Friday, March 30, 2007

South Carolina is kicking our ass.............again

Atlanta environmental law attorney, Scott Hitch, has the scorecard on the souteast's race for biofuels supremecy in today's AJC:

"However, Aiken, S.C., across the Savannah River from Augusta, is a great place for a biodiesel plant. South Carolina now offers a tax credit of 20 cents to 30 cents per gallon for production of biofuels (ethanol and biodiesel), for up to 25 million gallons per year, and a five cent per gallon retail rebate. Retailers and dealers receive a tax credit for 25 percent of the cost of biofuels equipment.

These incentives have just attracted a new $1.4 million biodiesel plant from Georgia. Farmers & Truckers Biodiesel's new plant will move into a renovated kaolin warehouse across the state line, and it likely won't build a second facility it had planned for Georgia."


"There are almost 50 retail stations selling fuel containing ethanol or biodiesel in South Carolina. In Georgia there are only three."

With as much progress as Georgia has made towards being a leader in the biofuels industry, we're still not doing enough. Hitch's simple comparison of what Georgia is doing to what our neighbors are doing reveals that we have some catching up to do. Especially against South Carolina, which is now taking more than just automobile plants away from us.

Republicans like Gov. Perdue, Senator Chambliss, etc. have been showing some support, really just giving more lip service to it than anything. But that's somewhat to be expected considering that the Republican party is the party of big oil and coal.

And we surely do have some Georgia Democrats working hard towards taking advantage of our state's natural resources and byproducts from other goods to make sure that Georgia is in the fight. But what amazes me is we still have some Democrats that either don't realize that we're falling behind, or aren't enthused with the potential investment, job growth, and tax revenue that could result from putting our foot down on the pedal on this now. But then again, who could ever accuse Georgia Democrats of being visionaries?

South Carolina's beating us up and taking our lunch money. Not because they're better, but because they're thinking more progressively.

Young Harris and Cathy Cox both pick winners

Young Harris College has long been one of my favorite college campi ever since I first visited there as a child. Tucked away in the North Georgia Blue Ridge mountains on our borders with Tennessee and North Carolina, Young Harris is almost like a step back in time. With it's cute little 19th century Methodist chapel, its old but well maintained red brick and white clapboard buildings, that's a part of its charm.

But the selection of their next president is a clear commitment to continue moving Young Harris into the 21st century. Georgia's former Secretary of State, Cathy Cox, has accepted the challenge of being their next president.

I was pleasantly surprised yesterday when an alumnus of the school from Dawsonville called me to give me the good news. It's a role befitting Cathy in her now post-political career. I also think that she will find this more fulfilling for herself personally than practicing law, or pondering a run for the U.S. Senate. This kind of job will help her to utilize her knowledge and expertise as an administrator and executive, as well as her fundraising abilities for good cause.
Good luck to Cathy Cox and to Young Harris College. I think you're both in good hands.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Hoops, 2008, and Life Cycle Analysis

I have been watching a little mens and women hoops in the last few weeks. UGA's Dawgs and Lady Dawgs have both seen their seasons come to an end. Overall, I would say that both had successful seasons. Georgia's men continued to improve under Coach Dennis Felton. The number of wins went up to 19 against a schedule rated in the teens in terms of strength. That's a positive step up from last season's 15 wins against a weaker schedule. Coach Felton wins and does things the right way.

Add to that fact that Georgia competed in the SEC east which sent 4 of 6 teams to the NCAA tournament. Each of the 4 teams won at least one round with 3 of them advancing to the Sweet 16. Tennessee and Vanderbilt, both, came oh so close to reaching the Great 8. Vandy got a rotten travelling no call at the end of their game that may have altered the outcome against Georgetown. But if there's any team left in the tournament capable of springing a big upset at the Final 4 in Atlanta, it might just be the Hoyas. Perhaps destiny is calling?

Coach Andy Landers' Lady Dawgs made their usual Sweet 16 appointment. His teams have made an incredible 24 of 26 NCAA tournaments, reached 17 Sweet 16's, 5 Final 4's, and 2 national title games. If there's any justice in the world, one day he's going to win the big one. At any rate, Coach Landers will be inducted into the Womens College Basketball Hall of Fame this year.

Poor Jon and Amy ended up slightly disappointed. Both of their teams went far into the tournament. But when you're a Kansas fan (Jon) or a North Carolina fan (Amy), your standards are a lot higher than most. Don't worry guys. Both of your programs are strong and in good hands. I'm sure you both will be struttin' your stuff with yet another Final 4 appearance soon.

On the 2008 Democratic Presidential front, John Edwards has decided to remain in the race despite his beloved wife's cancer returning. One of the bright spots of 2004 was being exposed to Elizabeth Edwards, a truly lovely woman both inside and out. She's passionate about her family, her husband, and her belief that her husband will do a wonderful job as America's next president. I wish her and her family a lot of strength and the best of luck in fighting that fight.

However, Katie Couric sure tried to make Edwards look bad for not dropping out of the race to concentrate solely on Elizabeth. Both Edwards went on 60 Minutes with her to explain why they are staying in the race.

Couric' tone was surprisingly judgemental considering her own experience with her late husband's cancer. Sadly, he passed away. But Katie stayed busy through that terrible time. It probably helped her. And it probably eased the mind of her husband. I know she's a big fan of Hillary. After all, Katie is one of the few journalists that Hillary turned to when she was feigning ignorance of her husband's affairs back in the 90's. Perhaps that's why Katie decided to play the hypocrite?

It's not just me that noticed this. Dave Sirota noticed too.

Meanwhile, Hillary is rolling right along. She picked up the endorsement of Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, who was previously in the race, but dropped out. Tom Baxter tells us about Barrack Obama's successful trip to Georgia. And Al Gore heated up Washington last week with his testimony on global warming. Rumors of a 2008 run still persist.

Speaking of global warming, Don over at Life Cycle Analyis, has some interesting entries on both that topic and the new unrest in Kinshasa. It's good stuff, so check it out.

Rep. Brooks on the Wrong Side of Payday Loans

I'm not sure why Georgia State Rep. Tyrone Brooks (D) plans to vote for Republican Rep. Earl Ehrharts's HB 163 which would legalize payday lending in our state. According to this AJC article by Carrie Teegardin, he says its because of a past experience that his grandmother had with a local finance company. He says they ripped her off, charging her a "60 percent rate on each dollar."

I believe Rep. Brooks' story. That kind of thing is commonplace within this industry, which is why it is suspect to begin with. However, I don't believe him when he says this is his reason for supporting payday lending. It can't possibly be. Either there's another reason, or he hasn't taken the time to compare payday lending to finance company loans or car title loans. The type of lending he is backing doesn't look like a better option than the finance company loan that he says is bad for consumers like his grandmother. In fact, it might be worse.

Under the provisions of Rep. Ehrhart's bill, borrowers would be able to borrow money that typically would have to be paid back within two weeks. Teegardin's article says the cost would be "$15 per $100 borrowed at rates of anywhere from 195 percent to over 1,000 percent." Then, there are insurance add ons that push the costs even higher.

Brooks says lower income people who can't get a regular bank loan or a credit card need payday loans as an option for unexpected expenses. Clark Howard says find another option:

"This is the wrong cure," said Clark Howard, the Atlanta consumer guru who hosts a nationally syndicated radio talk show. "In my book, [payday lending] just makes people more ill."

Payday loans came under fire when military men and women were being targetted and taken advantage of. In 2004, the state of Georgia passed a law prohibiting payday lending. The problem amongst military families was not limited to Georgia. The Center for Responsible Lending cited a New York Times analysis that same year:

An analysis by the New York Times reveals that at least one fourth of military households (26%) have been caught up in payday lending. Officials at the Army Emergency Relief office in Fort Bliss, Texas, estimate that 10% of the 10,000 active-duty military stationed there have needed financial counseling because of payday loans and other debt problems.

While he concedes that people were being taken advantage of by payday lenders, Rep. Ehrhart says that Georgia's 2004 law was all about finance companies' desire to "push out the competition."

However, Teegardin's article closes with this:

When asked to rate the options, most consumer advocates recommend a finance company loan over a payday loan or car title loan.

"Small loans across the country are expensive credit, but they aren't as hazardous as the design of a payday loan," said Jean Ann Fox, director of consumer protection for the Consumer Federation of America.

Finance company loans are usually paid back over months or even several years. Payday loans must be paid off at the next payday, something that's just not realistic for most struggling borrowers, the advocates say.

Monday, March 12, 2007

PDB Scorches Jack Kingston

The folks over at Progressive Daily Beacon don't like Rep. Jack Kingston (R-D1) very much. In fact, they've pegged him as a "Republican extremist:"

"Kingston is, of course, anti-abortion and opposes stem cell research. He would say his position is based upon good Christian "pro-life" values, but as he is an enthusiastic supporter of the death penalty - "pro-life" seems to be a serious misrepresentation at best. Jack Kingston is a big supporter of extremist evangelical causes like those supported by Pat Robertson. Robertson, of course, is the guy who has regular discussions with "God" and blamed gay people for the attacks on 9/11. Indeed, Jack Kingston has sponsored Pat Robertson-like resolutions calling for the Ten Commandments to be prominently displayed in congressional chambers.

That's the problem with extremists like Jack Kingston. They beg and pray for the United States to attack Iran because it is a theocratic dictatorship...then they turn right round and support ideas that would make the United States into a theocratic dictatorship. Just like Iran is an Islamic Republic, Kingston mistakenly assumes the United States to be a "Christian" Republic. Folks like Jack Kingston believe Christian rulers to be "kinder and gentler" than Islamic rulers, but that rationale completely ignores historical events like the Spanish Inquisition and the Salem Witch Trials to name a few."

That does sort of highlight the Christian fundamentalist wing of the modern Republican party that has lead them to their ruin. It underscores their duplicity in "pro life" issues, as well as their condemnation of nations like Iran. You can't with any credibility call out one theocratic dictatorship when you're trying to establish one of your own. Kingston, himself, has heavily supported an administration that has limited us in our freedoms via heinous legislation like the Patriot Act. And he's used the guise of being a Christian to hide his tracks.

During Gerald Ford's funeral, much was made of his being the last Republican president (he was also very much a Christian) that was untethered to the Christian fundamentalist movement that hijacked the GOP beginning in 1980 with Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority. The Jack Kingstons of today don't realize how extremist they really are. They have truly lost the idea of a seperation of church and state, and why a group of Christians sought to make sure that the two didn't intermingle in the great new world.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Shirley Franklin: One of NPR's Leading Ladies

America's number one mayor, Atlanta's own Shirley Franklin, is one of NPR's "Leading Ladies." This is just the latest honor for perhaps the best current public official in Georgial. She is NPR's 4th featured lady joining such luminaries as Carol Moseley Braun, Geraldine Ferraro, and Debbie Walsh.

Make sure and listen to her interview.

I also noticed that Hostile Takover author Dave Sirota is on NPR today.

Also, catch Gregory Feifer's look into "What Happened to Russia's Democracy?" In light of so many strange deaths and murders involving critics of Putin, we need to be paying attention to what is going on with a country that the Bush administration considers an ally.

So flip the dial to NPR and turn it up!

Shop Progressive! Costco vs. Wal-Mart/Sam's Club

One of the side stories to the 2004 presidential election was the fact that the nation's two largest warehouse companies took sides. Wal-Mart went for Bush and Costco went for Kerry. When you look at how each does business and treats its employees, that should come as no surprise.

Wal-Mart's bare bones minimums in pay and practically no benefits at all for the supposed sake of the consumer (to whom it sells cheap, sometimes unreturnable crap-on-a-stick made in China) which they say they are looking out for. Sounds sort of like how the Bush administration has treated the American public for over 6 years now. Come to think of it, Georgia Republicans operate pretty much the same way.

Contrast that with Costco, whose CEO, Jim Sinegal, supports raising the federal minimum wage. Known to be labor friendly, here's why Costco can afford to support it:

Costco, of Issaquah, Wash., would suffer no direct impact from a higher minimum wage because its lowest-paid employees now make about $11 an hour, Sinegal said, adding that the average worker in the company's 504 stores in the United States makes $17 an hour.

"In my view, some of these industries that pay minimum wage are constantly turning their people," Sinegal said. "They spend more on turnover than they would in paying the additional wages."

The last article I linked to calls Sinegal a "maverick." Maybe, but I prefer to call it "progressive" thinking, both in the sense of thinking outside of the box as well as in political terms.

Perhaps this is all something that we might want to consider when we need to do our shopping. It pays to support businesses that support our values. And it makes no sense to do business with those that don't. It only empowers the Bushes, Cheneys, and Perdues of the world.

I'm not sure how often its updated, but the Pima County Democratic Party in Arizona has an informative website called Shop Progressive! It compares the level of commitment that major companies like Costco, Wal-Mart/Sam's Club, Apple Computers, Dell, etc. have to the two major political parties.

So give it a looksie and see who you've really been supporting.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Gov. Bill Richardson (NM) Democratic Darkhorse?

That's what NYT writer David Brooks (via the Post-Bulletin) says anyway. He also calls Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico the most experienced Democrat running for president. He's probably right about that. It's hard to argue with Richardson's credentials. If we have to roll up our sleeves in the fall of 2008 and get behind Gov. Richardson, I won't be unhappy.

I was told in private by another Georgia blogger last year that my "views" and my blog with a name like "Liberal Lucidity" was probably poison to any candidate that I chose to say anything good about. I don't know if that's true. But I'll risk it and say that Gov. Richardson would represent me and many of the issues that I care about extremely well.

Hat tip to Vivian J. Page.

Ann Coulter Makes Nice With a Gay Porn Star?

Oh this is just too good! Apparently Ms. Coulter, who called John Edwards a "faggot" at last week's Conservative Political Action Conference, on the same night and at the same event had her picture taken with an alleged gay porn star.

Seems the man in question has been hanging out with conservative talk show hosts complaining about his difficulties recruiting for the military around different college campuses, including his own Columbia University. He was at the CPAC event sharing his story, and I suppose he couldn't resist getting his picture taken with the equine-like Coulter. My apologies to horses.

Blogger, Joe. My. God. has scored an interview with him.

Gee, I guess conservatives need to start doing background checks at these kinds of events. After all, close minded exclusionaries can't afford to be hobnobbing with the riff-raff, right?

How did I miss this yesterday?

Conservatives Should Listen to Illai Kenney

Ms. Kenney is participating in a strategizing conference being held by young African American students and professionals on how to harness their power and be a postitive influence in 2008. Her entry on Huffington Post mentioning this conference caught me eye. Not only was it spot on, but it also speaks to my negative feelings towards labels and the general misunderstanding of them that political spinmeisters create.

She's talking about her conservative grandparents. And the fact that politcal conservatives contradict themselves with some of their bread 'n butter issues. I think this country would be a whole lot better off if "conservatives" heeded this message from her:

"Conservatives should support energy efficiency, energy independence, and new technologies that will grow our economy. These political conservatives have words all mixed up and it can be confusing. Some conservatives want to use all the oil we have even if people have to go to war to get it and even if it pollutes the air making it hard to breathe. Their energy use and spending habits are actually very liberal. Some conservatives use the Bible and the Christian religion to make a big deal over the unborn and who can marry whom but they skip the part where they are supposed to take care of God's creation not to mention children and the poor. There is no conservative movement to care for the sick, feed the hungry, or clothe the poor so it makes me wonder what are they really thinking? How can you be pro-life and pro-war or pro-life and pro-death (penalty)?"

Monday, March 05, 2007

Obama and Clinton in Selma

In case you were out of pocket and didn't get to view coverage of the events in Selma, NPR and the Montgomery Advertiser have multiple articles, videos, and audio files available at their websites.

Reviews seemed good for both presidential hopefuls. The only real snafu being that Hillary's folks didn't set up speakers outside of the church so that she could be heard by the masses. Obama's folks made sure he could be heard, causing some to leave the church where Hillary was speaking and make the short walk over to the church where Obama was.

From the coverage I saw earlier, it was good to see "the Dean of the Civil Rights Movement," Rev. Joseph Lowery, out and about. He appeared with Obama at the Martin and Coretta King Beloved Community Unity Breakfast. And later he attended Obama's speech and linked arms with the Senator from Illinois at the march.

Not to be outdone, Hillary made her first public post-announcement appearance with her husband, Bill in Selma. Former President Clinton was inducted into the National Voting Rights Hall of Fame.

I can't decide if appearing with Bill is a good thing for Hillary or not though. He makes her look like a rookie when mixing, mingling, and giving speeches. It's very natural for him, and anything but for Hillary. His coat tails will prove useful, especially amongst African Americans who seem to remain Bill's most loyal constituency. But the comparisons of the two will be inevitable.

Anyone Surprised? It's Ann Coulter After All

Even though America has progressed to the point where public figures using hate speech isn't acceptable anymore, the word"faggot" is still the put down of choice for many teenagers. I'm guessing that no one knows this better than school teachers.

Well, Ann Coulter is no teenager (and looks it more and more every day), but apparently she doesn't mind tossing the word "faggot" around at even heterosexuals like John Edwards. So I guess it wasn't so surprising to see that she went even further into her rant and also used the word "raghead" when discussing homeland security.

To their credit, the Edwards campaign has responded positively. They've set a goal for raising $100,000 in "Coulter Cash" to turn Coulter's hate and willful ignorance into something positive.

Coulter is a shock jock without a radio program. Apparently, some heterosexual men find her too attractive for radio and like seeing her regularly on Fox News with Sean Hannity. They should look a little closer at her next book signing. Because the poor dear could use some masking tape and vasseline. Every time I see her, I don't think of her as an attractive woman. I just feel like saddling up a horse. Then she speaks..........

She has found a comfy little niche of Rush Limbaugh worshipping, Michelle Malkin reading, neo cons in which to sell books to. She caters to simpletons who would probably like to see this country revert back to a time when it was more acceptable to discriminate and string up folks that you don't like from the nearest tree. They're such an easy group to pander to, after all.

Coulter says things for shock value regularly. My standing policy on her has been to simply ignore her. But it really is time to get the point across to more Americans - particularly young ones - that it's not okay to use words like "faggot." To allow people to continue to do it so freely is sending a message that it's still okay to ostracize someone because of their sexuality.

I suppose she also thinks that enough people in this country hate Muslims, so it's okay to use the word "raghead." To do so is to be disrespectful to a religion, a group of people, and a culture.

Honestly, I'm not for censorship. But despite the social progress that we've made, there are still groups of people out there against whom hate and discrimination are still possible without consequences. This needs to change.

Ann, this is the year 2007, not 1987. It's time to let your hate go.