Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Middle Eastern looking guy and a black guy walk into a Chuck E. Cheese with handguns...

They jump the shark from time to time, but I generally really like Creative Loafing. A normal newspaper reporter makes 5 phone calls and writes a story about Georgia's new carrying laws.

A Creative Loafing reporter straps on a .38 and heads to Longhorn Steakhouse with the first black guy he meets who has a gun. The reporters name? Andisheh Nouraee.

A little long, but worth your skimming. The bottom line: No one seemed to care.
I chickened out of taking Zaylvia Carmichael to Chuck E. Cheese with our guns.

When I mentioned the plan to a friend who is usually supportive of my stupid ideas, he sounded appalled. He didn't elaborate, but he's the father of two small kids. I suspect the thought of two yutzes pushing social boundaries by carrying pistols into Chuck E. Cheese contravened his sense of decency.

So instead of choosing an inappropriate place for dinner, Carmichael and I chose an ironically appropriate place: a LongHorn Steakhouse. ...

When I arrived, I got out of the car, tucked in my shirt and put the .38 on my belt. ... I walked around front and there he was, wearing jeans, a baseball cap, a tucked-in rugby shirt, and a .40-caliber Glock on his belt.

What happens when a Middle Eastern-looking man and a young black man walk into a LongHorn with loaded pistols on their belts?

"Welcome to LongHorn, will it just be the two of you?"

The hostess told us there would be a 20-minute wait. We stood at the doorway and talked. Nobody said a word or even looked at us funny. A few people glanced down at my belt as they walked up, but honestly, a new iPhone would have caused a bigger fuss than our guns.

Story also contains this gem:
Imagine if someone with a firearms license walked onto a MARTA train with a shotgun. He couldn't be arrested, even though someone can be ticketed for eating on a train.

"So I just want to be clear," I asked MARTA police Chief Wanda Dunham. "If I had a turkey sandwich in one hand and a gun in the other hand, MARTA police would ticket me for the turkey sandwich?"

"If you're eating it," she replied. "Only if you're eating it."

Hat tip to the Fresh Loaf.

A special session seems unlikely, but who knows


Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Hill has said a special session could be in the offing because of the economy's effect on the state budget.

GBPI has suggested one to either raise taxes or eliminate some tax breaks... which I guess is the same thing.

And this is a statement from Marshall Guest, who recently became Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson's communications director:

“The Speaker and House leadership are actively working with the Governor’s Office and the Senate to best manage the state’s fiscal affairs as the state faces a slowing economy and declining revenue collections. The Speaker is confident that the Governor, in consultation with the legislature, can effectively manage this budget challenge through administrative steps.”


Public Service Commission fight

The Banner-Herald reports that Secretary of State Karen Handel v. Public Service Commission Candidate Jim Powell is in court Monday.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

$19 billion from fees and penalties

I picked this up from USA Today: "Even as the economy stumbles, card issuers are expected to reap a record $19.1 billion this year from late fees, over-the-limit charges and other penalties, up 5.5% from last year, according to R.K. Hammer, a consulting firm."

Not sure who R.K. Hammer is (other than a guy with an AWESOME name), but that sounds like a lot.

The Federal Reserve is taking comments on proposed new regulations for credit card companies. Some 33,000 people have commented and you can submit your own thoughts here.

Cortez, what a killer: New media and the dying bargain

What do you think, too much bile and worry?

An open letter to the folks who don't take their local paper because they can get it for free on the Internet, and any bloggers who quietly smile as the newspaper industry bleeds. Be careful whose throat you help slit.
The newspaper industry can blame itself.

We haven't come up with a new model. We haven't tied online content to revenue production. Craigslist is giving classified advertising away for free, companies make software specifically to block internet advertising. We are worried.

Only now are we acknowledging that the days of 25 percent profit margins are gone. And we have been terribly slow to adapt because ridiculous profits make you lazy.

And they have been ridiculous. I don't see much of that money, but we spread it around to the folks who need it most, like stockholders and executives.

But it's your fault, too. And, even if I'm wrong about that, trust me, you'll pay the price. When was the last time you heard about a news corporation vice president getting laid off?

We can't get readers to pay for news online. They don't want to register for newspaper sites. And that's free, simple and important. The local Belk doesn't care about Web hits if they're not coming from somewhere near the store.

An commenter on a political story I wrote for The Telegraph recently said he'd been "liberated" because he canceled his subscription to the print version of the paper. Here's a guy interested enough in our coverage that he doesn't just read it, he sits at a computer and comments on it. But $15.12 a month is too much to ask.

What's he going to do when the news isn't cheap anymore? Because I assure you the owners will find a way to keep the profits coming. Advertising allowed it to show up at your door for less than 50 cents a day. That's a dying bargain.

Covering government comes with a steep learning curve. I've been doing it 10 years and I still make stupid mistakes because I haven't been doing it long enough, and because we've cut staff so I have to work faster. If I do this another five years, I'll start looking over my shoulder. I might make enough money by then to to worth firing.

I won't run down the media staffing cuts in this state, or the industry at large. Surely you see that you're getting less from the products.

If this continues, who's going to go toe-to-toe with the governor every day? Or with your mayor? Who's going to watch both campaigns, not just the one they're working against? Do you trust Bloggerguy9 for all that?

I'm a worrier. And as much as logic tells me this is a market correction, and that quality journalism will always have an audience, I'm afraid we're going to wake up one day and realize our media, a crucial element of democracy, is broken.

If you're reading this, you're a die hard. You follow politics and news. You're probably not the reason that pretty much every routine crime story we run gets more hits than the best stuff I churn out.

But are you a newspaper subscriber? And, if not, how do you see this model sustaining itself?

Seriously. I could use the answers.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Strike two: Martin campaign misfires on another endorsement

UPDATE 3: Does the Democratic Party require that its candidates for the United States Senate argue about a bunch of who cares, or is that just these two guys, with me and my friends in the media enabling it?

From Mr. Pettys on tonight's debate: While they agreed on all substantive issues, the two traded shots over who voted for who in past presidential elections and over campaign tactics. Each accused the other of dishonesty, and Jones refused to say he would even support Martin if he won the runoff.

Lucid Idiocy quiz: Is Saxby Chambliss currently:
a.) laughing so hard a junior staffer has to give him the heimlich
b.) saying "excellent" and rubbing his hands together so fast that it starts a fire.
c.) rolling around in the $4 million he'll use to bury one of these guys... should they manage to be competitive.
d.) all of the above. ain't that an image.
UPDATE 2: From Martin Campaign Manager Ellery Gould: "The Agriculture Commissioner told us he was endorsing Jim. Now, four months later, he says he's not. Nothing has changed in our campaign, so any explanation would have to come from Mr. Irvin."

I think I'm done writing about this race. The Insider has some stuff up on a forthcoming Martin endorsement — one that hopefully won't end with anyone accusing anyone of lying about it. And Vernon Jones is taking a trip around the state tomorrow to talk about some of his endorsements, so look for coverage of that elsewhere.

Also, the runoff debate starts at 7 p.m. tonight on GPTV, and The Athens Banner-Herald's Blake Aued is set to live blog it. So did Wheatley.
UPDATE: The Martin campaign says it has a call in to Commissioner Irvin, and wants to talk to him before commenting. Read into that what you like. Me, I'll refer you to question 2 below.
Well, make it (at least) two endorsements that Jim Martin's senate campaign has claimed, but apparently doesn't actually have.

Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin's office says he didn't endorsing anyone in the race, which is down to the Aug. 5 runoff between Martin and DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones.

From Yao Seidu, an Irvin spokesman: "He is a loyal Democrat and, being a loyal Democrat, they don't endorse candidates in the primary elections."

When I noted that the Martin campaign has claimed Irvin's endorsement, Mr. Seidu replied: "They can do that, but the commissioner's response is he's a loyal Democrat and he makes endorsements in November."

You may remember the Martin campaign said it had former senate candidate Josh Lanier's endorsement based on a friendly conversation between Martin and Lanier. Lanier then said he was staying neutral.

As for the Irvin claim, that goes back to when Martin got into the race. I don't have the initial release, but the insider quoted from it at the time.

I've got an call into the Martin campaign for an explanation.

But, 1.) How do you run a race against Vernon Jones and end up looking shady?

And, 2.) Is this all a case of people truly remaining neutral, or of people just technically remaining neutral because Jones might win?

The difficulties of voter registration

The Washington Post has a good piece up, written out of Macon, about the gap between saying you're going to register 500,000 new voters and actually getting them to the polls.

From the Post:
For many of these disengaged people, racial solidarity with Obama does not automatically trump apathy or despair. Even if volunteers manage to get them registered, it will require intensive follow-up to make sure they know where to vote, have the necessary identification and then turn out. ...

Latasha Edwards, 20, a college student in lime flip-flops, flatly said that her vote would not make a difference. "There are a million other people on Earth," she said. ...

Lorrie Miller, 25, a mother of four who works in the mailroom of the local newspaper, was mostly uninformed about voting, saying she had last voted in the seventh grade, confusing a mock election held in school with the real thing.

Several others averted Bass's gaze, gave her a cold stare when she approached or signaled with a curt "I can't vote" that they are felons, who under Georgia law are not allowed to cast ballots. Bass reminded them that they can register after they finish probation.

Apathy and ignorance: Currently undefeated.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The things parties do: The Democrats

UPDATE: Andre makes a strong point about a lack of diversity in the party's delegation to the national committee.
I figured the Democratic Party would have a good, made for television crowd today at DNC Chairman Howard Dean's stop in Macon. The Democratic Party of Georgia's state committee was meeting at the same time, and at the same place, as Dean's voter registration rally here. And the committee meeting drew a couple hundred people.

So the Dean folks set up a stage, a microphone and speakers for him outside the Wilson Convention Center here. There was even a riser for television cameras. But about a half hour after the rally was supposed to begin, with about 50 people waiting around, they abandoned all that and moved the event inside the convention center.

It was clear that Dean organizers expected more folks to be there and moved things inside so the crowd wouldn't look so small. The crowd of 50 was smaller, here in one of Georgia's blue counties, than what Dean said his trip drew in Crawford, Texas, population 700 and home to President George W. Bush.

And yet there was a large potential audience 100 yards away from where Dean spoke. They could have had a crowd of 250 people going nuts. Instead they had Dean, without a microphone, having a conversation with about 50 people while party insiders decided who to send to the national convention in Denver. A 20 minute break to make the rally a success seemed logical, but it just didn't happen.
CORRECTION: As the commenter noted, they were picking new national committee members, not convention attendees.
Dublin state Rep. DuBose Porter, the party's minority leader in the House and Dean's introducer, tried to downplay the situation to me. State party spokesman Martin Matheny said the committee meeting had been scheduled since May, and that folks came from all over the state for it.

"We'd like to get them back to their families," Matheny said.

Dean took it in stride, saying "there's not a single person in that room that's not registered to vote." But how you go from a stage and press riser to a conversation in a lobby and don't see this as a snub, I don't know.

The things parties do: The Republicans

The Georgia Republican Party put out a response to DNC Chairman Howard Dean's swing through Georgia today, saying Dean and Sen. Barack Obama are "out of touch" with the Southerners.

It makes sense to do that. What surprised me was that the party decided to include in the release several Dean quotes from 2003. See if you can pick the moment where I thought "Ooooh. That's not a good idea." From the release:
What Howard Dean Really Thinks About the South In His Own Words

“White folks in the South who drive pick-up trucks with Confederate flag decals in the back ought to be voting with us, not them because their kids don’t have health insurance, either, and their kids need better schools, too!”
(CNN’s “Crossfire,” 2/21/03)

“[P]eople who vote who fly the Confederate flag, I think they are wrong, because I think the Confederate flag is a racist symbol. But I think there are lot of poor people who fly that flag because the Republicans have been dividing us by race since 1968, with their Southern race strategy.”
(CNN/Rock The Vote Democrat Presidential Candidate Forum, Boston, MA, 11/4/03)

Forgetting, for a moment, some of Sen. John McCain's own comments about the Confederate flag, I question the logic of injecting the flag into this, or any, contest. It's the kind of thing that can backfire.

For example: After reading the release I emailed Ben Fry, the Georgia GOP's executive director, and asked what the Republican Party considers the Confederate flag to be a symbol of. I haven't heard back.

By the way, if you can find me some Confederate flag lovers who were voting for Barack Obama before the GOP reminded them of Dean's stance on the flag, I'd like to meet them.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Howard Dean interview

UPDATE 2: The interview.

UPDATE: DOH! You'll have to wait til Sunday to read the full interview, which we've taken off the site. But I'll post a bit of it here:
TELEGRAPH: Why hasn't the Democratic Congress been able to bring some of this change that the Obama campaign has been focusing on?
DEAN: Well, the main reason is the Republicans in the Senate keep stopping anything. If you can get 40 votes, and the Republicans have 49 in the Senate, you can block anything. And that's what they've done. They've blocked one thing after another, after another. Finally, they had to pass... the housing bill they didn't like because public press was so great. But the best way to do that is to make sure we have more Democratic senators.

TELEGRAPH: Does Sen. McCain have a point when he complains about the media fawning over Sen. Obama?
DEAN: I don't think so. I've seen some tough stories about both of them. Sen. McCain would do better if he actually had some more constructive things to say, instead of attacking.

TELEGRAPH: Does it worry you at all, somewhere in the back of your head, that if Sen. Obama wins this thing, all the hype is going to be very difficult to live up to?
DEAN: No, I don't think so. I think he's been very straight forward. I saw the speech he gave yesterday in Berlin. It was an extraordinary speech, and it was plenty tough. He basically asked them for more troops for Afghanistan. He told them that they had a responsibility to help the United States end terrorism. It was a pretty tough speech. So I think he's a realist and this is not all hype. I mean, the Republicans would like to pretend that it's all hype. The truth is, this is a very smart, moderate, consensus building politician.

The Macon finance probe

The latest on the city's Safe Schools Initiative grant. Bottom line, it's a cluster you-know-what.
Last month, officials from the city spent two to three days at Wood's office sifting through boxes of evidence the feds said support their claim. The city has had trouble finding most of its own documents, which were turned over several years ago in response to subpoenas from the Bibb County district attorney and federal officials.

In a letter to Wood, City Attorney Pope Langstaff and Assistant City Attorney Christine Helms wrote that limited review time and lack of specific information has made it difficult to analyze the accuracy of the U.S. attorney's figures.

"Not only are most of the expenditures being kept a secret, but the regulations which the city is alleged to have violated have not been identified with any useful particularity. ... We believe this is because many of the standards applied were created after the fact," the letter states.

Sweet. One day I hope to find out how much the U.S. Attorney's Office has spent on this probe, which of course we'll add to the $400,000+ the Bibb County District Attorney's Office spent.

To say nothing of the fact that investigation into this particular grant followed the federal government's normal auditing procedures, which I've seen records of and appeared to be extensive.

We've had four years of these investigations, and I've yet to see any findings substantially more detailed than what this newspaper has managed to uncover without the benefit of subpoena power or the resources of the local and federal governments.

You too can rook the taxpayers, oil beneath the ice and energy economics

Just once I'd like to skim The New York Times and not learn 5 things. And "rook" might be a little strong. On the housing bill:
If you are ignoring the housing bailout bill because you think it benefits only troubled homeowners, you may miss out on a windfall.

The bill, expected to be passed by the Senate in the next few days and then signed by President Bush, does offer incentives to certain overextended borrowers and their mortgage lenders.

But it also includes many handouts to first-time homebuyers, longtime homeowners, returning veterans and senior citizens seeking to tap their home equity without getting hit with big fees. Millions of people have the potential to benefit in some way.

Guess my buddy Brett, who bought a house two weeks ago, without any help from the taxpayers, is a big sucker.

On to the oil. I'm no expert, but this doesn't appear to be talking about ANWR. Unless ANWR has moved off the coast of Alaska:
The Arctic may contain as much as a fifth of the world’s yet to-be-discovered oil and natural gas reserves, the United States Geological Survey said Wednesday as it unveiled the largest-ever survey of petroleum resources north of the Arctic Circle. ...

A third of the yet-to-be discovered oil, or about 30 billion barrels, is off the coast of Alaska. ... Nearly two-thirds of the yet-to-be found natural gas resources are in two Russian provinces, the West Siberian Basin and the East Barents Basin, which straddles the territorial waters of Russia and Norway.

Speaking of Alaska, Mr. Gautier said: “It is the most obvious place to look for oil in the North Arctic right now. It is virtually certain that petroleum will be found there.”

Unlike much of the continental shelf off the lower 48 states, the Alaskan coast is generally open to oil exploration. This year, oil companies spent $2.6 billion to acquire leases on government-controlled offshore tracts.

Finally, for those who think it's just crazy to suggest that high gas prices are, long term, a good thing, there is this paragraph:
For decades scientists have known it was possible to convert waste to fuel, but in an era of cheap oil, it made little sense. With oil now trading around $125 a barrel and gasoline above $4 a gallon, the potential economics of a waste-to-fuel industry have shifted radically, setting off a frenzy to be first to market.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Vernon Jones makes my head hurt

Jim Martin has now acknowledged voting for John Edwards in Georgia's Democratic Presidential Primary. This comes after his rival for the Democratic Party's Senate nomination announced yesterday that he had "evidence" Martin did not vote for Sen. Barack Obama.

Pressed about this evidence yesterday,
Jones said that "When Jim Martin comes out from hiding and tells people why he voted against Sen. Barack Obama and did not want him to be president, I'll disclose the evidence."

But this is all he will say about this today: “Jim Martin was my evidence.”

I have no idea what that means. Jones' spokeswoman said she couldn't clarify.

McCain folks are scared in Macon

I spent much of my lunch hour at a Women for McCain rally here in Macon. Now, Bibb County is a blue county in a red state, so it's not the best microcosm.

But there were 16 people there, including 12 women. As I walked in, they were watching a McCain commercial on the big screen at the Cox Capitol Theatre downtown. It was about Obama.

You don't go asking women their age, but I'd say the average topped 50.

The fear in that room was palpable. It sounded a lot like, if Sen. Obama wins, we're going to turn into Communist Russia. Speaker after speaker rose to essentially beg the others to get out, register voters (the Black churches are already doing this, one woman noted) and talk to their friends and neighbors.

I agree with Bill Knowles, the poor guy tasked with chairing Sen. McCain's campaign in Bibb County, that a silent majority will come out for McCain on election day. But, until then, unless McCain's area headquarters in Jacksonville actually wants the campaign labeled old and lethargic, it might consider not having these rallies in the middle of the work day, when retirees are the likeliest attendees.

And someone put in a call to the Young Republicans.

Otherwise, it's like watching this come to life in slow motion:

Your old road is rapidly aging.

UPDATE: Then again, the local NAACP chapter and some Obama folks are holding a voter registration drive at the corner of Pio Nona and Montpelier avenues (where it's approximately three times hotter than the surface of the sun) from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

As of 3:20 p.m. there were a half dozen people trying to put together a tent, looking at some of the parts as if they were part of the space shuttle. So maybe today's just not the day for bang-up local political events.

UPDATE 2: Perhaps I spoke too soon. Local NAACP President Al Tillman said they got just over 30 new people registered to vote this afternoon. That ain't bad.

Wait a minute... because you never see these guys together, either.

With SEC Media Days underway in Birmingham and Sen. Obama in Iraq, which one of these guys do you think is getting more media love at the moment?

NY Times: Obama Overseas! In presidential mode!

Sporting News: Only impossibility for Tebow is Obscurity.

This could take Georgia out of play in a big way. In a related story, sources say Sen. John McCain has hired former Georgia Defensive End Marcus Howard as a senior consultant on bringing the pain.

Images: and several of my more terrifying nightmares.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Jones: I've got evidence, but don't ask me what it is.

DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones' campaign put out this press release this afternoon:
The Vernon Jones for U.S. Senate campaign has uncovered evidence that Jim Martin did not want Senator Barack Obama to be President and that Jim Martin voted against Barack Obama in the February 2008 Presidential Primary election.

That's whole the release. So I emailed back and asked to see the "evidence," or at least be told what it is. And this was the response: "Please ask Jim Martin."

Uh, OK. But he's not the one making the claim. At my request, Mr. Jones quickly called me to discuss the matter himself. He wanted me to quote this exactly, and noted that he had a witness on the line:
This is my statement, in quotes: When Jim Martin comes out from hiding and tells people why he voted against Sen. Barack Obama and did not want him to be president, I'll disclose the evidence.

Now, assuming that Jim Martin didn't cast an absentee ballot, and given we vote by secret, electronic ballot in Georgia, what evidence would even exist? And how would you go about obtaining it, legally?

Said Jones: "I have broken no laws."

Anyone want to guess how long before we see this all in a Vernon Jones mailer?

By the way, The AJC asked Martin about his primary vote. He ducked the question:
"That is the one thing that is kind of private," Martin said at his press conference, called to announce two Fulton County officials were backing his candidacy. "A lot of things are private. It is public that I made a contribution to John Edwards."

UPDATE: Martin says he voted for Edwards.
"Who'd you vote for?" is a reasonable question, especially when the Martin campaign has made such a big deal about Jones voting for President Bush in 2000 and 2004 (Jones says he voted for Obama this year). But so is "What's your evidence?"

At any rate, I should have done this when the Jones campaign sent voters digitally altered pictures showing him with Obama, but I'm definitely doing it now.

I officially declare shenanigans on the Vernon Jones for Senate campaign.

McCain in P.C. Aug. 1

CORRECTION: It's just John Rich from the band. Apparently Big is an Obama supporter. No really.
Word from campaign headquarters in Jacksonville is that Sen. John McCain will be in Panama City Aug. 1 for a rally/country music concert.

Looks like the performers will be Big and Rich, the band that sings those songs "We are Coming, to your Cityyyyyyyy" and "Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy."

I mention this here because, as McCain spokesman Mario Diaz noted, Panama City is close enough for Middle Georgia folks to make a weekend out of this thing.

And remember: What happens in Panama City, stays in Panama City...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ralston: "I didn't go looking for it."

I spoke to Blue Ridge state Rep. David Ralston this afternoon about his plan to challenger Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson for the speaker's gavel. He said he didn't plan on the move, but heard from a lot of members and voters who were "very frustrated and disillusioned" with the way things have gone in the House.

"Never before in the years I've been in the legislature had I heard citizens back home be as disenchanted with what we were doing as I did this year," Rep. Ralston said. "It was the inability to make progress on some, really on a few issues, but we didn't make progress on them. The level of the rhetoric, the spirit of cooperation that they saw that just wasn't there."

As for his chances: "I think I do know how to count," he said. "I think I've got a sufficient understanding of math to know that, if I didn't think we had a very good shot, I wouldn't be doing this. ... I don't have another end game."

So we'll see. The current slate of Republican leaders in the House are insisting a vote won't even be close, and everyone can't be right.

Ralston also reiterated something I believe he told Insider Advantage when they broke the story: He won't try to forge a coalition with Democrats, meaning he'll make his case to the Republican caucus when it meets after the November elections. They'll vote, and that will be that.

"I think to do otherwise would be very divisive," he said.

For now Ralston said he's "talking to members, we're talking to people that are active in the Republican Party."

He and the speaker have not spoken recently, he said.

"The speaker is my friend," Rep. Ralston said. "I have absolutely no ill will at all toward him. I'm just saying to the House 'If you want to make a positive change, then I think I'm the guy.'"

AP: Some Richardson divorce records opened

Be interesting to see what happens next:
A judge has unsealed some records in Georgia House Speaker Glenn Richardson's divorce.

Rome Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Walter Matthews took the wraps off the records that had been placed under seal by a County Superior judge who was also Richardson's former law partner.

No real other new information in the initial story. It'll be interesting to see what comes out in tomorrow's AJC.

Do these papers contain mention of an alleged affair between Richardson and a lobbyist?

My guess: No. Even if it was a reason for the divorce — which I surely have no way of knowing — Speaker Richardson surely knew that, even with a sealed file, you don't want that written into a court record.

Will The AJC prove the speaker's point and print whatever lurid and/or financial details it finds in the divorce records, regardless of news value, or will it take the high road and print what's in the public interest and ignore the rest?

My guess: The high road. Yeah, I'm an optimist.

What does "some records" mean and what's still sealed?

Who knows on that one.

The Daily Report has a longer story up
, though I believe you have to be a subscriber:
Rome Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Walter J. Matthews... wrote that after reviewing the relevant case law, “it is obvious to the Court that certain portions of this file must be open and available to the public.”

“Public confidence in any Court's proper application of statutory Child Support guidelines to all parties [sic] income would necessitate public access to such basic data in virtually any case,” Matthews added.

The AJC has a bit about what's actually in the file. So far, it looks as expected:
The divorce documents returned to the public file included Susan Richardson's divorce complaint and the order detailing the terms of the custody of their two children, a son and a daughter. The complaint describes the marriage as "irretrievably broken," but provides no details.

John McCain: I'm begging you to be more interesting

UPDATE: The more I think about this, the less I think it was a mis-step by the McCain folks. When you yell at the ref, sometimes you get better treatment the next time down the floor. Especially if you've got a point. Plus, Brian may be right in the comments: This could light a fire under some of the "I hate the LIBERAL media" folks still on the fence about McCain.

Nothing like including members of the media in your campaign email blast complaining about the media. From Sen. John McCain's campaign:
It's pretty obvious that the media has a bizarre fascination with Barack Obama. Some may even say it's a love affair. We want you to be the judge. We've compiled two videos of the more outrageous moments of this not so secret love affair. Follow this link to watch the two videos and vote on which one you think is better. Your vote will determine which video we put on the air.

An even better idea: Putting an ad on television in which everyone gushes about how great your opponent is.


Image: U.S. Army, via

Ehrhart: Richardson has the votes

It was a little late when we talked, so it didn't make today's article, but I spoke to state Rep. Earl Ehrhart last night about the speaker's challenge.

He said that a vote count does exist and "it was like 90 plus" for the speaker.

"We made a great many calls and put them down," said Ehrhart, who is the House Rules Chairman.

Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson made many of the calls himself, he said. He described Richardson as "very focused" after he heard about the challenge - much like when he traveled Georgia several years ago to help bring about the Republican takeover.

If Rep. Ralston calls me back today I'll post his comments as well, but he hasn't returned a telephone call yet.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The problem with the state budget

Damn that Dick Pettys and his clear explanation of relatively simple issues. From Insider Advantage:
Gov. Sonny Perdue was careful last week to keep any trace of alarm out of his voice when he announced he had to tap the state’s reserves by $600 million to make ends meet when the fiscal year ended on June 30. ...

Here’s the problem: state revenue collections were expected to grow by 2.5 percent during the fiscal year which ended June 30 (compared to collections during the previous fiscal year.) Instead, they were down a little more than 1 percent.

The problem is compounded in the new budget year, because the new spending level is based on growth of 4 percent to 5 percent over the growth that failed to materialize in the just-ended year. So to meet the current year’s budget, the state now needs growth of 8 percent to 9 percent.

No one expects the state to come anywhere close to that, but how wide of the mark it falls will depend on how the economy fares. So what, exactly, will the economy do?

Gore: Pelosi "one of the greatest leaders that we have ever had."

I watched quite a bit of the question and answer portion of the 2008 Netroots Convention this weekend on C-SPAN. Former Vice President Al Gore and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi took questions from left-leaning bloggers.

You can watch the hour long session here.

I came away very impressed with Gore, who has a simply astounding knowledge on emerging energy issues. And then he said this, of Pelosi:
I'm sitting here next to one of the greatest leaders that we have ever had in the United States Congress. ... If every member of the Democratic Caucus had the depth of conviction and the points of view and the passionate desire to do the right thing that Nancy Pelosi has we wouldn't have the problems that we have in the United States Congress and I just want to express my gratitude to her.

Obviously Speaker Pelosi has only been speaker since 2007. But can you think of a single issue from her tenure where you thought: "Well, Congress sure solved that one. Thank God for Congress."

Keen: "Confident" Richardson will remain speaker, and looking to 2010

House Majority Leader Jerry Keen was in Macon today speaking to one of the Rotary Clubs here. And he was asked about state Rep. David Ralston's plan to run against Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson. His response:
I will vote for Glenn Richardson again as speaker, and I'll tell you why. Public relations notwithstanding, he's done an outstanding job. He's devoted, virtually, his livelihood — he's an attorney, he's practicing very little law — going all over the state. And most, if not all, of the major legislation we've passed up there in the last four years since he's been speaker would not have been possible (without him).

Things like tort reform, where he cast the deciding vote as a trial lawyer. ... I think he's done a good job. I'm confident he'll be re-elected as speaker. I don't think there's any doubt that he will be."

That would be my guess, too. But the thing is, I'm assuming. If Rep. Keen is saying it, I'd say there's a good chance he's got a good reason, such as nose count.

Also, Rep. Keen confirmed that he's considering running for governor in 2010 and said he'll likely make a decision after the November elections but before the session begins in January.

He added that, with some Republicans in tough races to keep their seats this November, anyone announcing a statewide run while those folks need energy and resources focused on them is "ill advised and, candidly, self serving."

That's kind of a polite shot at Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, who has already announced his run for governor.

Keen, though, sounded like a man likely to throw his hat into the ring. He said he has a campaign "framework" together, meaning he's made his calls around the state.

Friday, July 18, 2008

When common sense scares me

If I told you there was guy running for the United States Senate here in Georgia with a CPA and a law degree, who quotes from Government Accountability Office reports predicting "serious economic disruptions in the future" if we don't change our economic policies; who wants to drastically simplify the tax code and link the tax rate directly to spending; who wants to balance the federal budget; who has an energy plan; an immigration plan; and wants to reduce foreign intervention, how would all that sound?

Uh-oh, though, he's a Libertarian. And he's pitching solutions that "will involve sacrifice."

I wrote this up for tomorrow's Political Notebook:
Allen Buckley, the Libertarian Party's senate nomination, is a certified public accountant and an attorney living in Smyrna, according to his campaign Web site, He must be a genius of compromise, since he lists degrees from both the University of Georgia and the University of Florida in his bio.

Buckley considers himself a real conservative and plans to pitch real solutions that "will involve sacrifice." Sounds popular, huh?

"It's a tough sale. But a little bit of pain today - an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," Buckley.

Buckley links to Government Accountability Office reports on his site (the GAO is essentially the federal government's auditor), including one that warns "our nation is on an imprudent and unsustainable fiscal path."

Buckley said the federal budget must be balanced every year.

He proposes a new tax structure: No taxes for anyone on income up to the federal poverty level, a 20 percent tax on the next $25,000 in income and an "X" percent tax on any income above that.

And "X" is whatever it takes to cover the costs of government, which he pledges to deal with as a fiscal conservative. There would also be four deductions: interest on your mortgage, charitable contributions, retirement funds (up to a limit) and basic health coverage.

Buckley said he also supports government incentive packages for a company that can produce working hydrogen cars in bulk. He sees solar power becoming more common in homes and said the country should pursue more nuclear, wind and hydro energy.

First, the beach. Then the bar exam. Then Iraq. Then the Georgia House of Representatives. Bed, Bath and Beyond if there's time.

When I showed up at the state Capitol in 2007, I went to a lot of committee meetings. And I wandered into one dealing with the Georgia Department of Community Health and its management of Medicaid. And there was this guy, very unassuming, wearing glasses, kind of goofy looking,* and he was just very calmly giving folks hell about a waiver program called Katie Beckett.

Some of the state's sickest children, those suffering from spina bifida, were having trouble getting the waiver and he was pushing a bill to make sure they got what they needed. It was all very complicated, and I didn't write about it. But I did leave impressed.

It was state Rep. Doug Collins, and he has a daughter with spina bifida.

Last night I heard that, not only is Rep. Collins considered one of the state's fighters for disabled children, but he graduated from law school this May. Oh, and he's a chaplain in the Air Force reserve, so he ships out to Iraq next month.

"I graduated in May and right now I'm preparing to take the bar before I leave," Collins said this morning. "And, on top of that, I'm trying to get in a last minute vacation."

I asked how he juggles all of that. His answer: "I've got a wife that's beyond belief."

Attention aspiring politicians of the Georgia 27th: Never run against this guy.

Collins, R-Gainesville, said he'd been pastoring for about 11 years when he decided to go to law school. He was in the Navy reserves years ago, and joined the Air Force reserve in 2002, he said.

He's worked as a chaplain for the local fire and police departments, and at Moody Air Force Base. So he's already worked with some soldiers who've been through the grinder. But this will be his first time in Iraq, and he'll be away from his family for the holidays. He expects to be back for the session in January.

"I've been continuing to try to get into better shape," he said. "Mentally, I think that's a different perspective. I'm still processing that. ... I can't think of a better place for a chaplain."

I asked him for a favorite Bible verse, and he suggested Psalm 91 as one he leans on:
You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.

A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you make the Most High your dwelling — even the LORD, who is my refuge - then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.

Lucid Idiocy wishes Rep. Collins, and all our men and women in uniform, good luck, and God speed.

Rep. Collins and his wife, Lisa. Image:

* This line due to Lucid Idiocy's policy of making fun of everyone. Sorry.

As the DOT continues to turn

It's just a roller coaster at the DOT. The latest, the $1 billion deficit is now $6 million. Yay?

I've got a stack of DOT reports to go through that I hope will update me on the DOT audit and the reprioritization of projects (read: huge cuts in funding for local projects), but I'm glad Ariel's got it covered.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

No worries: I have solved the energy crisis

Wasn't really that hard, either...

Sen. Saxby Chambliss' office sent out a release this afternoon about him reading letters from Georgians complaining about gas prices on the floor of Congress. This was the one I felt best about making fun of:
Senator Chambliss, I'm fed up with Congress ignoring the will of the American people. Stop playing politics and act on the will of the people. We've been demanding that you drill and use our 3 trillion barrels of oil. We need other resource avenues that the last three administrations haven't addressed. Stop the partisan politics and pass the will of the people. The American people do not want a socialistic society, period. Fix the problem.

I'm working to confirm whether this letter was written in crayon, and I'm raising money to fund the search for a synonomous phrase to replace "the will of the people."

But the press release got me thinking: What's the per-mile reimbursement for members of Congress? My answer: I don't know. But the IRS lists the "standard mileage rate" at 50.5 cents a mile for business travel.

For the record, that's 20.5 cents more than my company pays, and ours just went up 2 cents.

If I were a particularly brilliant public relations stunt thinker-upper, and a member of Congress, I might announce that I was turning my mileage reimbursement checks over to a deserving constituent until Congress stops playing politics and acts on the will of the people.

Of course, I would also cancel my party's national convention and donate the millions those things cost to put on to some combination of charities, including one or two in the city I just took all that hotel business from.

But, then, I'm crazy like that. To continue from Sen. Chambliss' statement on the Senate floor:
First of all, it is imperative that we look for additional resources inside the United States… Secondly, we simply have to have more gas refined in this country. ... We have not seen a refinery built in the United States in the last 25 years. ... The third thing we need to do is continue down the road of research and development of alternative fuels -- alternative fuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel. ... There is one other area -- that is the area of conservation. We simply have to move down the road of making sure that alternative vehicles are available for those individuals who really want to implement conservation measures from a personal household perspective. We have a bipartisan effort under way to help solve this problem.

p.s. - The line "wasn't really that hard, either," where am I stealing that from? Because I know I didn't write it.

Unanimous... except for two of the four guys

So I'm on the phone with erstwhile Senate candidate Josh Lanier a few minutes ago when I get an email from Jim Martin's Senate campaign. It claims a "unanimous" endorsement from Mr. Martin's former opponents.

Forgetting for a moment that it's not "unanimous" unless Vernon Jones lost his mind at some point today and endorsed his opponent in the runoff, there's still a problem: Mr. Lanier has said repeatedly that he won't be endorsing anyone in the runoff.

And he confirmed that as I read a bit of the Martin campaign's email to him this afternoon.

I imagine this is a simple case of someone making an assumption, then hitting the send button a little too quickly, but, still, not good. From the Martin press release:
"I am honored to have the unanimous support of the opponents I faced this past Tuesday,” said Jim Martin. “The Democratic Party needs a strong U.S. Senate candidate this November, and I am proud to have the endorsements of Dale, Rand and Josh. Their support demonstrates that I am the best person to tackle the tough issues facing our state.”


By the way, I can confirm that Mr. Knight is endorsing Mr. Martin. I spoke to him this morning and he said he planned to.

UPDATE: From Martin's campaign manager, Ellery Gould: "There was a miscommunication.. Josh was at our election-night party, had a really great, supportive conversation with Jim and we were a little early on announcing his endorsement. ... We are retracting the endorsement claim."

Also - the Georgia AFL-CIO is endorsing Martin for the runoff, according to President Richard Ray.

Reports of his demise...

As almost certainly the only blog holding man crushes on both Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson and Capitol reporter Dick Pettys, let me say:

1. If Dick says there's buzz at the Capitol, there's buzz at the Capitol.

2. Richardson haters: Don't hold your breath.

From Insider Advantage:
The defeat on Tuesday of Rep. Jeff Lewis, a powerful committee chairman, has the Capitol buzzing about potential opposition from within his own party to Speaker Glenn Richardson. Sources say at least one legislator is sounding out fellow House members about mounting a challenge.

And for those seeking a more personal update, my lungs feel like they got stabbed full of burning mucus.

We're all about imagery here.

UPDATE: Pettys confirms that state Rep. David Ralston will challenge the speaker.

It'll be lots of fun to talk about, but it's hard for me to see this succeeding. But maybe it's like The Godfather - you gotta have one of these dust ups ever few years.

But, then, it seems like the General Assembly has been in non-stop dust up the last couple of years.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

FY 2008 not kind to Georgia

I'm sick. Read about the state budget:
With the economy continuing to sputter, state government is going to have to spend $600 million in reserves just to pay its bills for the recently completed fiscal year.

And the outlook doesn't look a whole lot better for fiscal 2009, which started July 1.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

What truck hit Rand Knight? And perhaps Barry Fleming made a miscalculation...

It's 10:40 and Rand Knight has about 16,000 more votes than I do in the Democratic Senate primary. Ouch. Score one for mainstream candidates.

Former state Rep. Barry Fleming is taking a beating in his bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Paul Broun in the 10th. Memo to state GOP: Paul Broun is no longer an outsider candidate, he's your congressman in the 10th District.

Memo to Fleming: Maybe it's not a good idea to attack Christian doctors on character issues from three decades ago.

If Vernon Jones ends up winning the runoff and is the Democratic Party's Senate nominee, does that negate the Obama bump in Georgia? I've already heard a couple of potential Democratic voters say "Great. Now I'm gonna have to vote for Saxby Chambliss."

In Houston County, neither Larry O'Neal nor Willie Talton had competition to retain their state house seats. But more than 4,000 people voted for O'Neal and 1,777 voted for Talton.

More kick-em-while-their-down comments, and actual analysis, tomorrow.

Libertarians: Let Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae fail

Wow. From the Libertarian Party:
Washington, D.C. - "Let them fail," says Libertarian Party spokesperson Andrew Davis, referring to the mortgage institutions Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, who the Bush administration has said it plans to rescue from financial collapse.

"Let them fail, and let them learn from their mistakes on their own dime," says Davis. "Bailing out these two institutions will only delay the inevitable outcome of any financial firm insulated from the market by government backing. The long run damage of continuing a policy of bailouts far exceeds any short term woes in letting the market consume failing institutions." ...

"It's like giving more candy to problem children," says Davis. "Lenders should recognize that there are repercussions for risky loans, and borrowers should realize that there are consequences for taking loans they can't repay. If it's financial collapse, or having your house foreclosed--so be it. It's bad economics to remove the incentives, even if they are negative, which encourage sensible and responsible decisions."

Now, before (or at least shortly after) you say "That's crazy and would lead to catastrophic economic consequences not seen since the Great Depression," consider this from The Financial Times:
The current structure for Fannie and Freddie is unsustainable. The GSEs are poorly regulated. They have given successive US governments an incentive to keep the housing market inflated. They socialise their risks and privatise their profits. Having saved the GSEs this weekend, policymakers should aim to bring about a decent burial for Freddie and Fannie.

They could be broken up into small pieces and privatised. A rump could be retained by the Treasury as a small counter-cyclical mortgage liquidity vehicle. The process might involve a period of nationalisation. This could mean the GSEs’ vast debts would be moved on to the public balance sheet. However, this is unimportant. It would be a cosmetic change; the government is already backing them; it is absurd that they are not now on the books.

Those guys aren't idiots. I, however, am. And even I want to know how we managed to get ourselves into a situation where two entities own or guarantee nearly half of the country's mortgages.

That sounds an awful lot like putting all your eggs in one basket.

DNC Chairman Howard Dean in Macon July 26

Thanks to one of my favorite readers for the tip. Dean will be in town Saturday July 26 for the state committee meeting. A few more details.

You CAN vote for Jim Powell

Two updates below...

I haven't confirmed it yet, but I've gotten a call that a sign or signs saying Jim Powell should be off the ballot were still up this morning in at least one Bibb County precinct.

Mr. Powell, a candidate for the Public Service Commission, lost a residency challenge but appealed and won a stay. Until that is sorted out he is eligible, and the PSC runs statewide, so if you'd like to you CAN vote for him.

His opponent in the Democratic Primary is Bob Indech. You can vote for him, too.

In other news: This is the kind of stuff that happens when things are done at the last minute. Mr. Powell's residency challenge was apparently decided by the Georgia Secretary of State's Office on July 10, but announced to the media yesterday.

Mr. Powell told The AJC that he found out about the decision Sunday, July 13.

UPDATE: I confirmed it. The signs WERE up, but are now DOWN in Bibb County, according to Elections Supervisor Elaine Carr. They started coming down about 8:30 a.m.

Said Andrew Coffman, one of Powell's attorneys: "It certainly calls into question some of the results of the election, depending on how many precincts had the signs up."

The Secretary of State's Office spokesman said Bibb is the only county he knows of that had this problem this morning. But it's early in the day. We'll see.

UPDATE 2: The Democratic Party says the signs were also up this morning in Gwinnett and DeKalb counties. As for the timing issue... this whole thing seems to have arisen because things got backed up.

The decision to disqualify was made Thursday.

One of Powell's attorneys was notified via email at 3:20 p.m. Friday, according to the Secretary of State's Office. But he had left for vacation. So Powell didn't hear about the dq until Monday morning, according to another of his attorneys, Andrew Coffman.

The stay was granted at 3:30 p.m., Coffman said. The Secretary of State's Office got the stay just before 5 p.m., according to spokesman Matt Carrothers. An email was sent to the counties at 5:23 p.m., Carrothers said.

Bibb County Elections Supervisor had gone home by then, and she went to some of the precincts first thing this morning, so she didn't get to the office to see that email (or another Sec. State email sent at 7:21 p.m.) until about 8:30 a.m.

That's kind of a lot of dominoes to fall, not to mention a lot of trust in email as a means of reaching people quickly in 159 counties with varying technological infrastructures. But my biggest question at the moment is this: If a decision was made Thursday, why did the Secretary of State's Office wait until 3:20 p.m. Friday to notify the candidate, when it knew he'd likely need to find a judge to ask for a stay?

Said Carrothers: "I don't know why it was 3:20. ... That was the course of action that we took. There wasn't, obviously, anything intended by it. ... Action was taken as quickly as possible to notify not just Mr. Powell but every candidate who was involved with the residency challenge."

Monday, July 14, 2008

McCain and Obama on Iraq; and what's the relative worth of pride?

I attended a John McCain press conference/rally in Macon today. Of the three speakers, at least two spoke about Sen. McCain's commitment to stay in Iraq until our troops can come home with honor and/or dignity.

I understand the usefulness of such phrases as sound bites, and doing what I do for a living, I have some respect for that.

But honor and dignity are not synonyms for pride. And I'm not convinced that victory, which is hard to define in Iraq, is a prerequisite for any of the three.

Anyone here think Robert E. Lee lacked dignity or honor?

Furthermore, I'm not clear on the value of leaving Iraq with dignity, particularly weighed against the needs of the Iraqi people, our soldiers, their families, American objectives worldwide and prosperity for the world at large.

And, now, I'm going to say something really crazy: I don't see nearly the distance between John McCain and Barack Obama's Iraq policies as the campaigns would have us think exists.

Let's dismiss this notion that Sen. Obama wants to cut and run in Iraq, leaving our soldiers disgraced and freedom-loving Iraqis to fall back beneath a yoke of despotism.

And let's dismiss the notion that Sen. McCain wants a significant United States presence in Iraq for the next 100 centuries. Flip remarks aren't policy.

These men are politicians. What they're most likely to pursue is some combination of what the majority of this country wants, the right thing to do and what's best for their supporters. And if anything in this world can change, surely it's military strategy.

But if you read the two candidate's current proposals in detail, they're certainly not night and day.

This is one of them:
I do not want to keep our troops in Iraq a minute longer than necessary to secure our interests there. Our goal is an Iraq that can stand on its own as a democratic ally and a responsible force for peace in its neighborhood. Our goal is an Iraq that no longer needs American troops. And I believe we can achieve that goal, perhaps sooner than many imagine. But I do not believe that anyone should make promises as a candidate for President that they cannot keep if elected. To promise a withdrawal of our forces from Iraq, regardless of the calamitous consequences to the Iraqi people, our most vital interests, and the future of the Middle East, is the height of irresponsibility.

And this is the other:
We can safely redeploy our combat brigades at a pace that would remove them in 16 months. That would be the summer of 2010 — two years from now, and more than seven years after the war began. After this redeployment, a residual force in Iraq would perform limited missions: going after any remnants of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, protecting American service members and, so long as the Iraqis make political progress, training Iraqi security forces. That would not be a precipitous withdrawal.

In carrying out this strategy, we would inevitably need to make tactical adjustments. As I have often said, I would consult with commanders on the ground and the Iraqi government to ensure that our troops were redeployed safely, and our interests protected. We would move them from secure areas first and volatile areas later. We would pursue a diplomatic offensive with every nation in the region on behalf of Iraq’s stability, and commit $2 billion to a new international effort to support Iraq’s refugees.

p.s. What I don't know about Iraq could fill a warehouse. But that's a caveat whenever I open my mouth on most subjects. And it's a paraphrase from The Simpsons.

Residency challenges

None of these are in my neck of the woods, but here's what the Secretary of State's Office has to say about various challenges to political candidate residency challenges:
Ian O’Brien v. Keith Gross: Secretary Handel adopted the Administrative Law Judge’s findings of fact and conclusions of law and held that Keith Gross does not meet the residency requirements for state House of Representatives, District 80.

Prominent notices will be placed at each affected polling place advising voters of Mr. Gross’s disqualification, and all votes cast for Mr. Gross will be void and not counted.

Hillary O. Stewart v. Cecillia Hailey: Secretary Handel adopted the Administrative Law Judge’s decision to deny the challenge to Ms. Hailey’s residency.

Earnest “Coach” Williams v. Clyburn Halley, Jr.: Secretary Handel adopted the Administrative Law Judge’s decision to deny the challenge to Mr. Halley’s residency.

Joan Garner v. Erik Underwood: Based upon the evidence presented in the hearing officer’s findings of fact, Secretary Handel held that Mr. Underwood does not meet the residency requirements for state Senate District 36.

Mr. Underwood does not own property, does not pay rent, and does not receive mail in the district. OSAH hearing notices sent to the address provided by Mr. Underwood in his “Declaration of Candidacy and Affidavit” were returned undeliverable.

Prominent notices will be placed at each affected polling place advising voters of Mr. Underwood’s disqualification, and all votes cast for Mr. Underwood will be void and not counted.

Karen Handel v. James R. Powell: Based upon the evidence, Secretary Handel held that Jim Powell does not meet the residency requirements for Public Service Commission, District 4.

Mr. Powell owns a home in Towns County, which is within District 4. However, at the time he qualified as a candidate for Public Service Commission, District 4, he received a homestead exemption and continued to receive mail at a home owned in Cobb County, which is not within District 4. He also provided his Cobb County address as his mailing address to the Towns County Tax Assessors Office.

Prominent notices will be placed at each affected polling place advising voters of Mr. Powell’s disqualification, and all votes cast for Mr. Powell will be void and not counted.

UPDATE: As has been reported by many outlets, Powell got a court to stay all of this, so things are up in the air and he remains on the ballot. And, for perhaps the first time, the best coverage and analysis I found on the issue, by far, comes from a blog not written by Jim Galloway.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

"The state of Georgia has better things to do than to evict a woman from her lawfully purchased home because she had sex as a teenager."

Yes. It does. From The AJC:
At age 17, while a high school sophomore, Whitaker had oral sex with a 15-year-old male classmate. In 1997, she pleaded guilty to sodomy and got five years' probation.

Whitaker, 28, has already moved twice because of the sex offender law's strict residency restrictions that say an offender cannot live within 1,000 feet of places where children congregate. But Whitaker was recently told by her sheriff she has to move again because her home is within 1,000 feet of a church.

Why can't we seem to get this law right?

Hat tip to peach pundit.

And if you're reading about politics this weekend, be sure to check out the insider.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Obama, kids, the "cool" factor and Chuck Clay can write

Former state Sen. Chuck Clay, an avowed Republican, wrote an excellent column this week about his 9-year-old son becoming an Obama supporter, and how a proud Republican ended up at this week's Obama rally. It's worth your time:
Am I a convert? Not yet, but having witnessed the senator’s performance firsthand, any Republican who thinks this election will be a cake walk in Georgia is mistaken. Far more important to me though, was the question of what is it about Senator Obama that first sparked the interest and then captured the imagination of my 9 year old son.

In politics, never underestimate the quality and importance of the “cool” factor when deciding on a candidate. Obama has a deep reservoir of “cool” -- meaning charisma, sizzle, or whatever you want to call it -- and it is something that is intuitively picked up on by a child.

We more cynical adults often want to “pooh-pooh” these intangible qualities, but a child is drawn naturally to these qualities as is a moth to a light.

The Sunday surprise

And so we come to the weekend before an election, when someone, somewhere is sure to do something shady, ridiculous, desperate or all three to convince voters to choose them on Tuesday.

Though it was actually more than a few days before the election, this will always be one of my favorite political ads. It's from last year's Macon city elections. But since the guy who did it lost and is just an ordinary ole citizen now, I took his name out.

We piled on him pretty good at the time, though.
Saturday, July 7, 2007

The last two weeks before an election always bring out the best in local campaign strategy. The last push comes. Some campaigns go negative.

The July edition of the Georgia Informer, a locally produced newspaper, is flush with ads from candidates for Macon mayor and City Council.

Based on those ads, CANDIDATE, he of the unpaid child-support bills and well-publicized criminal record, may have pulled off the greatest coup in the history of Macon politics.

On page 27 of the Informer he lists several dozen endorsements. But the headliner is pretty obvious. He says he has been endorsed by God.

In fact, God is listed as his top endorsement because "he's the head of my life, and then he should be first on my endorsement list," Candidate said.

Last on the list? We're glad you asked. None other than "Etc."

God, of course, was not reached for comment. Candidate said we'll "know for sure after the election" whether the Lord has actually endorsed him or not. That election, by the way, is July 17.

There is another bit of astounding news to report out of all of this. Apparently God is a Macon resident. We know this because the Almighty's endorsement appears below Candidate's announcement in the newspaper that "The Following Resident Are Proud To Publicly Endorse Candidate:"

And, no, resident wasn't pluralized.

By the way, Candidate also advertises an endorsement from the entire 1980 graduating class of Northeast High School. Asked how The Telegraph might confirm that endorsement, Candidate said we'd simply "have to call them and find out."

Have a good weekend, folks. And remember to vote on Tuesday.

I hear it's a three-way race

I just got an email from DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones' Senate campaign, reminding me that today is the last day of early voting.

The subject line: "Get in on the Action!"

In other news, I'm pretty sure America is a nation of whiners these days, Jesse Jackson has apparently lost his freaking mind and I've spent much of my week reviewing campaign finance documents and arguing with a spokeswoman for the vice president of the United States.

It wasn't fun. This is the top of a story we're running Sunday:
When Vice President Dick Cheney came to Middle Georgia last month for a private campaign fundraiser, the taxpayers picked up most of the travel costs and all of the security costs.

Congressional hopeful Rick Goddard's campaign made a $15,000 payment to the Republican National Committee to help pay for the trip, and a campaign spokesman said that's the total amount the campaign was asked to pay.

But press liasons for the RNC and the vice president's office wouldn't say whether that money was actually forwarded to the federal treasury. Spokeswomen for both entities simply referred the question back to each other.

And that is that. Keich, I promise to let this issue go for a little while now.

UPDATE: link to the actual story.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Lonesome no More

I came across a weird ad in today's AJC: "Frank Moore hereby gives notice of his intention to be a write-in candidate for the office of the President of the United States in the General Election to be held on November 4, 2008."

So I googled Frank Moore. Somehow his platform seems a lot less crazy than his face. But everything is relative.

Mr. Moore's candidacy reminds me of a book by Kurt Vonnegut called Slapstick: Or Lonesome no More. In it, a deformed giant twin named Wilbur Daffodil-11 Swain, who is the smartest man on the planet when he is with his sister, Eliza, becomes president of the United States.

His platform is that the biggest problem in America is human loneliness. So he gives everyone new middle names and number designations at random. Everyone with the same name is part of a new family. If they have the same name and number, they're siblings. They're lonesome no more. Unfortunately, society has collapsed. Gravity is out of whack and a mysterious disease has killed millions. Swain's sister dies and he writes the book while living in the husk of the Empire State Building.

I'm sure I liked the book enough to quote parts of it somewhere, but I don't know where. So I pulled a couple of pages from
"I had no relatives and I needed relatives," he said.

"Everybody does," I said.

He told me he had been drunk for a while, trying to make relatives out of people in bars. "The bartender would be kind of a father, you know - " he said. "And then all of a sudden it was closing time."

"I know," I said. I told him a half-truth about myself which had proved to be popular on the campaign trail. "I used to be so lonesome," I said, "that the only person I could share my innermost thoughts with was a horse named 'Budweiser.'"

And I told him how Budweiser had died.

"And I told him how Budweiser had died." Only Vonnegut. To continue:
I found it absorbing. It said that there was nothing new about artificial extended families in America. Physicians felt themselves related to other physicians, lawyers to lawyers, writers to writers, athletes to athletes, politicians to politicians, and so on.

Eliza and I said these were bad sorts of extended families, however. They excluded children and old people and housewives, and losers of every description. Also: Their interests were usually so specialized as to seem nearly inane to outsiders.

"An ideal extended family," Eliza and I had written so long ago, "should give proportional representation to all sorts of Americans, according to their numbers. The creation of ten thousand such families, say, would provide America with ten thousand parliaments, so to speak, which would discuss sincerely and expertly what only a few hypocrites now discuss with passion, which is the welfare of all mankind."

My new name under Kurt Vonnegut's Lonesome No More! scheme is:-
Charles Iron-6 Fain
Enter your full name to find out if you're part of my family:-

The "get to know you" ad wars

The first time I saw this Obama ad my reaction was: That is the best political ad I've ever seen.

This McCain ad made me think: That guy sure hates hippies.

And this fake Obama ad just made me laugh:

If you believe that Obama believes in everything you believe in, vote for hope...

Bishop, Hart, Modena dominate fundraising in Bibb County elections

UPDATE: Here's Jennifer's story.
If I can get local here for a minute...

As I expected, Bibb County Commission Chairman Charlie Bishop has dominated the fundraising aspect of his Republican primary race against former City Councilman Theron Ussery. He's raised nearly $41,500 so far to Ussery's $11,800.

Jennifer Burk here at the paper is covering the race and will have a piece in tomorrow's paper. Bishop has about $24,800 left on hand, and presumably won't have to spend much of that this month, with the primary July 15.

That's good, because it's going to be an absolute battle in the general election against former Bibb County Commissioner Sam Hart. Sorry, Mr. Ussery, but I expect Bishop to roll in the primary.

Hart has already spent about $10,000 (about $7,200 on some pretty expensive signs, which Erick Erickson questions the wisdom of). He has about $35,300 on hand.

Interestingly, though, more than $5,000 of Hart's money came from outside the county. It looks like all of Bishop's donors this period live here in Bibb.

Also - we noticed former Bibb County Commission Chairman Tommy Olmstead, a Democrat, gave Bishop $500. Bob Fountain, the former county engineer who ran for chairman four years ago (as a Democrat) is also a Bishop donor, as are the Ficklings and a lot of other movers and shakers here in the county.

Hart, who used to work for Mercer University (and may still) can count former Mercer President Kirby Godsey and Core Management CEO Tom Wagoner as $1,500 donors. NewTown CEO Mike Ford gave to both candidates.

I imagine the sides are largely set, but it will be interesting to see how the donors break down once the primary is officially in the books.

In the sheriff's race, incumbent Jerry Modena has raised nearly $88,000, but has only about $15,000 on hand. That kind of spending seems brutally excessive for this primary. He spent $17,000 in radio commercials alone. I have to wonder if some of the advertising is a package deal, and will run during the general election season, too.

His competition in the primary, Bill Lucas, raised about $20,500. But $11,600 is his own money. And only two people that live in the county, that aren't related to him, have given him $101 or more in the last three months.

In political circles this is known as "not good."

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

How the Olympics are making gas more expensive

You may have noticed that the price for a barrel of oil dropped today, for the second day in a row. After I went out and bought a new Ford Expedition, I picked up some interesting information from The New York Times' coverage of the price drop:
MasterCard reported on Tuesday that American drivers decreased their consumption of gasoline in the days leading up to and including the Fourth of July weekend by nearly 4 percent from the year before. It was the 21st consecutive week of lower gasoline consumption in comparison with last year.

So far, however, the decline in American oil consumption is being offset by increasing consumption in China, India, Latin America and in oil-producing countries. The Energy Information Administration, a United States government agency, reported that world oil consumption rose during the first half of 2008 by 520,000 barrels a day compared with the same period in 2007 even though consumption in the United States and other industrialized countries declined by 760,000 barrels a day. ...

Governments in China, India, Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia have cut subsidies at least modestly in recent months because of strains on their budgets, and further subsidy cuts are considered likely, especially if oil prices continue to go up. Once their consumers pay higher prices, they would be expected to cut their consumption.

“I see the pressure mounting on China big time,” said Fadel Gheit, an energy stock analyst at Oppenheimer & Company. Mr. Gheit said he could foresee oil prices going as high as $170 by the end of the summer before plummeting. “The faster oil prices go up, the more severe the correction is going to be,” he added.

China is thought to have stockpiled oil supplies in recent months to assure adequate reserves of diesel and gasoline for the Olympics and avoid embarrassing shortages while the country is trying to impress the world. Once the Olympics are over, some energy experts predict the Chinese will decide to cut subsidies further and try to control oil imports, easing demand on world supplies and helping to bring crude prices down.

Campaign finance reports are in, and you helped pay to bring Vice President Cheney here for a private fundraiser

U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall took in about $165,000 this period and has about $1.3 million on hand.

Rick Goddard took in about $162,000 and has about $458,000 on hand.

Quick analysis: Most of Gen. Goddard's contributions seemed to come from real people. Rep. Marshall got more than half of his money from various political committees. That's not terribly unusual for an incumbent, and neither is the differential in cash on hand.

As for the vice president's fundraising visit last month, there's a $15,000 payment from the Goddard campaign to the Republican National Committee. This, campaign spokesman Tim Baker said, is what the campaign was asked to reimburse toward the cost of the vice president's trip here last month.

Clearly this does not cover the entire cost of the trip, even if you back out the substantial security costs. Baker declined to comment on the disparity, simply saying the campaign is "not going to comment on the travel arrangements or the security."

Presumably the RNC will remit all, or at least most of, the $15,000 back to the federal government. But I will call them and ask.
UPDATE: The RNC referred me to the White House, which referred me to the vice president's office. I'll call the vp's press office tomorrow, but I've emailed the RNC some questions anyway in the hope that they'll comment
A few things here:

- This was not a public event. It was an invitation-only fundraiser at a private home. The press was not allowed inside.

- The hourly cost of operating Air Force 1 (which should be similar to the cost for Air Force 2) was about $54,000 in 2000, according to a GAO report that you can download here.
CORRECTION: 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 at about $14,000. 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. UPDATE: The vp's office says it was a C-32.
- President Bush is coming to Atlanta later this month for another Goddard fundraiser. Presumably you will help pay for that as well.

- The disparity between what presidential travel for political fundraisers costs and what campaigns are asked to pay also existed when Democrats ran the White House, based on the media coverage I've seen.

Telegraph endorses Cardwell... and can Obama really not win Georgia?

The Telegraph endorsed Dale Cardwell in the Democratic senate primary this morning.

The paper also endorsed U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall in the 8th District primary.

In other news, Jim Wooten makes a (relatively) bold statement: He cannot win Georgia. No how, no way.

The "He" is Obama, obviously. People keep noting that Georgia hasn't gone for a Democrat in a presidential race since 1992. No doubt that's relevant, but we were all about electing Democratic governors and lieutenant governors in statewide races 2002. So much so that Gov. Sonny Perdue surprised everybody when he won.

That's it. I'm calling Charles Bullock at UGA and asking him:

Everybody seems so keen to note that Georgia hasn't gone for a Democratic presidential candidate since '92, but plenty of Democratic governors and lieutenant governors and senators have won statewide races? What's the difference?
Those who were successful were able to run essentially as state Democrats. They didn't have the bear the burden of running as national Democrats.

What's the difference?
Probably a couple of standard deviations in terms of ideology. That is, Georgia Democrats, historically, were probably well to the right of where a national Democrat was going to be. So think about the experience of Max Cleland, who was very successful as Secretary of State in Georgia. He couldn't be beat... But then once he gets into Congress — "the tempting of Max" with national (Democrats) coming to him, saying, "We need your vote. We've got to stand together." ... So Cleland ends up voting too frequently and too visibly with the national Democratic Party. Which then gives his Republican opponent Saxy Chambliss issues he can use against him. And can sound that Republican refrain that Max Cleland is too liberal for Georgia. And there was enough evidence... that charge stuck.

Are surveys under counting the Obama vote because of cell phones?
They may be. They may be. And depending on how you weight young voters. Historically young voters have not been as likely to turn out. Now maybe Obama is going to overcome that and, if so, if you've been under-weighting the youth vote in your polling, then you'd be off.

No one saw Sonny Perdue winning in 2002. Does this "Obama can't win Georgia" thing have the same feel to it, or has the Obama campaign really pulled the wool over some eyes and they're just really good at making folks thing Georgia's in play?
Perception is part of it. ... They're running ads in Georgia. OK, well, you wouldn't runs ads in the state and pay for the TV time if you didn't think it was in play, would you? Well, no. Ergo it must be in play. Whether or not it truly is, who knows.

Jim Wooten says he knows.
Well, yeah, Jim Wooten says he knows. It may well be, as we get closer and closer to the election that undecided voters or, even some... Republicans who say "Yeah,I'd probably vote for Obama," may get scared off, may have second thoughts. The worst thing that could happen to Obama is there's some kind of national crisis along in October, which then raises questions about his level of experience.

The Rasmussen and Insider Advantage polls — why are they so different?
My guess is they probably use different weightings... in terms of how they weight partisans, or maybe in terms of weighting the race issues. If you look at past elections and use that to weight your racial makeup you're going to get a very different response than if you are assuming what the Obama folks are saying, and that is that they're going to pump up black participation.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Don't let the hippie liberals distract you...

A few things this afternoon:

President Bush will be in Atlanta July 22 for a fundraiser for retired Maj. Gen. Rick Goddard's congressional campaign, Goddard said today.

Senators Isakson and Chambliss held a conference call this morning, in advance of Sen. Barack Obama's Atlanta visit. They wanted to make sure everyone knows Georgia is not in play, citing the most recent Rasmussen poll that has Sen. John McCain up 10 points here.

In other words, two sitting United States senators called the press together to tell them there's no problem.

No mention was made of this Insider Advantage poll, which showed Obama and McCain in a dead heat here.

Or of the fact that June polling doesn't mean a hell of a lot come November. Personally, my guess is that Georgia is in play, and the Obama campaign is smart for dedicating a lot of resources here.

But Sen. Chambliss made an excellent point during the conference call this morning: Obama is in Atlanta to raise money. It's a lot easier to do that if your campaign pushes the narrative that Georgia can be won.

Time will tell. You never know what the voters are going to do.

Finally, a belated happy 4th of July. This has some bad language in it, but it's hilarious:

America Rules England Sucks - Watch more free videos
Imitating us, pretending to support our awesome wars, stealing our language... And don't let the hippie liberals distract you from what true American patriotism is about: Hating other countries because they're different from us.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Vernon Jones: Not quite a liar, but close.

Ladies and gentlemen, if you have to digitally alter a photograph to get the desired effect, that probably means you shouldn't print thousands of copies and mail them out to voters. Unless you mean to be deceptive.

From The AJC:
DeKalb CEO and U.S. Senate candidate Vernon Jones has mailed "thousands" of flyers across the state bearing an image of himself and Obama holding microphones in front of a campaign crowd with the headline: "Yes We Can!"

At first glance, it appears the two men are at the same campaign event. But they are not. The photo of Jones was digitally joined with one of Obama.

Any photographer, editor or reporter for any legitimate newspaper in this country would be fired for doing this. But if you feel candidates for the United States Senate should be held to a lesser standard, I think you've found your man.

You should ask, though: Once he's elected, what other photographs or documents would Mr. Jones digitally alter to further his political career?

Friday, July 4, 2008

The Gettysburg Address

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

Gettysburg National Military Park, June 20, 2008