and other equipment to document any non-human changes in the environment that can indicate the presence of a ghost or spirit.

"Ghosts are everywhere," Davis said.

And it's not even October yet. ;-)

From Tina's Scrapbook: Pics of Democratic Lineup at GADCC in Macon

Tina from Georgia Democratic Women's Grapevine took some great pictures of Democratic general election candidates at this weekend's Democratic County Chairman meeting in Macon this weekend.

Wander over and take a peek.

A Warning for the Georgia Coast

From Sunday's AJC:

Dissolved oxygen, the breath of life for shrimp, blue crabs, oysters and fish, is declining at an alarming rate. Within 10 years, Verity, a professor at the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, predicts there won't be enough left for the sea life we love to eat. Those creatures will be replaced by jellyfish, which don't need as much dissolved oxygen and feed on the type of organisms that grow in a polluted estuary, he says.

Verity's already witnessed change. Between 1987 and 2000, his sampling showed a 70 percent increase in jellyfish.

Verity and other scientists who have researched similar changes worldwide say they can sum up the cause in a single word: people.

As more homes, condominiums, marinas and businesses are built on the coast, pollution increases in tidal creeks and estuaries. Treated sewage discharges and storm water runoff carry fertilizers from lawns, golf courses and farms and oil and other pollutants from pavement and rooftops.

"We need to stop what we're doing now and either mitigate or reduce [the impacts] because we're going downhill in a hurry," Verity said.

Personally, I don't eat any type of shellfish or other water scavengers. But a lot of people do. This sounds like it would have both an economic impact as well as an ecological impact.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Larry Munson Calls It As He Sees It

My parents were in their 40's and 50's respectively when I was born. They came from a generation that depended on the radio as most of us now depend on the internet or television. In each of their families, a critical part of their day was to sit around the radio at night listening to President Roosevelt's voice as he explained to the American people what was happening thousands of miles away. For me, such stories always conjured up rememberences of "The Waltons." But the idea of huddling around a radio to hear what is going on really wasn't that foreign of a concept for me.

That's because college football is like a religion in the south. It inspires a deep state and regional pride in many of us that stretches all the way back into the late 1800's and early 1900's where the south was still recovering from the effects of the Civil War. And as I was growing up in the early 80's, there weren't nearly as many college football games on television as there are now. Each fall Saturday, you can count on CBS, ABC, ESPN, ESPN 2, and the Fox networks to all have football games without fail. They start as early as 12 noon and continue on past midnight sometimes.

But back "in the day," there were only a handfull of games on - perhaps 2 or 3 at the most. That meant that many fans around the country either had to attend the game in person or listen to it on the radio. For several generations of Georgians, Larry Munson was the eyes and ears of University of Georgia football. From Dalton to Bainbridge and from LaGrange to Brunswick, thousands felt the pain of defeat and the jubilation of victory as described by the least likely of men. Munson, who is in his 80's now, isn't from Georgia. He's a native Minnesotan. He has no "twang" as they say. He's worked as a radio guy from Wyoming to Nashville. But little did he or the Georgia people know that when he began his tenure as play-by-play man for UGA in 1966, a legend was being born. He's long since become one of us.

This wasn't limited to the state of Georgia. Virtually every state where football is king has their own version of Larry Munson. And on those rare times when I was able to hitch a ride with someone making the 5 hour trip to Athens to see the "Dawgs" play, it was always a part of the routine on the way home to scan the radio dial to pick up Clemson's Jim Phillips, Tennessee's John Ward, Georgia Tech's Al Ciraldo, or another one of my favorites, the late Jim Fyffe at Auburn. Along with Munson, these men all had that old "homer" style of putting aside their objectivity and saying things like "we" instead of "they." Those men are endeared to those of us from those days. In fact, even today, when watching a game on t.v., I will mute its volume so that I can turn on the radio and hear our guy Larry make the call.

Wherever he goes, friends and foes alike in and around college football know Larry. He's respected by all, if not loved. He's generally known as the best in his business. And that's not just a UGA fan talking. Larry's a member of the Broadcasting Hall of Fame and two of his calls ("Run, Lindsay, Run!" and "Look at the sugar falling from the sky........") have been touted by ESPN and Sports Illustrated as being two of the best calls of all time in any sport.

Tonight, Larry is being roasted in celebration of his 40th year of being "The Voice" of the Georgia Bulldogs. People from all over the country and from several different schools will be on hand to help. All I can say is "thank you" Larry. And here's hoping for 40 more!! GO DAWGS!!

Friday, August 11, 2006

It's Hard Being a Tree in North Georgia

Living in north Georgia has been great overall. But one of the discouraging aspects about life up here is that trees disappear in favor of asphalt or concrete at an alarming rate. During this election season, I've been constantly amazed by "slow growth" candidates for local offices (including long time incumbents) and their spiel about saying "no" to developers. Meanwhile, you look around and trees that were here yesterday are gone today in preparation for the next strip mall, drug store, bank, or gas station.

Well, according to Georgia ForestWatch and the Southern Environmental Law Center, it looks as if the federal government, particularly the U. S. Forest Service, needs to be held in check as well. The Forest Service has denied a 2004 appeal by environmental groups challenging their management plans for several southern forest areas including the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest.

From the Macon Telegraph:

"At the highest levels, the administration has decided not to respond to what the citizens and public wanted," said Sarah Francisco, a staff attorney with the center. "It's going to have real impacts on the forest. The plans allow for logging at much higher levels and forests are already aggressively pursuing this."

She pointed to north Georgia's Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, where the new plan could allow 50 million board feet of timber to be harvested every year. That's nearly double the 28.9 million board feet a year gathered through much of the 1990s.

The other plans targeted by the groups involve Virginia's Jefferson National Forest, Tennessee's Cherokee National Forest, South Carolina's Sumter National Forest and the National Forests of Alabama.

Here was the response from the Forest Service:

"Conservation of the forest in the South requires a lot of active management," said Chris Liggett, the Forest Service's director of planning for the southern region. "You can't just stand back and let things go everywhere."

He said the plan wields timber harvest as a tool to thin forests that have become fire hazards, encourage species growth and ward off invasive species.

What Mr. Liggett says is sensible to me. But DOUBLING the amount of timber harvested each year for 10 to 15 years sounds excessive.

However, local environmental groups are seeking to pressure local officials:

Local environmentalists have reacted by staging rallies and passing out petitions in hopes of pressuring state officials to step in.

On Wednesday, dozens of members of Georgia Forestwatch rallied at the Capitol in Atlanta, brandishing more than 4,000 postcards that urge Gov. Sonny Perdue to expand wilderness designations and protect roadless areas.

"Once again the forest service has ignored the desires of many citizens to protect important forest areas," said Wayne Jenkins, executive director for Georgia ForestWatch. "Instead, they propose to increase logging and road building at the expense of water quality and rare habitats."

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Middle and Rural Georgia to be Key Battlegrounds

The AJC looks at the lineup of Dems and Pubs for the state's constitutional offices. And their article inlcudes this opinion from Emory University political professor, Merle Black:

"Black said Georgia's larger cities will likely go Democratic, the suburbs and exurbs will likely lean Republican, and the real battle will take place in the small towns and rural areas in central and South Georgia.

"That will be the critical area for this election," Black said."

It's certainly noteworthy to point out that the two candidates for Governor are from these areas. Gov. Perdue is from Bonnaire in middle Georgia, while Mark Taylor is from Albany. Because of Taylor's high profile involvement, this is a prime opportunity for the Democrats to flex their muscle in south Georgia, just to remind folks that they still can. Taylor is a supporter of economic expansion in south Georgia. He also supports protecting HOPE and fully funding schools - each year, not just during election years. Those are the kinds of issues that even rural Georgians trending Republican can and will vote for.


The AJC didn't mention the Libertarian Party or its candidates. And I didn't mention them earlier in my last thread. So for those interested and curious, you can click here to do some independent research. I'll mention their candidates from time to time this fall.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

November Fight Card is Set

Now that the primary runoff is behind us, we now know who the candidates will be for the two major parties in the state's constitutional offices. Hopefully we'll see some good, hard-hitting, issue-heavy contests with few low blows.

Most of these candidates are all battle tested and bearing a few scars. Here are some of the state's main card fights:

The blue corner features the hard-hitting Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor bidding to step up to the top spot. But it also includes Jim Martin, a finesse guy in the Lt. Gov. race that uses his guile and speed to great effectiveness. We have a female contestant in Gail Buckner that emerged out of no where and fought her way out of the crowd in front of a state-wide audience to challenge for Secretary of State. Next up is Thurbert Baker, the solid veteran incumbent aiming to remain Georgia's Attorney General. And last, but certainly not least, is the longest serving statewide incumbent in the nation, Tommy Irvin. He's seen them all before, and won't go down without a fight as Agriculture Commissioner.

Fighting out of the red corner will be Georgia's current governor and low blow artist, Sonny Perdue. Joining him for Lt. Gov. is the wild-eyed (what's up with that look?) Casey Cagle, slayer of Ralph the Mouth. Next up is possibly one of the brightest of red stars, the contentious candidate for Secretary of State, Karen Handel. She ducks, weaves, and bobs questionaires as good as anyone in Georgia politics. Bidding to paint the Attorney General's office red is "Pious Perry" McGuire whose ignorance (gays do not = pedophiles) knows no bounds. And bringing up the rear for Agriculture Commissioner is the Uber-farmer Gary Black.

Now is the time to unite and look forward to the challenges ahead. In the coming months, we'll soon see who has the right stuff to steer the state towards a better future. Look for most of them to spend some time fund raising and reminding voters of what they stand for. But eventually, they'll all come out swinging.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A New Panda Joins The World

Yahoo News reports on panda birthings in China. And they have a slide show of pictures as well. :-)

So Wal-Mart Can Pay More After All?

I saw this at Wal-MartWatch. According to a recently released Economic Policy Instiutute study, Wal-Mart "can offer better wages to its employees while keeping profit margins nearly 50 percent greater than key competitors."

From EPI:

The Wal-Mart debate

The benefits and costs of Wal-Mart's expansion across the United States have been hotly debated. Critics of the retailer have documented the extent to which Wal-Mart uses its market power to undermine workers' compensation, but supporters of Wal-Mart claim that the lower prices offered by the retailer more than compensate consumers for any depressing effect the company's expansion has on wages. EPI's new Issue Brief, The Wal-Mart Debate: A False Choice Between Prices and Wages, addresses how the retailer's economic benefits can be retained even if their labor compensation is dramatically improved. (News release [PDF])

A Few Doughnuts Never Hurt a Poll Worker

Back in my home county, the election superintendent used to bring doughnuts around to her poll workers at the various voting precincts. I thought that was a tradition worthy of continuing. After all, when we hear about poll workers it's almost always for something that goes wrong, whether it be their fault or not. But largely, the day of a poll worker is long and thankless. So I decided to bring some doughnuts with me as I went to vote today.

I beat my way through the crowd (sarcasm) and opened the door to find 6 smiling faces all looking at me at once and saying "Hi!" in unison. For just a moment, I had a little deja vu as I thought back to a similar reception I got at the Dog and Gun mens' club in a rural Florida town about 10 years ago. But I digress.........

My business was conducted smoothly and without any hickups. I worked my way through all TWO races on my ballot and turned my voter card in.

As the poll workers knoshed on their appreciated doughnuts, I learned about one lady's daughter's impending divorce. And I was told by another that today is her husband's birthday, for which he got a coupon for a free massage. She went on to tell me that he said he was afraid to use it as he had fears of "rising" to the occasion at the wrong time and place. Okay, I never claimed to have the classiest of conversations at voting precincts! But all in all, it was nice to make someone's day.

Oh well, just another slow Georgia runoff involving voter #14.

Runoff Tuesday

Runoffs in Georgia rarely mean long lines at the polls. They certainly won't today. I didn't even bother to early vote this time. I'll be heading down around lunch to cast my vote.

As I scanned Georgia News Digest, I found several articles about today's runoff from around the state. But most of them focused on local races or the Republican runoff between Handel and Stephens for Secretary of State.

But make no mistake about it, Democrats have reasons to return to the polls today too. Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, and Congressional District 4 (among others) are still up for grabs.

As if I wouldn't remember, Mayor Franklin gave me a call at home last night asking me to vote for Jim Martin. You see, we're tight like that! ;-) Okay, okay, it was the same robocall you got. Not to be left out, a friend of mine supporting Greg Hecht told me she got a call from Ms. Steen.

So don't find reasons not to go. Whoever you favor in any of the races, do the right thing and vote. You do get a sticker after all!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Greg Hecht and Jim Martin: Breaking It Down

Tuesday's runoff election in the Democratic Primary for Lt. Governor, between Jim Martin and Greg Hecht, is still anyone's race to take. As with all runoffs, it comes down to who can motivate people to return to the polls, and who they're motivating: those for them or those against them.

Jim Galloway of the AJC compares the two men in today's paper, with my parenthetical thoughts in red:

Attorneys vie for state's No. 2 position
Jim Galloway - Staff
Sunday, August 6, 2006

The Democratic race for lieutenant governor is down to two metro Atlanta attorneys, both veterans of the state Legislature.

Jim Martin of Atlanta, an 18-year veteran of the House, finished first in the July 18 primary, with 41 percent of the vote. Greg Hecht of Jonesboro, a two-term state senator, finished second with 36 percent.

The winner of Tuesday's runoff will face Republican Casey Cagle, a state senator from Gainesville.

Martin's and Hecht's campaigns have tilted toward legal issues. Both agree on what they view as the shortcomings of Gov. Sonny Perdue, who they say has cut spending on education and health care for children.

But both Democrats emphasize different issues, and disagree on several.


Hecht: On his Web site and in debates, Hecht emphasizes the need for a state constitutional amendment to mandate smaller classroom sizes. He also attacks high gasoline prices and the federal government's refusal to investigate charges of price-gouging. (Good issues to talk about...I especially like Hecht's willingness to ask why the price of oil already taken out of the ground goes up in a crisis. It's not noted here, but I'll also throw in the fact that Hecht talks about alternative fuels is another plus with me.)

The Jonesboro resident is a strong advocate of commuter rail, particularly on the south side of Atlanta, but also to Athens. (I'm in favor of commuter rail and like Hecht's ideas on transportation overall.)

Martin: His first priority is the establishment of a state-supported health insurance pool that would allow small-business owners to provide affordable health insurance for their employees. It would apply to firms with 25 or fewer workers. (Small business pools would be an effective way of providing affordable healthcare to those who don't already have it. It's the most sensible idea I've seen on the issue.)

Martin also wants to increase funding for home- and community-based care for the elderly. (As someone who has a 95 year old grandmother that fiercely clung to her independence as long as she could, I think more can be and should be done in this area. And this is something that will affect each and every one of us at some point, be it ourselves or our loved ones.)


Hecht: He favors the death penalty but not as "a frequent tool. It should be used in heinous cases, and it should not be used in a discriminatory manner," Hecht said. He favors the use of DNA testing in the appeals of inmates who are already on death row. (I've waffled on the death penalty. Admittedly when Carl Isaacs was executed in 2003 for his role in the "heinous" Alday murders in Seminole County, I wasn't very upset for him considering he was someone that openly bragged about what he did and said he'd do it again if he had another chance. The fact that he lived 30 years after his admitted crimes, costing the taxpayers of that county millions of dollars in living expenses, defense expenses, and court costs, was almost another crime perpetrated upon Isaacs' victims. However, I'm a big believer in redemption and the value of all life. Hecht's position is something I can live with.)

Martin: "I believe it has to be fairly and constitutionally administered, but I support the death penalty," Martin said. As a legislator, Martin was at the forefront of efforts to provide those accused of capital crimes an adequate legal defense and to bar the execution of juveniles and the mentally retarded. (Martin's work in this area is commendable and essential. All defendants, especially in these kinds of cases, should have the best defense possible. And I am unequivocally against the execution of minors or the mentally ill.)

In each case, courts have upheld his viewpoint, Martin said.

"It doesn't help any families or victims for a trial to be unconstitutional. All that means is the conviction gets overturned and you have to go through the process all over again," he said.


Hecht: He has made an issue out of Martin's past attempts to rewrite state laws applying to sexual assault, saying that a 1993 bill --- which never passed --- would have opened rape victims to cross-examination on such things as their own behavior or their dress.

In the final days before the July 18 election, Hecht put out a flier on this issue, which misused a quote from Martin on the subject. Hecht has apologized, but says Martin started the fight by publicly questioning Hecht's commitment to women's issues. (Tit for tat doesn't cut it with me, especially when there's no basis for it. Essentially, it was this kind of misrepresentation of Martin's record that ultimately decided my vote in the primary. Votes should be won or lost on your own record or the true record of your opponent, not distortions. That's dishonest and disrespectful of voters.)

Martin: He denies Hecht's assertions that victims would have had a tougher time on the witness stand and says his efforts were backed by victims' rights groups. Establishing degrees of sexual assault, giving juries more choices, would have ensured more convictions, Martin said. He still favors the measure.


Hecht: He describes himself as "pro-choice," but also points to votes he cast in the state Senate against late-term, "partial-birth" abortions. Hecht has criticized Martin for holding up such legislation when he was chairman of the state House Judiciary Committee.

Martin: He also calls himself "pro-choice." Martin says he held up the partial-birth abortion bill because its Republican author refused to include an exception to allow the procedure if the health of the mother is at stake. "We don't need to be working on legislation that is unconstitutional, fatally flawed and very divisive on a very controversial issue," Martin said.


Hecht: He defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, and opposes civil unions --- though Hecht supports the right of local governments to offer domestic partner benefits and legislation that would recognize a gay couple's right to control hospital visitation and the division of property. (At least he has something to offer the LGBT community. But not as much as his opponent does.)

"I don't like the politics of division. The other side uses this as a wedge issue to bring difficulty onto gay Georgians' lives," Hecht said.

Martin: Also defines marriage as between a man and a woman, but supports civil unions.

Martin said civil unions would protect the sanctity of marriage and would act "as a way to prevent discrimination." Georgia Equality, the state's largest organization supporting gay rights, has endorsed Martin. (Martin takes the stand that Cathy Cox should have taken, and I thought would have taken. I somewhat excused her on this issue because she was more gay friendly in her stances than her opponent, and because I thought her move to the right was a pragmatic move against the more conservative Dem, Taylor. I'm very interested to see how Martin would fare with his pro-gay positions in a general election vs. a neo-con like Casey Cagle. A successful run by Martin would shatter perceptions on this whole issue.)


Hecht: His endorsements from other Democrats include Clayton County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell, state Rep. Stan Watson of Decatur and Steen Miles, the DeKalb County state senator who finished third in the race for lieutenant governor. (The endorsement I respect the most is from Stan Watson. But some think that Miles' endorsement could translate into more African-American votes for Hecht in Dekalb County, which should see a higher turnout than most areas because of the McKinney-Johnson race.)

Hecht also boasts endorsements from five of the state's largest unions, several law enforcement organizations and 35 county sheriffs.

Martin: He has obtained endorsements from several members of the state Democratic leadership, including former Gov. Roy Barnes and Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin. He's also backed by the Georgia Association of Educators, a major teachers' group. (The Shirley Franklin endorsement is the biggest endorsement prize in any race in Georgia, bar none.)


Hecht: In his last complete campaign disclosure as of June 30, Hecht reported raising a total of $1,245,347, with $269,463 in cash on hand. Personal loans that Hecht has made to his campaign amount to $384,350.

Contributions to Hecht's campaign cover a broad business spectrum. In particular, drugstores and pharmacists provided $25,150.

Martin: In his last complete campaign disclosure as of June 30, Martin reported raising a total of $1,151,928, with $293,657 in cash on hand. Contributions include a $35,000 personal loan from the candidate.

Contributions to the Martin campaign are dominated by checks written by law firms, but also include numerous small donations from professionals and from academics at state universities. Former Clinton aide Harold Ickes gave $1,000, as did Michael Stipe, lead singer for R.E.M. (Okay, so Martin will probably get the R.E.M vote.)


Hecht: Hecht's geographic base is Clayton County, which is majority African-American --- an important factor in the Democratic primary. During the primary and the runoff, much of Hecht's efforts have been spent generating support outside metro Atlanta. In the primary, he ran TV ads in Georgia's smaller markets --- including Macon, Albany and Savannah.

Martin: Martin's base of Atlanta has a strong African-American base of voters, and his endorsement by the mayor of Atlanta is significant. Martin's TV campaign in metro Atlanta has consisted of two biographical vignettes. One, which focused on the 1980 kidnapping of his 8-year-old daughter, was intended to answer Hecht's implication that Martin was soft on crime.