Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Nothing good happens the last week

Just checking in. Happy ridiculousing.

By the way, anyone gets an alleged DUI this week at the Florida game, don't take the breathalyzer. And Ben Harbin's attorney's name is Robert Highsmith:
Robert S. Highsmith Jr. practices legislative, administrative, and regulatory law, government relations, and litigation. He serves as national Team Leader for the firm’s State Capitals Team and leads the firm’s Georgia Government Relations Practice, representing clients before the Georgia General Assembly and before state and local government agencies. He also has extensive experience in public policy litigation, representing both governmental entities and private parties.

Among Georgia’s foremost experts on campaign and ethics law, Mr. Highsmith currently serves as lead outside counsel to numerous political candidates and office holders, including:

* Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle
* Secretary of State Karen Handel
* Georgia Republican Senatorial Trust
* PERDUEPAC, Governor Sonny Perdue's Political Action Committee
Surely he's readily available for DUI cases.

- Posted by Travis. Keep it real.

To vote or not to vote?

First, a confession: I’ve never voted. Not once.

Should I say sorry?

I suppose I can chalk up not voting as a youth to indifference and apathy.

As an adult, indeed as one whom until recently moved entirely in political circles, I find myself struggling to justify my non-decision to others. I guess the apathy grew the closer I came to what we call politics.

Anyway, I’ve been catching a lot of grief here at school in Texas about the fact that I won’t be voting in this election (I didn’t register) and haven’t voted – well, ever. . . There's a lot of politically active people here, as you would expect at a school named for a former president.

Anyway, I promise there are a plethora of reasons I don't vote, just believe me.

When I was a journalist, some of them were ethical (I didn’t think it right to vote in campaigns I covered). With that excuse now gone, I am forced to retreat, retrench and justify my non-participation in new and creative ways.

So here goes.

Doing some reading for a paper I am working on I came across this passage:

“It is in vain to summon a people, who have been rendered so dependent on the central power, to choose from time to time the representatives of that power; this rare and brief exercise of their free choice, however important it may be, will not prevent them from gradually losing their faculties of thinking, feeling, and acting for themselves, and thus gradually falling below the level of humanity.”

Now, I’m not saying I'm subhuman, all I am saying is that Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America can still teach our nation many things about itself – and it was written in the early 19th century!

Confession concluded.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A long post about short attention-spans – so pay attention!

Being a former scribbler myself, whenever I come across something thoughtful – and thoughtful is the key term here – that analyzes the news business, I sit up and take notice. I came across something in my readings here at school called the Issue-Attention Cycle. First, let me list the five stages of the process:

1. A pre-problem stage that exists when an “undesirable” social condition has not been discovered by the masses or media.

2. An alarmed discovery and euphoric enthusiasm stage that occurs when a “dramatic series of events” provokes sudden interest in an issue from people who previously ignored it.

3. A stage when realizing the cost of significant progress surrounding the issue causes people to realize exactly what it will take to correct the problem identified in the above stage. People tend to balk at the costs.

4. A gradual decline of intense public interest stage when the public begins to lose interest because of the difficulties identified in the above stage.

5. The post-problem stage when the public has largely moved onto a new concern.

In my opinion, this isn’t just some useless classroom theory, either. You can actually take the above module and apply it to how people – and more importantly, the media – respond to real-world issues. Consider the list my classmates and I came up with. It went something like this:

1. Global warming (if you believe in it)
2. Darfur
3. Terrorism (how many people really care about it now)
4. The country’s addiction to foreign fossil fuels (if gas falls below $2 per gallon, see how many people care about alternative energy sources)
5. Speaking of the above, remember all that talk about Ethanol?
6. Remember Ethiopia? The place all the rock stars joined Michael Jackson to sing about in the 80s? People are still starving there, I hear.

All of the above demonstrate the actual application of the theory and how “American public attention rarely remains sharply focused upon any one domestic issue for very long – even if it involves a continuing problem of crucial importance to society.”

The obvious question is how does this affect politicians and politics?

Can so-called “moon-shot” issues like energy independence be tackled in the current environment of short attention-spans?

And shouldn’t you have quit reading this to check and see what’s on television by now?

Has American Idol started up again?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Congress & Money

As has been noted, I’ve been charged by my old comrade in arms to come up with some blog posts based on my doings at school (George Bush School of Govt. & Public Service) while he makes his way cross-country in pursuit of his beloved Bulldogs.

I'll try not to bore people.

With a nod toward the pending Congressional election in Middle Georgia’s 8th District, I thought I would begin with some interesting – and very general – factoids about the U.S. Congress.

On average, the cost of winning a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives is about $1.1 million. Interested in a Senate seat? Start looking for $10 million in change under your couch-cushions.

Sticking with lower house, the above million-dollar-plus figure means that a House member must raise more than $10,000 per week during their two-year spell on the Hill in order to run for reelection.

Speaking of money, here’s a list of the ten wealthiest members of Congress (it might be a little out of date):

1. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) $677 million
2. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) $289 million
3. John Kerry (D-Mass.) $235 million
4. Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.) $234 million
5. Jay Rockerfeller (D-WVa.) $101 million
6. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) $99 million
7. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) $93 million
8. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) $91 million
9. John Campbell (R-Calif.) $78 million
10. Rodney Frelinghuvsen (R-NJ) $67 million

As an addendum, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) checks in at number 15 on the list with $55 million.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Handing over the Idiocy: Lucid guest blogging

I might pop up here and there, but I'll be on vacation starting tomorrow and until election day.

Doesn't every political reporter take vacation the week before the biggest election of his generation?

While I'm gone Keich Whicker, former Telegraph reporter, Texas A & M masters student and frequent commenter here will be posting as much, or as little, as he likes.

He's studying public policy and foreign affairs, so you might get some of that. It'll almost certainly be different stuff than the other political blogs in Georgia cover, so I hope you'll keep coming back to check.

Thank you, take care, go Dawgs, and go vote.

Carter in Macon

Just the photos are up at the moment, but there will be coverage of former President Carter's visit to Macon, and Byron Elementary School, on the main site a little later.


"Beginning in January, we need to set an unblemished example for the world to follow."

Telegraph endorsed Marshall today

I don't think that's a surprise to anyone. But the way we did it (and that's "we" because I work for the paper, but I had absolutely no say in the decision) may surprise some:
With no offense to Goddard, who is an exemplary American, in this legislative arena Marshall's understanding of the law and how the system works bodes well for his constituents and for the survival of the largest economic engine in the state, Robins Air Force Base. Rep. Jim Marshall is our choice.
"Exemplary American." There's aren't many things I'd rather be called.

I've been thinking for a while now, and this is opinion, but I think it's a fair one and it's certainly honest: Every congressional district would be lucky to have two candidates of this quality to choose from.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Newt: I won't be chairing the RNC... probably. And liberals want to get rid of Fox News.

After seeing this on the Political Insider, I asked Speaker Gingrich today if he might be the next chairman of the Republican National Committee.

His answer: "No. No. Well, I shouldn't say that."

He went on to say that his priority remains selling books and movies... er, health care reform and other efforts taken on through American Solutions and the Center for Health Transformation.

He said he wants to "bring Americans together in a tri-partisan manner."

Of course he said this a few minutes after bashing Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Barney Frank, "their cronies" and Lyndon Johnson. He also told people they'd better vote for Republican Rick Goddard here in the 8th lest Democrat Jim Marshall vote to have a bunch of LIBERALS in power who will try to "cut off Fox News."

"They're going to try to crush talk radio, and take away the right to have people like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and Neil Boortz on the air. ... The next step after that, frankly, will be to cut off Fox News. ...

"We need, we badly need Rick Goddard. ... He will not be forced into supporting Speaker Pelosi and forced into putting liberals in charge of every single committee in Congress."


UPDATE: I'm sure Gingrich was talking about The Fairness Doctrine and the possibility that Democrats will try to revive it. Fox News commentary on that here.

But Barack Obama is on record against bringing it back. And it was beaten back 309-115 last year... with a Democratic majority in Congress. Here's the roll call, with a yes vote being a vote against the doctrine.

Fox News seems, for the moment at least, to be safe.

Rev. Wright delaying October sermons

Rev. Jeremiah Wright was supposed to come to Macon next week for a revival at St. Paul AME Church, but he's delayed that until December. Rodney Manley here at the paper has the story:
Instead, Wright will lead a winter revival at St. Paul on Dec. 15-17, said the Rev. Ronald Slaughter, the church’s pastor.

“Dr. Wright has canceled all October engagements (because of the election),” Slaughter said. “If not for the election, most people would not know him anyway.

NEWT: The moving pictures edition

Liz "The Pro" Fabian shot some video of the speaker's visit to Macon.



One of the things he said that struck me was that there is more oil underground in Colorado and Wyoming than in all of Saudi Arabia. That sounded pretty fantastic, but appears to be true, according to this 2007 Fortune Magazine article:
If that sounds like hyperbole, then consider this: Several hundred feet below where Vinegar is strolling lies the Green River Formation, arguably the largest unconventional oil reserve on the planet. ("Unconventional oil" encompasses oil shale, Canadian tar sands, and the extra-heavy oils of Venezuela - essentially, anything that is not just pumped to the surface.)

Spanning some 17,000 square miles across parts of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, this underground lakebed holds at least 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil. That's triple the reserves of Saudi Arabia.

Lucid Newticy

If you love or hate Newt Gingrich, this is going to be your blog today.

He was in Macon this morning, and you can start with this, but I've got a bunch of other stuff to post here on the blog:
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich came to Macon this morning and said Republican presidential hopeful John McCain is “in a very deep hole,” with maybe one strategy left that can beat Democratic nominee Barack Obama.
More stuff, including an answer to this question, coming later.

Who's got two thumbs and ain't gonna win?

This one:











Gene Puskar, AP, via The Telegraph's front page today.

Charles and Kenny B. were talking about this this morning: Zogby's got McCain and Obama tied... among NASCAR fans.

UPDATE: An AP Poll has the race neck and neck. That's a "departure from some, but not all, recent national polls," the story notes.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The importance of military service in the 8th

Gene Rector, who covers Robins Air Force Base for The Telegraph, did nice piece today about the question facing military families, veterans and others here in the 8th District, and particularly in Houston County.

If you want a veteran in Congress, do you go with former Army Ranger Jim Marshall, who holds the seat now, or retired Air Force General Rick Goddard?

Former Congressman Mac Collins won Houston County, a Republican stronghold, in 2006. But he didn't win it by enough. The thinking has been that Goddard would win it with a stronger number, putting him over the top district wide. Of course, that ignores Collins performance in the north part of the district where he lived, and with rural voters who remember him, but Goddard has been working those areas pretty hard from what I can tell.

But Goddard's military record, arguably his biggest strength, is easily countered by Marshall.

You flew jets in Vietnam? I was on the ground leading a recon platoon. You ran the Robins ALC? I'm already on the Armed Services Committee. Ask Robins how that's been working for them.

I thought it was interesting when former POW and current Texas Congressman Sam Johnson spoke to local veterans last week on Gen. Goddard's behalf. He kept noting how few veterans there are in Congress, and how electing Gen. Goddard would add another one.

I kind of wanted to tap him on the shoulder and say, "Uh, Congressman..."

Who knows how it will all break down Nov. 4. But Goddard has another issue in this. He has to fight the narrative that a military general would have trouble becoming one vote in a sea of 435.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Keich checks in: On energy needs and FISA

Keich Whicker, a buddy of mine and a former Telegraph reporter, is enrolled over at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A & M.

So you're going to get the benefit of his studies here, from time to time. He checks in today:
Here's a stat for you from my readings.

"A key foundation for rising living standards in the US during this century has been the doubling of electric power consumption every 10 years."

Just think about that.
I'd rather not. While I'm at it, Keich sent me a summary paper he did on FISA that I've been meaning to post a portion of. He does a good job of explaining how it works:
Whenever domestic surveillance is being discussed the conversation occurs “to the extent that pertinent information is publicly available.” That is, participants do not have all – or even most – of the relevant facts at their disposal. However, based on media accounts, the program works as follows:

• The NSA routinely monitors communications for about 5,000 to 7,000 foreigners with “suspected terrorist ties.”

• After NSA gained access to captured computers, cellular telephones and phone directories belonging to terrorists it began monitoring those addresses and phone numbers without seeking approval from the special FISA courts established to issue warrants.

• The agency created a data mining program that established and then began monitoring an expanding web of people connected to the initial phone numbers and addresses. Most of the people caught in these webs were overseas, but hundreds were located inside the U.S.

• To help facilitate the program, the NSA secured the cooperation of several large telecommunications companies. The companies allowed the agency access to the physical “switches” that route domestic and international phone calls and e-mails. Access to the switches gave the agency unfettered access to entire communication networks with absolutely no outside oversight.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Something to remember this political season

From a church in Houston County.


Because reasonable people often disagree.

Also, if you didn't catch Sen. John McCain's act and brief speech at the Alfred E. Smith Dinner, take 10 minutes and watch it. He is very funny, and very classy.


"It's not for nothing that he's inspired so many folks. ... There was a time when the mere invitation of an African American citizen to dine at the White House was taken as an outrage and an insult in many quarters. Today is a world away from the cruel and prideful bigotry of that time, and good riddance."

Friday, October 17, 2008

Actually stop the presses this time: Chicago Tribune endorses Obama

The Tribune endorses a Democrat. For the first time. Ever.
The Republican Party, the party of limited government, has lost its way. The government ran a $237 billion surplus in 2000, the year before Bush took office -- and recorded a $455 billion deficit in 2008. The Republicans lost control of the U.S. House and Senate in 2006 because, as we said at the time, they gave the nation rampant spending and Capitol Hill corruption. They abandoned their principles. They paid the price.

We might have counted on John McCain to correct his party's course. We like McCain. We endorsed him in the Republican primary in Illinois. In part because of his persuasion and resolve, the U.S. stands to win an unconditional victory in Iraq.

It is, though, hard to figure John McCain these days. He argued that President Bush's tax cuts were fiscally irresponsible, but he now supports them. He promises a balanced budget by the end of his first term, but his tax cut plan would add an estimated $4.2 trillion in debt over 10 years. He has responded to the economic crisis with an angry, populist message and a misguided, $300 billion proposal to buy up bad mortgages.

McCain failed in his most important executive decision. Give him credit for choosing a female running mate--but he passed up any number of supremely qualified Republican women who could have served. Having called Obama not ready to lead, McCain chose Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. His campaign has tried to stage-manage Palin's exposure to the public. But it's clear she is not prepared to step in at a moment's notice and serve as president. McCain put his campaign before his country.
Now, Obama is from Chicago. So maybe there's some home town pride here. But the Tribune doesn't leave itself any room:
It may have seemed audacious for Obama to start his campaign in Springfield, invoking Lincoln. We think, given the opportunity to hold this nation's most powerful office, he will prove it wasn't so audacious after all. We are proud to add Barack Obama's name to Lincoln's in the list of people the Tribune has endorsed for president of the United States.

The above average Joe

From my very quotable buddy Joe:
What if I was a plumber who drank six packs? But if I could only drink six packs, that would suck.
Have a good weekend, everyone. And Go Dawgs.

Top 10 messages left on Joe The Plumber's answering machine.

Does it seem like state Dems take a long time to make public statements on issues?

This is a story we ran Oct. 3, about the likelihood that retired Georgia teachers won't get automatic COLAs anymore. Instead they will be voted on by the retirement system board:
Retired educators now receive 1.5 percent increases automatically each January and July, according to the Teachers Retirement System of Georgia, which manages retirement funds for 75,000 retired members and 272,000 nonretired educators.

But Gov. Sonny Perdue has asked the system's board to consider approving - or not approving - those increases each May.
And this is from a press release put out by the Democratic leadership (House Minority Leader Dubose Porter and Caucus Chair Calvin Smyre) yesterday at lunchtime:
We stand with teachers and retirees and in strong opposition to the proposal to slash COLAs because it is wrong.
I wish I could remember the other issue, but this is at least the second time in the last few months where the Dems put out a release a good while after the issue broke. With these COLAs they waited one day short of a full two weeks.

Anyone got any insight into why they'd wait so long?

Stop the presses: Washington Post endorses Obama.

Overheard in the newsroom here: "I didn't see that coming. Oh, wait, yes I did. Twenty months ago."

Though they say nice things about McCain:
THE NOMINATING process this year produced two unusually talented and qualified presidential candidates. There are few public figures we have respected more over the years than Sen. John McCain. Yet it is without ambivalence that we endorse Sen. Barack Obama for president. ...

Mr. Obama is a man of supple intelligence, with a nuanced grasp of complex issues and evident skill at conciliation and consensus-building. At home, we believe, he would respond to the economic crisis with a healthy respect for markets tempered by justified dismay over rising inequality and an understanding of the need for focused regulation. Abroad, the best evidence suggests that he would seek to maintain U.S. leadership and engagement, continue the fight against terrorists, and wage vigorous diplomacy on behalf of U.S. values and interests. Mr. Obama has the potential to become a great president. Given the enormous problems he would confront from his first day in office, and the damage wrought over the past eight years, we would settle for very good.

Marshall v. Goddard, fundraising

UPDATE: The full story.

I'm working on a story, but here are the basics:

Goddard:
Total raised: $1.05 million
Amount raised in the last 3 months: $283,991
Cash on hand as of Sept. 30: $480,042
Total raised from individuals: $654,304
From PACs and other committees: $383,173*

*includes $124,307.71 raised during Pres. Bush's fundraising visit to Atlanta.

Marshall:
Total raised: $1.48 million
Amount raised in the last 3 months: $209,709
Cash on hand as of Sept. 30: $1.1 million
Total raised from individuals: $582,841
From PACs and other committees: $797,929

Freeman v. Epps in Middle Georgia

State Rep. Allen Freeman called a press conference yesterday to share all kinds of information that calls into question his opponent's character. Twiggs County Commission Chairman James "Bubber" Epps' paving coming was paid to do work for the county while he was chairman.

Barnwell has the story:
Specifically, Freeman, R-Macon, alleged that while Epps was chairman, he rerouted sales tax revenue intended for courthouse renovations to instead pay for work his family's road-paving business performed. Freeman produced a nearly inch-thick collection of documents and news reports from the Twiggs County New Era that he said support his claims. ...

Epps called Freeman's claims "an absolute fabrication" and said Freeman was taking a low road in the campaign by pursuing character assassination.
The details can be argued. Anyone who's ever dealt with a controversial issue in a county of 10,000 people will understand that. But it's clear that Epps' family company was paid out of the county SPLOST funds while he was on the commission.

Here's what Epps' supporters will hit back with: Freeman left his job as president of the Macon Cherry Blossom Festival under questionable circumstances. There never seemed to be a real clear reason for it, but plenty of whispers. The state Democratic Party got in on the act last night, calling on Freeman to release personnel records on the issue.

Then there's this Freeman flier:



There's nothing technically inaccurate about that flier that I'm aware of. But, for the record, though Freeman served during Desert Storm, he was not sent to the war. The picture of him in what looks like a desert is labeled Ft. Irwin, California.

UPDATE: I should have noted that, though Rep. Freeman has opposed the closing of the wing of the veteran's home referenced in the mailer, it is still scheduled to close.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I spent $3 million before October and all I got was this lousy senate seat... I hope.

I haven't seen the latest numbers myself, but The Insider notes that U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss had $1.2 million in the bank as of Sept. 30.

That's more than his opponents by a long shot. But he had more than $4 million on hand as of June 30. Where did all that money go?

I'm no expert, and I don't live in the Atlanta TV market. But did you see $3 million worth of advertising? Are you about to?

Joe The Plumber: Best thing to happen to journalism since SARAH PALIN!

Seen at a local BBQ joint today:



What are the chances Mr. The Plumber ends up wishing John McCain had just kept him out of this thing? From The New York Times:
Turns out that “Joe the Plumber,” as he became nationally known when Senator John McCain made him a theme at Wednesday night’s third and final presidential debate, may run a plumbing business but he is not a licensed plumber. His full name is Samuel J. Wurzelbacher. And he owes a bit in back taxes.

The DOT: Do they still try to spend money they don't have?

I'll let Ariel Hart, who covers transportation for The AJC, deal with the details because she understands the ins and outs of the Department of Transportation's budget much better than I. But the DOT's board met in Perry today, and I'm pretty sure they voted to spend money they may not have.

They told the Commissioner and her staff to let $100 million in projects next month. There was some discussion that the DOT might not have that much money to spend for that month, but the motion passed anyway.

Commissioner Gena Evans and Board Member Larry Walker said the board voted the same way last month, but she only let about $85 million worth of projects.

"If we don't have the dollars to do it, we're not going to do it," Commissioner Evans said, noting that she had consulted with Attorney General Thurbert Baker and has a duty to "follow the Constitution."

For the record, Walker, who represents Middle Georgia on the board, and Board Member Steve Farrow voted against the motion, saying they'd prefer that DOT staff let as many projects as it could afford to next month, but not have the board set an "arbitrary" number.

You have to wonder if that kind of thinking is how we got into this situation in the first place.

UPDATE: Interesting. These letters to the DOT board chairman, written by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, shed more light on this situation. It looks like a tug-of-war between funding for DOT employees/daily operations and funding for road projects/private road contractors.

This is from a letter dated Oct. 3:
It is my strong recommendation that the DOT budget for the rest of this fiscal year allow for the letting of at least $100 million per month in construction contracts.

I am aware that meeting this goal will require a significant reduction in operational overhead and most likely include a reduction in staff. No one wants any state employee to lose his or her job, but unfortunately, these difficult times call for difficult choices
And this is from the Lt. Gov's letter dated Sept. 24:
Improving efficiency within the department should be the top priority and reducing operations costs should be the goal.

Private businesses all across the country go through this same exercise when revenues drop – they cut operational expenses to mirror revenue reductions. The Department of Transportation should be no different. With a program estimated to be 50% smaller this year than in previous years, how can the Department justify spending the same amount on operations to construct half the number of projects? Every dollar spent on operational expenses puts in jeopardy construction funds for our roadways. The Department should take steps to reduce overhead within the department first before moving to eliminate vital construction needs such as State Aid.

If you want to go see Speaker Gingrich next week

He'll be in town for a Rick Goddard fundraiser. From the campaign:
The Speaker’s event is a fundraiser Wednesday morning, October 22nd. It starts at 8:15am and goes through 9:30 with tickets starting at $100. It is at the Woodruff House, 988 Bond Street in Macon. For more information they can contact campaign headquarters at (478) 225-9690.

Who the hell is Joe The Plumber?

There's a picture of him right here. Video, in fact.

From that story:
To evaluate how Wurzelbacher and his wife would fare under Obama, one would need to know his wife's income (if any) plus what the plumber meant when he told Obama that the company he is getting ready to buy "makes" $250,000 - $280,000 per year.

Was Wurzelbacher referring to gross revenue or net profits?

Obama's higher taxes on small businesses would be leveled against those whose net profits exceed $250,000 per year, according to Obama's campaign.
Then there's this, from Joe's CBS interview, as quoted by Ben Smith on The Politico:
He also says he actually isn't in the bracket where Obama would raise his taxes -- but he's worried that Obama will shift the bracket down.

He also said that, in his encounter with Obama, the Illinois Senator (did) "a tap dance...almost as good as Sammy Davis, Jr."
I added the "did." Seemed like there was a word missing.

By the way, I would hope for better confirmation of this than two anonymous sources, but the word on the street is that Mr. The Plumber is not registered to vote.

UPDATE: Mr. The Plumber told Good Morning America that he is, in fact, registered to vote. Featured story on Yahoo! right now. And Ben Smith has run a correction, saying the Ohio press has discovered he was registered, just under a slightly mis-spelled name. When your name is Wurzelbacher, that's bound to happen.

Raise your hand if you want a government GPS device in your car to calculate road taxes

It's certainly not the biggest idea in transportation funding, and with the regional sales tax idea coming so close to passing this year, you'd think that would be the leader going into the next legislative session.

But it's one thing being looked at. Oregon is running a pilot program, with the idea being that you pay for the miles you drive, on the roads you drive them on. This is from the Oregon report, which is downloadable:
After investigating two technology configurations that could identify zones and tabulate miles, ODOT and OSU ultimately settled on development and testing of a hybrid on-vehicle device that would utilize signals from satellites of the global positioning system (GPS) to identify zones but use the vehicle’s odometer to tabulate miles.


Don't know that it will get much traction here, but state Rep. Jim Cole discussed it briefly on the Kenny B. and Charles E. radio show here in Macon. Apparently, the Oregon group did a presentation on the program recently and Cole and other state leaders attended.

As Cole noted, the biggest and most obvious concern is what sort of tracking information will be available to government officials.

More and more there's talk of not just adding new funding in addition to the motor fuel tax, but replacing it outright in the long term.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"Either I'm dead right, or I'm crazy."

I watched Mr. Smith Goes to Washington all the way through for the first time last night.

If we selected Congress by picking people at random, do you think that would make the government worse, or better?
Boys forget what their country means, just reading "land of the free" in history books. And they get to be men and forget even more. Liberty is too precious to get buried in books, Miss Saunders. Men ought to hold it up in front of them every day of their lives and say: "I am free, to think, to speak. My ancestors couldn't. I can. My children will."

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Cleaning out the notebook: The economy, Arabs, Libertarian philosophy and Paul Newman

A bunch of stuff that, for whatever reason, got written but not posted the last few weeks...
-----

This graphic from The Wall Street Journal really shows you where the problems are with bad mortgages. I picked it up on Sid Cottingham's blog.

Sid reads The Journal and The New York Times heavily and does a good job of narrowing it down for readers.
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Lucid Idiocy's economic advice:

Give more, use less.
Learn another language.
Learn how to retrofit things with more environmentally friendly things. Start a business doing that.
Get the government to address its debt.
Don't be stupid, idiot.
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The New York Times ran a story recently called "Taking a Hard New Look at a Greenspan Legacy:"
Mr. Levitt said that Mr. Greenspan’s authority and grasp of global finance consistently persuaded less financially sophisticated lawmakers to follow his lead.

“I always felt that the titans of our legislature didn’t want to reveal their own inability to understand some of the concepts that Mr. Greenspan was setting forth,” Mr. Levitt said. “I don’t recall anyone ever saying, ‘What do you mean by that, Alan?’"
-----
A recent quote from Greenspan, included in The Times story: “In a market system based on trust, reputation has a significant economic value,” Mr. Greenspan told the audience. “I am therefore distressed at how far we have let concerns for reputation slip in recent years.”

It made me wonder: What happens to the value of reputations when people stop paying attention?
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I'm pretty sure this sentiment is from this movie, which was done by the same guy who did that movie about eating at McDonald's every day. Basically he took a camera to the Middle East and just starting talking to people.

And one guy told him that the Arabic mindset is to side with whoever fights the occupiers. There was no mention of the occupier's intent.
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I don't really get voter registration drives. If someone wants to vote, it's not like the board of elections office is hidden.
-----
Back to the economy - something Libertarian candidate for Senate Allen Buckley said at last week's senate debate struck me. He was talking about the government's role in righting the economy and he said it was government that caused the problem, to a certain extent, in the first place.

He said the Federal Reserve's sole role should be responding to crisis, but in recent years it took interest rates to a historic low and created the real estate boom.

"That's not the role of the government, to create prosperity in one period of time and create a recession in another period of time," Buckley said.
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I've wanted to write about Paul Newman since he died, but I'm just not qualified. The other night, my girlfriend asked me "Was Paul Newman like the ultimate cool guy?"

"Yeah," I answered. "Absolutely."

Eh, you get what you pay for

aka, "What the hell are you doing with my money in your house, Fred?!"
---
I had this really fantastic piece ready to go relating the current economic situation to a Simpsons episode. But I couldn't find the clip I wanted. And I really just think this is funny.


Please don't be an accurate metaphor, please don't be an accurate metaphor, please don't be an accurate metaphor ...

UPDATE: While I'm at it, I think this classic Simpson's line sums up the tone of some of the more brain dead supporters of both presidential campaigns.
Marge: Whatever happened to please and thank you?

Homer: I think they killed each other. You know, one of those murder-suicide deals.

Gingrich in Macon next week

UPDATE with more details here.

Eighth District Congressional hopeful Rick Goddard was just at The Telegraph for his meeting with the editorial board. He said that former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich will be here next Wednesday for a campaign event in Macon.

"I understand he's going to be making some announcement," Goddard said.

What that announcement is, and whether it will come here in Macon or at another stop on Gingrich's itinerary, Gen. Goddard said he did not know.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Though you can never tell what the voters will do

Erick notes what the polls seem to make obvious: It's pretty much over in the presidential race. But he also lists winnable races for the GOP in the House and Senate in something of a last ditch call to arms.

Sen. Chambliss is on the list. So is Rick Goddard.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Shame on you , Associated Press

Unless you're interested in the inner workings of the newspaper industry, you probably won't want to read this story. But know that it contains this line: AP officials declined to comment for this story.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Politics at the five and dime

A buddy of mine sent me this the other day from The Washington Post. It follows a woman who works at a Dollar General store in Michigan, which has been hit hard by the economic slump we're in.

"I'm 55 years old. I don't like the way the world is going."

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Something interesting Sen. Chambliss said

I'm down here at the Senate/8th District Debate in Perry. We're getting coverage up as we can (8th District debate hasn't even started) on the main site.

But something Sen. Chambliss said struck me as interesting: "Fact is we've never had a tax cut we didn't pay for."

He also said the "government will not lose a dime under this proposal," with the proposal being the bailout. But last week in Macon, Sen. Chambliss said he couldn't promise that:
"I think there's a good chance that, over the long haul, that all of this money could be paid back," Chambliss said. "But we can't guarantee that."
Direct links to the 8th District debate story, and the Senate debate.

Live fom Perry: It's a debate

The AARP / WMAZ Senatorial and 8th Congressional District debates here at the Georgia National Fair haven't started yet. But I'm ready to declare a winner.

This guy:

By the way, I'm aware of the irony of appearing on TV in order to decry it, so don't bother pointing it out.*

This is from an actual column in The Telegraph's "Home Hunter" section. It's written by David Griffin:
Don't believe everything you read in the newspaper. If I wanted to know whether my own unique financial situation was conducive to proposed mortgage financing, I would not call up a newspaper reporter and ask him or her anything about it. Just because they have the ability to type does not mean they are an expert on any particular subject. Just because it gets printed does not mean that it is true.
Irony is really much funnier when people realize they're being ironic.

Fundraising, locally and nationally... or "How much money did Lehman Brothers give the presidential candidates?"

Locally, former Bibb County Commissioner Sam Hart is beating Commission Chairman Charlie Bishop at the fundraising game. Jennifer wrote about it today.One of the things we do here that I like is try to list everyone who gave more than $500 to a candidate.

On the presidential level, look at all the Wall Street money that's been contributed, according to www.opensecrets.com, a fantastic Web site.

These are the top 20 donors to Sen. Obama's campaign, according to the Web site.
Goldman Sachs $739,521
University of California $697,506
Harvard University $501,489
Citigroup Inc $492,548
Google Inc $487,355
JPMorgan Chase & Co $475,112
National Amusements Inc $432,169
Microsoft Corp $429,656
UBS AG $419,550
Lehman Brothers $391,774
Wilmerhale Llp $383,024
Time Warner $375,063
Sidley Austin LLP $370,916
Skadden, Arps et al $360,409
Stanford University $341,399
Morgan Stanley $341,380
Latham & Watkins $328,879
Jones Day $309,960
University of Chicago $294,237
General Electric $290,584
And for Sen. McCain:
Merrill Lynch $349,170
Citigroup Inc $287,801
Morgan Stanley 249,377
Goldman Sachs $220,045
JPMorgan Chase & Co $206,392
AT&T Inc $183,663
Credit Suisse Group $175,503
PricewaterhouseCoopers $163,670
Blank Rome LLP $153,426
US Government $152,118
US Army $150,470
Wachovia Corp $147,456
Greenberg Traurig LLP $145,737
UBS AG $141,365
Bank of America $133,975
FedEx Corp $121,904
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher $120,246
US Dept of Defense $118,125
Lehman Brothers $115,707
Bear Stearns $108,000
Do try not to vomit. Also, note that Open Secrets says: The organizations themselves did not donate, rather the money came from the organization's PAC, its individual members or employees or owners, and those individuals' immediate families. Organization totals include subsidiaries and affiliates.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Every frowning cop in America endorses Saxby Chambliss

Please note: That headline is not accurate.
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A bunch of Georgia sheriffs and police chiefs were in Macon today to endorse Sen. Saxby Chambliss in his race against Democratic challenger Jim Martin and Libertarian Allen Buckley.

Look how happy they are about it:


Not pictured: His love for Johnny Isakson.

This is a list of endorsers (CORRECTION: Expected attendees, not endorsers) Sen. Chambliss' campaign put out, though I didn't see Sheriff Modena at the event:
Sheriffs: John Cary Bittick (Monroe), Jerry Modena (Bibb), Cullen Talton (Houston), Howard Sills (Putnam), Jeff Watson (Taylor), Mike Yeager (Coweta), Mike Jolley (Harris), Darren Mitchum (Twiggs), Butch Conway (Gwinnett), Joe Buice (Lamar), Scott Berry (Oconee), Terry Deese (Peach), Dee Stewart (Spalding), and Harold Lancaster (Bleckley).

Georgia Police Chiefs: Lonnie Holder (Reynolds), George Stagmeier (Hinesville), Paul Jordan (Wadley), Franklin Allen (Grantville), Tony Black (Whigham), Steve Land (Hazelhurst), Wesley Fletcher (Pearson), John Anderson (Fort Valley), Frederick Brown (Auburn), Dwayne Hobbs (City of Forest Park), Adam Lowe (City of Gray), and Frank Lang (Moultrie).
UPDATE: Uh-oh. Sheriff Jerry Modena: "I didn't authorize that. I've got my own race that I'm running. ... We've been long time friends... but they certainly didn't clear that with me. ... We both have our own races and we're running them."

I'm talking to a campaign spokeswoman right now. She's going to find out what happened.

UPDATE 2: This is my mistake... sort of. I took that list from a press advisory the campaign sent out. It doesn't say that the people listed are endorsing Sen. Chambliss, it says "Saxby will be joined by the following Georgia Sheriffs:"

According to campaign spokeswoman Michelle Grasso, "Not everyone who showed up officially endorsed." She also said that Modena was initially expected at the event, but ended up not attending. She said a campaign representative will call him to smooth things over.

It's a little goofy to send out a list of attendees instead of endorsers, but I should have read more carefully.

September state revenue figures up

From the governor's office:
ATLANTA – Governor Sonny Perdue announced today that net revenue collections for the month of September 2008 (FY09) totaled $1,632,334,000 compared to $1,561,749,000 for September 2007 (FY08), an increase of $70,585,000 or 4.5 percent.

The percentage decrease year-to-date for FY09 compared to FY08 is 2.6 percent.

Macon mayor "apologizes" to the County Commission

Remember the old joke, about a mother telling her son to apologize for calling his sister stupid?

"I'm sorry that you're stupid," he says.

From Macon Mayor Robert Reichert:
The Mayor’s Office regrets that members of the Bibb County Board of Commissioners have taken offense at the manner in which the fee for housing stray animals was presented.
I'm sure that Commission Chairman Charlie Bishop and the rest of the commission will be very appreciative. And that Bishop won't take into account, at all, the fact that Reichert has endorsed his opponent in next month's chairman's race.

Boehner: Goddard the man for the 8th District

The top Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives came to Warner Robins Wednesday, highlighting the importance of the 8th District Congressional fight and throwing his support behind GOP nominee and retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Rick Goddard.

Saying that "Rick has spent his entire career getting himself ready for what he's about to do," U.S. Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Goddard is "well rounded" with "a good solid background."

He also promised to try and get Goddard a seat on the House Armed Services Committee, which 8th District U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall already sits on, if Goddard beats Marshall this November.

"My intention is to do everything I can do to make sure. ..." Boehner said. "Can't guarantee."

Said Goddard, a former fighter pilot and commander of the Robins Air Logistics Center: "When I get to the House Armed Services Committee, I think I will have instant credibility because of my experience."



Boehner downplayed any differences he may have with Goddard on last week's vote to spend $700 billion in taxpayer money to purchase toxic loans and bail out the financial industry.

Boehner voted for it; Goddard has criticized Marshall repeatedly for his vote in favor of the bill.

"Some members voted for it, some members vote against it. ..." Boehner said. "They've got to do what they think is right."

Boehner also blamed Democrats for the mmortgage and credit crisis that led to the bailout, saying Democratic leaders in Washington repeatedly blocked Republican efforts at reform. Republicans may have held the majority in Congress prior to the Democratic take over two years ago, but "just because you have a majority in the Congress doesn't mean you have complete control," Boehner said.

Asked after the press conference if the cause of the current financial crisis is really as simple as blaming Democrats, Boehner replied, "It really is."
---
By the way - I found it a little odd that Boehner had a four car police escort from the Warner Robins Police Department. They were running rolling street closures to get him to the press conference. I asked him if that's normal when he travels and he said no.

"Only in Houston County," he said. "I've been in a lot of counties."



As minority leader, Boehner has a security detail. But, to answer a reader's question, he's not in the Constitutional line of succession for the presidency.

UPDATE: Maj. John Wagner of the Warner Robins Police Department wanted to make it clear that the police escort was not requested by the campaign. Rather, it's something they do for all dignitaries - kind of a city pride thing. He noted Gov. Sonny Perdue got the same treatment earlier this week.

UPDATE 2: I talked to Sen. Saxby Chambliss about his Democrats-are-to-blame-for-all-the-economy's-problems thing. He wasn't quite as convinced on that, saying there's blame to go around. But he said Democrats definitely blocked various reform efforts. He also said he plans to have examples of reforms that were suggested, and how they were blocked, up on his Web site in the next few days.

Esquire slams Chambliss, Goddard

Joe Kovac, another reporter here at The Telegraph, saw this in the current issue of Eqsuire Magazine and wrote it up:
Esquire magazine's November issue notes every House and Senate race in America — 482 in all — and makes an endorsement in each.

For its plug in Georgia's U.S. Senate showdown between Saxby Chambliss and Jim Martin Senate, the mag. refers readers to its "The 10 Worst" list.

Atop that list? Chambliss.

"Chambliss is a senator today by sole virtue of the fact that in 2002 he attacked incumbent Max Cleland — who lost both legs and an arm in Vietnam and earned Silver and Bronze stars — as soft on defense and lacking in patriotism," Esquire opines. "Where was 'ol Saxby during the war? Home, of course, claiming a 'football injury.' How you get elected reflects your character, and Chambliss should never be allowed to live down the shame of what he did in 2002. Never."

Esquire favors incumbent Democrat Jim Marshall over Republican challenger Rick Goddard for the District 8 Congressional seat: "Marshall has the backing of Veterans for Freedom. Goddard has the backing of Dick Cheney."
I couldn't find this online, but here's last year's version. I spot checked a dozen of their endorsements. In 10 of the 12 they picked the Democrat.

So take it for what it's worth. But "Marshall has the backing of Veterans for Freedom. Goddard has the backing of Dick Cheney" is a good line.

UPDATE: Long as I'm allowing candidate bashing without bothering to call these guys for comment, I might as well post this. Because it's hilarious. Hat tip to... Bobby Kahn via Peach Pundit. Why do I suddenly feel dirty?



For the record, the Goddard campaign never told me that Gen. Goddard was out of cell phone range. I believe that's what they told Ben Evans of the Associated Press. I really don't remember why they said he wasn't commenting on the initial bailout vote for more than a day after it was taken, or if they gave me a reason at all.

Gen. Goddard's campaign has an event at 12:45 with House Minority Leader John Boehner. I'll post that later for a little balance, and try to get the whole "Where was Rick?" situation clarified a little.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A voters database that can't be queried?

The AJC had a story late last week about people being purged from voter registration roles for one reason or another. And this paragraph struck me:
Despite numerous requests, state elections officials would not identify the voters whose names were removed nor say how many people were affected in the latest round. Carrothers said the information wouldn˙t be available until after the upcoming election.
How you vote is private. But whether you vote, and whether you are registered to vote is a matter of public record, as are various registration and voting statistics.

I asked the Secretary of State's Office why they wouldn't release the details, and Spokesman Matt Carrothers said it's a technology issue. It would take a "significant amount of man hours" to get the mainframe that stores this information to spit it out, Carrothers said. And, at the moment, elections officials are too busy preparing for the election itself.

Think about that. The voter registration records are kept in a database. What kind of database can't be sorted with few key strokes?

Carrothers said he'd find out. I'll update when he calls back.

UPDATE: From Carrothers:
"Because of the technology. It just requires an immense amount of time to program it to do the query and then to run the query. ...

"Obviously this is a system that we inherited. Been in place... for about 15 years. ...

"It will cost several million to replace and upgrade the system."
At several million, I went off the tracks a little bit and asked why someone couldn't just run out to Office Max for a copy of Excel. Carrothers assured me that Secretary Karen Handel would be going about this in the most cost efficient and appropriate manner she can.

Any database experts out there who want to take a shot at this?

UPDATE 2: And I just don't know what to make of this:
Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue said Georgia has asked the administration to verify the identities of nearly 2 million voters, more than any other state. He wrote on Friday to Handel and election officials in five other states that have also requested unusually high numbers of identity checks. But Handel’s deputy questioned the validity of the Social Security Administration’s numbers.

UPDATE 3: The New York Times has a piece on this nationwide, and it appears that The Times' interest in the issue is what prompted the Social Security Administration to send the letters in the first place.

I have just solved all of our economic problems.

Instead of allowing the next president to choose a Secretary of the Treasury, we should have one of those Celebrity Apprentice game shows and let America choose.

Charge 25 cents for text message votes and, BOOM, bailout paid for.

Enjoy the debate.

N.C. county honors Sen. Chambliss' mother... for being a good Democrat

Emma Chambliss, Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss' mother, was honored by the Polk County Democratic Party in North Carolina recently. The award? For her life long enthusiastic support of the Democratic Party.


Except for raising that rebellious son, of course.

She sounds like a cool lady. From a Georgia Trend article in 2003:
On meeting President Bush in March 2002, Emma B. Chambliss told the commander-in-chief that she wanted her picture taken with him, but added firmly, "I'm a Democrat."

Senate, 8th District debate in Perry Thursday

Candidates for the U.S. Senate and the 8th Congressional District will participate in a public forum Thursday evening at the Georgia National Fair. The forum starts at 7 p.m. in the Reaves Arena at the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter. Fair admission, which is required to attend the debate, is $8 for adults and $7 for senior citizens.

The debates will also be shown on 13 WMAZ Saturday from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.

Sellier: Every movement in history started with one man or woman.

State Rep. Tony Sellier, who represents Crawford County and large parts of Peach and Monroe counties, is at Emory hospital recovering from a jaw surgery he had late last week.

From the tone of a letter he sent to last night's local political forum in Crawford County, he's doing quite well. The surgery was to repair "the last affects of the radiation treatments which cause me so much trouble last January and put me in the hospital for a month," the letter states.

But the rest of the letter was so beautifully written that I asked for a copy, and I'm typing it in here:
I have participated in these forums as long as I can remember. Even before I ran for office. Thank you all for taking an interest in your federal, state and local governments, regardless of your party preference, or if you don't even belong to a political party. Taking time from your hectic schedules to come together to listen to the ideas and proposals of your political candidates is, in my opinion, the greatest sign of your patriotism.

Much is going on in this country and in this world that challenges the minds of even the smartest and most educated of our citizens. It's up to each of us to carry a small part of the awesome burden of bringing us all together to solve the complex problems of this world. But, remember, all politics is local! Every great movement in history started with one man or woman who had a burning desire to affect a change for the positive that would improve their lives and the lives of their children and their children's children.
Here, here. Get well soon, Rep. Sellier.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Continuing to get your environment on

A Tennessee congressman wants to start a new government program to look for energy technology innovations, along the lines of what the Defense Advanced Research Agency has done for the Pentagon:
Why do you think DARPA is a good model for energy research?

DARPA was where the Internet was developed—and when they developed the Internet, they didn't really know all its uses. But they developed this concept and with that basic research, it flourished. GPS was developed at DARPA—again, not knowing at the time how it would blossom and be used for so many commercial purposes.
Recycle Bank is giving people "points" for recycling by putting GPS chips into recycling bins. The program is expanding:
What if you could be rewarded for recycling? The answer: soaring recycling rates in the East Coast markets where the company has rolled out. Wilmington, Del., has seen its recycling rate jump from 3 percent to 32 percent since RecycleBank arrived a year ago. In Everett, where the program launched citywide in July, the average household now recycles the equivalent of 830 pounds a year, up tenfold since the program launched. "The recycling buzz is out there," says Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria. "It's fun filling that thing up to the top."

So, uh, about that $700 billion...

The Dow's down about 500 points right now. That's better than 800...

We ran a good Associated Press piece this weekend about what has to happen before the bailout works its magic on the economy:
Experts say the most important thing that needs to happen before the $700 billion bailout even has a chance of working: Home prices must stop falling. That would send a signal to banks that the worst has passed and it's safe to start doling out money again.

The problem is the lending freeze has made getting a mortgage loan tough for everyone except those with sterling credit. That means it will take several months or longer to pare down the glut of houses built when times were good - and those that have come on the market because of soaring foreclosures - before home prices start appreciating.

Housing is a critical component to the U.S. economy and by extension the availability of credit. Roughly one in eight U.S. jobs depends on housing directly or indirectly - from construction workers to bank loan officers to big brokers on Wall Street. A turnaround in housing prices would boost confidence in the wider economy and, experts hope, goad banks into lending again.

"Housing traditionally does lead the economy through a recovery. I think it's going to be critical for a sustained recovery in this cycle, too," said Gary Thayer, senior economist at Wachovia Securities.

In the meantime, people like Alicia Elliott are adjusting to a new American reality: Life without credit.
The story also contained this. See if you can find the part that made me nervous*:
Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., the Financial Services Committee chairman and a key negotiator over the past weeks, said the measure was just the beginning of a much larger task Congress will tackle next year: overhauling housing policy and financial regulation in a legislative effort comparable to the New Deal.

In the meantime, the Treasury Department is moving swiftly to get the plan started. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said Friday he did not wait for final approval of the measure to begin preparation. He has been lining up outside advisers as his staff works out details on a multitude of complex issues.



* That's a trick question. All of it scares the hell out of me.

Georgia Supreme Court rules on transgender election case

The court ruled on several cases that may be on interest, including one dealing with manufacturer liability when it comes to childhood vaccines and immunity in deadly force cases. You can read about them here.

But remember this case, where a losing candidate in a Riverdale election argued that she lost, in part, because her transgender opponent presented her/himself as a female? Yep. Made it to the Supreme Court. From the opinion published today:
The Supreme Court of Georgia has unanimously upheld a lower court’s decision, refusing to set aside an election in Clayton County in which two candidates sued, charging that another candidate misled voters by identifying as a woman.

In today’s unanimous opinion, written by Justice Hugh Thompson, the Supreme Court finds that the lawsuit brought by two unsuccessful city council candidates in Riverdale failed to produce evidence of fraud, misconduct, irregularity or illegality. Georgia Randall Fuller and Stan Harris sued City Clerk Stephanie Thomas, asking the court to find the Nov. 6, 2007 invalid and to stay the Dec. 4 runoff. They claimed there were a number of irregularities that cast the election into doubt, including that transgender candidate, Michelle Bruce, who represented Ward 2 since 2004, committed fraud by identifying himself/herself as female.
Oh, Clayton County. You really need to get your act together.

Get your environment on

I'm working on a piece for The Telegraph called "Going Green in Middle Georgia." Anyone who's got a fantastic recycling or energy saving tip, hit me up at tfain@macon.com.

Please don't tell me that Bibb County has curbside recycling pickup. I'm aware of that. But if you've built a perpetual motion machine for $12.95 at Ace Hardware, I want to hear about it.

Now, courtesy of Neill Herring's list serve and The Wall Street Journal:

I remember seeing something on T.V. a few years ago about using tidal motion to produce electricity. At the time, I thought: "That's it. That's the one."

The Wall Street Journal reports: Dozens of companies, from oil giant Chevron Corp. to smaller firms like Ocean Power Technologies Inc., have invested in or are evaluating the potential of technology designed to harness electrical energy from waves, tides and currents.

The Journal also looks at Solar Power:
One of the biggest hurdles solar power faces is the price tag. The fuel is free -- but the residential systems that capture the fuel often cost $30,000 to $50,000. And that's just too steep for most people, especially in tough economic times.

Now a host of efforts are under way to chip away at the cost of solar, including a provision in the financial bailout enacted Friday allowing home solar projects to qualify for a 30% federal tax credit, replacing a $2,000 maximum benefit. In some cases, states and cities are offering people better additional incentives to install the systems. They're beefing up rebates and tax breaks and offering loans that allow homeowners to spread the cost of installation over many years.
Matter of fact, they've got a whole environmental section at The Journal. Damn hippies.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

CNN: National debt clock about to run out of space

CNN Headline News reports that, as the National Debt approaches $10 trillion, the clock in New York City is about to run out of space for digits.


Ah, the good old days, when our National Debt could be expressed in 13 digits. Image: HowStuffWorks.

They did some man-on-the-street interviews for the story. Said one woman: "I see an empire falling. And I'm sad. Because this is my country. This is my home."

Friday, October 3, 2008

Palin debate flow chart

My buddy Brian sent me this. It's not entirely fair, but it is funny. And there's definitely more than a kernel of truth in it.


File under: Things I probably shouldn't post because folks will think I hate Republicans, but I'm going to anyway because it's hilarious.*


* Not an actual filing category.

Chambliss, Isakson, on the bailout.

Bailout passed 263-171. Coverage here. Chambliss and Isakson were in Macon this morning. Filed this for the main site:

MACON - Sens. Johnny Isaskson and Saxby Chambliss flew around the state Friday to make their case for the federal mortgage crisis bailout, stopping in Macon just hours before the U.S. House of Representatives passed the package by agreeing with Senate proposals.

Neither man considered the $700 billion bill, which also includes $110 billion in tax and spending provisions, perfect legislation. But doing nothing was not an option, they said, and using taxpayer money to purchase toxic debt from financial entities should stem a credit crisis that threatens to cripple America's economy.

And, while neither could promise that the taxpayers would get all their money back, they said the cash infusion is an investment that will show returns, not a straight bailout of Wall Street firms.

"No, we can't say that 100 cents will, ultimately be paid on this debt," Chambliss said. "We can tell you that 100 cents out of every dollar that is repaid on these toxic loans will come to the government. And I think there's a good chance that, over the long haul, that all of this money could be paid back. But we can't guarantee that.

Isakson said there are safeguards in place so that if, after 5 years, the federal treasury hasn't made its money back, the president must submit a plan to recover the rest of the money from the people the various securities were purchased from.

"So you have fail-safe provisions in there to give us... every chance, if there is a loss or a shortfall, to go back and recover it over time," Isakson said.

The bailout has been a tough political issue for Chambliss, who is suddenly in what could be a tight race this year against Democratic challenger Jim Martin. Polling has shown Martin within striking distance of Chambliss recently, despite the fact that Georgia is typically considered a heavily Republican state.

Chambliss said calls to his office have been overwhelmingly against the bailout plan, which Martin criticized this week as "a typical Washington solution" that "fails to address the fundamental problems created by the deregulation of Wall Street," according to a Georgia Public Broadcasting report.

Chambliss said his vote for the bill was not about politics, but "what kind of America my children and my grandchildren are going to enjoy from an economic standpoint."

"My opponent said he's opposed to it," Chambliss said in Macon Friday. "So he's in favor of sticking his head in the sand, allowing the stock market to tank like it did Monday. I'm not in favor of that."

Rhetoric like that puts retired Air Force General Rick Goddard in an interesting position. The Republican nominee to face U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall in the 8th Congressional District, Goddard came out strong this week against the bailout, attacking Marshall for his yes vote.

Shortly before Chambliss and Isakson took the podium in Macon, Houston County Commissioner Tom McMichael, a Republican from Goddard's home county, told Chambliss "I'm with you on your decision and I'm mad at Rick."

"Talk to him about it," Chambliss replied.

Libertarian Allen Buckley is also facing Chambliss in the November general election.

I would have voted against the bill, obviously. ... " he said Friday. "I think the thing could have been done so that the people who are responsible for this mess are the only ones potentially at risk."

Oxendine: Palin won the debate

From Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, who's running for governor in 2010.
Atlanta, GA - A Statement from John Oxendine:

"Say it ain't so Joe...You Just Lost to the Barracuda

Governor Palin demonstrated that she is ready and most capable to serve as Vice-President. It was a great night for the McCain-Palin campaign and a great night for Georgia conservatives.

On to the White House. Go Sarah Go.
That statement could have really used one more cliche. And maybe an extra call or two for a town hall meeting where the president of the United States comes to Atlanta to talk about gas supplies.

John Bolton coming to Macon

You'll have to call to see if tickets/memberships are still available, but:
MACON – Former U. S. Ambassador to United Nations John Bolton will be the featured speaker at Mercer University's Executive Forum presented by BB&T on Tuesday, Oct. 7. Bolton will give a dinner presentation at 6:30 p.m. at The University Center on Mercer's Macon campus.

For more information, call Mercer's Office of University Advancement at (800) 837-2911 or visit www.mercer.edu/execforum.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Palin Debate. With Joe Biden

UPDATE: There are several fact checking efforts out there. Factcheck.org is a well named one.
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The Gwen Ifill thing: I wouldn't do it. Guess that puts me on the record, huh?
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Politicians not answering the actual questions. Shocking.
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Nice Wink. Dems have been making too much of the "fundamentals of the economy are strong" line.
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I've already lost count of the number of times Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has said "America" or "Americans."
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CNN's response meter is brilliant. I need a pie chart.
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Or a pie. I think I've got "America", 2 "American" at 3 at the 3rd question.
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94 times. 94 times. Barack Obama voted to raise taxes 94 times. About like the Dems and the "fundamentals of the economy are strong" line.
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Sen. Joe Biden: Palin is a liar.
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But John McCain voted for it like a billion times. (Actual number something like 470.)
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Palin: I may not answer the questions the way you or the moderator may want to hear." So why do we bring a moderator? She's talking straight to Americans. But allowed the moderator to cut her off. Americans are angry and hungry for more.
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Biden: Things should be fair.
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She's rockin it.
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I like how she says "details" like she's got something to prove.
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I noticed last time you guys wanted details. So I totally brought some this time.
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Biden: Gwen, I don't know where to start.
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So I'll start in Scranton. Where I'm from.
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Biden scores, says most small business owners make less than $250,000. Not one single solitary increase" in taxes. That better mean business taxes, too, Johnny boy.
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Some people call my dad John Boy. Old school.
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I take on oil companies, sucka. That shit don't play in Alaska.
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What percentage of Americans can find Alaska on a map, you figure?
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Palin: "My own area of expertise... energy."
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Palin: John McCain hasn't made any promises he can't keep. Hell, I've done that. And I'm not running for anything.
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Biden: We'll fight oil companies even more. Because we're America, sucka. Not a big-ass state next to Canada.
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Quick question: Which presidential candidate do you think has been, and will continue to, pay the most attention to the U.S. economy and other issues?
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Palin back on energy. Just an aside: We always talk about weaning ourselves about off of foreign oil. What about using their oil and then we're the only ones who've got it?
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Oh, right. Stupid climate change and man's possible, even likely, contribution to it.
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Text from my buddy Nick*: She can't answer anything that she doesn't have notes for.
Me: Luckily she's not trying.

*Nick's a buddy of mine, and one of those six reasonable liberals in the world.
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Biden: Climate change "clearly man made." Also, we can't stop volcanoes.
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Biden: Let's export wind.
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Mayrilyn*: I'm not liking this, baby.
Me: Can I quote you on that?

Let the record show she failed to answer.

* Liberal girlfriend. Yes, I have one.
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Biden: No difference between hetero or same sex couples in the U.S. Constitution.
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Palin: I won't be "anything but tolerant" of Americans choosing their relationships. Then gives a friendly shout-out to folks who don't like that and says marriage is one man and one woman.
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Biden: But we don't support gay marriage. Looking for marriage in the Constitution now...
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Biden: No civil rights distinction based on sexual orientation. You agree with that, right Sarah?
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Palin: Somehow says she agrees with Biden, but not in a way that she can be pinned down on whether she agrees with the specific thing he asked her if she agreed with him on.
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Palin: Beat al quaeda.
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Biden: With all due respect I didn't hear a plan.
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Palin: "You're plan is a white flag of surrender in Iraq."
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You know what Biden should say? He should say, "I might have said Barack wasn't ready to be president, but I damn sure know you ain't ready to be president."
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Then I'd be all like, "Oh no he didn't." I still can't get over that Iraq line. They're moving on to Iran and Pakistan. Palin should definitely shine here.
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Biden: Al quaeda lives in the hills of Afghanistan, baby. 7,000 Madrassas built along the afghan pakistan border. We should be building schools there.
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I think Palin said she just believes what an al quaeda leader said, and that it's one of the reasons we need to be fighting in Iraq.
Hitler called. He said the war's in Italy.
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To be fair, she also agreed with David Patreaus: That the central war on terror is in Iraq. Mine's funnier.
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I want to watch the South Florida - Pittsburgh game.. Does John McCain really not want to talk to Spain? Can that really be true?
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Joe Biden: Joe Biden has been Israel's best friend in the Senate.
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Joe Biden just said an election was a bad idea. Yeah, it was in the West Bank, but I didn't realize we ever held an anti-Democracy position.
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Oh, wait. Our Middle Eastern policy for like the last 50 years.*

* Might be a made up number.
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Palin: Barack Obama says we're just blowing up villages in Afghanistan. We're actually building schools. Can't we do both?
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Talking about American boots on the ground in Darfur:
Biden: "I think the American public has a stomach for success."
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Things everyone should be against: 1. Genocide

Biden: "We should rally the world to act and we should ... by our own movement."
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Palin: I am a Washington outsider and not used to your crazy ways. Your 'for it before I was against' it philosophy. Americans just want straight talk. Uh, Gov. Palin...
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Palin also for a no-fly zone in Darfur. Notes Alaska has legislation to divest from Sudan. Hasn't passed yet.
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Stop the presses: Gov. Palin just said the pundits would do their fact checking tonight and show differences between Biden's record, and his statements a month before the election. So Palin just did a 180 on her position on the press, while saying the press would keep her opponent from getting away with 180s.
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Irony of the night. No one will care, but, you know, I'm a reporter.
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Biden: Ask yourself if you're better off than 8 years ago. Then ask yourself if John McCain disagrees with George Bush on any major issue. Including taxes.
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Palin: "Say it ain't so, Joe. ... There you go. Pointing backwards again." Yes. Considering the past is stupid.
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Palin tells Biden his wife's reward is in Heaven. Because she's a teacher.
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Am I the only one who thinks that sounds like an insult? Bless her little heart - she's a teacher. And with Biden's first wife dying in that car crash...
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Biden: Dick Cheney has been "the most dangerous vice president we've had" either in the country's history, or "maybe" in the country's history. I missed the exact line. Though he's not the only one who's ever shot a colleague.
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I was going to make a kitchen table joke. (Both candidates have them, reportedly). And a joke about Biden saying he hadn't changed in 35 years. (What's that Obama mantra?) And then Biden choked up a little talking about his kids.

Biden: "I understand. I understand."
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Biden: "Let's talk about the maverick John McCain. He has been a maverick" on some things. "He has not been a maverick in providing health care to people... He's not been a maverick when it comes to education. .... He's not been a maverick on virtually anything that genuinely affects (people)... when they talk around their kitchen table." A kitchen table like the one at my house.
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Unless Palin shoots a puppy during this last question, she's done well.
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But it'd be more than fair to say Biden won.
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Palin: I'd like to be able to have more opportunities to debate like this, without the filter of the mainstream media. John McCain and I will fight for America. Reagan: "Freedom is always just one generation away from extinction." Or else we'll be telling our grandchildren what freedom was like. You know, she has been making me think of that movie Red Dawn.
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Did you know no foreign army has ever occupied American soil?
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Unless you count the British.
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Marilyn: "Not a game changer. She rocked it, obviously. But not a game changer."
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Campbell Brown notes Palin called Gen. David McKiernan "Gen. McClellan." You know, I thought that guy was at Antietam.
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Campbell agrees with Marilyn: "I didn't think it was a major game changer."

Sarah Palin prediction

Get your bets down now...

I'm going with "Nowhere near the train wreck some folks seem to gleefully expect, but also shaky enough to cause quiet concern among Republican supporters."

Live blogging here during the debate... maybe. Kind of depends on what football game's on tonight. And at 10 p.m. I'm almost certain to switch over to It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Yeah, actually, make that unlikely. Can I advertise, or what?

It ain't over. But they sure don't make it easy.

It's funny because it's true. Doonesbury:

Buckley in Macon this evening

Allen Buckley, the Atlanta area attorney and CPA running for the United States Senate as a Libertarian, will be in Macon this evening.

He'll be speaking to members of the League of the South at Stevi B's Pizza in the Publix shopping center on Tom Hill Sr. Boulevard at about 7 p.m., according to David Corr, a long-time local Libertarian organizer.

Buckley advocates a more limited approach to government, wants to close a majority of the United States' foreign military bases, simplify the tax code and tackle the country's massive debt. He's running against Republican incumbent Sen. Saxby Chambliss and Democratic challenger Jim Martin in November's general election.

The League of the South was founded in 1994 to "advance the cultural, social, economic, and political well-being and independence of the Southern people by all honourable means," according to it's Web site.

The site specifically notes that the league does not advocate armed revolution or overthrow of the current United States government.
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Just a personal comment here: When you have to look up the style and spelling for Stevi B's Pizza and the League of the South for one story, you know that's a good story.

Isakson, Chambliss on the BAILOUT! With plan details.

You know it's a big deal when Georgia's senators issue separate statements instead of a joint one. Sen. Johnny Isakson's has some details about how the money breaks down that I found helpful.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss:
Our country is facing the most serious and critical domestic issue I have dealt with in my 14 years in Congress. We have been betrayed by many people, and greedy Wall Street executives have abused the system, leaving taxpayers to feel the pain.

Today, I had a significant choice to make between two very different courses of action – do nothing at all or do what I truly believe is best for America. I believe to the core of my being that doing nothing will devastate our economy, destroy the financial security of millions of Americans and could possibly force our nation into a depression. I just as strongly believe the bill as it has been negotiated, and that I just voted for, will provide stability during this crisis and will begin to turn our economy around.

Let me be clear – this is not a bailout. This bill has been carefully crafted to arrest our current financial crisis, restore security for the American taxpayer and ensure that our nation is the strongest economic power in the world.

And every citizen can know with confidence that any individual who engaged in illegal activity – whether they are the executive of a financial institution or a member of Congress – if their illegal actions forced our nation in to this crisis - then they will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

I know that my vote in favor of this package was not the politically popular thing to do, but this is not a popularity contest. This is about the future of our country and the future that my children and grandchildren will inherit. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind or my heart that my vote tonight in support of this measure was the right thing for our economy, for Georgians and for our country.
Strongly worded stuff. I would like to hear from Sen. Chambliss what a bailout would look like, though. If this ain't it, what does it take? Just driving up to someone's house with a dumptruck full of taxpayer cash and leaving it in the night?

My address is...

Sen. Johnny Isakson:
"Tonight was not a night to say no to the future of the American people. Tonight was not a night to say we don’t have a responsibility to help," Isakson said. "This is on the shoulders of the Congress. The people affected are our constituents who voted for us and sent us here. This legislation is critical to allowing us to unclog the financial markets, free up credit to the average American and over time restore the American economy to what it has been and always will be – the best entrepreneurial capitalistic system in the world."

The legislation authorizes the Treasury Secretary to immediately use up to $250 billion to purchase distressed assets from institutional investors. If needed, the secretary may then access an additional $100 billion to purchase these distressed assets but only with presidential approval.

An additional $350 billion may be accessed if the president transmits a written report to Congress requesting the funds. The Treasury Secretary may use this additional authority unless Congress passes a joint resolution of disapproval within 15 days.

The legislation includes a number of provisions to ensure oversight by Congress and accountability to the taxpayers, including prohibitions on executive compensation to ensure bad actors are not rewarded. Specifically, companies that receive more than $300 million from this plan will have limits placed on their top five executives. These limits include a ban from receiving a “golden parachute” as well as limits in the tax deductions they can take on compensation over $500,000.

The legislation also continues the suspension of “mark-to-market” accounting rules that are already in place today.

“This bill does precisely the one thing that we can do to help unlock the credit markets and help the average working Georgian, the average Georgia retiree, the average Georgia child who is looking to the future to benefit from what right now is a very difficult situation,” Isakson said. “I encourage the House to act quickly on this legislation, because inaction on this plan will continue a downward spiral that will accelerate, will deepen and will touch every life of every American citizen and it will touch it and harm it for a long, long period of time.”

The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 74 to 25. It is expected to be considered in the House later this week.

The bill does not allow bankruptcy judges to restructure the terms of existing mortgage loans. Additionally, it does not provide funds for affordable housing community organizers such as ACORN.
Which night is it, you think, that is the night to say no to the future of the American people?