Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bailout + tax cuts = awesome.

From The New York Times:
WASHINGTON — Senate leaders scheduled a Wednesday vote on a $700 billion financial bailout package after agreeing to add tax breaks and a higher limit for insured bank deposits in a bid to attract enough votes to reverse a shocking defeat in the House and send legislation to President Bush by the end of the week. ...

The senators issued no details of their proposal and said none would be available until Wednesday.

The FDIC cap goes from $100,000 to $250,000, according to The Associated Press. No word, apparently, on how much more than $700 billion the impact is on the budget when you add in the tax cuts.

It also just occurred to me that I haven't seen figures on how much the interest on the $700 billion affects future budgets.

The answer to our debt and credit problems: More cowbell

I tell you what, that Sid Cottingham notices things. From The Wall Street Journal (subscription) via Cracker Squire:
The U.S. is turning to foreign governments and other overseas investors to buy a good chunk of what could total $700 billion in Treasury debt expected to finance the bailout. Foreign investors also are needed to shore up the depleted capital of the nation's financial institutions, seen in the plan by Japan's Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group to buy a large stake in Morgan Stanley, which is weighed down by bad debt and market distrust.

Marshall's bailout vote: I think it helps him more than it hurts.

Put me on the side of political analysts who think Congressman Jim Marshall's vote for the bailout, and his strong comments about it, will help him in his 8th District race against Rick Goddard.

It put him right out front on the issue, after his kind of odd refusal to take a side in the presidential race. He even wrote something for CNN:

Some politicians -- and a few economists -- would say that America is drunk on credit and just needs to go cold turkey. But it's more accurate to say we're addicted to credit. Too much credit. Good credit, bad credit, anything that lets us live the high life. We have mistaken growth in the value of financial paper for real economic growth.

Getting clean will not be so easy. When credit is quickly withdrawn, everyone in the business of lending panics. Credit becomes scarce and is not available at a reasonable interest rate. Institutions that need to use credit daily start to fall like dominoes. The financial fallout -- bank failures, risking a stock market crash, worthless retirement and pension funds -- could kill us. We need to reduce our dependence on credit gradually but steadily and with no excuses.

Deep down, we all know that a financial rescue is necessary. I voted for the plan that was defeated today because, to paraphrase Rep. Spencer Bachus, I'm unwilling to play Russian roulette with the financial lives of my children and grandchildren. Although the bill was imperfect and wildly unpopular, I believed that those of us in Congress needed to suck it up, vote for it and let the chips fall where they may.

Agree or not, that's strong stuff. And the attention Rep. Marshall is getting gives him the chance to show off one of his strong suits: He's wicked smart.

Insider Advantage / James Magazine gave Marshall ringing praise for the vote. It remains to be seen what the voters do, but something about human nature makes us trust people who take stands like this, back them up with logic and say "let the chips fall where they may."

I haven't seen any statements from Goddard, the retired Air Force general running against Marshall on the Republican ticket. If I get one, I'll post it.

8:50 p.m. UPDATE: No word yet from Gen. Goddard, though I spoke to his campaign manager late this afternoon and he said a statement would be forthcoming. I think it's fair to note the silence more than 24 hours after the vote.

UPDATE, Wednesday: Sent to me late last night by the campaign. Gen. Goddard addressed the situation at a campaign event:
Congress must immediately return to the table and craft a bill to correct this problem using free market principles, avoid setting the precedent of government intervention, and most importantly remember that the taxpayer did not get us into this mess and they should not be the ones to shoulder the load. ...

Congress ignored past warnings to correct this problem and now our economy is in turmoil. Immediate assistance is needed to allow the economy to stabilize and restore investor confidence. Instead of pointing fingers and taking partisan shots, Congress needs to seek a solution that bolsters market confidence without sticking our children and grandchildren with a giant tab for bad business dealings.”

There's quite a bit more, but nothing I would call specific about how to correct the problem using free market principles. So I'm seeking that information, if they have it.

The Marshall campaign is letting folks know that Gen. Goddard's campaign put out a poll Wednesday before he made this statement and it included a bailout question. They're also noting some of Goddard's previous comments, accusing Marshall of a lack of leadership.

The interstate train

I got an email Friday from Robert Green, who lives here in Macon and said he founded Witten Technologies. Witten received an honorable mention in The Wall Street Journal's global Technology Innovation Awards in 2004 for a camera that creates detailed images of conditions underground.

I don't have a link for you on that, but I confirmed it on Lexis-Nexis, which is a news archive database.

He proposes building a new train system alongside the interstate to speed people along without having to stop at train stations. It's like an interstate entrance/exit system, but with train cars.
Powered cabooses that attach and detach themselves to a continuously moving train for passenger exchanges accomplish this. Simply put, passengers leaving the train go to the rear cars, (the caboose), that then detaches as they approach the station. It leaves the main line to a spur track that leads to the station on one side. The incoming caboose replaces the outgoing caboose already leaving the station that has been loaded and is moving away from the station on the exiting spur track on the other side of the station which enters the main track behind the train. It then connects on the fly. This system will allow a sizable percentage of passengers off and on the train on the fly.

This simple change has an impact so dramatic on the average velocity/access problem that it solves the underlying problem of the existing rail proposal. People just are not going to use a rail system that is not convenient or as rapid as an automobile. Even at $4.00/gallon for fuel, they will drive car(s) instead of a 2 hour and 10 minute train ride to Atlanta. So why build it? The Fast Train system can make the trip from Macon to Hartsfield in 55 minutes, easily.

That sounds expensive. But it also sounds damn interesting. Mr. Green said he's contacted local political leaders, as well as Sen. Johnny Isakson's office about his idea.

He's apparently been pitching this since 1999. It looks like heavy rail is a go for Atlanta to Griffin, which means it's got a good shot of being extended to Macon. But would this be an option for other routes?

Energy Star sales tax holiday this weekend

Don't forget, the Energy Star Tax Holiday starts Thursday and runs through Sunday. That means you can purchase energy efficient products without paying state or local sales taxes.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Bailout fails

In case anyone's living under a rock, the bailout failed.

Congressman Jim Marshall voted for it, though. You may have seen his comments earlier on the political insider.

UPDATE: The insider has more. Rep. Marshall sounds pissed:
Damned if I’m going to rescue these jerks. But I am absolutely willing to try to avoid (what) almost every single economist has said — and that is an imminent crash of the credit markets. Which all economists agree means that we head almost certainly into a depression.

Charles Dudley: 1950-2008

UPDATE: Councilman Dudley's front page obituary in today's Telegraph.

Man, I just hate this. I used to enjoy talking local politics with Charles Dudley about as much as anyone I've covered. Off the record, he was refreshingly frank and honest. He understood the context of things around here, and seemed to know where people were coming from.

I'm going to miss that smiling "you're not going to print this, right?" look he used to give me on the portico at City Hall.

Rest in peace, man.

In his first public career, as a cop. Image: The Telegraph.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Orgasmic Birth

Any mothers here want to weigh in on this? This is an actual news release:
Atlanta, GA – SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective, Decatur Doulas Childbirth Services, and Afeia host the Atlanta premiere of “Orgasmic Birth,” at the Landmark Midtown Cinema, TODAY, Thursday, September 25, 2008 at 7:00 p.m. “Orgasmic Birth,” a documentary film by internationally respected childbirth educator, doula, and birth activist Debra Pascali-Bonaro, is blasting a vital question around the world: What would happen if women were taught to enjoy birth rather than endure it?

Of course I called to speak to them. Heidi Williamsonn, the press contact:

"Some people do get turned off by the title. ... In essence, what many women feel the medicalization of pregnancy does is make for fear. ... We're not saying that there's no pain. No one is saying that there's no pain. But what happens is that.... sort of a woman-centered culture is brought to pregnancy... the anxiety is taken away and women are encouraged to trust their own bodies."

President Bush: Financial crisis requires "decisive action."

Luckily, he is the decider. Coverage, along with a picture sure to inspire confidence, from FOXNews.com

Now that looks like a man in control.

UPDATE: Seriously, when I look at that picture, I can almost feel the stock market going down. Luckily, I own McClatchy stock, which is bullet-proof.

Couric interviews Palin

Uh, oh. Trouble in never-heard-of-her-but-love-her-anyway land. Gov. Palin interviewed by Katie Couric:
Palin: I'm all about the position that America is in and that we have to look at a $700 billion bailout. And as Sen. McCain has said unless this nearly trillion dollar bailout is what it may end up to be, unless there are amendments in Paulson's proposal, really I don't believe that Americans are going to support this and we will not support this. The interesting thing in the last couple of days that I have seen is that Americans are waiting to see what John McCain will do on this proposal. They're not waiting to see what Barack Obama is going to do. Is he going to do this and see what way the political wind's blowing? They're waiting to see if John McCain will be able to see these amendments implemented in Paulson's proposal.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Perdue, others, heading to Europe

From the governor's office:
ATLANTA –Governor Sonny Perdue announced today that he will lead an economic development mission to Europe from September 27 to October 3. Governor Perdue will meet with economic development prospects during the trip, as well as visiting some of the world’s top companies in transportation infrastructure and financing. ...

Governor Perdue will focus on economic development and transportation issues during the trade mission. The trip’s itinerary covers stops in Barcelona, Madrid, Lisbon and Milan, where the Georgia delegation will meet with companies and government officials.

Accompanying Governor Perdue on the trip is a delegation of government and elected officials, including Commissioner Ken Stewart of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, Commissioner Gena Evans of the Georgia Department of Transportation and Executive Director Dick Anderson of the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority. Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Jeff Mullis and House Transportation Committee Chairman Vance Smith will also join the delegation for the transportation portions of the itinerary.

Note the transportation lean.
The Madrid portion of the trip includes a number of transportation-related meetings, including a visit with executives from Cintra, a Spanish company that is a world leader in developing transportation infrastructure. The delegation will also tour two Spanish public/private road projects and meet with SEOPAN, the Spanish Transportation Association.

Cintra is a company that has been in on privatizing road deals in Texas, Indiana and Chicago, I believe. I know they bid on some of those, but I'm not entirely sure the status of various contracts.

At any rate, this company seems likely to be involved with ongoing conversations about building privately owned toll roads in Georgia, or selling existing roads to companies. DOT Commissioner Evans, in Macon on Monday, basically told everyone to get ready for stuff like that to happen, because it's either new taxes or new tolls to fund the cash-strapped DOT.

Back to the governor's office for context on the trip:
This mission marks the 16th overall international trip and third to Europe of Governor Perdue’s sixty-eight months in office. Previous visits include: Germany and the United Kingdom (June 2003); Japan and Korea (October 2003); El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras (May 2004); Brazil, Chile, and Argentina (June 2004); Mexico (September 2004); Canada (July 2005); Japan (October 2005); Israel (November 2005); Korea (March 2006); Ireland, the United Kingdom, France, the Czech Republic, Germany, and Belgium (June 2007); Japan and Korea (October 2007); Canada (November 2007); China (March-April 2008); and China (August 2008). The Governor also visited with United States military personnel during a Thanksgiving 2005 trip to Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Dear Congress: I hate you and wish you'd stab yourself with a pencil

Independent of the financial whammy festival we're going through right now, I don't understand why people don't just riot in the streets over how complicated their government is.

I honestly don't see how the average person, even the above average person, can be expected to understand how the federal government operates.

Take the simple case of determining whether or not Congressman Jim Marshall voted against offshore drilling bills, or if he really voted for them, but his opponent, retired Maj. Gen. Rick Goddard, is simply confusing the issue by quoting from irrelevant votes. You tell me, using the example of House Resolution 4761:
6/29/2006 12:26am: Rules Committee Resolution H. Res. 897 Reported to House. Rule provides for consideration of H.R. 4761 with 1 hour of general debate. Previous question shall be considered as ordered without intervening motions except motion to recommit with or without instructions. Measure will be considered read. Specified amendments are in order. It shall be in order to consider as an original bill for the purpose of amendment under the five-minute rule the amendment in the nature of a substitute recommended by the Committee on Resources now printed in the bill.
6/29/2006 2:45pm:
Rule H. Res. 897 passed House.
6/29/2006 2:56pm:
Considered under the provisions of rule H. Res. 897. (consideration: CR H4830-4875; text of measure as reported in House: CR H4845-4860)
6/29/2006 2:56pm:
Rule provides for consideration of H.R. 4761 with 1 hour of general debate. Previous question shall be considered as ordered without intervening motions except motion to recommit with or without instructions. Measure will be considered read. Specified amendments are in order. It shall be in order to consider as an original bill for the purpose of amendment under the five-minute rule the amendment in the nature of a substitute recommended by the Committee on Resources now printed in the bill.
6/29/2006 2:57pm:
House resolved itself into the Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union pursuant to H. Res. 897 and Rule XVIII.
6/29/2006 2:57pm:
The Speaker designated the Honorable Michael K. Simpson to act as Chairman of the Committee.
6/29/2006 2:57pm:
GENERAL DEBATE - The Committee of the Whole proceeded with one hour of general debate on H.R. 4761.
6/29/2006 3:40pm:
GENERAL DEBATE - The Committee of the Whole continued with general debate on H.R. 4761.
6/29/2006 4:13pm:
DEBATE - Pursuant to the provisions of H. Res. 897, the Committee of the Whole proceeded with 10 minutes of debate on the Pombo amendment, as modified.
6/29/2006 4:29pm:
DEBATE - Pursuant to the provisions of H. Res. 897, the Committee of the Whole proceeded with 10 minutes of debate on the Inslee amendment.
6/29/2006 4:38pm:
DEBATE - Pursuant to the provisions of H. Res. 897, the Committee of the Whole proceeded with 10 minutes of debate on the Tom Davis (VA) amendment.
6/29/2006 4:48pm:
DEBATE - Pursuant to the provisions of H. Res. 897, the Committee of the Whole proceeded with 10 minutes of debate on the Markey amendment.
6/29/2006 4:59pm:
POSTPONED PROCEEDINGS - At the conclusion of debate on the Markey amendment, the Chair put the question on adoption of the amendment and by voice vote, announced that the noes had prevailed. Mr. Markey demanded a recorded vote and the Chair postponed further proceedings on the question of adoption of the amendment until later in the legislative day.
6/29/2006 5:01pm:
DEBATE - Pursuant to the provisions of H. Res. 897, the Committee of the Whole proceeded with 10 minutes of debate on the Bilirakis amendment.
6/29/2006 5:12pm:
POSTPONED PROCEEDINGS - At the conclusion of debate on the Bilirakis amendment, the Chair put the question on adoption of the amendment and by voice vote, announced that the noes had prevailed. Mr. Bilirakis demanded a recorded vote and the Chair postponed further proceedings on the question of adoption of the amendment until later in the legislative day.
6/29/2006 5:13pm:
Mr. Pombo moved that the Committee rise.
6/29/2006 5:13pm:
On motion that the Committee rise Agreed to by voice vote.
6/29/2006 5:14pm:
Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union rises leaving H.R. 4761 as unfinished business.
6/29/2006 6:35pm:
Considered as unfinished business. (consideration: CR H4890-4892)
6/29/2006 6:35pm:
The House resolved into Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union for further consideration.
6/29/2006 6:35pm:
UNFINISHED BUSINESS - The Chair announced that the unfinished business was the question of adoption of specified amendments which were debated earlier and on which further proceedings were postponed.
6/29/2006 7:04pm:
The House rose from the Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union to report H.R. 4761.
6/29/2006 7:04pm:
The previous question was ordered pursuant to the rule.
6/29/2006 7:05pm:
The House adopted the amendment as agreed to by the Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union.
6/29/2006 7:21pm:
On passage Passed by recorded vote: 232 - 187 (Roll no. 356).
6/29/2006 7:21pm:
Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection.
6/29/2006 7:31pm:
The Clerk was authorized to correct section numbers, punctuation, and cross references, and to make other necessary technical and conforming corrections in the engrossment of H.R. 4761.

Let's just get some walkie-talkies and some firefighters and call it a day.

easiest job I ever had.

Constitutional amendments

I always forget the ballot measures. If you're heading out to vote early, make sure you take a look at this quick breakdown.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Bad government Batman

I am just so sick of crooks in power. From The Associated Press:
WASHINGTON - The FBI is investigating four major U.S. financial institutions whose collapse helped trigger a $700 billion bailout plan by the Bush administration, The Associated Press has learned.

Two law enforcement officials said Tuesday the FBI is looking at potential fraud by mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and insurer American International Group Inc. Additionally, a senior law enforcement official said Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. also is under investigation.

The inquiries will focus on the financial institutions and the individuals that ran them, the senior law enforcement official said.

We need like a bad government Batman. So if you defraud the taxpayers, you don't get investigated by the FBI, you get beaten within an inch of your life in the street by some dude in a cape.

A bit more on DOT Commissioner Evans Macon visit

Coverage of DOT Commish Gena Evans visit to Macon last night. If you don't care about the I-16/I-75 interchange, but do care about funding splits and new transportation funding proposals, skip down halfway.

A couple of other things:

For years, citizens have had a pretty legitimate complaint about DOT public hearings. You show up, and they tell you how it's going to be. Sure, there is some give and take, but quite often designers will start with a five lane road by your house and, when they cut it to four, tell you that's compromise.

"I've heard 'It's a done deal' more times than I want to count," local activist Susan Martin told Commissioner Evans, in calling for public charettes at the beginning of projects, where citizens would be asked what kinds of roads they want.

Evans didn't fully endorse that idea, but did commit to show up, unannounced, at a coming DOT public hearing to see what goes down.

Two things she was big on: Mass transit/commuter rail and roundabouts. Mass transit was no surprise, though with state budget cuts, and most of the DOT's funding tied up - by law - in roads and bridges, I don't know where the money's going to come from. It will be interesting to see what requirements along those lines are attached to new funding proposals, be they transportation SPLOSTS or toll roads or otherwise.

But the roundabout thing was fairly shocking, given that there are about four of those things in Georgia.

"You're speaking to somebody who's really interested in roundabouts," Evans said.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Troubled times at McClatchy

Linda Morris, our business reporter here at The Telegraph and just a fantastic online researcher, sent me this article about McClatchy, the company that owns the paper.
Like practically every chain, McClatchy is struggling with a media revolution. Its newspapers, where it still makes most of its money, are losing ground to the Internet, though its combined newspaper-online readership is growing. But because of the insanely competitive nature of the Web, McClatchy’s own Web sites can’t grow their revenues quickly enough to make up the difference, even as their audiences grow.

To make matter worse, McClatchy is deeply in debt due to its $4 billion takeover of Knight Ridder Inc. in 2006, a deal that (McClatchy CEO Gary) Pruitt now describes in much more sobering terms than before.

In an interview last week, Pruitt said it’s "too early to tell" whether McClatchy made the right move in buying Knight Ridder. He believes the acquisition will eventually work out, but said the debt load - now $2.1 billion - has put McClatchy in an uncomfortable spot. Investors are nervous. McClatchy’s stock has fallen almost 90 percent since the purchase was completed.

"It’s hard to claim it’s a good deal when you see the stock performance," Pruitt said.

When McClatchy bought The Macon Telegraph, I knew they wouldn't be a white knight riding in to solve our problems. But I did hope that, with a little luck, they might help us restore some of the significant staff cuts The Telegraph has taken in my 8 years here, when Knight Ridder owned the paper.

Instead, things have gotten worse. That was inconceivable in the final days of Knight Ridder.

CORRECTION: Inconceivable is a bit strong. Let's just say that fear, if I had it at all, was waaaay back in the back of my mind. I wish I had been more clear at the time on the fact that our economy was run like some of my college friends ran their credit cards.

Abraham, DOT in Macon today

I dropped the ball, and I don't think this got into the paper this weekend. DOT Commissioner Gina Abraham will be in Macon today as part of a listening tour.

She'll be at Central Georgia Technical College, building H, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

CORRECTION: Grift is right, she now goes by Gena Evans after marrying former DOT Board Chairman Mike Evans. I also mis-spelled her first name. It's Gena with an e. My apologies. My head is missing.

Woke up, it was a Monday morning

Took this picture on I-75 headed to Atlanta Thursday.

Explains a lot, huh? Have a good morning.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

John McCain and Barack Obama: Which campaign lies the most?

That's not a partisan question.
Doug Moore, Congressman Jim Marshall's press secretary and the guy who calls me constantly trying me to get me to write about something complicated, sent me this link to this Washington Post column.

And it's point is something that I've been thinking for a while now:
In the 2008 race, and especially in the past few weeks, the imbalance has become unnervingly stark. Ideological differences aside, John McCain's campaign has been more dishonest, more unfair, more -- to use a word that resonates with McCain -- dishonorable than Barack Obama's.

Both candidates are guilty of playing trivial pursuit in a serious season, campaigning from gotcha to gotcha. Obama also has eagerly taken every cheap shot -- McCain wants to stay in Iraq for 100 years, doesn't get the economy, can't count his own houses. Neither candidate is running the honest, confront-the-hard-questions campaign he promised.

McCain's transgressions, though, are of a different magnitude. His whoppers are bigger; there are more of them. He -- the easy out would be to say "his campaign" -- has been misleading, and at times has outright lied, about his opponent. He has misrepresented -- that's the charitable verb -- his vice presidential nominee's record. Called on these fouls, he has denied and repeated them.

Watching this presidential campaign play out from the cheap seats, and not particularly caring who becomes president beyond "someone good," I have to agree. What I don't know could fill a warehouse, but John McCain's campaign seems to be lying more than Barack Obama's.

Whether that's going to matter or not, remains to be seen. I do know that I miss the old John McCain. The actual maverick, who used to call them like he saw them.

If he wins, I hope that's the guy who shows up at the White House come January. Because we've got a lot of problems to address in this country, and bullshitting people about them, and telling them exactly what they want to hear, isn't going to help.

I'm in Arizona through the weekend, hopefully watching the Dawgs destroy any of Arizona State's remaining hopes and dreams. Take care.

Can we use the word "shambles" to describe the economy yet?

I thought this was a good Q&A about the various government bailouts. Note to Sen. Johnny Isakson: I think it's OK to call them that now.

I gotta tell you, though, saying that "Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is arguably the world's leading expert on the Great Depression" doesn't fill me with the confidence it's probably intended to.

By the way, McClatchy, the company that owns The Macon Telegraph, announced plans yesterday to cut 10 percent of its work force. That's more than 1,100 jobs.

The Telegraph hasn't said how many jobs it will need to cut as part of those plans. Assuming we do lose some jobs, that will be the fourth or fifth round of layoffs here at the paper since I joined the staff 8 years ago. Maybe more. It's hard to keep count.

I'm headed to Arizona tomorrow for the weekend. Tune in Monday to find out if I still work here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"If someone is going to question my patriotism, they had better be prepared to duck."

I'm interviewing former Georgia Congressman Ben Jones Wednesday afternoon. You may know him better as "Cooter" from The Dukes of Hazzard, which I remember watching without fail every week before my parents would, I believe, watch Dallas.

Did you know Jones ran against Newt Gingrich in 1994, following him to Connecticut at one point when Gingrich wouldn't debate him? That he smuggled a human rights banner into Tiananmen Square in his pants? That Shirley Temple was the American ambassador to Czechoslovakia during the fall of the Berlin Wall?

That's what it says in his book.
There were also some things I didn't like about (Congress). And the things I didn't like about it then are much worse now. Through partisan redistricting, a majority of the 435 seats in the House are not competitive. They are "safe" seats. They change hands when a Congressman retires or dies. Or is indicted. As we know, that happens, too.

And, of course, incumbent Congressman almost inevitably have bigger campaign war chests. That's because well-heeled individuals and special interest PACs make it their business to curry favor with the powerful. Now, everybody knows this. That is how the system works. And, it is unfortunately how it is probably going to continue to work. ...

But the system sucks. It really does screw the individual. ... I'm afraid, friends and neighbors, that most of your fine elected representatives are bought and paid for, no matter how they like to phrase it.

Gov. Perdue: Inflate your tires, save gas

I assume John McCain's campaign will be in Georgia tomorrow, handing out tire pressure gauges and calling Gov. Sonny Perdue a fool.

From the governor's office:
ATLANTA – Governor Sonny Perdue today asked Georgians to help with fuel conservation in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike by taking practical steps to improve fuel efficiency. ...

Some practical fuel efficiency tips for drivers include:

· Drive sensibly: Speeding, rapid acceleration (jackrabbit starts), and rapid braking lowers gas mileage.

· Choose the right vehicle: If you own more than one vehicle, drive the one that gets better gas mileage whenever possible.

· Decrease speed: Gas mileage decreases rapidly when driving more than 60 miles-per-hour.

· Avoid idling: Idling gets zero miles per gallon. Cars with larger engines typically waste more gas while idling than cars with smaller engines.

· Inflate your tires: Keeping tires properly inflated improves gas mileage.

Commute alternatives are also a useful way to conserve fuel, including telework, carpool and transit options, and flexible work schedules. More information is available about commute alternatives at www.CleanAirCampaign.com.

"It was... really heavy."

Not Tina Fey brilliant, but brilliant.

"And she has a tub that doesn't even have handles."

What is the American Future Fund?

UPDATE: Here is Halimah's story:
Albrecht declined to discuss whether the media ads targeting Chambliss and Isakson were funded, in part, by energy industry donors.

The group's ranks include some political heavy hitters who may have enough cache to pull in big donors.

Albrecht once worked for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's presidential campaign; Ben Ginsberg, an attorney who also advised the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth's attacks on Sen. John Kerry's military record in 2004, serves as the American Future Fund's legal counsel.

The group's media strategist, Larry McCarthy, is also the president of a Washington-based media company that crafted the racially tinged 1988 ad that linked Willie Horton, a convicted felon who committed rape and armed robbery while on a weekend release in Massachusetts, to then-governor and Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis.

I find that people who decline to say who's paying the bills are to be trusted implicitly, don't you?
You may have seen a big ad in your newspaper this morning from the American Future Fund. They're working against Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss' "Gang of 10" energy legislation.

So who is the American Future Fund, and who signs the checks? Our Washington correspondent is working on a story, but the short answer is "It's hard to say."

The Center for Responsive Politics doesn't track them because, according to a center spokesman: "That group is primarily a 501c4 organization. Politics cannot be their primary purpose, but they can do politics and, importantly, they do not have to disclose their donors."

There's a PAC by the same name, but it doesn't appear to be active, listing $0 in donations and $0 on hand as of June 30.

Tim Albrecht, spokesman for the 501c4, says that's a "non-connected PAC." I question how "non-connected" they are, since they have the same name and the American Future Fund's Web site declares itself "a joint website of the American Future Fund and American Future Fund Political Action."

The group's board of directors appears to be Iowa based. The PAC is in Virginia.

Halimah, The Telegraph's Washington correspondent, promises more information later.

Goddard: Good enough for old guy fishing with grandchild, and good enough for you, too

This is Rick Goddard's new ad here in the 8th.

It made me wonder: Where do campaigns get all this stock footage from? Is there a database somewhere with video of "construction guy using a grinder" and "old white dude fishing with grandchild?"

UPDATE from the comments: Yes, those do look like stock footage. There are companies that provide these to production companies and TV stations on a "buy out" basis meaning that once you have purchased them there are no more royalties to pay.

That sounds about right. Plus, it's from a guy named "BamaFan92." Jay Barker would never lie to us.

Lucid Idiocy goes rumor mongering: The governor, gas and a tanker truck

Lucid Idiocy's West Metro Bureau, located in the heart of state Rep. Tim Bearden and Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson country, called me Friday. And eventually the conversation turned to gas prices.

LIWMB was running low on gas, but passed up a gas station offering it at $3.69 or so. An hour later, it had shot up nearly a dollar. And then he remembered driving past the governor's mansion about lunchtime, and seeing a big tanker truck parked out front.

Said LIWMB: "How did the governor outsmart me in my gas whammy?"

My first thought was: "Hilarious." It took me several minutes to think, "If it's a gas tanker, that's interesting, isn't it?" Particularly given the way the governor's office made sure to infer on Friday that no one was getting gouged, and waited to declare a state of emergency (kicking in the anti-gouging statute) until several hours after gas prices had risen significantly.

So I've got several calls into the governor's press office seeking information. There was a small fire at the mansion Thursday evening. Why that might necessitate a tanker truck the next day at noon, I don't know, but it could.

As the bureau said: "For all I know that thing was full of milk."

UPDATE: The mystery deepens. From Mallie McCord in the governor's press office: "I spoke to the folks at the mansion and there was no tanker truck there."

Amid banking crisis, Georgia cuts consumer complaints division for banking industry


From The Georgia Times Union:
ATLANTA - Budget cuts have pressed the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance to stop fielding consumer complaints about banks, mortgage lenders and money service businesses.

Monday marked the last day the department worked as an intermediary between state-chartered financial institutions and consumers who take issue with what they've received.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Government debt: Should we be planning to increase that?

I thought this was a good piece on the differences between Sen. McCain's and Sen. Obama's tax policies. The bottom line seems to be that both of them want to continue one of America's favorite policies: Spending money we don't have.

McCain just wants to do it while lowering taxes for rich people. From the article:
With those big-ticket tax cuts plus the impact of other changes in the tax code included, McCain's plans would slash revenues by $4.2 trillion over the next decade while Obama's reduction would be a slightly smaller $2.9 trillion. Both would transform the CBO's small surplus over the 10-year period into big deficits, according to the tax center.

The two campaigns argue that it is not fair to hold them to the unrealistic CBO baseline. Rather, the campaigns like to compare their proposals to a current policy baseline which assumes the Bush tax cuts are extended and the AMT is patched every year. Under that baseline, according to the tax center, McCain's plan would cut taxes by $596 billion over the next decade; Obama's would increase taxes by $627 billion during the same period, reflecting the fact that Obama is raising tax rates on the wealthy and boosting the taxes they pay on dividends and capital-gains earnings. Obama is also not embracing McCain's proposal to cut the top rate on corporate taxes.

Regardless of the baseline used, the government's debt would go up sharply - by $3.5 trillion under the Obama plan and by $5 trillion over the next decade under McCain's plan, the tax center estimates.

Why not. That kind of planning has served us well so far.

State budget cuts

I took a shot at summarizing them.

Part 2: University system, libraries, superior courts, EPD, DDS...

Part 1: DHR, K-12, law enforcement, the legislature...

UPDATE: Put this at the top of the list of things I missed:

The state will lay off 25 people at the Professional Licensing Boards headquarters here in Macon, according to the Georgia Secretary of State's Office, which oversees the boards.

The cuts go into effect Nov. 1, according to the Secretary of State's Office, and are part of a restructuring plan that's being accelerated to deal with state budget shortfalls and budget cuts mandated by Gov. Sonny Perdue.

I'm going to make some calls tomorrow and find out whether some of the earmarks will survive the cuts. I'm particularly interested in that horse park the state was going to fund in Houston "Home of Gov. Sonny Perdue" County.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Gas prices skyrocket

You have probably seen the governor's office declared a state of emergency to let to state's price gouging statue kick in. That was announced about 7:25 p.m.

From Bert Brantley, gov's office spokesman:
The price gouging statute goes into effect upon signing of the executive order, so anything from earlier today would not be subject to sanctions under this statute.

Remember that just because prices go up doesnt mean there is gouging going on. As long as the retailer can show the wholesale price correlates to the retail price, theres no problem.

UPDATE: This is the telephone number to report gas price gouging, if you kept the receipt: 800-869-1123, courtesy The AJC.

If you didn't really need gas, but bought it anyway, save the phone call and punch yourself in the face.

Friday, September 12, 2008

August numbers in: We're still dropping like a rock

From the governor's office:
ATLANTA – Governor Sonny Perdue announced today that net revenue collections for the month of August 2008 (FY09) totaled $1,259,630,000 compared to $1,353,789, 000 for August 2007 (FY08), a decrease of $94,159,000 or 7.0 percent.

The percentage decrease year-to-date for FY09 compared to FY08 is 6.8 percent.

UPDATE: Motor fuel taxes for the month are down 13.1 percent. People are buying less gas.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Yeah, that Matthew 5 stuff? We're gonna go another way

According to recent surveys, southern white evangelicals are more likely to support torturing people to gain information than the general public. From the article:
Close to six in 10 white evangelicals in the South say that torture can often (20 percent) or sometimes (37 percent) be justified in order to gain important information, according to the survey, conducted by Public Religion Research. This compares to roughly half (48 percent) of the general public that believes torture can be justified, according to a Pew Research Center poll earlier this year.
Blessed are the meek indeed.

You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Macon Med Center has budget troubles, $600,000 consultant

The Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon is closing its last neighborhood health center for the poor.

The hospital is also paying a consultant more than $600,000 to perform an evaluation of hospital operations.

So, a list of things The Medical Center can't afford: Neighborhood health centers.

And a list of things they can: $600,000 consultants.

It's more complicated than that, so read both stories for the details. What the stories don't say, though, is how much Heather Duncan, who wrote them, had to fight to get the hospital to reveal the consultant's salary.

I wonder why they'd want to keep that secret?

Goddard: World's Worst?

In what may be a badge of honor for a Republican, Rick Goddard was named Keith Olberman's worst person in the world last night for the "very uppity" remark. If it doesn't load directly, it's clip 2.

Since we've already dealt with the potential racial overtones of calling a black reporter "very uppity," let me note:

Olberman asks a good question: Why was Gen. Goddard watching liberal MSNBC instead of America-loving Fox News?

Fitzgerald, Cantor, N.Y., N.J., Mass., firefighter, attendant, president, John

I pasted a list of the people who died on Sept. 11 into that wordle program. The list included their ages, and jobs, so what popped out right away were two words: Fitzgerald and Cantor.

658 Cantor Fitzgerald employees were killed in the attacks. The financial firm occupied the 101st - 105th floor at One World Trade Center. According to Wikipedia, everyone who was at work when the plane hit died.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

OK, OK, one more

Rufus Montgomery, a member of the Executive Committee of the Georgia Republican Party and chairman of the Georgia Black Republican Council:
"It's a non story. Rick Goddard doesn't have a racist bone in his body. Judy and Rick Goddard treated me like family when I moved to Middle Georgia. Had me over to their home and treated me like family."

I'd call that a pretty strong endorsement of Gen. Goddard's character.

By the way, Casey Cagle's running for governor

No $--t.

It's worth noting that Lt. Gov. Cagle broke the news in his hometown newspaper, The Gainesville Times.

Rick Goddard's definition of "uppity" is amazing

All the people I've talked to today and the only one that made me think there might be something really wrong with Rick Goddard calling a reporter uppity was his campaign manager....

This is video of the interview that led 8th District Congressional Candidate Rick Goddard to refer to MSNBC reporter Ron Allen as "very uppity."

Jim Galloway has had that video up at the Political Insider since Monday. Gen. Goddard is likely to be too busy campaigning for an interview today, according to his campaign manager, Lonnie Dietz.

So I asked Dietz what, specifically, did Mr. Allen do that was so arrogant and uppity. Dietz said it was when Allen, referring to Gov. Sarah Palin, said: “To be fair her resume is not something that we are familiar seeing with Presidential candidates."

That, Dietz said in an email, was "when he dropped all pretense of objectivity and arrogantly launched an attack on Governor Sarah Palin’s experience."

Wow. If that's really what Gen. Goddard thinks of as "very uppity," he's in for a rude awakening. Which is odd, because I know we've met. I'll have to ask tougher questions.

UPDATE: Because I never actually printed the original Goddard quote:
"I’ll tell you one thing, I think we’re going to have a very, very strong, capable president in John McCain. Last night, Newt Gingrich disarmed a very uppity newscaster who tried to question him on the capabilities and leadership of Governor Palin."

Uppity: Revisiting it again... with Herman Cain

AKA: Don't worry, Nick, in my limited spare time I'm working on a piece about state budget cuts... unless someone else says something stupid this week. Luckily, that seems unlikely.
The story so far: Congressman Lynn Westmoreland called Sen. Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, uppity. Eighth District Congressional hopeful Rick Goddard called black MSNBC reporter Ron Allen uppity. Both men are white Republicans. Reaction, ranging from "who cares" to "I'm outraged," ensued. Except I'm not sure anyone has actually been outraged.

Here's an interview with Herman Cain, an Atlanta radio talk show host (7-10 p.m. on WSB 750 in Atlanta), former CEO of Godfather's Pizza, Republican candidate for Senate in 2004 (he lost to Johnny Isakson) and "a conservative who happens to be black."
Me: Can you use the word uppity to refer to anyone who's black and have it not be — is that automatically a racial term or a racist term?

Cain: No. It is not automatically a racist or a racial term... I'm not familiar with that incident, but the word uppity, it does not suggest that it's being used in a racial context in my opinion. I know some uppity white people. Okay? Just like I know some uppity black people. It is a term, in my opinion, and I grew up here in Atlanta, that refers to anyone who thinks that they are all that and a bag of chips, as my son would say.

Me: Would Barack and Michelle Obama qualify? (Note I'm too scared to even repeat the word in a question).

Cain: As being uppity?

Me: Yes sir.

Cain: Some people might think that they do, but I don't really see that. ... These labels, in the end, I think, do more harm than they do good and I don't think that any of these labels... have any real solid meaning to them.

Me: As a member of the media, does the media spend too much time on stuff like this, not enough time, or just the right amount?

Cain: Waaaay too much. Do you know the story that's dominated (the news today)?

Me: Something tells me lipstick is going to be involved.

Cain: All friggin day. It's unbelievable. Now I'm just wondering: How many news cycles will the lipstick line be the top story? The first thing that I will say on my radio show tonight when I come on at 7 o'clock: I am not talking about the lipstick line. Don't call, don't ask me about it. It is a waste of our time.

Bottom line: Herman Cain is cool.

UPDATE: I edited slightly at 8:25 p.m. to shorten and remove redundancies. I also added the line "Except I'm not sure anyone has actually been outraged."

Uppity: Revisiting it again

The story so far: Congressman Lynn Westmoreland called Sen. Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, uppity. Eighth District Congressional hopeful Rick Goddard called black MSNBC reporter Ron Allen uppity. Both men are white Republicans. Reaction, ranging from "who cares" to "I'm outraged" ensued. Except I'm not sure anyone has actually been outraged.

Below is an interview I did with Charles Richardson, the editorial board editor here at The Telegraph, and co-host of the radio show (6-9 a.m. in Macon, 100.9 FM and on demand at macon.com) Goddard's comment occurred on. If you believe our letter writers, Charles trends liberal. If you believe his skin color, he's also a black man.
Charles: Our callers have pretty much ranged from, they saw no problem with it to, really, just a few that did. They were more incredulous, not about Goddard, but... Westmoreland.

Me: Can you use the word uppity in reference to a black person without it being insulting? Is that even possible?

Charles: You know, I don't know. I think the word has a long history. I don't find it insulting, personally. But I can tell you that I bet you my father in law who's 78 would think it was an insult. In fact I know he'd think it was an insult. In fact he's the one who called me from Washington and first called me about it..... He didn't hear Goddard, he heard Lynn Westmoreland's comment. ...

Whether he knew what the word meant or not, (Goddard) was also rather unlucky and inaccurate. He described the reporter, Ron Allen from MSNBC, as an arrogant, uppity reporter. Well, we played the clip back of what Ron Allen said and he was - he asked (Newt Gingrich) one question. Newt went off on him and then asked him to comment and he refused. He didn't take the bait. For Goddard to say "oh, this arrogant, uppity reporter," who happened to be black, that was an inaccurate statement.

Me: Bottom line, do you think people should think about this when they go into the voting booth?

Charles: Not really. I actually think it's probably just a minor thing. Goddard's biggest problem is that he's a general. And generals behave a certain way. And he's a fighter pilot and fighter pilots, as a rule, generally, not globally, think a lot of themselves. They're uppity. (We both laugh).

Me: Is there any reason to think he's a racist?

Charles: I don't think he could have commanded 25,000 people out at Robins Air Force Base and been a racist. Something other than the word uppity would have come out of his mouth.

Bottom line: Charles and I are now in trouble for insulting generals and fighter pilots.

UPDATE: Edited at 8:30 to shorten and remove redundancies. I also added the line "Except I'm not sure anyone has actually been outraged."

August revenue collection numbers not out yet

Usually they come out about this time of the month. Department of Revenue Spokesman Charles Willey said they're not ready yet.

"Still being drafted. ..." he said. "I checked yesterday and I wasn't given a firm date."

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

State cutbacks

I got a call from a friend of mine, who typically votes Democrat and happens to be black. He's also a state employee. He's going to be furloughed one day a month, which will cost him about $100 a month. Some people in his department will be furloughed two days.

"That's real money," he said.

He requests that I stop worrying about who called who uppity and get my eyes back on the ball.

Because the expected $1.6 billion shortfall in state finances is hitting every department, and because all of those departments have to come up with their own cuts, it's hard to keep track of just what's being cut. You kind of have to do it piecemeal, or just focus on one department or program.

The Rome News-Tribune put together a relatively comprehensive look last month, but things may have changed since then.

The only thing I've focused on so far has been the closure of a facility at the Georgia War Veterans Home, which would force about 80 veterans to move. State Sen. Johnny Grant, R-Milledgeville, said today that he's talked to the governor's office and the lieutenant governor's office, among others, about keeping that from happening.

And I know there was a committee meeting on the issue Friday in Atlanta, so we'll see. And I'll see what can be done about compiling a list of these cuts.

If there's anything of particular interest to you, email me at tfain@macon.com

Georgia's annual crime rate since 1990

This graph shows the state's annual crime rate. We put it together for a story I'm working on, but I figured I'd post it here, too. It's based on reported crimes in the 7 categories tracked in FBI Uniform Crime Reports. The figures themselves are from the GBI.

The top line is the total, the others represent the 7 crimes individually.

Click to enlarge. And, yes, our finance department had to help me with the chart.

Goddard's first T.V. ad

Rick Goddard, who's running against U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall here in the 8th District, kicked off his television advertising campaign today in Albany and Macon, according to his campaign. I haven't seen the ad on T.V. yet, but the campaign put it on YouTube. It deals with the retired major general's military service.

Uh, OK. Oxendine picks up endorsement from Barry Goldwater Jr.

Surely I'm missing something, but this is one of the most random endorsements I've ever seen. Former Arizona Congressman Barry Goldwater Jr., son of the 1964 presidential candidate, has apparently endorsed Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine in the 2010 governor's race.

From Oxendine's campaign:
Atlanta, Georgia - "I am proud to call John Oxendine a solid Goldwater Conservative, and I am proud to endorse him as the true conservative to be the next Governor of the great state of Georgia," stated Congressman Goldwater. "Georgia has a very special place in the hearts of the Goldwater family. We have always been proud that Georgia gave her electoral votes in 1964 to my father in his campaign for President of the United States. I am therefore honored to support John Oxendine for Governor." ...

Former Congressman Barry Goldwater observed that John Oxendine shares the core conservative philosophy THAT his father had - a government big enough to give us all we want is also big enough to take it away. John Oxendine understands that conservatives have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient. They mean to reduce its size. That success is not defined by passing new laws, but by repealing ones that are no longer useful.

I'm seeking more information. Congressman Goldwater also endorsed Congressman Ron Paul in the presidential race.

What we don't recycle, but could

This chart is from a 2005 study of Georgia's waste stream, which you can download from the Department of Community Affairs Web site if you're looking for 216 pages of waste stream analysis today.

The chart came with this explanation:
Nearly twenty-five percent of the adjusted disposed municipal solid waste stream (6,685,002 tons) is commonly recycled paper materials (1,657,524 tons). Recyclable metals, glass, and plastics were found at relatively lower disposal rates – five percent, four percent and two percent respectively – but still significant quantities. This suggests the State may be able to increase diversion from landfills by evaluating recycling market development strategies, recycling outreach activities, and residential recycling incentive programs.

That's potentially important, for a variety of reasons. Including this one:
Although the State’s per capita municipal solid waste disposal rate climbed from 5.56 pounds per person per day in 1993 to 7.14 pounds per person per day in 2003, many of Georgia’s municipalities have made great strides in reducing the waste stream by promoting waste reduction, reuse, and recycling. Despite increased recycling and waste reduction program efforts in the 90’s, Georgia has seen an annual increase, in aggregate and per capita, in the amount of waste sent to landfills in the past decade. Information provided by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (“DCA”) indicates that, as of 2003, the state had 25.6 years of remaining permitted municipal solid waste disposal capacity.

Next public hearing I go to on locating a new landfill near people's houses, I'm going to ask everyone against it one simple question: So, you recycle, right?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Is everyone drinking stupid juice?

Apparently Rick Goddard, in his push to unseat U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall in the 8th, also called a black dude "uppity." And the guy doesn't seem all that "uppity" in the YouTube clip.

Perhaps even better, the "incident" happened on a radio show produced by my newspaper, but I read about it on The AJC's Political Insider.

Calling someone uppity doesn't make anyone racist, nor is it proof of racism on its own. My advice is to meet the people running for Congress in your district face-to-face. They're not hard to find. If one of them seems like a racist, don't vote for him or her. Because racism ... I don't even know what to say about racism. It sucks that bad.

Gov. Sonny Perdue kept a house secret, and says it was an accident. Really? That guy? The one who's already been involved in shady land deals?

Here in Macon we continue to have a shocking amount of gun violence in the streets. So far two proposals have gotten the most attention:

1. Enacting a 9 p.m. curfew for anyone under 25. It didn't pass.

Really? The guys we've been sending to Baghdad? Those guys?

I'm watching CNN Headline News. Glenn Beck apparently likes to say he's not a journalist. Then what the hell's he doing with a show on CNN Headline News?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Listen, pal: Cox, Cindy, Ike, McCain, me and Limbaugh

Georgia Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox appears to be significantly smarter than a 5th grader. From The AJC:
... superintendent Kathy Cox became the first $1 million winner Friday night on the FOX TV series “Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader” by answering correctly the question: Who was the longest reigning British monarch? ...

She said her entire winnings will be donated to three schools: Georgia Academy for the Blind in Macon; Atlanta Area School for the Deaf in Clarkston and Georgia School for the Deaf in Cave Spring.

Uh, yeah. Superintendent Cox? About that homerun you just crushed, even though all kinds of people said you were making a mistake? Nice work. Part of me is wondering about Jeff Foxworthy's political thoughts, but that's probably not fair.

By the way, I read the story and still don't know who was the longest reigning British Monarch.

Ike is the first storm of the year that scares me.

Brilliant. Jeff Parker, Florida Today.

For a woman hoping to appeal to Middle America, wearing a $300,000 outfit seems like remarkably bad idea. From the AP via Yahoo!:
Vanity Fair editors estimated that McCain's fierce saffron shirt dress with the popped collar, diamond earrings, four-strand pearl necklace, white Chanel watch and strappy shoes totaled up to $313,100.

But this is just awesome:. McCain moved into an Arizona Congressional District, buying a house there the day that the district's incumbent announced his retirement. I saw this line on a Fox News McCain biography, but I'm pasting the story from a The New York Review of Books:
... he was, inevitably, branded a carpetbagger and opportunist. Confronted with these allegations at a candidates' forum, he delivered a riposte that would win him the seat and would foreshadow the kind of rhetorical agility that has so impressed reporters. The point of his zinger of a last sentence was not lost on his audience even then:

"Listen, pal. I spent twenty-two years in the Navy. My father was in the Navy. My grandfather was in the Navy. We in the military service tend to move a lot. We have to live in all parts of the country, all parts of the world. I wish I could have the luxury, like you, of growing up and living and spending my entire life in a nice place like the First District of Arizona, but I was doing other things. As a matter of fact, when I think about it now, the place I lived longest in my life was Hanoi.

As Matt Welch notes in McCain, this wasn't exactly true; but invoking northern Virginia, where he had actually lived for a combined decade or more, would hardly have put across the desired point.

Fox News is running a special on Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin at 10 p.m. Monday.

Something I just said to a Rush Limbaugh clip on CNN: "You're a piece of $#@%, you fat sack of crap."

Both those things can't be true. Or can they...?

The Political Insider says Sen. Johnny Isakson wants to increase rail funding and shift the payment model to one more like we use for airports. I'd like to compare government funding totals for rail, air and rail transportation. It's hard to know how much bang we're getting for our buck.

Have a nice Monday.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Congressman Marshall writes about energy in The Washington Post

Hard to excerpt, so I'll just paste in the first three paragraphs. But I'd suggest reading the whole thing. Congressman Jim Marshall's op-ed in The Washington Post:
The controversial bans on drilling offshore and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge have preserved precious oil and natural gas reserves owned by the public. Thank environmentalists for this unintended gift.

But for these bans, we would have wasted the reserves without a strategic plan. Leasing and drilling would have lowered world oil prices by a few cents, benefiting more foreign consumers than Americans. The federal revenue from royalties, lease payments and taxes would have been used to meet current federal expenditures. And our remaining publicly owned oil and natural gas would be substantially depleted. Consequently, our dependence on foreign energy sources would be even greater than it is -- and it is likely that the current commodity price crisis would be worse.

We hope this price crisis prompts the adoption of a strategic plan to use the remaining value of our federally owned oil and natural gas reserves to fund a clean, affordable and independent energy future for America, a goal worthy of short-term environmental concessions and risks. Virtually all general drilling bans should be lifted. We should permit drilling offshore and in the ANWR and require that it be done with appropriate care.

The Palin pick: Not going to move the needle with Clintonites, and not meant to.

I don't accept the meme that Sen. John McCain chose Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate in order to steal away female voters disappointed that Sen. Hillary Clinton didn't get the nomination. I don't think John McCain is stupid.

Apparently, a lot of pundits disagree with me, including Leonard Pitts Jr. down in Miami.

What this pick does do is energize Republican women, much in the way Sen. Clinton's campaign energized Democratic women. The target voter for this pick might be a woman, but chances are she hates Hillary Clinton.

And when these folks get rolling, watch out.

The acceptance speeches, by word count

Even with my concerns about an already dumbed down process, I think this is pretty cool, and even useful. I saw it on redstate.

This is the "wordle" for Sen. Barack Obama's acceptance speech last week:

And this is Sen. John McCain's:

Finally, Jon Stewart and Mike Huckabee: Both cool.

"It's almost like the guys in Men in Black hit them with that memory thing before the convention."
- John Stewart

"So you feel like your party is the only one that can fix the damage that your party has done."

- Jon Stewart

Charlie Smith woulda liked that one.

Didn't watch McCain's speech. But the ending, this is good writing. And reading back on it, I realize how inspired the delivery was.

Stand up. Stand up. Stand up and fight. Nothing is inevitable here. We're Americans and we never give up. We never quit. We never hide from history. We make history.

Fast forward to about the 50 mark to see him get going. Fifty-one to see it take off.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Because no one puts rims on a Prius

I was hoping I could have an ever diminishing percentage of my cake and eat it too.

The Web site says this vehicle gets 50 percent better gas mileage in the city. That's listed as 20 mpg in the city for the hybrid.

That's in figure 4. The mpg information was a little hard to find. The highway gas mileage is listed at 21 mpg.

The original Escalade gets about 14 mpg, according to USA Today.

UPDATE: Just to be clear, an Escalade commercial came on during the South Carolina game. This isn't any kind of political metaphor for a candidate or campaign or party or anything.

...Or is it?


If I said I thought a former editor of the Harvard Law Review was "uppity," you probably wouldn't have a problem with that.

But what if he was black? I think you'll see some version of this story from The Hill in tomorrow's state newspapers:
Georgia Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland used the racially-tinged term "uppity" to describe Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama Thursday.

Westmoreland was discussing vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's speech with reporters outside the House chamber and was asked to compare her with Michelle Obama.

"Just from what little I’ve seen of her and Mr. Obama, Sen. Obama, they're a member of an elitist-class individual that thinks that they're uppity," Westmoreland said.

Here's hoping that the dialogue coming from having a woman running for vice president and a mixed-race man running for president will drag us closer to the day when words are just words.

When racism is dead and racist intentions are no longer assumed.

UPDATE: You know, when we live all together, in a gumdrop house on lollipop lane.*

Congressman Westmoreland, I believe the word you were looking for was "snob."

At least, it better have been. Probably.

Double reversed double standards on Gov. Palin

I'm not sure I need Jon Stewart to tell me Karl Rove and Bill O'Reilly are full of it. But hypocrisy is funny.

Karl Rove appears bitterly divided on the experience issue.

Perdue, Cox and Palin. Palin's in all the posts from now on.

Given Sen. John McCain's choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, was I just stupid to scoff at rumors that Gov. Sonny Perdue had a shot at being offered the v.p. spot?

I think the answer is yes.

Also, Georgia Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox is on "Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader" tomorrow night. It's at 8 p.m. on Fox.

Another reporter here notes that the state department of education hasn't been sending out press reminders this week. Wonder if that means anything...

"I love her."

- A Republican friend of mine. I don't think she's the only one.

All images Associate Press and Rueters, via a huge Yahoo! gallery

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

UPDATE: Sarah Palin is the man. Jerk analysis.

I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've ever eagerly anticipated a political convention speech. And I think the reason is due to the likelihood of one of two story lines, not just for her speech, but for her candidacy:

1. She's awesome.
2. This is one horrendous train wreck.

Is middle ground possible? Sure. But this pick just has an all-or-nothing feel to it.

The ground rules: Everything I know about Gov. Palin I learned by barely paying attention. My theory is that this makes things more hilarious as opposed to less responsible.

Plus, if you're getting your presidential campaign news here, I love you for it, but you're a moron.
The speech is supposed to start about 10:30. I'll be watching it at less than full strength, which is to say I won't be drinking.
I'm listening to Kenny B. and Charles E. on the on demand for the second night in the row. ERICK ERICKSON! gave a telephone interview from St. Paul while he was watching Gov. Palin practice her speech. Sweet.

"She's a former sportscaster," Erick said. "She's got to think on her feet."

Punch line to a Gov. Palin joke Erickson tells: "Hockey Moms wear lipstick."

This could turn tragic.
I just watched one minute of former Mayor Rudy Giuliani's speech. I don't think I've ever trusted anyone in a red and black tie less.
- This statement not meant to be unAmerican.-
"Booo!" To Islamic terrorism and Democrats. Problem solved.

Watched one more minute. It was about Sept. 11. "John McCain can face the enemy. He can win and he can bring victory for this country."
Giuliani on Sen. Obama's flip-flops: "If I were Joe Biden, I'd want to get that V.P. thing in writing."

Line of the campaign.

Gov. Palin thanks you so much.
This is more good than funny so far. What happened to killing bears and stuff? Stupid media.

"A time to campaign, and a time to put our country first. Our nominee for president is a true profile in courage. And people like that are hard to come by."

Palin: Victory in Iraq "in sight." Seems true enough. Especially since she says she's got a kid in the military. Oh, damn he's standing up. That guy's gonna get laid tonight.
Because we know how those Palin kids do it...

Too soon?
"Some times even the greatest joys bring challenge. ... To the families of special needs (applause) to the families of special needs children all across this country, I have a message for you: ... I pledge to you that if we're elected, you will have a friend and an advocate in the White House."
Met her husband in high school and he races snow machines. Andrew Jackson returns to the White House? That would be awesome.
She tells the Erickson joke. The difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick.

OK. Just to keep things moving...
"I guess a small town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities."

Whoever wrote that, you're hired. By everyone. Possibly to be vice president of the United States.
Media: Can suck it. People: I got your back.
Standing up to oil companies: Not an applause line. Someone get me some analysis on this.
Fired her personal chef. Sold the plush governor's plane on ebay. Returned a surplus to the tax payers.
Test message just sent to Democrat: She doesn't seem to be falling on her face.

Those of you wondering how the Democrats would manage to screw it up this time...
Did she just say "Drill in ANWR" without using any of those words?
Says Obama has authored two memoirs but not a major law. I am looking up his age right now. That might merit a booyah!
47 does seem young for two memoirs. Booyah.
"Turning back the waters and healing the planet." She uses the phrase to make fun of Sen. Obama, but both those things sound like good ideas. I like the beaches along the Georgia coast, for example.
Doesn't like rights.* Certainly doesn't want them being read.*

*Might not be true statements.
Boooo! Taxes. Boooo! Tax increases.
The Alaskan accent: Like Michigan or Minnesota, or other places where there's no sun. Living there is smart.
Vote for John McCain.
POW, you know? 6x4 cell.
John McCain knows how to overcome evil. He might be the only candidate you can say that about. Hint: He didn't do it by starting another war.

Side note: During one of the Republican debates, on a 2nd Amendment question, John McCain noted that he no longer owns a gun.
Maybe Biden, who had to deal with the death of his wife and daughter.
Thank you, and God Bless America. Applause.*
That family is absolutely precious. That kid in her arms... that may be the picture in every major newspaper in America tomorrow.
John McCain's looking pretty good tonight. Not a day over 70. Shit. 65.
McCain calls Palin "The right choice." Then turns the wrong way to acknowledge her and has to do a full 360.
I guess that's it, because Wolf Blitzer is talking. She hit it "out of the park," he said.

"No doubt... very, very positive."
Much of the media should be shot.
Who cares what her sister and brother, or brother in law think? My parents freaking love this blog. Email it to your friends.

Blitzer cuts off the analysis for The National Anthem.
Which the Republican National Convention screws up by interspersing with the Pledge of Allegiance. What's your bet on how much applause the "one Nation under God line" gets?
Either they skipped that line (That is not possible, right?) or I am a moron. That certainly seems reasonable...
"She's gonna be a tough cookie."
- another Democrat
Pundits: Sarah Palin will eat rural America alive.
ANDERSON COOPER! paraphrase: She's got a great smile when she's attacking. She puts the knife in and she smiles and you don't even know it's been done.

Isakson and Chambliss on the I-16/I-75 interchange

Not to belabor the point too much, but when senators Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss were in town last week I asked them if they'd heard from many constituents about stopping the I-16/I-75 interchange widening that's so controversial here.

The bottom line: Nope.
ME: The I-16 / I-75 interchange... I'm trying to gauge - have any of those complaints made it up to the federal level, i.e., do you have people calling your office complaining about that thing?

ISAKSON: Not to my knowledge.

ME: Is it something you foresee getting involved in?

ISAKSON: Tell me what the complaint is.

ME: They say it's too big. They're going from 4 lanes to 14. ...

ISAKSON: Well, most, not most - all federal highway expansions are planned with the idea of the future in mind and based on the statistical traffic that's coming through. I am not an engineer. I've not seen the design, so I can't opine whether it's right or wrong. But I can say, they don't go try and build over capacity unless they know the statistics show the demand's gonna be there. ... But I will, since you asked, try and become familiar with it. And I'm on — I'm the ranking member — of the subcommittee on highways. ... What I will do when I get back is I will look into it.

Sen. Chambliss told me something very similar earlier in the day, but I dropped the recorder and it didn't record.

It's just more proof that this groundswell to stop the project really isn't that large, or else organizers simply haven't talked to the right people.

UPDATE: Though you also have to wonder how much attention Sen. Isakson is paying to one of the largest proposed construction projects in the state, to not know there are complaints about its size.

Rep. Marshall up on T.V. in the 8th

Saw my first 8th District campaign commercial of the season a few minutes ago. It's a get-to-know-you ad from U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall, focusing on his military service and trips to the Middle East while in Congress.

When I get a Youtube I'll post it. UPDATE: Here it is.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Those Democrats were probably just lucky, for 50 years.

This one is for you, Nick. From The New York Times:
Simply put, the United States economy has grown faster, on average, under Democratic presidents than under Republicans. ...

It is well known that income inequality in the United States has been on the rise for about 30 years now — an unsettling development that has finally touched the public consciousness. But Professor Bartels unearths a stunning statistical regularity: Over the entire 60-year period, income inequality trended substantially upward under Republican presidents but slightly downward under Democrats, thus accounting for the widening income gaps over all. And the bad news for America’s poor is that Republicans have won five of the seven elections going back to 1980. ...

The two Great Partisan Divides combine to suggest that, if history is a guide, an Obama victory in November would lead to faster economic growth with less inequality, while a McCain victory would lead to slower economic growth with more inequality. Which part of the Obama menu don’t you like?

Written by a guy named Alan S. Blinder, who The Times describes as "a professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton and former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve. He has advised many Democratic politicians."

Protests, arrests, riot police at the RNC

Protesters can make things awfully difficult for well-meaning cops, just as cops can make things very difficult for well-meaning protesters. So I'm withholding judgement.

But, generally speaking, I'm not down with reporters getting handcuffed. From the AP:
Authorities said 130 of the 286 people arrested Monday faced possible felony charges. At least four journalists were among those arrested: Associated Press photographer Matt Rourke, Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman and two of her producers. The four were later released, but only Goodman was cited for a misdemeanor and issued a court date, at which time she could be charged with a crime.

Rourke was covering Monday's protest when he was swept up by police moving in on a group of protesters downtown. Goodman was arrested as she asked police in riot gear about the status of producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar. David Ake, an AP assistant chief of bureau in Washington, said he was concerned by the arrest of Rourke, a Philadelphia-based photographer.

"Covering news is a constitutionally protected activity, and covering a riot is part of that coverage," Ake said. "Photographers should not be detained for covering breaking news."

And from The Star-Tribune:
The chief said that he'd yet to review the specifics of Monday's incident. But he said that police seek to give ample warning before breaking up what they deem as unlawful assembly, and that if journalists don't clear the scene, he added, it is difficult for officers to look at protesters and reporters and "to make those kinds of fine distinctions."

Chief - when searching for those "fine distinctions," press credentials and a big freaking camera are a good place to start.

Kenny B. and Charles E., 6-9 a.m., 100.9 FM

Trust me: No one in authority at The Telegraph thinks I'm a shill for The Telegraph. I am genuinely excited about Kenny B. and Charles returning to the airwaves. And that it's "On Demand" online, so I don't need to be awake at 6 a.m.

I caught about an hour of it today. Line of the day easily came from Kenny B.: "I didn't know there was another station."


Dubbed by Kenny B. as the "media masterminds" behind the show, Lowell Register, owner of the local ABC television affiliate, and George McCanless, The Macon Telegraph's fourth publisher in my 8 years, were on for what was just a gripping eon of radio programming that's also shown on television.

Said Register of the show: "I think it's going to be the greatest thing that's happened in the Macon area in the media busines."

That seems unlikely. But I enjoyed the first day. Despite all the well wishes, etc., Kenny Burgamy was ready to talk about the news. And the team probably knew what they were doing when they put the bossmen on about 6:10 a.m.

I thought George wasn't going to give me anything to make fun of, talking about news coverage being a dialogue with the community and making a lot of sense. Then he said this:

"I feel like Lowell and I have gotten the '72 Dolphins back together here."

There it is. Happy listening, Macon.

WR Mayor Donald Walker takes medical leave

It's missing the byline, but I assume this is from our Warner Robins Bureau:
Mayor Donald S. Walker agreed tonight to take an indefinite leave of absence for medical reasons, effective Wednesday.

Mayor Pro Tem Clifford Holmes will assume the duties of the city's chief executive while the mayor seeks treatment for chronic medical problems related to a persistent foot injury that initially occurred five or six years ago.

I remember when he hurt that foot. And he's had some other health issues, too. If Mayor Walker is taking leave from work, I'm betting it's something serious enough to pretty much require that.

I certainly don't want to read much into it, so I'll only tell two Donald Walker stories.

1. Mayor Walker shared some of his father's advice with a City Council meeting: Son, don't mess with people's dogs or their trash pickup.

2. Back when Warner Robins was really starting to explode, we were talking about some of the people that wanted to slow things down. I remember he closed the conversation with "I don't know about you, but I'm gonna go get me a damn Blooming Onion."


I always felt Jack Ellis got too much credit for being Middle Georgia's most interesting mayor, when Donald Walker was right down the street.

I wish you a good recovery, Mayor.

Goddard probably won't get to address RNC

From Gen. Rick Goddard's campaign manager:
It is looking like Rick will not be rescheduled to speak at the convention. He will be address the Bibb County GOP at their convention watching party prior to McCain's speech on Thursday.

That's a tough beat for Gen. Goddard.

Sweet, sweet journalism: AJC breaks down state spending

Not shockingly, road builders saw much of the money. The phrase "tripled during the past three years" is used. Salzer, McWhirter report.

Kenny B. returns to the airwaves. With Charles Richardson.

Sorry Charles, but you know it's true. Kenny B. B. The Man.

Don't forget Charles and Kenny Burgamy return to the news talk airwaves in Middle Georgia this Tuesday morning, on 100.9 F.M.. With some T.V. action and online, too. It's CRAZY new wave!

Good luck with this guy, who seems to start a lot of sentences with now, I don't really know, but...