Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Gerald R. Ford (1913-2006)

America's 38th president, Gerald R. Ford (R) has passed away at age 93. The sad news comes Tuesday night. Given his age and considerable health problems of the last few years, it shouldn't come as a shock. But the passing of a president always calls for a moment to reflect and to show some respect.
In the wake of bribery and tax evasion charges, President Nixon's first vice president was forced to resign. He tapped Ford to step in largely because of his reputation for decency. And of course, when President Nixon resigned over the Watergate scandal in 1974, it fell to then appointed-President Ford to clean up the mess. Throw in the after affects of the Vietnam War, and he had quite a job on his hands.
In one of the more extraordinary post-presidential friendships, President Ford had a great working relationship with the man that defeated him for the presidency in 1976, Jimmy Carter. The two served on boards and commissions together. And they each participated in numerous studies and talks presented by the presidential libraries of both men.
As the first line of President Carter's ignaugural address said, thank you, President Ford, "for all you have done to heal our land."

Friday, December 15, 2006

Bush Suspends Executions in Florida After Botched Injection

The AJC's Ron Word has a horrifying account of the botched execution by lethal injection of Angel Nieves Diaz in the state of Florida and the resulting suspension by Gov. Jeb Bush.

When the procedure is done correctly, it normally takes about 15 minutes with the condemned unconscious at least by the 3 to 5 minute mark. But according to Word's article, this execution took 34 minutes. Witnesses said that Diaz was moving, blinking, licking his lips, and looked to be trying to say something at the 24 minute mark. He also had burn marks in his arms where the needles were inserted.

This is terrible. And this should never happen in the greatest nation in the world. Gov. Bush did the right thing in supsending executions until further notice. This will definitely be another black mark on our country's record of executing people.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Hoop Dawgs vs. Gonzaga @ Gwinnett Center Saturday

North metro Dawgs and Gwinnettians in particular should check out the 2006-2007 version of the University of Georgia mens basketball team this Saturday as they take on nationally ranked Gonzaga University at the Gwinnett Center.

ATHENS, Ga. --- Remaining tickets for the Georgia vs. #16 Gonzaga basketball game this Saturday in Duluth at The Arena at Gwinnett Center can be purchased online here and by calling Ticketmaster at (404)-249-6400. The Arena at Gwinnett Center Box Office is open between 9:00am-5:00pm on Thursday and Friday and beginning at Noon on the day of the game.

Reserved seat tickets are $15 each and group rates are also available by calling 770-813-7681. GA Student tickets are $5 each and will be on sale beginning at Noon on the day of the game at The Arena at Gwinnett Center Box Office. UGA Students must present their UGA ID when buying their tickets. UGA Students may purchase one student ticket per ID and may carry up to four ID cards.

The Arena at Gwinnett Center doors will open at 4:00pm with tip-off set for 5:00pm.

UGA has added more quality depth to the roster and its showing on the court. The exciting freshman Takais Brown (pictured upper right) is a lot of fun to watch. And he should shore up a big hole in the post that has been troubling the Dawgs for the last several years. He's definitely a big part of the reason why this will be Coach Felton's best team yet.
Go Dawgs!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Sierra Club of GA Hosts Atlanta Screening of "An Inconvenient Truth"

From the website:

An Inconvenient Truth and "Convenient Solutions" - Dec 13

Dec 1, 2006 --

What: FREE screening of An Inconvenient Truth
When: Wednesday, Dec 13, 2006 6:30-9pm.
Where: The Temple, 1589 Peachtree St NE, Atlanta. Please come to the FREE Sierra Club screening of An Inconvenient Truth on Wednesday, Dec 13, 6:30-9pm, at the Temple in Atlanta.

This critically acclaimed movie offers bracing facts and sobering predictions on global warming as well as practical solutions for ourselves and our elected officials.

The Sierra Club is hosting a free screening of this film in Atlanta at the Temple with a "Convenient Solutions" panel afterwards for attendees to ask questions and find out more about local efforts. We are trying to pack the house for the event (The Temple holds over 500 people) and are encouraging folks to bring with them a friend who might haves doubts or questions about global warming.

Too often our organization is just preaching to the choir—there are plenty of our friends and neighbors out there who don't have all the facts straight, invite them to come hear the facts and ask tough questions of our diverse panel.

Healthy, hearty refreshments and information booths before the film; Q-and-A with diverse, expert panelists after the film.

RSVP to or call 404-607-1262 x229.

If you haven't seen it already, make plans to see it and take part in the discussion following the movie. I consider this to be a great contribution to the world from Al Gore.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

MARTA to Gwinnett?

In this morning's paper, the AJC's Paul Donsky and Ben Smith are taking another look at Marta rail for Gwinnett County. They report that Bruce Le'Vell, Gwinnett's rep. on the MARTA board, has asked MARTA to commission a study to explore expanding MARTA rail lines into Gwinnett. Gwinnett Village CID has agreed to help pay the costs for the study.

This comes 16 years after Gwinnett voters soundly rejected the idea via referendum. But as the writers point out, Gwinnett's population has doubled since then. The demographics are changing. It's needs are changing. And frankly I-85 through Gwinnett during peak traffic periods is a nightmare.

When discussing rail transit, one of the main arguments against is always that metro area drivers will never give up the convenience of their automobiles. But, more and more, Gwinnettians are finding that working their way into downtown in the mornings and back in the afternoons is anything but "convenient." In fact, I pass by the park-n-rides at Discover Mills Mall and on Buford Hwy at I-985 all the time and those lots are always full. So quite a few Gwinnettians have already divorced themselves from their personal vehicles. Give them more reasons to do so and I suspect more will do the same.

Transportation is another critical issue affecting Georgians from north to south that was virtually ignored in the general election this year. Our "leaders" failed to lead us into any meaningful discussion. But it's also an issue that has a trickle down effect with an impact on our environmental situation and the very quality of our lives.

Lets hope that if this ever comes to a vote, the people of Gwinnett won't make the same mistake twice. Had there been a little more vision and foresight from leaders who stood against the referendum in 1990, perhaps some of our current problems could have been alleviated.

Well done, Bruce.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Remember to Vote Today

Remember to cast your runoff ballot today. I can almost promise you that you won't face any lines today. With such a low voter turnout, that means that almost anything can happen in the races that you're interested in. So make sure that you make one more effort to support the candidates of your choice.

For me, it was David Burgess (D) for Public Service Commissioner.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Sen. Thompson and Wife Sascha Makes National News

The odd story of the federal government trying to deport the wife of Georgia State Senator Curt Thompson (D - Norcross) made the Sunday's New York Times. Sascha Herrera, originally from Columbia, missed an immigration hearing back in 2005 because the notice and other case related documents were sent to an incorrect address. She married Sen. Thompson, a strong proponent of the rights of immigrants, earlier this year.

Because Sascha married a U.S. citizen, she should be allowed to stay here. But because the missed hearing occurred before the marriage, the government is taking the inflexible stance that she should be deported. If she is deported, it might be ten years before she could re-enter the United States.

Observers of this case and other immigration cases call the system "byzantine" and difficult to deal with. Perhaps fellow State Senator Sam Zamarripa said it best:

“It’s a very, very onerous system,” said State Senator Sam Zamarripa, a Democrat who was the first Hispanic elected to the Georgia Senate. “If the wife of a state senator can’t handle it, how can we expect people who are working in our labor force to handle the bureaucracy?”

“This is going to take a U.S. congressman or a senator to step in,” Mr. Zamarripa said. “To say, let’s wait a minute. Let’s think about this. This is a good person who deserves to be in this country.”

Sen. Thompson also says that his wife is a victim of a "notorio" that claimed he could do more for her than he actually could. He charged her $1300.00 for his "services."

In the state of Georgia, notaries public are little more than a glorified witness to signatures. There is little else they can do. Contrast this with other states, such as Florida, where notaries can actually perform marriage services.

Sen. Thompson has been a wonderful, truly progressive force in the state senate. He has a bright future in Georgia politics if he wants it. I can't say that I know his wife, Sascha. But Curt has a reputation for associating himself only with good people. Of all the things for INS to be worried about, I feel sure that Sascha Herrera is the very least among them.

It would be highly appropriate for officials, both Democrat and Republican, to step in and help the Thompsons. Hopefully there will a quick, reasonable resolution to this matter shortly.

60 Years Ago this Week: The Winecoff Hotel Fire

All Americans remember the date December 7th as a "day of infamy" because of the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor, HI in 1941 that brought the United States into WWII. But in Georgia, December 7th is a day of tragedy for an additional reason.

This week, the AJC looks back at America's deadliest hotel fire, the Winecoff Hotel fire of December 7, 1946, beginning with this article by Cynthia Daniels. The Atlanta, Georgia hotel, built in 1913, was advertised as "fireproof."

In an almost Titanic-like scenerio, the supposedly "fireproof" building didn't have a sprinkler system or even fire escapes. Like the doomed ocean liner, the Winecoff tragedy would bring about sweeping changes in building safety codes.

Unfortunately, on the night of the fire, the Winecoff was filled to capacity. At least 116 people were known to have lost their lives because of the fire. From 1946 to 1971, the Winecoff Hotel fire was actually known as the world's deadliest hotel fire. The origin of the fire is still a debated topic today.

Amongst the victims were members of state high school Y Clubs. In fact, my high school has a memorial plaque on campus for several victims from my hometown. I'm sure there are similar markers in other schools around the state.

The event, the ensuing investigations, and changes in safety codes that followed inspired the book, "The Winecoff Fire: The Untold Story of America's Deadliest Hotel Fire," by Sam Heys and Allen B. Goodwin. A documentary, "Peachtree Burning," was also made.