Friday, August 31, 2007

Porter v. Perdue on education

Don't think I'll wade into Dublin state Rep. (and House Minority Leader) DuBose Porter's argument with Gov. Sonny Perdue over education and SAT scores, other than to suggest that you read Perdue's press release and Porter's responding op-ed.

If you haven't already.

And I guess I can say that it looks like Gov. Perdue showed a bit too much of his chin, and Porter landed a pretty good right.

Larry Craig touched my foot and I want justice!

I've kind of been ignoring this story about Idaho Sen. Larry Craig, who was arrested in an airport bathroom and accused of soliciting an undercover police officer for sex.

I definitely see it being news: Republican senator, who voted for the defense of marriage act, or whatever euphemism the "no gays settlin' down" legislation was given, accused of being gay.

But I heard last night what Larry Craig was actually accused of. This man was detained for allegedly tapping an undercover police officer's foot in a men's bathroom, and rubbing the bottom of the bathroom stall with his hand.

Wait, wait - that's not the worst part. If was his LEFT hand! And his palm was turned up! Up I say!

This is a transcript of Craig's interview with the cop, from Forbes.com.

When did that become illegal? And when did America turn into a country where you could be arrested for hand signals?

And while I'm at it, everyone leave Ms. South Carolina alone. She said something stupid on T.V. Not exactly rare company. The title of Miss Teen USA doesn't require planet-shifting decisions.

And it's better to be stupid than mean.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Grady saga

UPDATE: Doh! The story was free, but has cycled off that designation. Thanks for the heads up, Sid. There's usually a free piece up on the front page at insider advantage georgia.com.

Insider advantage has an interesting summary up on the situation at Grady Memorial Hospital.

It's got anonymous sources, but it's written by Dick Pettys, who's been covering state government for a long time and knows what he's talking about, making it good enough for me.

Insider Advantage is usually a pay site, but this story is free. If The Telegraph made any money I'd make sure we subscribed to it. But we are a very, very poor multi-million-in-profits-a-year business just trying to scrape by in this cruel, cruel world.

I'm reading it, so you should have to

I'm working on a breakdown of the Speaker of the House's tax reform proposal, which will run this weekend. Today I caught myself saying that a Georgia State University Fiscal Research Center policy brief on the subject was "fantastic."

Then I said, "this can't be my life."

Anyway, I'm linking a different policy brief from the Fiscal Research Center here.

It's essentially a snapshot (a 44-page snapshot) of the state's current tax structure, with comparisons to other states. It also talks about the relative tax burdens of the rich versus the poor.

In other words, it's a baseline. And, all kidding aside, it's actual pretty easy to read, with the exception of some of the charts, which probably aren't really important anyway. It certainly opens with a bang:
Georgia’s total state and local taxes per capita increased 63 percent between 1981 and 2004.

I just discovered the Fiscal Research Center this week. This is their Web site, and there's a slew of other research available.

I made up a new word

"Bichambership." It's like bipartisanship, except it means the Georgia House and Senate are working together.

I don't expect to use it much.

Yeah, it's a little slow today.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

More on the 8th District

There was a full page ad in The Telegraph today asking people to call Congressman Jim Marshall and thank him for opposing legislation to cut Medicare funding for nursing care.

Folks, full page ads aren't cheap. The American Health Care Association and the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care funded this one 50-50, according to Susan Feeney, with the AHCA in Washington.

They've got a national campaign going in the so-called "front-line" congressional districts. Those are districts identified by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee as most likely to see a serious Republican challenge. Marshall, of course, has been in that category for years.

The hope, Feeney said, is that targeted congressional leaders will urge their party to oppose the cuts. In Marshall's case, they're happy with him so far. In the 12th District, where U.S. Rep. John Barrow narrowly beat out Republican competition, not so much.

You can download the ads here.

What's my point in posting this? I dunno. More big money coming to the 8th and 12th District races, I guess, and everybody's got their issue. And being in one of these vulnerable seats means you're going to feel the pressure.

But when it comes to the safe seats, the majority of seats in Congress where a Democrat or Republican is essentially guaranteed a win because of the way the district is drawn, how do you put political pressure on those folks?

"We'll be right back with Kevin Bacon."

I watched Warner Robins Little Leaguer Dalton Carriker, fresh from this weekend's World Series Championship, on The Late Show with David Letterman last night.

And I've been thinking about a column The Telegraph ran this weekend, from the Philly Inquirer.

The central point was that we shouldn't be teaching kids they can be anything they want, just because they set their mind to it. Because luck has too much to do with it.
You can yearn ardently to become something, yet lack the essential aptitude. Or you can work hard toward a rational dream, and be thwarted by the fates.

"You can be anything you want to be" willfully ignores all of this. Its first fault is to encourage folks to pursue false dreams. Its second is to encourage the lucky to blame the less lucky when they fall short (which only encourages the unlucky to become mired in grievance).

You know what I thirsted to be when I was a kid? Shortstop for the Cleveland Indians. But the genetic lottery rendered me too short, slow and myopic ever to reach that goal. I could have worked in the batting cage until my palms bled and still never sniffed that dream. I'm lucky life clued me into this early.

I emailed the columnist, Chris Satullo, to ask him how hard he tried to become shortstop for the Cleveland Indians. And whether that really was his dream.

I got an automated response. He's out on assignment with "Great Expectations," a forum for citizens to improve the city of Philadelphia.

Not realistic goals. Not mediocre hopes. Great Expectations.

And last night I watched a local kid with braces go on a national T.V. with his deep Georgia drawl and get top billing over Kevin Bacon. There he was yes-sirring David Letterman with a big smile on his face, talking about how he and his teammates tried to console the Japanese kids after beating them in Sunday's Little League World Series.

"You just can't let 'em cry," he said. And I was so proud.

Dalton said he'd like to be a professional baseball player. But if that doesn't work out he wants to be a pharmacist.

In Satullo's column fate came out as the bad guy, killing dreams and serving up excuses.

But maybe God gives us the dreams we need, whether they always work out or not.

When I have kids I'm going to tell them they can be anything they want. Because belief beats anything. And love is even better.

Great Expectations?

We should have nothing less for ourselves, our families, our communities and our world.

Goddard v. Marshall

Maj. Gen. Rick Goddard's complaints about U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall's trip to Afghanistan, which coincided with some of the debate on the Farm Bill, are starting to filter out to other places.

And it looks like Goddard is getting the brunt of the criticism.

Peach Pundit.

The Political Insider.

I've written several posts with the background on this. Click on the 8th District link just below if you'd like to catch up.

Ellis and Venezuela: Jack is back

The Mayor was on Fox 24's Fox Files last night (he's not taking our calls, which comes and goes) talking about his letter of solidarity to Hugo Chavez.

You can watch the interview here.

I didn't particularly like the questions, but one thing was clear: Ellis was not backing off, and he intended this letter for Chavez. That's at odds with what his spokesman, Ron Wildman, was saying while the mayor toured Africa and England. Wildman's spin had been that Ellis intended the letter for other mayors in Venezuela and that the controversial president co-opted it by reading it on his radio show.

But Ellis, in nearly 20 minutes on the subject, during which he basically had free reign, never even hinted toward that. So I was off base here.

Ellis said that the whole Chavez-called-Bush-the-devil thing was just about "personalities," and that it's nothing that should be keeping our two countries apart. Particularly, he said, when Chavez has donated heating oil to poor Americans, which was one of the things Ellis mentioned in his letter.

Ellis said Venezuela is not a Communist country, which I think some people would argue based on some of the nationalization going on there. But I gotta admit some ignorance in South American geo-politics.

Plus, we buy our clothes from China, Ellis noted. "Who controls the media there?" he said.

I think the answer on that one, at least the one he was going for, is a communist government. Again, I don't live in China.

Ellis said we "talk out of both sides of our mouth" in America. We get into an uproar about him sending Hugo Chavez a letter... then drive our SUVs to the gas station to fill up on the oil from Venezuela, Saudia Arabia and a whole host of other less-than-free places.

Kind of hard to argue with that. We can be quite hypocritical in this country, and I'm plenty guilty myself.

And then he turned attention to his critics, who held a rally to make sure the world knew Macon, Georgia, did not stand with its mayor on this.

"Where are they when our children are failing in school. ..." he said. "Have rallies for that."

I don't think it's fair to infer that the people at that rally aren't working to make Macon and Georgia better places across the board.

But if you were to hold a set of scales, and fill one side with outrage over Ellis' comments the past few weeks, and another with outrage over the inadequacies of health care, education and public safety in this community, which would be heavier?

UPDATE: Just checking my email. The Macon-Bibb County Fire Department will be hosting the CITGO/MDA Golf Challenge on Friday, August 31st at the Bowden Golf Course in Macon, Georgia. Firefighters will tee off once again to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Folks, CITGO is owned by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

It's a market-driven economy, not a market-flown economy

I'm working on a late breaking story about the Macon airport and a problem getting a new airline to come on board without a significant (think six zeros) taxpayer subsidy.

Details in tomorrow's paper, but I'd like to point out something I find interesting.

The airline industry, as a whole, gets massive taxpayer subsidies, of course. You know that. But did you know that the federal government pays airlines to operate air service from small and mid-sized airports that otherwise wouldn't be profitable?

It's called the Essential Air Service, or EAS, program. In fact the federal government spent about $96.5 million at 104 airports in 2007, according to the '07 report on this U.S. Dot Web site.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Dueling press releases

Maj. Gen. Rick Goddard has put out a press release responding to U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall's press release responding to comments Goddard made last week to The Moultrie Observer.

Note the potential precedent Gen. Goddard sets for himself - being on hand for "every second of debate" on crucial bills such as the Farm Bill.
"Given the farm bill only comes around once every five years, Jim Marshall owes Georgians an explanation as to why he didn’t arrange to visit the troops in Afghanistan during his four-week-long summer vacation, which was just two weeks away, so that he could be present to represent Georgia farmers every single day of committee debate and to vote on the farm bill that affects the lives of Georgians throughout our state,” said Goddard.

"Having spent nearly 34 years in the United States Air Force and a son who spent over a year in Iraq, there is no one in this race more concerned about our warriors in harms way than me,” said the retired Air Force Major General. “I also understand that the farm bill only comes around once every five years and that the real work and the ability to shape legislation on behalf of family farmers and our communities is done in the subcommittees, committee and on the floor of the House of Representatives. That’s why I would have seen to it that I was there for every second of debate and every single vote on the farm bill. Only then would I have departed to be with the brave men and women on the front lines of the War on Terror, even if it meant sacrificing time with my family during Congress’ four-week-long summer vacation. Leadership is all about choices, decisions and accepting responsibility."

Just for the record, this election, if Goddard gets through a Republican primary expected to include former Congressman Mac Collins, would be in November. Of 2008.

Perhaps Rep. Marshall will respond with another press release, perhaps not. I'm thinking about sending my own press release to both campaigns.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Aug. 27, 2007.

Telegraph newspaper reporter Travis Fain issued the following statement today about the 2008 8th Congressional District race:

"Check, please."

Of course I'm not particularly helping by writing about this war of words, but once you start that train you can't really stop it.

How bout 'em.

Congrats to the Warner Robins American Little Leaguers. Underdogs for most of the series, but they did it.

If that ain't an American story, I don't know what is.














Jason Vorhees, The Telegraph

Friday, August 24, 2007

Shoot on the yee, not the haw.

You'd be amazed how hard it is to find a picture of the governor of Texas wearing a cowboy hat. But I did it. My employers are so proud.

Look, I'll mess with Texas any time I want.

UPDATE: They won. Pointing out that the Texas manager sounded like a jerk after the game would only be poor sportsmanship on my part. The Georgia state flag will fly over the Texas capitol, which is sure to be an improvement.

I've been to Texas. Thought it was full of a bunch of self-important jerks. And desert. Lots of desert.

I'm sure they liked me too. I think I got real drunk and kept saying "Alaska is a whole hell of a lot bigger than this."

Anyway, here's hoping the Warner Robins Little League team wins tomorrow. And a press release from the governor's office:
ATLANTA – Governor Sonny Perdue of Georgia and Governor Rick Perry of Texas today announced a friendly wager on the outcome of tomorrow’s Little League World Series U.S. Championship game. The home state of the winning team will have its flag displayed at the State Capitol for a day in the losing team’s capital city.

And the "Governor" of "Texas'" comment from the release:
“When Texans go for something, they make it their business to go big or go home,” said Gov. Rick Perry. “The great State of Texas is rooting for our Lubbock Western Little League boys as they battle Georgia for a spot in the World Series championship game. And we look forward to seeing the Lone Star flag shine bright at the Georgia Capitol.”

"Go big or go home?" You can almost see this guy smack his knee with a cowboy hat, fire his pistol into the air and yell yee-haw.

This thing's got quotation marks all over it!

And he wasn't even talking about "global warming."

U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall's emailed statement in response to retired Maj. Gen. (and Republican hopeful in the 8th Congressional District) Rick Goddard's comments earlier this week.
It's amazing what some people will say or do to get elected. In his political attack, General Goddard said I was absent for "the debate" on the Farm Bill because I was traveling "overseas" and failing to do my "duty."

First of all, the General obviously doesn't know how things get done in Congress. Before I left for my long scheduled "overseas," trip the Farm Bill debate was over in the Ag Committee - the bill was drafted and noses counted. And I knew I'd be back in time to help move the Farm Bill through the full House.

But the General's "overseas" and "duty" references are arguably unbecoming. He knows I was embedded with a Special Forces A team in a remote base along the Pakistan border. But he just calls that being "overseas." And if he doesn't think that's my "duty" as a Member of the Armed Services Committee, the General's not ready to represent Georgia in Congress. This isn't San Francisco.

I wrote a five-part series about my trip to Afghanistan. And I hope the Moultrie Observer will print it. That will let people know why it was my "duty" to make that "overseas" trip.

Folks, I don't know Congressman Marshall as well as some, but when I hit the San Francisco reference I thought to myself "This is as pissed off as Jim Marshall gets."

As for the five-part piece referenced, it ran in The Telegraph, on our viewpoints page. It's not particularly well archived, so it's not simple to link here. But you can find it by searching at www.macon.com.

I've got a call into Gen. Goddard, but don't know if I'll reach him this evening.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A clever subject line could only get me in trouble

From U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss' public schedule:
Friday, August 24, 2007
9:00 a.m.- Attends 100 Black Men of Macon-Middle Georgia Fourth Annual Economic Development Symposium, Macon, GA

I'm there.

UPDATE: Turns out the symposium is on the politics of healthcare, and will particularly focus on the dire straits Grady Memorial Hospital has in Atlanta. The hospital CEO will be speaking at lunch, so look for coverage later this afternoon or tomorrow on the main site. (Or, you know, in the actual paper. We do still print one.)

Lobbying ones self

I'm way behind on this, but, hey, I was in another hemisphere.

This is an AJC story about lobbying. It turns out that the lobbyist who spent the most in 2006, and the third most in 2007, works for the state university system.

This year was my first covering a General Assembly session. One of the things that struck me was how many lobbyists actually worked for the state. Pretty much every department has one, though I think some of them prefer to be called advocates.

So the state is paying to lobby the state so one entity of the state can get money from the state.

Actually, now that I think about it, that does sound like government. No worries.
UPDATE from the comments: This is damn sure worth looking into. On the calendar for next week:
The real story here, not written, is the fact that corporations do not need to register if their officers are picking up the dinner tab. If these dollars were counted, I assure you the top 10 list would be radically different.

UPDATE on the UPDATE: Just got off the phone with Rick Thompson, executive director of the Georgia State Ethics Commission, which handles lobbyist registration, etc. He said that the above statement (which I pasted from the comments section) is not correct.

"It's not true," Thompson said. "Anybody who makes any expenditures regardless of what their title is... becomes a lobbyist."

Thompson went on to say that if Coca-Cola threw a big party and invited legislators, and a bunch of Coke vice presidents were there, then Coke's lobbyist would have to account for and report all the expenses, but the vice presidents wouldn't have to report because it just wouldn't be practical. So maybe that's what the poster meant, I don't know.

Goddard comes out swinging

This is from yesterday's Moultrie Observer.

Rick Goddard, the retired Air Force general looking to take out U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall in the 8th District, gave his opinions on a variety of issues for the article. But the top of the article focuses on the farm bill and on Marshall being absent for a recent debate on a key domestic bill coming before Congress when they go back into session.

The relevant quote:
“What’s important is we ought to have people in Congress on duty during the discussion making sure that that farm bill represents the interests of Middle Georgia. Our current congressman (Marshall) was not there. He was overseas during the debate, and I think that’s wrong.

I'd encourage you to read the whole article, because it will give you a feel for Goddard's basic positions. But I don't think Marshall's camp is too happy with the inference that he was AWOL while important business was being discussed.

Particularly since Marshall was in Afghanistan embedded with American special forces at the time. Look for some sort of strike back later in the day on this, I think.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

More on "global warming"

THURSDAY UPDATE: State Rep. Jeff Lewis' comments have been added to the bottom of this post.

I don't know why I'm coming back to this again, but yesterday state legislators held a hearing on global warming called "Climate Change: Fact or Fiction?"

Because, yeah, the Georgia House of Representatives is who I want getting to the bottom of that one.

Anyway, they basically decided it was all a big myth, no worries, go buy a Hummer. The AJC covered it.

Well, state Rep. DuBose Porter (a Dublin Democrat, newspaper owner and potential 2008 candidate for governor - but, then, who isn't?) put out a press release scoffing at all of this. He brings up that pesky 2,000 scientist international report on climate change from earlier this year.

That report, which I believe you can download here, is so complicated and long that it makes... well, it's really complicated and long.

But, basically, it says that: 1. Global warming is real and 2. Humans have something to do with it. And I quote:
The understanding of anthropogenic warming and cooling influences on climate has improved since the TAR, leading to very high confidence that the global average net effect of human activities since 1750 has been one of warming, with a radiative forcing of +1.6 [+0.6 to +2.4] W m–2 (see Figure SPM.2). {2.3., 6.5, 2.9}

See?

Anyway, the opening of Porter's press release:

ATLANTA - Global warming doesn't exist, at least in Georgia, according to Georgia Republican legislators like Rep. Jeff Lewis (R-Cartersville). Lewis, who chaired a hearing ironically entitled "Climate Change: Fact or Fiction?" invited testimony from three hand-picked scientists whose work is bankrolled by the oil and coal industries. Lewis' hearing and its subsequent media conference happened on one of the hottest days of the year, one of a number of recent days to see triple-digit temperatures around the state.

"If you're a farmer in South Georgia, and you're watching your crops shrivel up before your eyes and your watering ponds evaporate, I don't think you've got a lot of nice things to say about Georgia Republican science," said Rep. Dubose Porter (D-Dublin). "There's no question about "fact or fiction," this is the reality for Georgia, even if Jeff Lewis and the other Georgia Republicans on this committee refuse to admit it.

I've got a call into Lewis, but it's after hours. If I get him tomorrow, I'll post a response. I have no idea who these scientists are, or whether Porter is correct about who pays their salaries, but I'm happy to ask.

But forget, for a moment, the science on this. Someone is misreading public sentiment big time, because both these positions can't be right, scientifically or politically. And Porter is appealing to people who can't step outside without breaking a profuse sweat, and farmers with long memories of better crops.

Never mind the fact that one, or any number of, really hot summers in Georgia don't do anything to prove global warming. The perception is that it's hotter, and it's tough to go against perception. Particularly when the almanacs, headlines and a hell of a lot of scientists back it up.

Anyway, all this is just an excuse to post a great bumper sticker I saw a while back. It said: "Gravity is just a theory."

UPDATE: Just spoke to Rep. Lewis. He noted that he didn't see Rep. Porter at this meeting, but would have been glad to give him a seat right up front...

As for who pays the salaries for these scientists, Lewis said he doesn't know, but they came from various think-tanks and study groups. He said the committee was looking for differing opinions, but he wouldn't be against further hearings where one side or the other (that is, global warming is real, versus global warming is a myth) presented its point of view.

He did note that the popular media, and some of the conferences that legislators have attended this summer, have focused only on one side - i.e., that global warming is a coming catastrophe.

"We're trying to be as educated as we can. ..." Lewis said. "Regardless of who's right and who's wrong, one thing that we do know, is there are differing expert opinions."

As for his opinion? Lewis said he hasn't formed one yet. But various studies do show that Georgia's air is cleaner these days.

"Most everyone agrees that our air quality is cleaner today than it was 30 years ago. ..." Lewis said. "Are we doing enough today? Maybe we are, maybe we aren't. But our air, by all measures, is cleaner."

The Truth-o-Meter

Mike Donila, who left The Macon Telegraph a while back for the greener pastures of The Charlotte Observer and, now, the St. Petersburg Times sent me this.

It's a truth test for the presidential candidates run by The Times and Congressional Quarterly, both publications with pretty stellar records. If you like presidential politics (and I know you do, loser), I don't know why you wouldn't love this thing.

By the way, I really, really wanted to make a pants-on-fire joke in the subject line, but I struck out.

Lester Maddox riding a bicycle backwards

Exactly what it sounds like.

I stole this from my friend Danny Gilleland's blog. Danny is the senior photographer here at The Telegraph, which has a phenomenal photography staff, particularly for a paper our size.

Oh good. Another blog.

Erick Erickson has started what must be his 85th blog, and this one will focus on Macon. As he's about to take office (in December) as a Macon City Councilman, it will also be a repository for proposed legislation, etc. He said he plans to invite other locals to blog with him.

The slogan? "Because we can't let The Telegraph have all the fun."

Erick, you've got a weird idea about fun. The link.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The benefits of telling the NRA to stick it

Something I almost forgot to mention from the Georgia Chamber of Commerce's congressional luncheon in Perry today.

Remember during this year's General Assembly session when Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and the Georgia Senate refused to go along with the so-called parking lot gun bill, despite heavy lobbying pressure from the NRA during a late-night session?

This was right after the Virginia Tech shooting, and it was a tense situation. Senators were using the word "threat" a lot and it was the only time during the session I saw the Senate floor pretty much empty in the middle of debate for a caucus meeting.

Anyway, the chamber was against the bill, and Georgia Chamber Chairman David Allen mentioned the issue Tuesday when he introduced Cagle, thanking him profusely.

"And we shall never forget that courage," Allen said. "Never forget that courgage."

Tax reform in 2008

UPDATE: Erick Erickson (blogger, lawyer, Macon city councilman elect, title-hungry agitator) interviewed Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson about the tax reform plan today. Read and hear it here.

Man, it was like they moved half the state Capitol to Perry today for the annual congressional luncheon. I mean you couldn't throw a rock without hitting a state legislator or a lobbyist, which really ups the percentages.

I talked to a lot of folks about the potential tax reforms coming in the next General Assembly session. The idea has gone through several permutations (and is sure to go through more) since the placeholder bill (H.R. 900) was filed at the end of this year's session. But the basic tenets remain: No property taxes, emphasis on sales taxes.

That's been a sticking point for city and county governments (and their powerful lobbying arms, the Georgia Municipal Association and the Association County Commissioners of Georgia), since both get a lot of their money from property taxes.

But not as much as you might think. For example, Macon gets more sales tax revenue each year than property tax revenue.

There's also the issue of local control of tax revenue in general, with the fear being local governments will have to go begging to the state to get their piece of the pie.

Last week a group from the ACCG, including association president and Houston County Commissioner Tom McMichael, met with Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson about the tax reform proposal, which Richardson is spearheading. McMichael described it as a productive and cordial meeting during which a lot of questions were answered and myths set aside, though a lot of questions remain.

The ACCG followed that meeting with a letter sent to all 159 of Georgia's counties, and you can download it on the association's Web site to get an idea how the debate is shaping up.

Long way to go before these groups sign on the dotted line to support this thing (or to oppose it), but state Rep. Larry O'Neal, a co-sponsor with Richardson on the initial H.R. 900, said he's optimistic despite the fact that this would be a radical overhaul of state tax policy.

I plan to break the plan down this fall, but think it's prudent to wait for a few more details to fall into place, which will happen as more people are brought into the fold. O'Neal, who chairs the tax-code-writing Ways & Means Committee in the House, said the plan is to start hearings on this thing in September.

CORRECTION: I changed references to H.B. 900 (which doesn't exist) to H.R. 900 (which is what I meant to write about).

Isakson on 2010

I might be the only blogger left in Georgia who hasn't written about a potential Johnny Isakson run for governor in 2010. But no more.

Sen. Isakson was in Perry today for the Georgia Chamber of Commerce's annual Congressional Luncheon. He introduced Sen. Saxby Chambliss, the keynote speaker, and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle introduced Isakson.

Of course Isakson and Cagle, former colleagues in the Georgia State Senate, had nothing but nice things to say about each other. And of course they're both considered strong possibilities to seek the Republican nomination for the governor's office in 2010.

In fact, one state representative came up to Isakson as I was interviewing him to ask him to run, saying "we really need you," but I digress.

Anyway, Isakson told The Marietta Daily Journal a while back that he'll be on the ballot in 2010, but he won't decide just where until after the 2008 elections are done. And he stuck to that today with me. So, you're welcome, I've nothing new to report.

"The big election's in 2008," Isakson said today. "In politics three months is an eternity."

As for Cagle, Isakson said "he's a great guy and would be a terrific one," one substituting here for governor.

Cagle told a pretty funny story about being in the State Senate with Isakson, by the way. Back when Cagle was "wet behind the ears" in the Senate and redistricting was in full swing, he got on an elevator with Isakson, who was far more seasoned.

He asked Isakson what he knew about the new district maps, and Isakson replied with good news and bad.

"The good news is you still have a state senate district," he told Cagle. "The bad news is you don't know nobody in it."

And on the 13th day...

The Jack Ellis loves Venezuela story (aka the world's most important story about a soon-to-be completely irrelevant Macon mayor who many people haven't taken seriously in years) continues.

The Telegraph's editorial board wants people to sign a resolution making it clear they're against Ellis' statement of solidarity (which I continue to note no one has actually seen).

Anyway, gasoline, meet fire.

Just below that resolution is a letter to the editor from George Muhammad. You can read the full thing at the above link, but I thought this was a nice line, though you have to think he meant to say "bad" and not "good": "Can any good come from Macon wishing the people of Venezuela well?"

And, finally, the original story.

A 2008 elections blog

McClatchy's Washington Bureau (McClatchy is the big company that owns The Telegraph) has started a blog about the 2008 presidential elections.

I haven't gone through it, yet, but it should be good. There are also links to blogs written by McClatchy staffers stationed in Africa, Iraq and some other far-flung places on the globe.

Here.

Monday, August 20, 2007

From one with more context than I

This is from the comments section on the gas tax post below. It comes from Sid Cottingham, aka Cracker Squire, who describes himself as a "traditional southern Democrat."

From my limited dealings with him, I'd call him a south Georgia gentleman.

If anyone has a rational counter point from the other side (be they traditional southern Republicans or otherwise) I'll be happy to promote that from the comments section, too. Thanks, Sid.
No one can give you a rational explanation about why our state’s motor fuel tax has long been on the untouchable list.

In the nineties then-Gov. Zell Miller began a move toward tax relief by persuading the legislature to remove the sales tax on groceries. The legislation exempting the sale of groceries from sales taxes was phased in over several years, and was complete in 1998.

Thereafter Gov. Roy Barnes came along in 1999, and in the same spirit of tax relief for the masses, lowered property taxes and made it more difficult for local governments and school districts to raise them.

Throughout these and earlier administrations, even though we have needed to improve and go forward with ambitious transportation improvement plans, an increase in our state’s motor fuel tax -- one of the lowest motor fuel taxes in the nation and much of any increase which would be borne by non-Georgians -- has been on the untouchable list.

But even though Barnes lowered property taxes during his first and only term, I have reason to believe that this logical tax increase would have become a reality had Gov. Barnes been elected to a second term. Maybe not real early in his term with the economy down and gas prices on the rise, but during his term nonetheless.

But we know that he did not get reelected, and thus this logical tax increase did not come about.

With Democrat Gov. Miller having lowered sales taxes by exempting groceries, Democrat Gov. Barnes having lowered property taxes, what in the world would Republican Perdue do in the way of proposing his own tax reductions.

As we remember, rather than continuing to please the masses, Gov. Perdue temporarily suffered amnesia and forgot them that brung him to the Gold Dome. Rather than cutting, his first major proposal involved raising taxes. And it wasn’t just going to be to get King Roy back by raising the property taxes that Barnes had cut.

The new governor also wanted to increase revenue for the state by reducing the consumption of taxable evil products. (Say what Gov.? Easy, says he; I propose increasing taxes on cigarettes and liquor as a way to help balance the state budget and, at the same time, dissuade Georgians from buying alcohol and tobacco.)

We recall that a compromise in Perdue’s proposed tax increase ultimately did prevail.

But with Barnes not having been reelected and since then not having someone in the governor's mansion that would bite the bullet and get down what needed to be done, the chance of getting an increase in our state’s motor fuel tax has indeed been put off until another day.

UPDATE: This was posted on the original post by someone called trackboy1:
Democrats ruled the state forever. The 7.5 cents gas tax is solely on them.

And now today, if either party made the case for increasing the gas tax, prioritizing the new revenue for bridges & infrastructure repair, and mass transit, and guaranteeing no waste and corruption with constant and very public auditing, then voters/taxpayers would support it.

Republicans do want billions spent on new road construction, to benefit their road building buddies/campaign contributors, but they want it paid for by tolls. And they are mass transit haters.

GA Dem's could actually try to stand for something here. Once again, the public is going to support a gas tax increase if it's spent properly with no waste. But it will be a cold day in hell before Calvin Smyre and DuBose Porter make a stand on anything.

And don't get me started on the ignorance of Tom Murphy and no seat belts in pickup trucks.

Him? Oh, he's a terrorist.

Doonesbury made me laugh out loud today.

Image from Doonesbury.com.

Gas taxes and falling bridges

I find that The Rome News-Tribune has some strong editorial writing. This one, advocating an increase in gasoline taxes to help upgrade decaying bridge infrastructure in light of the bridge collapse in Minneapolis, is no exception.

This paragraph struck me:
GEORGIA HAS stuck with its 7.5-cent a gallon tax so long it’s now the lowest in the nation, while its “escalator clause” on gas — the sales tax — doesn’t go to highways but rather to whatever sandcastles the legislators want to build. And, all the while, the Georgia Department of Transportation can do little other than announce that billions of dollars in improvements or new work has been delayed or even cancelled for lack of funds.

It's a little more complicated than just comparing the 7.5-cents-a-gallon tax to other states ,as seen here, as well as here.

But it's obvious that we're low. The question is: "Why?" And I don't know the answer.

UPDATE: And just like that I got this press release from GOP Congressional Majority Leader John Boehner.

Democrats want to raise the federal gas tax. Or, to put it another way, "as if the new Democratic majority hasn’t already found enough ways into the wallets of American families, House Democrats now are proposing new increases to the 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal gasoline tax – and right in the heart of the summer travel season, no less."

I hear Democrats also kill puppies, but that's unconfirmed at the moment.

Also questionable: The "moon landing"

From a Tom Baxter story in the Southern Political Report about southern legislators (including Georgia's) decision to vote against a couple of National Conference of State Legislature resolutions to ramp up measures against climate change.

Basically the full article, which you can read here, notes that Georgia and the other states against the resolution, have powerful coal interests within their borders.

But here's a bit of a head slapper from state Sen. Mitch Seabaugh, R-Sharpsburg, who is also the Senate's majority whip:
Seabaugh remains unconvinced of the science behind what he usually refers to as “quote-unquote global warming.”

“I will venture a guess that in 10 years we won’t be talking about global warming, but we’ll still be talking about how we produce electricity in a cost-efficient, environmentally friendly way,” the Georgia legislator said.

Doesn't believe in global warming... how many folks are left on that bandwagon?

I'm no scientist, but if global warming is indeed a farce, it's going to rank as perhaps the greatest lie ever propagated upon humanity. It seems that if tree-hugging liberals could pull that off, they also could have gotten Al Gore a few more votes in Florida back in 2000.

I think even this guy's on board now.

UPDATE: I just spoke to Sen. Seabaugh, who gave some thoughtful comments. I think these are the most relevant:

"Do I believe that we should be looking for other ways (of producing energy) that are cost-effective, environmentally friendly? Absolutely, I support that. I just don't support the hysteria that would try to force us into riding bikes all the time and not building new power plants."

Seabaugh says there is still disagreement over whether the earth is actually heating up, and points to the global cooling movement of the 1970s as an example of putting the cart before the horse when it comes to science.

"A lot of people have taken certain scientific evidence and they have ordained it absolute fact. ..." Seabaugh said. "If people would really do due diligence... they would find that there is evidence contrary to the, quote-unquote, global warming hysteria."

So, there you go. Maybe I was a bit harsh. There's nothing wrong with skepticism. Still, the last National Geographic article I read about the Greenland ice sheet scared the crap out of me.

The C. Jack Ellis farewell tour

With stops every where but Macon...

Macon's best political satirist tipped me to this: Macon Mayor Jack Ellis will spend several days in October in the Bahamas at a place called The Atlantis Resort - Paradise Island. And, yeah, it looks pretty nice.

He'll be one of the featured presenters at the Third International African Diaspora Heritage Trail Conference, according to the brochure you can download here. The mayor's in Africa and unreachable at the moment, otherwise I'd confirm this with him.

Anyway, this is a group looking to put together a tourism trail that will map the movement of slaves from Africa to the new world. Ellis says it's going to include Macon, though Macon tourism officials and folks at the Tubman African American Museum have said that's news to them.

The conference is being organized, to some extent, by Henderson Associates or Henderson Travel, both run by Ellis' old friend Jake Henderson. Ellis has hired Henderson over the years on various contracts, including one to bring another airline to the city (how'd that work out - anyone, anyone know?), and to market the Macon Music and Heritage Festival (again, remind me, was that a success?).

Henderson also ponied up about $1,000 to help Ellis travel to Elmina, Ghana in 2003, a donation The Telegraph had to force the mayor to disclose. Henderson's company also made those travel arrangements.

Ellis went to one of these diaspora conferences in 2005, where he wined and dined Danny Glover (of the Lethal Weapon series and other, more forgettable, movies) in an as-yet-unsuccessful attempt to get a big donation for the Tubman Museum. Again, this was news to the Tubman folks at the time, and to date Mr. Glover hasn't written a check. I called the Tubman this morning, in fact.

I know all this because I wrote a piece in May 2006 analyzing the mayor's travel habits and city credit card usage. It was the second time we'd written this story in his tenure, and maybe it's time to do it again. From that May 2006 story:

Ellis picked up the $257.50 tab at Mickey's Beach Bistro and Bar, an oceanside restaurant in "Bermuda's most famous hotel," according to one online review. That same day city records show Ellis spent $199 at a Bermuda clothing store buying, he said, the light pink jacket that got so many compliments during this year's Cherry Blossom Festival.

"That's the only one I could find that fit me," Ellis said.

The Telegraph examined eight months of city credit card usage by the mayor and his office staff, including several high-dollar meals and more than $1,300 in international cell phone charges. Ellis, who is in his second term as mayor, defended his spending and said he was elected to make decisions and he's no "caretaker mayor."

He spends money to promote the city, and questioning individual expenses is "nitpicking and witch-hunting," he said.

Remember, though, all this was happening as the city took out annual $5 million loans to make payroll and the city's bond rating was lowered. To continue:
Ellis said Macon was listed on the African Diaspora Heritage Trail at his behest, which should draw tourists from all over the world to Macon and the Tubman African American Museum. While in Bermuda talking about the trail, Ellis said he was also asking Glover for a substantialdonation to the Tubman, which needs millions to open its new facility on Cherry Street.

The trip itself - the flights and the hotel stay - was paid for by the trail committee, Ellis said. The city picked up the check at dinner one evening.

"(What was I supposed to say), 'Danny, I can't buy you dinner, but I'm asking you to pony up a million dollars?' " Ellis asked.

Tubman officials said they have no record of any donations or pledges from Glover. Janice Marshall, head of the Macon-Bibb County Convention and Visitor's Bureau, said she had never heard of the African Diaspora Heritage Trail until The Telegraph called about it. Online references to the trail don't mention Macon and the various tourist stops listed are in Bermuda itself.

Asked about this, Ellis said the trail is still being designed.

"Sure, we're going to be on it," he said.

As for Glover, (mayor's spokesoman Ron) Wildman said the actor hasn't followed up with the mayor yet, but "at least he knows Macon's here."

"Take a rich man to dinner," Wildman said. "Follow-up could come, it could not."

One last thing that struck me from that story: Ellis spent $40 in 8 months on 411 charges. It's a small number, but I know that when I need a number, I specifically avoid calling 411 because it costs $1 each time.

It will be interesting to see how many days, in this last year of his tenure, Ellis spends outside of Macon.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Dude, Saxby Chambliss sent me a DVD

I considered, and passed on, several jokes about this.

It's 8 minutes of Sen. Chambliss talking about immigration, with the American flag waving in the background and "America the Beautiful" playing softly. You can also view the video on Sen. Chambliss' Web site.

Amazing how things have changed in such a short time. I remember 5 years ago when Sen. Chambliss' office faxed The Telegraph so often that we called him "Faxby," which I still think is funny. Now he's sending me DVDs in the mail. The revolution continues.

No other posts today because I've been in Twiggs County, dealing with school officials on a story that will be in Saturday's paper.

Twiggs County is one messed up place. Perhaps the most disturbing detail: The superintendent out there says the scheduling process at Twiggs County High School was so messed up in recent years that kids took the same class twice.

I don't mean they failed it and took it again, I mean they just took it twice. I asked how in the world the students didn't notice this and say something. He really didn't have an answer.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Know what? Politics can suck it.

I've decided the following things matter in today's paper:

- Too many people died in an earthquake.
- The war continues in Iraq.
- Warner Robins Little Leaguers are in the World Series.
- There was an ad for The Smile Train. They raise money to fix kids' cleft lips and palates. The before pictures are not easy to look at.

And the following things do not:

- Jack Ellis (though Amy wrote a funny and thoughtful post).
- Venezuela

I'd be happy to hear some other people's thoughts today, and promise to post comments here on the front page if you want. My best to you and yours.

UPDATE FROM THE COMMENTS:
From my good friend Nick: "There are far more important things in the world than a lame duck Mayor and an insane dictator."

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Commuter rail back on track?

Note to self: Never declare anything dead. This will be on our main site shortly, but I thought I'd throw the basics up here:

A Georgia Department of Transportation committee has recommended establishing a commuter rail line from downtown Atlanta to the metro suburb of Lovejoy in a nod, albeit a preliminary one, back in the direction of making Macon's long-discussed passenger rail connection to Atlanta a reality.

The Macon-Atlanta route has been considered all-but-dead by all but its most vehement supporters. But if the full DOT board follows the recommendation of its intermodal committee, headed by former Perry state Rep. and current DOT board member Larry Walker, the idea could get new life.

The Wednesday vote in Atlanta leaves a lot of questions unanswered, particularly how the state will pay to complete the line, much less cover operating costs. But Walker called the recommendation "a step in the right direction" and said he's hearing "more vocal support" for commuter rail.

Part of that support may be due to the Lovejoy project's pairing with another proposed commuter line — one that has received a lot of high-profile lobbying in the last six months. The so-called Brain Train to connect Atlanta to the University of Georgia in Athens would also get a head-start under the proposal recommended Wednesday. Walker said the committee's resolution pairs the two projects, recommending one line be built to Lovejoy south of Atlanta and another to Tucker, which is an Atlanta suburb on the way to Athens.

Walker said he'll take the proposal before the full DOT board, which sets transportation priorities in Georgia, tomorrow. The board may not vote right away, but Walker said he thinks he has the votes he needs to get it passed.

Still, it would take action by the Georgia General Assembly to move forward. There's about $87 million in federal money already in place to open the Lovejoy line, but the federal earmark can only be used on that particular line. That means it would take a General Assembly vote to appropriate more money for the Lovejoy project — which planners have said would likely be needed — as well as funding for the Tucker line.

There's also the issue of ongoing funding to make up the expected difference between what it costs to operate these lines and what passengers will pay. Various talks between the state and local governments along the Lovejoy line have yet to yield a binding agreement on this issue.

"The issue, as in everything, is what's the cost," Macon state Rep. Allen Peake said. "Not only the up-front money, but also on an ongoing basis. ... And how many people are really going to use it?"

"I still think there's just a lot of questions, even though in theory I would love to have some rapid rail from Macon to Atlanta," Peake, R-Macon, said.

What did Ellis say and who did he say it to?

This whole Venezuelan solidarity thing (see below if you don't know what I'm talking about) has me wondering: Could this all just be a case of miscommunication, brilliantly bad p.r. and a Venezuelan president desperate for some love?

This is from Matt's coverage of today's belated press conference, during which Macon area leaders stated the obvious - they're not standing with Macon Mayor Jack Ellis in his alleged support of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Forget for a moment that they only started shouting about this after Fox News came to town and their phones started ringing, instead of taking a stand last week when the story broke.
Ellis, who leaves office when his term expires in December, sometime in July sent a statement of "solidarity" to Caracas, Venezuela. His target audience was the mayors in the South American country, he has said. Ellis sent the proclomation by two couriers, who, according to Venezuela's state-controlled radio station, personally delivered it to Chavez.

Chavez, during his weekly radio and television show, thanked Ellis for his support. The mayor has praised Chavez for his humanitarian leadership and efforts to provide discounted heating fuel to poor U.S. citizens. Ellis has said he hopes to visit Chavez in Venezuela, which is among the world's top oil producing countries.

Now, Ellis and his folks say they don't have a copy of the letter, so we really don't know who it was addressed to. It's hard for me to believe he wouldn't keep something like that. What, was it handwritten? How is it important enough to send via not one, but two couriers, but not worth keeping your own copy of? But let's put all that aside for a moment.

Is it possible that this thing was never intended to go to Chavez - that it got forwarded to Chavez and he used it to feed his own ego?

Remember that Ellis is a Vietnam veteran. In fact one of his sons has spina bifida because of Ellis' exposure to Agent Orange during the war. The man is a lot of things, but unpatriotic isn't one of them. So I have a hard time believing Ellis' goal was to align himself with Chavez, who pretty much says he hates America.

Sadly, we may never know, due to a string of events typical of the Ellis administration. Last week he said he didn't have the letter. This week he left for Africa, making him hard to get ahold of (we're trying).

And of course all hell is breaking loose while he's unavailable to defend himself.

Cox goes for Giuliani

This has already been mentioned elsewhere, and I don't delve into national politics too often because, quite frankly, it puts me out of my depth. A man can only be an expert on so many things, you know.

But it's worth noting that Kathy Cox, the state's superintendent of schools, has endorsed Rudy Giuliani for president. The Giuliani camp says Cox is the first Georgia official elected statewide to jump onto a presidential bandwagon, and as far as I can tell that's true.

There was some Internet talk about John Oxendine endorsing still unannounced former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson, but that's not quite right.

"He has encouraged Thompson to run," according to Oxendine's spokesman.

Any way, here's Cox's quote, from the Guiliani release:
“America needs real leadership in Washington. Mayor Giuliani’s 12 Commitments to the American People, including his commitment to provide a high quality education to every child in America, will bring the same success to the country that he brought to New York City,” said Cox, a former public school teacher for 15 years.

I met Giuliani at the state Capitol earlier this year. He was quite gracious, particularly since I was just a jackass reporter staking out the governor's office and waiting for him to emerge from a meeting with Gov. Sonny Perdue. I pledged to go home and learn to spell his name, which was not easy.

As we get closer to February, any one with a presidential campaign feel free to send major endorsements along. I'll note them here.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Mental health problems in a nutshell

Alan Judd and Andy Miller continue to do Pulitzer-worthy work at The AJC on the now all-too-obvious lapses in Georgia's public mental health network.

This is today's story, but I think you can read just these two paragraphs and see the problem in clear relief:
But what Walker described as a "crumbling infrastructure" has hit the hospitals hard. According to recent reports by MCG, the turnover rate among hospital technicians at one facility exceeded 100 percent this spring. At another hospital, two-thirds of nursing jobs were unfilled, and a lone doctor was assigned to care for 60 patients — four times the recommended caseload.

Several key administrative positions also are vacant. Only two hospitals have permanent medical directors, and the physician overseeing care at all seven hospitals is simultaneously performing two other jobs.

If that doesn't sink in immediately, read it until it does. Then imagine you're in one of those hospitals.

Villa Rica is the place to be (aka Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence)

The Paulding County Board of Commissioners is getting some kind of award for being awesome (technically known as a U.S. Department of Commerce Excellence in Economic Development Award, but I like my description better) tomorrow morning in Villa Rica, which is now home to a 24-hour Waffle House at the Liberty Road exit.

Georgia Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson, the commission's long-time county attorney, will be there to accept on the commission's behalf.

But check out the freaking stroke this thing is pulling:

From U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss' schedule:
10:00 a.m. Participates in Excellence in Economic Development Award Presentation to Paulding County Board of Commissioners Villa Rica, GA

Chambliss joins U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Sandy K. Baruah, U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga. in presenting the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA) Excellence in Economic Development Award for Innovation in Economic Development.

So it takes two senators, an assistant secretary and a congressman to give this award? I'll expect at least that many at my niece's kindergarten graduation.

Also, I just noticed the word "economic" appears three times in the award title. Just imagine if the award had honored redundancy.

"I'm not signing anything until I read it or somebody gives me the jist of it."

Ellis, oil and unconnected dots

Matt's got the latest this morning on Macon Mayor Jack Ellis' expression of solidarity to Venezuela president Hugo Chavez.

The mayor is in Africa for the month (hey - what mayor of a mid-sized American city isn't?) but he's commented on this previously and you can find that rundown in Matt's story.

Obviously, a lot of people see motives in this.

I've studied Ellis like some people study chemistry. I began to understand him when I stopped trying to understand him.

What I mean is, there's just no telling why Ellis sent Chavez, a man many would describe as a dictator, a letter of support.

Maybe, as he's said, Ellis wants the people of Venezuela to know that, regardless of their governments' differences, people around the world are much the same. Maybe he has some nefarious plot. Maybe he's angling for a free trip to Venezuela. Maybe he just woke up one morning and thought "You know, that Chavez guy gets a bum rap. I'm going to send him a letter."

Who the hell knows. I'm not even sure he knows. Ellis says he didn't keep a copy of the letter, so we don't even know what it said.

But, for the sake of context, I'll offer some dots. I hate to pull a Nancy Grace here, but please note I said "dots," not "connected dots."
1. In October 2006 Ellis said he would head to African nation Uganda on a trade mission, at least partly because of a recent discovery of large oil tracts. With a lot of building initiatives about to get underway in the country, Ellis said he hoped to bring contracts back to Middle Georgia businesses.

By the following April, Ellis had been named Uganda's honorary consul general, a title he can't formally accept until he leaves office this December.

"It means that I promote Uganda," Ellis said at the time. "I'm the spokesman for that country.

2. There's a lot of oil in Venezuela.

3. Below is the abstract of a New York Times story about former Atlanta Mayor Andy Young, which ran earlier this year. The full story can be purchased here.

Young has supported Ellis, both personally and financially, through some of Ellis' more difficult times, i.e. repeated legal attempts to remove him from office during the grand jury investigation of city finances. The two are friends.

The abstract: Civil rights leader Andrew Young and his consulting firm GoodWorks International have become lightning rod in Nigeria's election campaign for successor to Pres Olusegun Obasanjo, Young's longtime friend; Young's firm has earned millions of dollars through business dealings that extend far beyond lobbying for General Electric and other corporations seeking big government contracts; GoodWorks executives also have stakes in oil and chief executive Carlton A Masters started American company with Obasanjo relatives that bought expensive Miami property; Young and Masters say they avoid conflicts between government and corporate clients and do not pay bribes for contracts; Nigerian activists charge Young with profiting from his legacy rather than using it to help country beset by corruption, crumbling infrastructure and failed schools

What does all that mean? Who knows. Let me refer you to Kurt Vonnegut:

“You know what truth is?” said Karabekian. “It’s some crazy thing my neighbor believes. If I want to make friends with him, I ask him what he believes. He tells me, and I say, ‘Yeah, yeah — ain’t it the truth?’”

Monday, August 13, 2007

Staton wins big

State Sen. Cecil Staton, R-Macon, has won the first ever lucid idiocy unnamed political tournament. He tallied 57 percent of 960 votes cast in the final versus Bibb County Commission Chairman Charlie Bishop.

I've got a call in to the victor seeking comment, and he'll get a little trophy.

Thanks to everyone who voted, thanks to the contestants and particular thanks to Matt Barnwell and Ryan Gilchrest at The Telegraph. The tournament was Matt's idea in the first place, and Ryan ran the poll.

It looks like this thing was a success, so we'll be sure to run another one eventually. Any suggestions, throw them in the comments.

UPDATE: I just spoke to the winner, who was humble in victory, which is perhaps appropriate.

And in keeping with the light-hearted theme of this tournament, Staton said "the one thing I've learned from this experience is probably not to trust Speaker Richardson's view of blogging."

Georgia Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson, you may remember, dissed the blogosphere a while back, essentially saying the whole thing was a fad. This angered cheeto-eating computer nerds every where, and rest assured they were on the Internet in minutes, registering their displeasure.

"I'm fascinated by all of this," Staton continued. "And I hope to be able to identify some of these people (who voted for me) in the future in case I need campaign contributions."

No worries, mates. It was a secret poll. Thanks again.

An hour to go...

Tournament is wrapping up, so go vote if you haven't already. Looks like Staton is in the lead now. It also looks like people from as far away as California have voted in this thing.

Sixteen politicians enter, one politician leaves.

I come back and it's almost football season

I am back from Australia. The toilets there, far from flushing in the opposite direction due to the Coriolis effect, simply flush straight down because they use far less water with, seemingly, no sacrifice in power.

In fact, they are nearly all equipped with a half-flush button, a savings measure so simple in its rightness that I can't believe we don't have one in every house.

In fact, the Aussies seem far more energy conscious than us - less likely to have central air conditioning (albeit in a more temperate climate than Macon), paying more for gasoline (and calling it petrol) and with goods priced high enough to discourage consumption, but not make it prohibitive.

Beer, for example, will run you $18 a six-pack in many cases. Cigarettes, you don't even want to know how much those are, but I will tell you they slap pictures of premature babies and diseased eyes on them. Smoking apparently causes blindness.

And yet Australia has a huge hole in the ozone layer above it, at least partly due to pollution in other countries and wind patterns, etc.

Whammy.

Doc Holliday will be happy and unsurprised to hear Australians use roundabouts as a default at most intersections. They were quite easy to use, even while driving on the wrong side of the road and from the wrong side of the car, which is disconcerting.

Seriously, if I could do it, you have no excuse, so the idea that roundabouts are hard to use can just be thrown away.

Also, the speed limits there appear to be true maximums, with the understanding that you might not go that fast. That's as opposed to America, where the speed limit is just a starting point.

One way or another, I think that says a lot.

I found Australian cities to be very clean, with almost no homelessness or panhandling, with the exception of near the few casinos we visited as part of a volunteer effort to curb gambling in the world.

The Aussies are a good lot, and I thank my new friends there. But I am glad to be back in America.

Results in the unnamed political tournament early this afternoon, likely before I get through the 570 emails I missed.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Unnamed Political Tournament Semifinals - Down Under update

A homing pigeon just arrived at The Telegraph from the summit of Ayer's Rock in Australia's Northern Territory. Scrawled on a small piece of rolled parchment the bird carried was this phrase "Bishop to roll."

Travis, who we last heard was trekking across the Amadeus Basin with nothing but a boomerang, a 12-pack of warm Foster's and Paul Hogan, went on to write: "I'm going to predict a Staton-Bishop final, with Bishop by about 5-10 percent."

Think he knows what he's talking about? Or has he taken one too many shots to the head from an angry Kangaroo?

The final round starts Wednesday...

Sixteen politicians enter, one politician leaves.

- Matt Barnwell

Friday, August 3, 2007

Semifinals - Unnamed Political Tournament

With "Senior Reporter" Travis lost somewhere in the Australian outback, it's been left to me, Matt Barnwell, non-Senior Reporter here at The Telegraph, to recap events in this little Unnamed Political Tourney (clever name, I know). Round 3 is now underway.

Sixteen politicians enter, one politician leaves.

At first, none of the contests were even close. The top seeds cruised to victory in the first round more easily than barbecue sliding down the gullet of a Middle Georgia politician.

But the upsets were a-brewin' in Round 2: Republican stalwarts Sonny Perdue and Charlie Bishop went head-to-head. That was bad news for Sonny. (Hey, after Bishop's nemesis - Bibb Commissioner Joe Allen - missed out on the field of 16, the chairman had to find someone to throttle.)

And the all-Houston County "Battle of the Larrys" over in the Fort Hawkins bracket sent the lesser experienced politicians packing. No word yet on whether there will be an appeal of Walker's eligibility to participate in the first place.

All this has set up an intriguing semi-final: Can Charlie "Guv-slayer" Bishop take down Dublin's DuBose Porter, the man-who-maybe-could-be-governor in 2010? And now that Staton has bested one Walker, how will he fare against another?

It's all up to you...