Monday, June 30, 2008

Woke up, it was a Monday morning

Nothing but a few things from the weekend papers.

David Horsey, Seattle Post-Intellegencer.

Did you know the Soviets launched Sputnik the same day that the first episode of Leave it to Beaver aired? Oct. 4, 1957.

God Bless the Sunday AJC:

Students who fail the CRCTs still get promoted to the next grade... and in some counties at rates topping 90 percent.

Nearly $1 out of every $5 on Georgia banks' loan books bankrolled homebuilders and real estate developers
— by far the highest proportion in the state in at least 30 years, according to federal regulators' data.

And a story about war:
Gator just hit an IED," he says about one of the 1-30 platoons in Sadr City. "The Bradley's on fire."

The room falls silent.

Turner is thinking what everyone else is: On Easter Sunday, four men in a sister battalion burned to death in their Bradley. This can't be happening to our own guys.

He steps into the tactical operations room at one end of the command center and stares at grainy images of Sadr City beamed back from an unmanned aerial vehicle.

Heat shows up black in the camera's night-vision mode. The entire Bradley is shades of black, the troop compartment the darkest.

As a newly minted chaplain, Turner had pleaded for an assignment with a combat unit that would be at the tip of the spear. He had expected to see chilling scenes such as this, but even after 10 months at war, he is upended emotionally.

Nothing braces a man, not even a chaplain with unfailing faith, to watch comrades suffer.

Turner struggles to find the right words. The stunned officers try breaking the awkward silence with nervous chatter about sports.

But they cannot escape the frightening scenario in Sadr City.

"I can't believe he's not dead yet," says a second lieutenant about anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. "We're not supposed to be in this fight."

U.S. commanders in Iraq blame al-Sadr's radical Mahdi Army for rising violence in Shiite areas.

Turner sits down with the officers, his head in his hands.

"I'm sick," he says. "I want to go home and take all these guys with me. Sadr City —- that place can burn for all I care right now. There are 2.5 million bad guys there."

Even a chaplain who counsels soldiers on managing anger cannot hold in his own fury, his urge for justice.

The officers wait. Details trickle in. Then, relief. The soldiers in the Bradley are alive. All nine escaped through the roof hatch.

They have been evacuated to hospitals in serious condition: burns, smoke inhalation, shrapnel, traumatic brain injuries. Doctors are unsure whether they will survive the night.

Friday, June 27, 2008

On the Supreme Court's gun decision

This is what the 2nd Amendment says:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Here's how they didn't write it:
You can only have guns if you're part of a well-regulated militia.

I also find it interesting how much time was spent trying to divine the intent of guys who wrote the 2nd Amendment more than 200 years ago.

I'm more interested in what we all think our rights should be today.

Have a nice weekend.

UPDATE: Almost forgot I had legitimate news related to this. From the Senate Press Office:
ATLANTA – State Sen. Mitch Seabaugh (R-Sharpsburg) has been appointed chairman of the Senate Firearms Law Study Committee by Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle. The study panel will meet this summer to take a comprehensive look at Georgia’s complex firearms laws and possibly recommend new legislation for the 2009 session.

Outsourcing sales tax collections?

One of the things that chaps county commissioners' hides is that the state collects sales taxes for them, hangs onto the money for a couple of months while things are being processed, then sends it back to the counties. But it keeps 1 percent for administration, and presumably the interest collected on the money while it's held.

So this is interesting, from a state Senate press release:
SAVANNAH – The Senate Local Sales Tax Collection Study Committee held its first meeting this week in Savannah to discuss new alternatives for the collection of local sales taxes. Led by Chairman Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock), the study committee consists of fellow legislators and local officials from across Georgia who aim to give local governments a choice in how their taxes are collected.

“I believe that private industry can offer a better, more efficient and lower cost way of electronically collecting sales taxes in Georgia,” said Sen. Rogers. “It is happening in other states and my hope is that we can save the taxpayers money in the long run by implementing this technology in Georgia.”

Under current Georgia law, the Department of Revenue collects all local sales and use taxes on behalf of cities and counties. Local governments are subsequently charged one percent of the amount collected, regardless of the total cost of collection, which is used by the department for administrative purposes. The study committee is working to give local governments the option to outsource their tax collection to a private company, or make their own arrangements for collections, thereby allowing them to keep more of their revenue.

The committee is considering outsourcing collections to a receivables management company, and heard a presentation from Revenue Discovery Systems (RDS).

The committee will hold future meetings at the state Capitol in Atlanta and will continue to hear testimony from various stakeholders across Georgia. “At the conclusion of this study committee, we will draft legislation for the 2009 session to addresses this critical issue,” Sen. Rogers added.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

"Why don't you start right now?"

The federal government sent me a letter today saying that I "do not need to do anything."

This is in reference to the $600 or so they said they'd send me, which I have not received. I have received two letters telling me, essentially, that I do not need to do anything about this.

The second one, to its credit and expense, says it is printed on recycled paper. The envelope, too.

Unfortunately it also says I could have expected my payment 5 days ago, but to wait 6 weeks before contacting them about that.

The way I'll know is when you send the check.

I'd like to meet the guy who actually types this stuff and see what the approval process is on the language.

All work and no play makes Jack try to kill you.


From the DNC, according to my inbox:
Washington, DC -Michelle Obama will keynote the Democratic National Committee's June 26th Gay and Lesbian Leadership Council (GLLC) Gala at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, New York First Lady Michelle Paterson, and Providence Mayor and President of the National Conference of Democratic Mayors David Cicilline are among the other speakers at the dinner.

It doesn't seem to have "hit" yet like I'd expect it to. But it is on a CBS blog (at the bottom) and The Hill's Blogs.

I also want to hear this speech. Could be broadcast nationally. From what I've seen I don't think the Obama campaign does things by "accident."

Attention AJC: Glenn Richardson is pretty handy with a shotgun

State Rep. Allen Freeman held a fundraiser this morning at a local shooting club. Speaker Richardson came down and they shot clay pigeons. And I gotta tell you, the speaker can shoot.* Freeman too, for that matter.*

Not much news to report. The speaker said property tax reform remains "high on the list." He was a little cool to trauma care funding, saying it was important but not "in the top 3."

I wouldn't read too much into that, though. His top 3 are hard to beat: transportation, taxes, education.

I got a call while I was out there - apparently John Oxendine suggested yesterday that the state should take management of Hartsfield-Jackson Airport away from the city of Atlanta.

The speaker said he introduced a bill on that several years ago.

"We ought to look at it. ..." he said. "I'm not for it or against it right now."

* bear in mind that good shooting to me might be not so good to you. I plan on asking for scores shortly. I counted 3 other shooters in their group. Nice guys, too.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Here's a tip: Don't hold the burning end

If you are a moron, and happen to be in Macon Thursday, I've got a real educational opportunity for you. From John Oxendine's office:
Atlanta – Insurance Commissioner John W. Oxendine and Macon-Bibb County Fire Chief Marvin Riggins will conduct a fireworks education and safety demonstration on Thursday, June 26, at 11 a.m.

Oxendine and Chief Riggins will conduct a demonstration on the proper use of legal Georgia sparklers.

I hope they set something on fire. But, then, I prefer comedy to safety.

By the way - we could have two (potential) gubernatorial candidates in Macon Thursday, and at about the same time. I understand Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle will be here for and educational roundtable (whatever that is) and a tour of the dialysis center at the Medical Center of Central Georgia.

I doubt an open flame will be involved in either of those events, but you never know.

According to his office, Lt. Gov. Cagle is going to be here for a roundtable with school board superintendents in the morning. After lunch he's touring the dialysis unit at the Medical Center.

Marijuana, alcohol, guns, lawyers and schizoid government protectionist policies

Chances to write headlines like that are why every reporter ought to start a blog...

Good old Tom Crawford. He really gives these guys hell:
This is the ultimate in mixed messages: We’re going to protect you from the atomized alcohol, but we’re also going to make it easier for persons to carry loaded firearms in situations where guns are more likely to be fired at you.

You should read it all if you like knowing how ridiculous the Georgia General Assembly can be. And, of course, I picked this up on Fitzlew.

UPDATE: The guys over at Georgia Sports Blog reminded me of a classic. I think someone should hire Terry Tate for the next session.

If legislators were in danger of getting press tackled in the south atrium, I bet you'd see some changes.

I don't got time for pain. The only pain I got time for is the pain I put on fools who don't know what time it is.

What's he gonna do, give everyone a bicycle?

- another reporter here in the newsroom

This is a John McCain ad running in Georgia. Check out what the voice over guy says at the 15 second mark:

I know some ways to make energy cheaper, and I know some ways to make it cleaner. I'm not sure how you do both at the same time. It's kind of like Diet Coke. If it really tasted just like regular Coke, we wouldn't have regular Coke.

I've called the campaign for comment.

UPDATE: I got a call back from a campaign spokesman for the Southeast, but he hasn't gotten back to me with a statement. I'll update when he does.

UPDATE 2: From the campaign's southeast region communications director:
A focus on renewable energy, clean coal, nuclear and domestic cap and trade combined with gas tax holidays, improved access to supply and conservation methods that drive down demand.

I emailed back and asked for, you know, some numbers. Since this plan is going to make energy cheaper, and cost is typically described in dollars, that seemed reasonable.

UPDATE 3: The campaign cleared it up with this statement:
We’re going to stand by what was provided.
In other news: free bubble up and rainbow stew for everyone.

"Well, you sure don't look 25, but your unlaminated, out-of-state driver's license is proof enough for me."

Monday, June 23, 2008

A terrorist attack almost certainly would help John McCain get elected

I wouldn't suggest campaigns saying it, though.

Also: I was listening to Trent Lott on Meet the Press Sunday, hosted by Brian Williams, Tim Russert rest in peace. And he was talking about off-shore drilling, and mentioned that the poorest people drive the most inefficient cars.

What would a $2,000 tax credit for purchasing a vehicle that gets 30+ mpg, redeemable only for cars built here, do in this country?
UPDATE: Sen. McCain has already proposed something like this.
Not the least of my questions being: What do we do with all the SUVs?

The European Soccer League's version of relegation: Would it work with Citizenship? That's where the last few teams in the top league move down a league and the best three in the lower league move up. Like if you can't cut it in America you get relegated down to...

.. you didn't think I'd really insult a specific country, did you?

p.s. I invented the question mark.

By the way:

I agree: This Democratic Senate race is interesting. Four way race as I see it. Dale Cardwell is one of the four.

As Time Magazine has now learned, Georgia was essentialy probably in play the moment Obama became the nominee, but I'd like to see some vp choices. Others have been on top of this subject for a while.

What else you got? Mental health funding is probably still an issue. And I thought the drought was a thing last year.

GMA's summer conference in Savannah should be wrapping today (Tuesday). I swear I looked for something embarrasing on the last day's agenda, but it's mostly stuff like this:
Greenology 101: Financing and Implementing Green Practices Room 105/106
Whether it's implementing a recycling program, increasing green space, or crafting development ordinances to make your city more environmentally friendly, there is no question that going green is good. In this session panelists will lead attendees through a discussion regarding different methods of greening your city. Attendees can expect to take home valuable information about financing and implementing some of the programs that the panelists will share, and will also receive a toolkit of resources on how to adopt unique green practices that work for your city.

Alright, I found one, under "additional entertainment":
Lip-sync your way into the ultimate video. Your head superimposed onto animated dancing bodies - dancing and twisting in tune with up to five other gets to take home a DVD. You will never look so smooth!

I won't quibble with the bad editing so near the end of a document like that.

But let me announce: Lucid Idiocy will pay a $50 bounty for the best video of a public official from Middle Georgia, or just a really funny one from anywhere, participating in this.

This is not a joke. Or, rather, it's not yet.

Vice President Cheney is here

If you want to waste a week some time, call the White House and try finding that what presidential travel costs. You get answers like this:
In accordance with Federal regulations, political committees, and not the Federal taxpayer, pay the costs attributable to political activity when the Vice President participates in an event held by a candidate for the US Senate or House of Representatives. Title of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), and section 734.503 of title 5 of the CFR, contain relevant regulations. For further information, please consult the website or press affairs office of the Federal Elections Commission.

- Megan Mitchell, Office of the Vice President.

OK. But, can I just get a total cost the Vice President's Office will bill the Goddard campaign for this particular event?
"We don't distribute breakdowns," Mitchell said. "I encourage you to contact the campaign."

Thanks. It's not like you're a public office, or this should be public information or anything. Sayeth the campaign:
Regarding expense we will fully reimburse taxpayers for the cost of the political portion of the trip. As you can imagine we are still adding things up and we will report all expense on our next FEC report which is due early next month.

By the way - I believe I've actually read some of the regulations Ms. Mitchell referred to. It's been a while but, basically, they require a campaign to pay the cost of one first-class airline ticket for each campaign traveler on the trip, even though they are not actually flying on a commercial airline.

And a billing formula that the White House referred me to a couple of years ago states that security costs — which of course are secret — are backed out, and then the "political entity pays for all the costs related to the trip specifically."

As for the actual cost of actual trips... Well, put it this way: The Washington Post tackled the subject in 2002. The title of the ensuing article was "The cost of presidential travel is anyone's guess."

If The Washington freaking Post can't figure it out, what chance do you think the average American has? And are you OK with that?

By the way, I think it should be noted that, according to everything I've read, taxpayer financed campaign travel like this existed long before President Bush took office. It's not a Republican or Democrat thing, it's a politicians spending your money thing.

Finally, if you'd like to read an August 2000 Government Accountability Office report on presidential travel costs, you can download it here. It deals with foreign travel, but it's the most recent report I know of on this issue. And you can glean information relevant to domestic travel from it. For example: It costs $54,100 an hour to operate Air Force 1.
UPDATE: A 2006 House Committee on Government Reform memo (which can be downloaded here) reminded me that this same GAO report lists the per-hour cost of operating Air Force 2 only $14,552. Air Force 1 is a VC-25 (basically a souped up 747) and Air Force 2 is typically a C-32 (a modified 757). I'll try to confirm just what kind of plane it was with the White House or the Air Force, but presumably the lower per-hour cost is more appropriate to quote.

Image: Beau Cabell, The Macon Telegraph.

Cop: All this hoopla and taxpayer money.
Me: You shoulda seen that thing idle.

From 'former' Telegraph reporter Keich Whicker. Damn his reasonableness:
You have better things to do with your time than fixate (again) over how much it costs elected officials who travel to politic. The Veep can go wherever he wants and the taxpayer foots the bill. It's part of the office, just like the writ of post, where all the mailing fees are waived for Marshall when he sends out election junk.

In other words, it is what it is.

Friday, June 20, 2008

If I have to explain it, it's not funny

This is from a toll booth in Buffalo, New York. It's near the Canadian border, but not on it, so it's all good-old American soil.

No joke: The toll booth guy tried to grab my camera and told me I could be arrested for taking this picture. Luckily I resolved that by driving away.

On a related note: South Buffalo? About like you'd expect.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, with conquering limbs astride from land to land; here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand a mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is the imprisoned lightning and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command the air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she. With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor. Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
- Emma Lazarus.

I never noticed until yesterday that the Statue of Liberty's back foot is up, that she walks the flame forward into the world. And that there are broken chains at her feet.

Said Edouard de Laboulaye, who apparently had the idea of building a statue at all: "The American Liberty... does not hold an incendiary torch, but a beacon which enlightens."


UPDATE: India is building a taller statue, with a much more aggressive symbolism, Reuters reports.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Speaking of the tipping point...

I'm in New York City and can see the Empire State Building from here.

Still, this kind of thing seldom works out well for the people involved. Except the newspapers, which typically end up largely unchanged. From The Associated Press:
ATLANTA - A Paulding County judge who initially said he did not handle the divorce of Georgia House Speaker Glenn Richardson has reversed himself, telling The Associated Press on Monday that he did dissolve the Republican lawmaker's marriage.

All whammies are self whammies. The hat tip to peach pundit.

Pictures of the Statue of Liberty tomorrow. Good Lord willing and the creek don't rise.

Friday, June 13, 2008

I go North

I've got next week off, and I'll be taking a road trip to New York.

What, doesn't everyone start a 2,000 mile road trip on Friday the 13th when gas is $4 a gallon?

I'm sure I'll do some writing and post some pictures over here. But I wouldn't expect much posting on this site.

See you soon, beautiful.

Jim Martin and the Democratic Senate race

How can a 5-way free for all for the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate be this quiet?

Jim Martin was in Bibb County last night. I'll have a story up later today or tomorrow. He espoused several basic positions, such as an energy policy of conservation first, increasing refining capacity by requiring oil companies to invest more of their profits second.

And he called universal health care "a great boon" to small businesses - saying it would bring a "renaissance" of economic development.

But it seemed, for a man with Mr. Martin's extensive record, who just ran a statewide race in 2006, that I had to draw specifics out much more than I usually do with candidates who feel strongly about things.

I hope that's a fair, if subjective, characterization of our conversation, which only lasted about 20 minutes. But check out the issues page on his campaign site. He's asking for public input, but doesn't list his own priorities.

As of Sunday, we will be one month from this primary.
UPDATE 2: Don't ever let me tell you Lucid Idiocy doesn't have power. Because it won't be me. It will be some guy pretending to be me, possibly an alien. Rep. Martin's issues page.
In comparison:
Dale Cardwell's issues page is extensive.

Vernon Jones' is pretty specific.

Josh Lanier appears to be blogging on his "un-campaign" site. (Note to Mr. Lanier - come to Macon sometime soon and give me a call. You're the only Democrat The Telegraph hasn't interviewed in this race.)

And you know Rand Knight is gonna tell you what he thinks. His might be the most extensive by far.

Libertarians are seldom shy, and Allen Buckley's no exception. Note to Mr. Buckley: See note to Mr. Lanier and come on down.

And Sen. Saxby Chambliss has all kind of videos telling you what he says he thinks.

UPDATE: Here's my summary of the issues Mr. Martin and I talked about last night:

The economy and energy: Martin said he favors conservation as a first priority on energy issues. But second is requiring oil companies to invest more of their profits in increasing refining capacity. He said he does not favor drilling for oil in Alaska's wilderness, a popular initiative with Republicans, including Chambliss. And said America should be a leader in developing alternative fuels, then sell that technology to other countries, but which alternative fuels should be determined by the private sector, not the federal government, because "I'm not sure that we really know what the best solution is."

The war: Martin said "The president and the Congress has to make the decision that we're going to leave Iraq. And the tactical decision, military decision about how we do that and how quickly we do that has to be made by the commanders on the ground." He said he himself favors leaving Iraq, but did not say when.

Health care: Martin said universal health care would be "a great boon" to small business development. Many people now work jobs they don't like to keep their insurance coverage. If they were freed from that there would be "a renaissance of entrepreneurial development in this country," Martin said.

Perdue backing commuter rail to Griffin

Well that's interesting. Gov. Perdue supports commuter rail.

AP's version.

Ariel at The AJC.

UPDATE 2: How long these train trips take is pretty key, especially if they want to eventually send the train to Macon. From the DOT:
He’s talking the traditional “heavy” rail commuter line for the Atlanta-Griffin service he endorsed would average about 46 minutes Atl-Lvjoy/ about 70 minutes Atl-Griffin/ and about 2 hours, 10 minutes Atl-Macon (and reverse as well on each), depending of course upon how many intermediate stops ended up being added...

UPDATE 1: I'm sure you're all familiar with the concept of "the tipping point." I'm used to think we were reaching the apex on energy issues. Now I think we've just started tipping over. Sen. Johnny Isakson today in The AJC, calling bold action and referencing John F. Kennedy.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

By the way, a handful of guys with the power to move millions around in the state budget got together this morning

Ah, Fiscal Affairs Committee. You always sneak up on me. From James Salzer, a man much tougher to sneak past:
Legislative leaders agreed to cut $8.4 million in funds for mental health services for children Thursday, but only after criticizing the Department of Human Resources' handling of the state's crisis in mental health care.

"I am not confident we have a strategy on mental health," said Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who added that DHR's mental health spending should be audited. "I think we have somewhat been placed in a bind."

Members of the Fiscal Affairs Committee voted 8-4 to shift funding for mental health services to other programs in the state Department of Human Resources to meet administrative expenses and cover funding deficits.

For more about how you don't really need an entire General Assembly to divide up a few dozen billion dollars, see this post from last year.

By the way, Lucid Idiocy the blog is now more than one year old. Lucid Idiocy in concept, and action, is much, much older.

An interview with Sen. Sam Nunn

UPDATE: Here's the interview. Frankly, he exhausted my questions. Mental note: When that happens, always ask about growing up in Perry, Georgia.

I also wish I'd ask if he has spies. Given the work he's involved in, I would think intelligence acquisition would be required.
So my editor comes over a half hour ago and says: You wanna interview Sam Nunn today? He's accepting some peace prize in Germany.

Some days this job ain't so bad. Full interview will run tomorrow. The prize he won, and is in Germany to accept, is called the Hessian Peace Prize.

And he still says a vice presidency offer, and acceptance, are unlikely.
Q: I'm wondering: Will we manage, as humankind, not to destroy ourselves? To choose peace?

NUNN: I'm optimistic. ... I say it often - we're in a race between cooperation and and catastrophe. But when mankind normally recognizes that kind of threat, and when there's broad recognition of it, we're pretty darn good at dealing with it. Nobody's better than America when we finally realize we're in a serious threat environment in taking decisive steps to deal with it and, also, leading the world. We've got to lead the world. The more you are out and talk to people in the world, they are looking for American leadership. But in order to lead we have to listen. And we haven't done a very good job of listening in recent years. And that's not simply the Bush administration, it also applies to Congress.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Chambliss: Democrats to blame for gas prices

I picked this line up from Peach Pundit, which posted a campaign YouTube clip from Sen. Saxby Chambliss.

Says Sen. Chambliss: "Make no mistake about it: Congress, and especially the Democrats in Congress, are to blame for skyrocketing gas prices."

I wish everything was so simple. I'd work fewer hours.

Unfortunately some people have more complicated explanations for the rise in gas prices. Mideast tensions, the weak dollar, increasing demand for oil in China, commodities speculation, oil company greed, unrealistic expectations from American consumers - take your pick.

So I asked Chambliss' office if his "It's the Democrats' fault" stance is an over simplification. His campaign says it's putting together a more detail response to this question, but campaign spokeswoman Michell Hitt Grasso said the senator "does not deny that there's increased demand."

"But with increased demand you must have increased supply," she said.

The senator's statement refers to various Congressional votes to block drilling for domestic oil, as well as former President Bill Clinton's veto to block drilling in Alaska in 1995, she said.

Chambliss' office also sent me some comments he made on the Senate floor today. His strategy for moving forward seems a bit more nuanced than "blame Democrats."
We’ve got to continue down the road of researching and developing more alternative fuels. We have seen the development of ethanol primarily in one region of our country -- the Midwest. The unintended consequence that we've seen is that food prices have increased due to the demand for corn. That’s why we have to move to develop the means to produce ethanol from cellulosic-based products.

We’ve also got to implement conservation practices from an individual and household standpoint. We have put some measures in place that will direct the automobile manufacturing industry to develop automobiles that get higher miles per gallon. We also need to encourage some personal measures to make sure that we truly do have conservation practices in place.

Good grief

It's called the Internet. It makes it really hard to get away with plagiarism. Look into it.

From The AJC:
A "new vision" outlined for mental health care in Georgia last week isn't so new after all.

Large sections of a report by Gov. Sonny Perdue's mental health commission were lifted, often verbatim, from a Michigan study published in 2004 and from two other sources, a review by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found. The commission's report, released last week by the governor's office, credits none of the cloned material. ...

The Georgia document repeats language from Michigan saying the commission had provided "a detailed overview" of the mental health system "in Appendix E of this report." But unlike Michigan's, Georgia's report contains no Appendix E.

One complete section in the Georgia commission's report — an essay titled "What Is Mental Illness" — contained no original work, the Journal-Constitution found.

This will get you to the report in question if you'd like to read it. Not sure why you would at this point... unless you live in Michigan.

Fickling on all-around nice guy Perdue

Roy Fickling is president and CEO of Fickling & Co. real estate and part of the Fickling family, which has a long history in Macon and Middle Georgia. For example: They started the Cherry Blossom festival, Macon's signature event and a source of community pride.

The family is also one hell of a political mover and shaker behind the scenes. When Gov. Sonny Perdue came to Bibb County last night, for a fundraiser at Bill and Neva Fickling's stately home, Roy went and picked the governor up in his helicopter and took him home afterward.

What do you think they chat about on those flights?

Roy Fickling also introduced Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson to economist Arthur Laffer a few years back, helping kick off the push to repeal property taxes.

Anyway, I told you that to tell you this: Fickling introduced Gov. Perdue last night at this fundraiser, which was held for Bibb County Commission Chairman Charlie Bishop. He called him "governor of the great state of Georgia and an all-around nice guy." And he told this story:

Shortly after Gov. Perdue was elected, he and Fickling were going to go duck hunting. Fickling is an avid sportsman and has hunted with other politicians over the years, including Vice President Dick Cheney. Perdue was late, and when he arrived, he was disheveled, Fickling told the fundraiser crowd last night.

When the governor went to clean up, the state trooper traveling with him told Fickling the reason for their tardiness. Perdue had stopped on the way down to help someone change a tire.

That's the kind of thing they say about you when you're gone: He stopped to change folks' tires on the interstate.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Gov. Perdue: Dedicated funding streams "unwise."

Gov. Sonny Perdue was in north Bibb County this evening at a fundraiser for Bibb County Commission Chairman Charlie Bishop.

That seems like a big deal to me - that a sitting governor would get involved in a local race, particularly when Bishop has opposition in the Republican primary.

Everyone I've talked to agreed that's rare, and Perdue said he hasn't come out for local races often but, he "thought it was the right thing to do" this time.

More on that in Saturday's political notebook. I also asked Gov. Perdue a few quick questions, and was interested in his position on trauma care funding. An appointed commission this week split up $58.9 million the state appropriated for trauma care.

Gov. Perdue said he felt the commission made good decisions. But as for a dedicated funding source going forward, he said he's against that. Here's the context:
Do you think that we'll end up with a permanent funding mechanism next year?

One of the benefits of Georgia's budget system and its fiscal system, it allows us to manage it in a way that moves quickly. ... We've stayed away from dedicated funding streams. And I think dedicated funding streams are unwise. Trauma is a - is something we ought to be funding. But we ought to look at the budget and take the right amount. What happens in dedicated funding streams is you have an amount and people come to the amount, rather than having the need and going and meeting the need. So I think we ought to fund trauma. I expect us to continue funding trauma. And, maybe the idea of a tag fee - to consider that. Because most of our trauma is automobile related, might be appropriate. But I hope the legislature will stay away from dedicated funding streams.

In the back and forth about funding trauma care the last two years, I'm not sure Gov. Perdue voiced this opinion, but I may be wrong. It's not something hospitals want to hear, I'm sure.
UPDATE: Bert Brantley, the governor's press secretary, says Gov. Perdue's position on dedicated funding streams are not new and it's "a principle that he generally sticks to."
But I've been wondering this week, with the federal pressure to improve the state's mental hospitals, will we see a direct competition for dollars between subsidizing trauma care in the state and and further subsidizing mental health care?

Time will tell. Gov. Perdue noted that the state increased funding for the hospitals this year. This was done ahead of a recent federal report criticizing the state, but after The AJC did enough reporting on the system to kick off the federal investigation. Perdue said he expects more funding will be needed:
We were not allocating to the hospitals what they should have had. We were having to beg borrow and steal to fund that and were not doing it very well. This year... you can look at the budget and see how much they increased in the funding of the hospitals. Will it take more? Probably so. Does it need to be sustainable? Absolutely. We've got to do better.

"I would never give tickets or dinner or anything as a thank you."

EDIT: I edited the first paragraph to use Wilson's actual title, instead of referring to him as a senior staff member. I probably shouldn't assume who qualifies as senior and who doesn't.
I imagine you've heard that Gov. Sonny Perdue's director of government affairs, Padgett Wilson, once worked for disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. And you probably heard about Mr. Wilson's email suggesting, presumably sarcastically, that Department of Justice staffers who helped secure a major contract for an Abramoff client should get hookers if they want them.

If not, you can read about it in most state newspapers today. Or Galloway can bring you up-to-date, as well as link you to the full report today's articles are based on.

But most interesting to me was Mr. Wilson's response to an investigator who was asked just what he meant when he said in an email that DOJ staffers who helped secure that $16 million deal for a client should get "anything they want."

His response, in part: "No, I really — I would never give tickets or dinner or anything as a thank you, so this is — this is just me being smart and a bad attempt at locker room humor.”

I don't know Mr. Wilson and I'm not a mind reader, so I can't comment on that response specifically.

But any suggestion that lobbyists, generally speaking, don't give tickets to lawmakers to say thank you is utterly ridiculous. Already this year, in the state of Georgia alone, lobbyists have bought state legislators tickets to various events at least 213 times.

The total value of those tickets? Just under $26,500. The most expensive ticket or tickets? That'd be $600 in Daytona 500 tickets for state Rep. Ron Stephens courtesy of a Home Depot lobbyist.

UPDATE: Bert Brantley, the governor's press secretary, provides some background info. on how the state's lobbying efforts are run and what Mr. Wilson's job was and is. I looked on various Web sites and didn't see any lobbyist disclosures connected to Wilson on the state's behalf, so that all jibes.
What our folks do in DC is not traditional lobbying in the sense that you are thinking of. We have one staffer, one receptionist and rent for the office which totals about 120k a year. The goal of that office is to serve as an information source for the Georgia delegation (of both parties) and their staffs on whatever topics they need information from the state on, and to also bring up issues that are important to the state to them for their consideration.

The folks up there do not buy tickets, dinners, etc. There is no budget for that kind of thing and we do not employ contract lobbyists to do that for us.

Pat was that DC staffer for probably 18 months or so, and about a year ago he returned to Georgia to be director of government affairs, which means both he is responsible for both state and federal issues. The DC staff reports to him, and he and the legislative affairs staff here are the main points of contact for state legislators.

Obama doll: At least ridiculous, possibly racist

Some allegedly famous German doll maker is offering a $219 doll that's supposed to be Barack Obama.


Image: The Sun.

Seriously, tell me that doesn't look like this guy just stuck some random black doll face on a body wearing a suit.

Monday, June 9, 2008

May revenue figures

From the governor's office:
ATLANTA – Governor Sonny Perdue announced today that net revenue collections for the month of May 2008 (FY08) totaled $1,473,892,000 compared to $2,140,232,000 for May 2007 (FY07), a decrease of $666,340,000 or 31.1 percent.

The percentage decrease year-to-date for FY08 compared to FY07 is 0.1 percent.

“These figures are not surprising given April’s sharp rise in collections due to processing improvements made by the Department of Revenue,” said Governor Perdue. “We will continue to monitor revenue collections and responsibly manage the state’s fiscal affairs.”

Trauma commission numbers are out

The Trauma Commission has met and divvied up the $58.9 million the state gave it. I wasn't there, but a commission member was nice enough to provide me with a Powerpoint breakdown.

And The AJC has some coverage up.

I'm going to list what each hospital got, based on the Powerpoint. This won't add up to $58.9 million. There are other categories, including about $6.5 million for EMS programs, but I don't completely understand yet which of these payouts are already accounted for in the hospital totals posted below.

Not wanting to be redundant, I'm going to leave that alone for now.

Level II center totals:
Archbold - $2.2 million
Atlanta - $3.75 million
Columbus - $2.63 million
Floyd - $1.98 million
Gwinnett - $2.66 million
Hamilton - $1.82 million
North Fulton - $2.06 million
Egleston - $1.92 million
Scottish Rite - $1.68 million

Level I center totals:
Grady - $12.7 million
Medical Center of Central Georgia - $3.55 million
Medical College of Georgia - $5.07 million
Memorial Health - $5.66 million

Sunday, June 8, 2008

WHEN everyone lives like an American

A few years ago I wanted to write a piece called "If everyone lived like an American, would we be f'd?"

The idea was to take the amount of pollution, garbage, energy consumption, etc., the average American produces or uses, multiply that by the population of the planet and see if or when the total would rise above the Earth's ability to support that level of usage.

I never got around to it. But, more and more, I think we might get to find out. This is from the May National Geographic, which focuses on China:
China produces - and consumes - nearly a third of the world's steel, more than longtime industrial powers Japan, Germany and the United States combined.

Authorities have added 171 new pop culture phrases to China's national language registry.
Number of McDonald's drive-throughs in 2005: 1
Number expected by the end of 2008: 115

Coal consumption has more than doubled since 1990, and even the world's largest coal producer can barely keep up. China is constructing the equivalent of two midsize coal-fired power plants each week - adding a capacity comparable to the entire U.K. power grid each year. What does that mean for the planet? China recently surpassed the U.S. in carbon dioxide emissions.

Up until the 1990s, China produced most of the oil it needed to keep its economic engine running, but breakaway growth in transportation and plastics production doubled China's oil consumption. Imports have swelled over sixfold in the past decade.

This flaming drink costs $12 in Guangzhou. Ain't that America.

Image: Randy Olson.

Always worth your time

Basically everything Jim Galloway put up this weekend is worth reading.

It's hard for me to imagine there are many folks who read this blog, who don't read his. But I don't want to assume.

Friday, June 6, 2008

No doubt a golf match broke out soon after

The Georgia Chamber of Commerce named it's Legislators of the Year this week: State Sens. Chip Rogers and Ross Tolleson, and state Reps. Earl Ehrhart, Larry O’Neal and Jay Shaw.

State Sen. Eric Johnson and state Reps. Barry Fleming and Richard Royal got the chamber’s inaugural Lifetime Achievement award.

All but Royal and Fleming, who are leaving the legislature this year, got together for a photo down at the chamber's spring meetings on St. Simon's Island.

What characteristic would you say all these gentlemen share?

That's right: a desire to reduce regulatory burdens and advance free market policies.

Mental health fixes are going to cost a bundle

As expected, Alan Judd and Andy Miller at The AJC offer an excellent look ahead at the ramifications of having the U.S. Department of Justice show up and say you're violating people's civil rights.

Get ready for the search for new mental health care funding to join the search for new transportation funding and the search for new trauma care funding.

From The AJC:
Georgia may have little choice but to overhaul its mental health care system. Since 2003, the Justice Department has found violations of civil rights and other laws in 10 hospitals in five states and the District of Columbia. Only two states fought the findings in court, but they ultimately gave in.

When such serious problems are found, court-appointed monitors have been assigned to supervise the hospitals in those states; the Justice Department oversaw Hawaii's mental health system for more than a dozen years. Monitors generally have free rein to examine the hospitals. Should they find a state isn't living up to a settlement agreement, judges may order even tougher sanctions.

Moreover, settlements have forced the states to spend heavily —- nearly half a billion dollars in North Carolina alone.

No estimates were immediately available on the cost to bring Georgia's hospitals up to standards. But experts in mental health care said the Justice Department's 65-page letter to Gov. Sonny Perdue detailed an unusually high number of deficiencies in a surprisingly accusatory tone.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Solar cells to be made in Georgia

From the governor's office:
ATLANTA, GA – Governor Sonny Perdue announced today that Suniva, Inc., will locate its first solar cell facility, and Georgia’s first solar manufacturing plant, in Norcross. Working with technological advances developed at the Georgia Institute of Technology, the Atlanta-based company will manufacture high-efficiency solar cells. Suniva anticipates the new operation will create around 100 jobs within the first year. ...

Suniva’s new Gwinnett County facility will manufacture high-efficiency, low-cost solar cells. Production capacity of the first line will be 32 megawatts (MW). The company plans additional lines that will scale to more than 100 MW over the next two years, potentially adding more jobs to its workforce. ...

Headquartered in Atlanta, Suniva develops, manufactures and markets high-value crystalline silicon photovoltaic (PV) cells for clean solar power generation. The company has an exclusive license to critical patents and patent-pending intellectual property developed by founder and CTO Dr. Ajeet Rohatgi at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s University Center of Excellence in Photovoltaics, the nation’s premier silicon PV research center.

To be fair and balanced, I think it's my duty to inform you that Georgia tech sucks. However, there are many fine people who have overcome their Georgia tech associations to become solid citizens, as well as potential blog readers.

Revisiting the decision to seal the Speaker's divorce records

After spending far too much time on this...

Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson was accused in 2007 of having an affair with a lobbyist. An ethics complaint was filed by a Democratic Party operative, stating that the affair was common knowledge.

A Republican ethics panel threw the complaint out, saying that saying something is common knowledge doesn't count as evidence. The speaker and his wife later divorced and the case was sealed by a judge who, The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported, has connections to the speaker's law firm.

Long time watchdog George Anderson, who has filed numerous ethics complaints, particularly against Republicans, filed a motion with the court to unseal the speaker's divorce records. Divorce records are commonly public record in Georgia.

Mr. Anderson, through his attorney, argues his case in part by quoting a Georgia Supreme Court case titled Atlanta Journal and Atlanta Constitution v. Long, 1988. In that case the court ruled that:
A party who moves to seal court records has the burden of overcoming this presumption, by demonstrating that “the harm otherwise resulting to [his privacy] clearly outweighs the public interest,” USCR 21.2. The trial court has the corresponding duty to weigh the harm to the privacy interest of that party from not sealing the pre-judgment documents against the harm to the public interest from sealing the documents. Before sealing the documents, the court must conclude that the former clearly outweighs the latter.

That's from a Westlaw summary of the case. The italics are mine. The court also said that:
Further, such allegations {found in the case file} could be misused to promote private spite or promote public scandal through the publication of the details of the allegations and serve as a reservoir for libelous statements. In the preceding conclusion, the trial court speaks of the privacy interests of the appellees. However, the court's findings and conclusions do not explain how the embarrassment the appellees may suffer differs in degree or kind from that of parties in other civil suits. Embarrassment has always been a problem in civil suits, yet traditionally it has not prompted trial courts to routinely seal pre-judgment records.

Italics again mine, as is anything between the {}, which I've added for clarity.

Speaker Richardson, acting as his own attorney, argues in his response to Anderson that the case should remain sealed. In the portion I quote below, "Long" refers to the case quoted above and "Rule 21" is Uniform Superior Court Rule 21, which states that “[a]ll court records are public and are to be available for public inspection unless public access is limited by law or by the procedure set forth." Again, that's from Westlaw. From the speaker's counter motion:
Movant fails to cite the court to the corollary assertion of Long, which recites as follows:

The rule (Rule 21) also preserves another traditional right - the right of superior cours in exeptional cases to shield court records from public view.

Atlanta Journal v. Long, 258 Ga. 410, 369 SE 2d755 (1988). Such a clear statement by the court is exactly what this court is authorized to decide in an exceptional case involving the private lives of a wife and children of a public official on a domestic relations matter, which is uncontested, consented to by the parties, involves child custody, child support and matters relating to financial division of assets between private parties. Such an exceptional case is left to the sound discretion of the trial court after hearing from the parties as the court did in this case.

The italics = mine again. This is from Mr. Anderson's response to Speaker Richardson's response:
Richardson’s response indicates that “exceptional” treatment is warranted because this is a case “involving the private lives of a wife and children of a public official on a domestic relations matter which is uncontested, consented to by the parties, involves child custody, child support and matters relating to financial division of assets between private parties.” Richardson Response to Motion to Unseal at {page} 5.

These asserted reasons are simply insufficient to show that this is an “exceptional” divorce case or that the interests in closure “clearly outweigh[] the public interest.” Atlanta Journal and Constitution v. Long, 258 Ga. 410 (1988); Uniform Superior Court Rule 21.

Divorces typically involve children, custody issues, sensitive family matters, division of financial assets and thankfully many too are uncontested. Thus, the only exceptional aspect articulated as to the Richardson divorce is that it involves “a public official.” Surely, public officials are not entitled to special secrecy of their divorces simply because they are public officials.

You think you're exhausted. I spent hours on this, and I was pretty much ignoring the whole issue until the speaker said, in a court filing, without citing any evidence, that The AJC is run by a bunch of sensationlistic liars. In fact he says this has been "well established." That's essentially the same as saying it is "common knowledge." Which is what got the ethics complaint against him thrown out in the first place.

You can't make irony like that up.

Now. I have questions, not answers.

1. What makes the speaker's case "exceptional?"

2. Does the Richardson family's right of or need for privacy outweigh the potential public good that may come from the divorce records being unsealed?

The speaker has said he wants to protect financial details for the sake of his wife and children. But it's realistic to wonder if there's information in the file about this alleged affair, which is of public concern given the position of influence that would have put this lobbyist in. And I question what financial privacy the speaker and his wife enjoyed prior to this case, because campaign finance laws require them to disclose financial holdings.

3. If you don't unseal these records, what precedent has been set? Will all public officials' divorce proceedings be private, while the average taxpayer's are public?

4. Speaker Richardson has often noted that this court action was consensual between he and his wife. So, presumably, they agree on the facts detailed in the sealed documents. Presumably those facts are the truth. Why hide the truth?

Even as I wrote that last question, I knew the answer. Because we would abuse it. The media, the readers, Democrats, the speaker's intra-party enemies. That's a damn shame, but is it a larger problem than the one presented by a public official (allegedly) trying to bend the system so it treats him different?

Perhaps all divorces should be sealed. I don't know.

Finally, I'd like to thank a friend of mine, who happens to be an attorney, for providing me with the Westlaw summary. He is from Smyrna, Georgia, and a Campbell High School graduate. And I'd like to end with some language from the Journal and Constition v. Long court decision, which is surely too beautiful to apply to something so unfortunate as divorce:
In the State of Georgia, the public and the press have traditionally enjoyed a right of access to court records. Public access protects litigants both present and future, because justice faces its gravest threat when courts dispense it secretly. Our system abhors star chamber proceedings with good reason. Like a candle, court records hidden under a bushel make scant contribution to their purpose.

New drivers licenses coming

The state plans on issuing new, more advanced driver's licenses starting in July 2009. A company called Digimarc got the $40 million contract, according to a Department of Drivers Services news release:
The permanent cards will have several new security features that include a ghost photo image imprinted over vital information to minimize alterations and tamper resistant coating placed over the card to further inhibit fraud and make the cards tamper resistant. ...

In addition to producing more secure, harder to counterfeit, licenses and IDs, the new digital licensing system (DLS) will greatly improve customer service. Customers will experience an enhanced, faster process flow when visiting a DDS customer service center. Easier data access plus reliable and easy-to-use equipment will enable driver examiners to work more efficiently and process transactions in a more timely manner.

This is not REAL ID, the federal "mandate" that Georgia and quite possibly every other state in the union has refused to comply with. Your fingerprints will not be stored on this new card, unless the General Assembly changes its mind on that, according to DDS spokeswoman Susan Sports.

And if the state does decide to comply with REAL ID: "We absolutely would not start over," Sports said. "This system, in many ways, would comply with REAL ID."

Sports said you don't have to do anything different to get these new IDs. Just renew your license on the schedule already in place.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

"He's running spots in all 52 states, just in case any New Yorkers are on vacation."

I have a possible solution for Congressman Jim Marshall, who apparently has no immediate plans to decide whether to cast his super delegate vote for the Democratic Party's alleged presumptive nominee or... someone else, I guess.

Always ask yourself: Who's buying the booze?

Mental health progress report out

UPDATE: Interesting timing. Today The AJC shares the details of a federal smackdown on the state's mental facilities. I doubt there's much surprising, given the fine work The AJC did to spark federal interest. But it's further proof that the feds mean business:
An "unabated" failure to correct dangerous conditions at the state mental hospital in Atlanta has caused preventable deaths, injuries and illnesses for patients, federal investigators have found.

In a blistering 65-page letter to Gov. Sonny Perdue, the U.S. Justice Department detailed "critically deficient" conditions at Georgia Regional Hospital/Atlanta. Investigators have inspected two other state hospitals, finding comparable problems, and plan to visit another next week.

UPDATE 2: Turns out huge sections of the state report mentioned below were plagiarized. Great job, guys.
The governor's mental health commission has put out a preliminary report on improving mental health care in the state. I doubt I'll have time to read it until tonight, but you can download it here if you like. According to the governor's office, some of the recommendations are:
Creating a behavioral health collaborative or Cabinet that will help leverage resources and standardize policies across the State’s behavioral health services.

Improving access to medications and improving the transition of consumers from one system to another to ensure better continuity of care.

Expanding core community services such as short-term and mobile crisis stabilization, intensive case management, and detoxification.

Completing a study of the economic effects of mental health parity in health insurance to determine benefits and costs to public and private healthcare systems in Georgia.

Enhancing the quality of care at the State’s seven hospitals by increasing and standardizing the average cost per bed day.

Developing a guaranteed benefit package for serving children and adolescents with uniform authorization procedures and standards, regardless of payer source.

Some of that I understand, some I don't. I'll look and see if The AJC, AP or another news organization writes about this for tomorrow's papers and link it then. Comments from any mental health advocates reading this are welcomed, as always.

The business of keeping secrets

I like reading James magazine, but sometimes it's infuriating. From the April issue:
In the early 1980's a scandal that never became public cropped up in state government. One of Georgia's most powerful men - he's now dead - had for decades apparently been entering million-dollar orders with a vendor that did business with this kingpin's very prominent elected office. The problem was that the vendor never produced the product; or at least they never delivered more than a small portion of the orders.

The vendor, also long dead, frantically tried to cover his tracks after the GBI began investigating him. His biggest problem was that his elected official pal had recently died, so the vendor had no political cover and no explanation for the massive fraud.

But this potentially major crime never came to light. The vendor hired what was one of the state's two most recognizable and influential attorneys; a man who had held high office himself.

The whistle blower, a relatively new name in the world of Georgia politics, was persuaded that to stain the memory of the deceased political legend would be a blow that state government could not take - and would likely keep the whistle blower from reaching his own political ambitions.

There were never any indictments. There was never a newspaper story. The whole incident remains the knowledge of a handful of individuals. And dead men tell no tales.

So, this whistle blower - the one who helped hide a multi-million-dollar defrauding of the taxpayers - is he still in state government? Does he, by any chance, have any control over the state budget?

How about the GBI - are they still sweeping other major fraud cases under the rug these days, or was it just this one time?

I had an editor a while back named Bernie O'Donnell. He's at 13WMAZ here in Macon now. One day we were talking about whether or not to print a story. The conversation basically ended when he said: "We're not in the business of keeping secrets."

No, we're not. Perhaps James magazine is, though.

UPDATE: Gary Reese, the magazine's editor, makes me feel much better:
All players in the drama you cite are long gone from state government. We should have made that plain in the article. The whole thing is now an historical curiosity. To ID the watchdog might open a road to identifying all parties involved. I like to refrain from maligning the dead when they have no way to defend themselves. It's that's keeping secrets, then mum's the word. Even so, your point is well taken.

V.P. Dick Cheney coming to Perry

For the Goddard Campaign:
Vice President Dick Cheney will visit Perry later this month to campaign to help Maj. Gen. Rick Goddard's push to unseat U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall in the 8th Congressional District.

A White House spokesman confirmed the visit this morning, saying Cheney will fly in early on the evening of June 23, attend a fundraiser and fly home that night.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

I want to hear from your checkbook, er, you!

Cynic that I am, when I heard Sen. Clinton ask people to go to her Web site tonight to help her chart a new course in the wake of these last Democratic primaries, I wondered: Will you immediately be prompted to make a donation and pay back some of the loans she made her campaign, or will the donate button just be in the same general vicinity?

Immediate prompt.

How many governors does it take to throw out the first pitch?

From Gov. Perdue's press office:
ATLANTA – Governor Sonny Perdue and Governor Charlie Crist will throw the ceremonial first pitches at the Atlanta Braves vs. Florida Marlins game at Turner Field TONIGHT June 3, 2008 at 6:55 p.m.

Two first pitches. There's a CRCT joke in there somewhere.

Or, as another reporter here noted: "I think that would only be entertaining if they were throwing them at each other."

On a completely unrelated note: We were talking in the newsroom today - if Sam Nunn does end up being Barack Obama's running mate (despite him saying, repeatedly, it's unlikely), what do Georgia Republicans (particularly the ones who used to be Democrats) do?

How full throated can they be in support of McCain if that support is seen as being anti-Sam Nunn? Particularly here in the mid-state, where former Senator Nunn is even more of a legend than he is statewide.

Breaking almost news: Clinton might say Obama maybe won, probably tonight some time

Just moved on the AP wire. Someone wake me when this is over:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Officials say Clinton will acknowledge Tuesday night Obama has the delegates for the nomination

Doesn't it feel like, if Sen. Clinton does do that, the next word out of her mouth is going to be "but..."

UPDATE: Unless your name is Mark Twain, it's probably a bad sign when you have to tell CNN that reports of your demise are greatly exaggerated.


There was a story on CNN this morning about "hypermiling." Some guy is apparently getting 50 miles per gallon, twice what the factory predicts, by turning off his vehicle and letting it coast and implementing a few other tricks.

I couldn't find the story online, but this piece has some more common suggestions:
Using cruise control on the highway, though, really does have a noticeable effect on fuel economy. In's test using a Land Rover LR3 and a Ford Mustang, the Land Rover got almost 14 percent better mileage using cruise control set at 70 miles per hour rather than cruising at driver-controlled speeds between 65 and 75 miles per hour. The Mustang got 4.5 percent better mileage.

Using cruise control cuts down on unnecessary speed changes which can eat up gas and it prevents "speed creep." the tendency for a driver's average speed to gradually increase with time spent on the road. (In that way, it can save you from an expensive speeding ticket, as well.)

If you want a big gain in fuel mileage, though, you need to seriously lay off the pedals when driving around town. Accelerating more slowly away from green lights and stopping more gradually for red lights cut fuel consumption in's tests by 35.4 percent for the Land Rover and 27.1 percent for the Mustang.

Single parent homes and tax dollars

I thought this study, about how much single-parent families cost taxpayers, was interesting:
Small increases in stable marriage rates would result in savings for taxpayers, according to the report. A 1 percent reduction in the rate of "family fragmentation" will save taxpayers about $1.1 billion each year, the report states.

Taxpayers will "save money because fewer people will be eligible for fewer things like food stamps (and) PeachCare, (and) their children will be less likely to go to jail," Scafidi said.

Each year, taxpayers support single-parent families with about $27.9 billion in Medicaid expenses, $9.2 billion for child welfare programs and $33.3 billion for other social programs such as Head Start and food stamps, according to the report.

An additional $19.3 billion goes toward maintaining the justice system as a result of boys and men from single-parent households being more likely to commit crimes than those from married households, according to the report. The report also estimates $22.3 billion in lost income tax revenue.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Inconvenient truths, or, in my words, "get used to it."

I can't vouch for all the statistics, but this is hammer-meets-nail stuff:
But we must also ding our own culture, in which we believe there is something for nothing: we can have the million dollar home without the income to justify it; we can win a war in Afghanistan or Iraq without real sacrifice (my major gripe with Bush is here); we can sit still while world markets change in India and China and still have $1.50 gas and Cheerios. That’s a problem that begins with you and me and has nothing to do with Dems or Republicans.

Unsustainable differential. Unsustainable differential. Unsustainable differential.

The Middle Georgia Team

Gov. Perdue has added another Middle Georgian to his team in the House:
ATLANTA – Governor Sonny Perdue today appointed Representative Jimmy Pruett of Eastman (District 144) to serve as Assistant Administration Floor Leader in the Georgia House of Representatives.

Pruett joins Representative Rich Golick (District 34) who serves as Administration Floor Leader and Representative Jim Cole (District 125) who serves as Assistant Administration Floor Leader. Pruett is filling the vacancy created by Representative Vance Smith. Smith, who also serves as House Transportation Chairman, stepped down as Floor Leader to focus his efforts on the growing time requirements his chairmanship demands.