Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Bailout isn't even the right word anymore

We need a new term to describe the various economic recovery plans. Desperate Money Explosion comes to mind. The DME. I'm copyrighting that.

The New York Times has several graphics to explain it all, as well as a fine story.

I can't link this one directly, but you can access it in more detail from the left side column that accompanies the story:

This one tracks the companies benefiting from the $700 billion bailout.

It's amazing to me that the economy has gotten so screwed up that we're committing $8 trillion to fixing it. And that, when one of the problems has been people borrowing more than they could afford, the solution appears to be the government borrowing more money to shore up the system.

Like Ron Burgundy, I'm not even mad. That's amazing.

At the 2:44 mark.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Make not a house of merchandise

I'm doing a piece on the Georgia War Veterans Home in Milledgeville, which is closing one of its wings this weekend. About 80 veterans had to find somewhere else to live.

One of them is Thomas Roach, whose 80th birthday is Friday. Mr. Roach makes his own Christmas decorations, and he would put them up at the home each year. He strings all these lights together and hot glues them into every day items, usually glasses or those little plastic cups the home puts medicine in.

Sometimes it takes him a whole day just to make one decoration. He said Christmas is his favorite holiday. And, as much as we may complain about the economy, or the other problems in our lives, he reminded me how blessed most of us are in America.

"I can remember coming up, the hard times, we were lucky to get a piece of peppermint candy (for Christmas)," he said. "Nowadays, the kids, they have Christmas year-round."

One of the decorations included a tiny Bible attached to a piece of wood. As it happened, the Bible was open to John 2, which tells the story of Jesus confronting the money changers in the Temple.
And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables; And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise.

Banning cell phone use in cars v. banning bad driving

There's been some talk lately about making it illegal for teenagers to drive and talk on a cell phone at the state level and for all drivers in Houston County.

Here's the law as it exists now. Thanks to Susan Sports at the Department of Driver Services for looking up the code cite. It's OCGA 40-6-241:
A driver shall exercise due care in operating a motor vehicle on the highways of this state and shall not engage in any actions which shall distract such driver from the safe operation of such vehicle, provided that the proper use of a radio, citizens band radio, or mobile telephone shall not be a violation of this Code section.

Interstates, trillions with a "T" and sex crimes

Kind of a lot of news out there. I guess it's the pre-Thanksgiving rush.

Gwinnett County traffic to suck less, or more, depending on your point of view on toll lanes. You can thank the federal taxpayers.

Speaking of those guys - man are they generous. First there was the $300 billion housing rescue plan. Then there wast the $700 billion package, which seemed like a lot of money at the time. And the presidential candidates, they were throwing around the "b" word pretty good, with President-elect Obama's plan getting into the half-a-trillion range.

But, shoot, that ain't nothing compared to the numbers in this Bloomberg story, which I understand just well enough to tell you to read it, and to be frightened:
The U.S. government is prepared to provide more than $7.76 trillion on behalf of American taxpayers after guaranteeing $306 billion of Citigroup Inc. debt yesterday. The pledges, amounting to half the value of everything produced in the nation last year, are intended to rescue the financial system after the credit markets seized up 15 months ago.
How many members of Congress, do you think, could actually give you a total figure spent or allocated so far for various bailouts and economic stimulus plans?

In less jaw dropping spending of your money news, The Georgia Supreme Court struck down life sentences for people who fail to register as sex offenders. From the court:
(The court) today struck down as unconstitutional the life prison sentence given to sex offenders convicted more than once of failing to register, finding it “cruel and unusual punishment” that violates the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In a 6-to-1 decision written by Justice Robert Benham, the majority has thrown out the life sentence given to Cedric Lavell Bradshaw, although it is upholding his conviction for failure to register and is remanding the case to the Bulloch County court for resentencing.

“We conclude that the imposition of a sentence of life imprisonment is so harsh in comparison to the crime for which it was imposed that it is unconstitutional,” writes Justice Benham. “However, the unconstitutionality of the sentence does not require the trial court to dismiss the indictment charging appellant with failure to register as a sex offender.”


From U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss' campaign:
Governor Palin will join Saxby for four public rallies across the state on Monday, December 1st: 8:30 am in Augusta; 11:00 am in Savannah; 1:30 pm in Perry; and 4:00 pm in north metro Atlanta. More specific details on exact locations and how to obtain tickets will be available later this week.
That's one day before the election.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Zell on SNL: Video now found

Thanks to the commenter.

"Back in my day, a guy named Jim Martin comes up to you and says he's running for the Senate, you put him in a barrel and send him over a waterfall."

You're lucky I left my scabbard in my hot air balloon.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Zell Miller send up on SNL

Last night's Saturday Night Live had a pretty funny Zell Miller impression during Weekend Update. He was talking about how he supports Saxby Chambliss in the senate runoff because his name is cooler than Jim Martin's.

I can't find it on their site, though. But this Arianna Huffington piece was funny, too.

And any excuse to post the "Mark Wahlberg talks to Animals" sketch...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Man. The DOT is messed up.

Obviously I could be talking about any number of things. As it happens, this is what would be funny today, if it weren't for the DOT's $2 billion budget.
They changed the story to subscriber's only. Trust me, it was hilarious.
Now, to recap:
That summary doesn't quite do it justice. There are a lot of professional, competent people at the DOT. I know, because I've dealt with them often. And then there are plenty of things that just make you say, "Really? C'mon!"

People who don't know me well would probably be surprised how long I thought about what sort of YouTube would encapsulate all of this. I couldn't do it. Commissioner Evans is a unique story. But, minus the love story and some of the intrigue, this was my best shot:

Speaking of which, the "R" fell off and all it says now is K_UGER.

UPDATE: Icing on the cake? Board members want a raise. If I had to deal with all that, I would, too. Actually, I do want a raise. But see the link to our stock price.

Where the foreclosures are, and will be, in Georgia

These maps are from a DCA report I wrote about today, and The AJC covered in Thursday's paper. The (draft) report breaks down what each county is likely to get from the federal funds set aside to address the mortgage crisis.
UPDATE: I didn't do a good job of describing just which bailout this money ($4 million in Macon/Bibb, $153 million in Georgia, $3.9 billion nationally) came from. It's part of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act, which is the $300 billion thing Congress approved before they approved the $700 billion thing. If you want to participate in the various housing programs, here's HUD's frequently asked questions.
This first map shows recent foreclosure data:

The next one predicts where future foreclosures are likely:

Generally speaking, maps that show your state bathed in red, are not predicting good things. Unless they're political maps. And, even then, not everyone's going to be on board.

UPDATE: The more I look at the red map, the more I question it. That's a ton of "very high risk." I'm seeking more information from the DCA.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"The difference between freedom in America and not."

- State Sen. Ross Tolleson, R-Perry, speaking at a rally today about what's at stake in the Saxby Chambliss / Jim Martin Senate runoff.

"Obama and the whole bunch is out to destroy this country, I think."
- Jackie Barnes, Warner Robins resident, at the same rally.

"Why would you try to destroy a country you just became president of?"
- Me
Hyperbole, or, as it may sometimes be characterized, fear-mongering, is nothing new or surprising in politics. And it's not a ploy that just one party employs.

But it's an interesting strategy to use after your party has been so thoroughly rejected that the opposing party may well take control of the presidency, the House of Representatives and 60 percent of the Senate.

As Bill Clinton noted today, it's akin to saying, “Now you’re supposed to be afraid of what you just voted for."

But in some ways, to say Barack Obama will destroy what America stands for, that he will shred the 2nd Amendment or whatever other freedom you choose, in some ways that is an insult to America, to our Constitution and to the system of government we enjoy in this country.

It's a solid system, created specifically to withstand a presidency. If it can't withstand Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, what do you love about it so much that's worth saving?

Look, you screwed it up, OK? So things swung the other way. The good news is, the Democrats will screw it up again real soon, and it will swing back. And, if you don't like that, you could always consider non-partisan redistricting. Of course, you probably have to be in power to do that.

America is great because of Americans. I hear that a lot when I'm covering campaigns. Seems like it'd still be true after 66.8 million of them vote for the other guy.

Goff on Saxby: Vote for him.

Coach Goff is standing in front of a Saxby Chambliss banner, and I asked him if people ever call his Zaxby's Restaurants looking for Saxby, so it counts as politics.

But mostly I just thought it was cool to talk Georgia football with former Georgia Head Coach Ray Goff.

If you're bored with politics today, and you like Ghostbusters, Big Daddy Kane, Chevy Chase or Paul Simon...

Former Pres. Clinton will be in Atlanta later today. Sen. Chambliss and the NRA are going to hold a rally in Perry a in a couple of hours that I'll cover. Republicans are throwing money at Georgia to block a filibuster proof margin in the Senate.

But all I can muster is one big "meh" on politics today. Although I will say there's a new rule around here: If you reference Ghostbusters and I see it, it gets mentioned.

Anyway, I'm looking around on youtube last night, thinking: Why am I not constantly thinking about how cool Paul Simon is?

And then, BAM, I'm thinking: Is that what Big Daddy Kane really looks like? Because he's not that big.

Then there's this classic:

There's a bailout joke in these lyrics somewhere.
"I need a photo opportunity. I want a shot at redemption."

Boehner remains House minority leader

Republican leadership has been set in the U.S. House of Representatives. From U.S. Rep. John Boehner's office:
* Republican Leader: Rep. John Boehner (R-OH)
* Republican Whip: Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA)
* Conference Chairman: Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN)
* Policy Committee Chairman: Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI)
* Conference Vice-Chair: Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA)
* Conference Secretary: Rep. John Carter (R-TX)
* NRCC Chairman: Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX)
I don't know how many more of these "leadership chosen" posts I've got in me.

Retired teachers keep assured annual COLA

The Teacher Retirement System Board voted to keep the word "shall" in the language that gives retired teachers and annual cost of living increases instead of changing it to "may," which would have made it an option the board voted on. So sayeth the Lt. Governor's office:
“I applaud the Teacher Retirement System Board of Trustees for their vote today against a COLA rule change. It has been my conviction to do all we can to honor our commitment to teachers who made contributions based upon an expectation of certain cost of living adjustments. Therefore, before we consider any changes to the COLA, we should resolve many questions concerning the soundness of the fund and the impact on current contributions. During these tough economic times, it is imperative that we maintain this fund for our state’s current and future teachers.”
The governor's office had initially recommended the change, which retired teachers came out pretty strong against. Initial coverage of the issue here.

Jim Martin, Jim Powell coming to Macon Saturday

From a local Democrat:
The America is Back Tour is coming to Macon!

Join Jim Martin, Jim Powell, and Veteran leaders on the "America is Back" bus tour. Jim Martin is the only US Senate candidate who will work with President-elect Barack Obama to fix the economy and change the direction of the country.


Time: 10:30 AM

Place: Macon City Hall
700 Poplar Street
Macon, GA

RSVP: Make sure you indicate "Macon"

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Republican Senate leadership mostly set

Summarized from the lieutenant governor's office:
Majority Leader: Sen, Chip Rogers
Majority Whip: Sen. Mitch Seabaugh
Caucus Chairman: Sen. Dan Moody
Caucus Vice-Chairman: Sen. Judson Hill
Caucus Secretary: Sen. Bill Cowsert

Sen. Tommie Williams was nominated as President Pro Tempore and will participate in a final election to be held on January 12th.

EPA moves toward including CO2 in Clean Air Act

Neill Herring, an environmental lobbyist here in Georgia, called my attention to this story. From The Washington Post:
The uncertainty resulted when an Environmental Protection Agency appeals panel on Thursday rejected a federal permit for a Utah plant, leaving the issue for the Obama administration to resolve.

The panel said the EPA's Denver office failed to adequately support its decision to issue a permit for the Bonanza plant without requiring controls on carbon dioxide, the leading pollutant linked to global warming. ...

Environmentalists and lawyers representing industry groups said the ruling puts in question permits _ some being considered, others approved but under appeal _ of perhaps as many as 100 coal plants.

"It's going to stop everything while EPA mulls over what to do next" about how the federal Clean Air Act is to be used to control carbon dioxide, said David Bookbinder, a Sierra Club lawyer. "And that will be decided by the next administration."
Perhaps you remember court decision here in Georgia, where a judge held up a plant in Early County, saying its potential CO2 should be regulated under the clean air act.

I asked Neill to pontificate:
I guess you could say that the EPA has effectively, if not officially, confirmed the judgment of Judge Cummings of the Fulton Superior Court in the matter of whether CO2 is a "pollutant" or not.

Now comes the next step, where the EPA has to promulgate rules for regulating CO2. That will prove to be a bloody regulatory battle, enlisting hundreds of lawyers, copy machines, couriers and producers of misleading (T.V.) ads.

The proposed coal plant in Washington Co is the project closest to your newspaper's service area that seems to be affected.

The Early Co. plant is already stopped by the Cummings order, and the sequel of cases that will flow from it. She actually found against the permit on 5 grounds, (I think 5, maybe 4), only one of which was CO2, the others were other pollutants, like particulate matter, that everyone agrees are regulated pollutants, so if the GA Court of Appeals and the GA Supreme Court overturn Cummings on the CO2 issue, there will still need to be a new permit from EPD for the Early Co. project.

That permit could easily be affected by the EPA's new rules. Things are not looking so good for new coal plants.
UPDATE: I asked Greg Mullis from Tri-County EMC, which has been trying to get a new coal-fired plant OK'd, to comment. His full remarks appear in the comments for this post, but I wanted to put the bulk of that comment on the front page here:
In Georgia, current projections show a need for an additional 6,000megawatts of electric capacity by the year 2018. Most utilities understand and embrace using conservation and energy efficiency to address as much of these needs as possible. President-elect Obama has clearly indicated his intentions to oppose the construction of any new coal facilities. He has also voiced his intention of implementing a carbon “cap and trade system”, which will place significant new costs on ratepayers. Obama has also indicated opposition to any development of nuclear power plants. The remaining options for generation sources are biomass, with several small plants, totaling less than 500 MW being planned, natural gas, which creates exposure to great price volatility, and other very small Green Power projects. Despite being touted as saviors, wind, solar, and new hydroelectric generation are not options available to Georgians at this time.

The hard reality is that power plants take years to plan, permit, and construct. The needs for the future are fairly clear. We need to be building for that future now. Instead, we are waiting for future legislation and yet-to-be inaugurated presidents to decide what to do.
Greg also has his own blog. So far he's covered politics, religion, photography, mathematical similarities in hit songs and Barack Obama's energy plan. So go check it out.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Councilman Charles Jones stable at Med Center

It must have been a frightening scene at Macon City Hall this afternoon:
Jones, a 55-year-old who has a history of diabetes, appeared to suffer a seizure shortly after 4:30 p.m. while attending a council Appropriations Committee meeting at City Hall. Fire Chief Marvin Riggins, who also was at the meeting, was the first in the room to notice that Jones was in distress. ...

After helping to guide him to the floor, the chief began performing chest compressions as it became evident that Jones had stopped breathing.

“Breathe. Breathe. Breathe, pastor,” Riggins said, pumping Jones’ chest. “There you go. Breathe. Breathe. ... I know you can hear me. I know you can.”

Gov's Office: Georgia doesn't need a bailout, thanks

We had a story from the D.C. bureau yesterday about states with budget problems wanting some of that sweet, sweet federal bailout money. Georgia was mentioned as a state with a budget deficit, but there was nothing in the story about whether we planned on asking for a bailout.

Bert Brantley, Gov. Sonny Perdue's press secretary, says Georgia can handle things itself, thank you:
In all the budget discussions we have had both publicly and with legislature leadership, you have never heard us talk about planning to fill gaps in the budget with additional federal funds.

State agencies are making tough decisions and finding spending reductions within their budgets to ensure we do not spend more than we take in.

I think Georgians expect the state to balance its checkbook just as families are doing every day at their kitchen table.

A "wow" map: Voters, cotton and (non)migration patterns

This is an overlay map from Strange Maps, which I found linked off of Creative Loafing's nearly-always-interesting Fresh Loaf. They apparently picked it up from The Atlantic.

The blue counties went for Barack Obama in the presidential election. The dots represent cotton production in 1860, with each dot representing 2,000 bales.

I'd never heard of Strange Maps, which describes itself as a cartography blog. But after reading a few posts, I'm inclined to trust their analysis on this.

Gov. Mike Huckabee in Macon Nov. 29

Also known as the day of the tech game. From a Barnes & Noble press release. Barnes & Noble, located at The Shoppes at River Crossing up on the north Bibb side of Riverside Drive, says he'll be there Saturday, November 29, from 3:00 p.m. to 4 p.m.

He'll be signing copies of his new book, Do The Right Thing: Inside the Movement That’s Bringing Common Sense Back to America.

And since I usually read the last page of a book first, this is how Gov. Huckabee's book ends:
The presidential election of 2012 may well be determined by kids who are only 14 years old today — still in middle school. By that time they will be old enough to vote. If they chose to, they could change the outcome of the next election. I hope they do. We need a new generation of idealistic, optimistic, and energetic young Americans to step forward and say, "Give us a chance!" Some days, I lament that they couldn't do worse than what we've seen in the past. But it's time to focus not so much on the past as to focuse on the future. The reason that our windshield is much bigger than our rear-view mirror is that we need to spend more time looking at the road ahead of us than crying and complaining about the one behind. Elections are our system's natural means to correct our mistakes and enable us to solve them. We ultimately can't blame the politicians or even the press for the mess we're in. We have the power to change it, to fix it, to improve it, even to end it.

I believe it's time to hit the RESET button on our nation. We need to reboot the operating system and do some serious "file clearing" and get the system operating at optimum levels again. It starts now. It starts with me, and it starts with you.
UPDATE: Might as well post this:

And so it shows up on a google search: Chuck Norris.

Chambliss, NRA coming to Perry

Got this today, and Sen. Chambliss' campaign has confirmed the event:
Come celebrate your Second Amendment Rights with U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss & NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre!

NRA Rally

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter
Georgia Building
401 Larry Walker Parkway
Perry, GA 31069

PLEASE RSVP TO and indicate "NRA Rally" or call (678) 589-4888.
Speaking of this race, this whole Imperial Sugar thing is just weird:
Savannah attorney Mark Tate, who issued the subpoena, said the Republican lawmaker tried to talk some of Tate's clients out of suing Imperial Sugar.

Through his attorneys, Chambliss has said that as a U.S. senator, he does not have to comply with the subpoena

Friday, November 14, 2008

Presidential travel costs

This is the story I ended up writing:
When President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney visited Georgia this year for fundraisers, the political committees that brought them here paid about $55,000 to help defray travel costs.

But the final reimbursement to taxpayers will probably be significantly less, with the rest of the money returned to the Georgia Republican Party and Republican congressional nominee Rick Goddard’s campaign.
Click here to find out more!

That’s a normal practice for such visits and well within the laws governing presidential travel. The initial payment is considered a partly refundable deposit, though even the campaigns themselves may not be aware of this.

The process may give the public a false sense of how much federal taxpayers are paying for presidential and vice presidential fundraising trips, since campaigns typically describe the deposit amount as a reimbursement.

That was the case with this summer’s visits when, despite repeated questioning from The Telegraph about the costs, none of the entities involved revealed that the actual reimbursements might be less than the $40,000 and $15,000 figures quoted at the time.

That includes the Georgia GOP, the Goddard campaign, the Republican National Committee, the White House and the vice president’s office, all of which were contacted by The Telegraph this summer. The concept of a deposit was mentioned only recently, after The Telegraph questioned specific campaign finance records filed after the trips.

The same held true in 2006, when Bush visited Macon for Mac Collins’ congressional campaign. Collins’ campaign wrote a $40,000 check to help pay for the trip, but seven months later about half that amount was returned to his campaign.

“I wasn’t (aware of it) either until I got some of it back,” Collins told The Telegraph last week.

It’s all just part of the system, said Massie Ritsch, communications director for the Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog group that combs through campaign finance reports and breaks them down at

“To the victor go the spoils,” Ritsch said in an e-mail. “Unless campaigns reimburse the government for the full cost of transporting the presidential entourage and protecting the president — in the air and on the ground — taxpayers will always be subsidizing trips that are primarily political.”

The money flows like this: The local campaign pays the Republican National Committee, which helps coordinate presidential and vice presidential visits for congressional and other campaigns.

The committee holds the money until a federal official tells the RNC how much should be reimbursed for a particular trip. That money is remitted to the federal treasury, and whatever’s left is returned to the local campaign, an RNC spokeswoman said.

This is a standard procedure in place for decades, she said. Policies governing presidential travel reimbursements have been in place since the Carter administration, and they require only that campaigns reimburse taxpayers the cost of first-class airline tickets for political travelers, as opposed to those traveling on official business.

But exact figures are hard to pin down.

For example: For Bush’s trip to Macon on Oct. 10, 2006, records show the Collins campaign paid the RNC $40,000. Then the RNC refunded $20,880 to the Collins campaign in May 2007.

Presumably, that means that $19,120 was forwarded to the U.S. Treasury to offset some costs of the trip. But that is difficult to confirm because payouts from the RNC to the federal government, which are logged in routine Federal Election Commission reports, are identified by date of disbursement and are not pegged to any specific trip.

Final records for this year’s visits to benefit the Goddard campaign and the Georgia GOP are not available. Typically, they’re not published until about six months after a visit, the RNC said, which is usually well after an election is over. The differences may be somewhat irrelevant, though, when put into context of the full cost of bringing the president or vice president to town for a fundraiser.

A federal report from 2000 pegged the hourly cost of operating Air Force One, the plane the president flies in, at about $54,000. The vice president’s plane (Air Force Two) costs about $14,000 an hour to operate, according to the report.

Those figures don’t include the substantial security costs associated with presidential travel or the hotel costs for advance teams that precede the president and vice president.

Since presidential and vice presidential visits often raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for a campaign, the visits would be money-making ventures even if the full deposits were kept.

Paul Broun, Hitler, make Daily Show, Fox News

Perhaps inevitably, U.S. Rep. Paul Broun's comparison of Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler, made The Daily Show last night.

And you thought we'd miss Cynthia McKinney.

Also, I just realized. Paul Broun was democratically elected... just like Hitler.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Your elections are certified

Secretary of State Karen Handel has certimified the Nov. 4 election results. Final results for state and federal offices in Georgia are here.

And the fine print / runoff announcements are here:
Additionally, with the certification, the time period for a candidate for state office to request a recount begins, and the run-off election for United States Senate, Georgia State Appeals Court, and Public Service Commission-District 4 are officially set for December 2, 2008. Certification does not preclude the state from continuing any current investigations related to the General Election or from pursuing any future allegations that may arise from the election.

Counties should be prepared to begin early voting on Monday, November 17 and no later than Wednesday, November 19. Advance voting week will be held Monday, November 24 through Wednesday, November 26, 2008. To find early and advance voting locations in your county, please contact your county registrar’s office. Contact information can be found on the Secretary of State’s website: On Election Day December 2, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

County-by-county breakdowns of campaign donations

The Georgia State Ethics Commission has a new feature on its site that allows you to take a county-by-county look at donations to various state offices. You can see that folks are already contributing to the governor's race on the Republican side, for example.

Macon's messed up. That will be $420,000, please.

Matt Barnwell here at the paper wrote a piece yesterday about a Carl Vinson Institute study done for the city of Macon.

Not included in Matt's story, but interesting, are the results of an August poll of 573 city residents, who were asked where they get their news about city government:
41 percent — Local Television
23 percent — The Telegraph
15 percent — Other newspaper(s)
6 percent — News sites on the Internet
5 percent — Radio
3 percent — City of Macon Web site
3 percent — City of Macon Television
2 percent — Word of mouth/neighbors
2 percent — Other
1 percent — Refused to answer
As for the rest of the study, here's the lede of Matt's story:
The city of Macon must develop a culture of accountability, invest more heavily in its employees, empower innovation, plan for the long term and review its relationship with Bibb County.
While there are about 200-pages of department-by-department reviews, when it comes to the broad strokes, I could have told you that for free.

In fact, anyone who's been halfway paying attention the last few years could have told you that for free. This study cost $420,000.

It's one thing to pay consultants to help you fine-tune things, or when you don't understand the problem. But when EVERYONE AND THEIR BROTHER KNOWS that:

- the city needs more revenue, or less spending
- the 15 member city council is meddles
- the city and the county don't get along very well
- the city's finance department has lacked accountability, which kind of goes hand in hand with A FEDERAL GRAND JURY INVESTIGATION OF THE DEPARTMENT under the previous administration

When all that is fairly obvious, you probably have some low-hanging fruit to work on without needing a $420,000 study to get into the minutiae.

Now, to be fair, I'm sure this was a good study. I have a friend from college at the Institute who worked on it, in fact.

And this wasn't city money. It was from a grant Mayor Robert Reichert got to help develop more efficient city government. Still, I question how much can be learned from any report of this type that you couldn't also get by reading The Telegraph the last few years and talking to a few city employees.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

October revenue figures

Good news, perhaps? We'll see how November and December go. From the governor's office:
ATLANTA – Governor Sonny Perdue announced today that net revenue collections for the month of October 2008 (FY09) totaled $1,386,860,000 compared to $1,387,997,000 for October 2007 (FY08), a decrease of $1,137,000 or 0.1 percent.

The percentage decrease year-to-date for FY09 compared to FY08 is 2.0 percent.

U.S. Rep. Paul Broun

The whole "Paul Brown calling Barack Obama a Marxist dictator who wants his own private security force, then apologizing" thing has played out pretty well elsewhere, so I don't want to be repetitive.

But I do want to call special attention to this quote, attributed to Athens area Congressman Broun in the initial Associated Press article:
“We can’t be lulled into complacency,” Broun said. “You have to remember that Adolf Hitler was elected in a democratic Germany. I’m not comparing him to Adolf Hitler. What I’m saying is there is the potential of going down that road.”
Hey, I'm not comparing Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler, I'm simply introducing the concept of Adolf Hitler as a basis for comparison to Barack Obama.

UPDATE: Blake's got a piece out of Athens with Broun defending his comments:
U.S. Rep. Paul Broun's fear that President-elect Barack Obama might take Americans' guns and use a new national security force to declare himself dictator, as Hitler did in Nazi Germany, is a legitimate concern, the Athens Republican said Tuesday.
I remember hearing about a football coach who designated one of his assistant coaches to just walk by him on 4th downs and dissuade him from going for it.

He'd just walk by and say, "Punt the ball, coach."

Maybe politicians need someone to just stick their head in the office every couple of days and say "Don't compare anyone to Hitler today, Congressman."

Taxpayer subsidies for campaign travel: Even more than expected

There was a mistake in the original post, which I corrected. But since I've written a regular story about it now, I'm just going to link it here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A remembrance for peace, not war

Years ago we changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day in this country. And slowly the tradition of falling silent in the 11th minute of the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month to remember the end of World War I fell by the wayside.

It is right to honor veterans, and their families. But I think you'd be hard pressed to find a soldier who doesn't prefer peace to war.

From Kurt Vonnegut, a veteran of World War II:
When I was a boy, all the people of all the nations which had fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one and another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.
Thank you to the soldiers who fight when called. May God rest the souls of those who never returned. And may we all, one day, celebrate the existence of peace. Until then, let us commemorate its hope.

UPDATE: The holiday was renamed in 1954 by an act of Congress. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a proclamation calling upon people to "pay appropriate homage to the veterans of all its wars who have contributed so much to the preservation of this Nation."

From the Proclamation:
On that day let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of freedom, and let us reconsecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain.

Monday, November 10, 2008

How much energy does it take to recycle?

I wondered a while back: Does the energy consumed and pollution created by a curbside recycling program, or by your own trips to drop off recyclables, offset the good done by recycling?

I had trouble getting an answer, but Popular Mechanics has a recycling article up that answers the question:
The trucks that collect recycling burn more energy and produce more pollution than recycling saves.
Collecting recyclables isn't cheap—it eats up about 50 to 60 percent of the budget of a typical curbside recycling program, according to Lori Scozzafava of the Solid Waste Association of North America. And the trucks burn gas and emit pollution as they go. That said, "You're going to collect waste one way or another," points out Jeff Morris, a Washington-based environmental consultant. A recycling program should allow garbage collection to become less frequent (or to use fewer trucks), offsetting the cost and energy involved. Plus, new truck designs can collect both recycling and garbage (at different times), avoiding the huge capital expense of an extra fleet. They can also self-dump specially designed bins, saving time and manpower.

But all that turns out to be pretty much irrelevant to the question of whether recycling makes environmental sense. Scientists have conducted hundreds of "life-cycle analyses" to compare recycling with other options like landfill and incineration, following the entire chain of events from the manufacture of a product (using either virgin or recycled materials) to its disposal. The dominant factor in virtually every case is the enormous amount of energy required to turn raw materials into metals and plastics compared to the energy needed to reprocess products that already exist.

A study by Morris found that it takes 10.4 million Btu to manufacture products from a ton of recyclables, compared to 23.3 million Btu for virgin materials. In contrast, the total energy for collecting, hauling and processing a ton of recyclables adds up to just 0.9 million Btu. The bottom line: We don't need to worry that recycling trucks are doing more harm than good.

Treasury quietly changes tax policy... and how the financial crisis can lead to scary decision making

This Washington Post story, which Jim Martin's Senate campaign is sending out as part of a criticism of Sen. Saxby Chambliss' economic policies, details a very quiet change in federal tax shelter policy that helps enable bank mergers and benefits the purchasing banks as much as $140 billion.

The Post reports that this policy was changed without the knowledge of Congress, even members on influential tax policy committees. But that's not what's really worrisome. This is the last paragraph of the article:
"It's just like after September 11. Back then no one wanted to be seen as not patriotic, and now no one wants to be seen as not doing all they can to save the financial system," said Lee A. Sheppard, a tax attorney who is a contributing editor at the trade publication Tax Analysts. "We're left now with congressional Democrats that have spines like overcooked spaghetti. So who is going to stop the Treasury secretary from doing whatever he wants?"

Speaker Richardson re-elected

I'm not in Atlanta for the House caucus meeting, but according to State Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon), who is, Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson has been re-elected speaker.

UPDATE: The vote was 75-25. Be interesting to see what happens to those 25.

Farm subsidies: This might make you wince, unless you're a corporate farmer.

The good Keich Whicker is writing a paper on the self-sustaining nature of government spending:
What was created in the name of common good is sustained in the name of the particular interest. Bureaucratic clientism becomes self-perpetuating, in the absence of some crisis or scandal, because a single interest group to which the program matters greatly is highly motivated and well-situated to ward off the criticisms of other groups that have a broad but weak interest in the policy.

Perhaps the best example of this is what can generally be described as America's farming industry. Here, we find that from 1950 to 1970, the number of farms in the country declined from about 5.6 million to less than 3 million. However, during the same time period, government payments to farmers – in the form of subsidies and other assistance – swelled from $283 million to more than $3.2 billion.

Recent years show that the trend continues. The federal government sent about $13.4 billion in farm subsidies to more than 1.4 million recipients in 2006, according to an update of the Environmental Working Group's Farm Subsidy Database. The new data bring the 12-year subsidy total tracked online by EWG to more than $177 billion. Over that period, 10 percent of the beneficiaries collected 75 percent of all subsidy payments.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Friday, November 7, 2008

The look of the country

I watched the old Paul Newman classic, Hud, the other night. And there's a scene where Melvyn Douglas tells his Grandson:
"Lonnie, little by little the look of the country changes because of the men we admire."
There's a lot that can be said about the people we choose to elevate in America. But I figure more writing won't make the point any better.

Although, for some reason, this line from President Elect Obama got me thinking along the same lines. Have a nice weekend.

How many honest men you know? You take the sinners away from the saints, you're lucky to end up with Abraham Lincoln.

McCain headed to Georgia for Saxby Chambliss

No surprise, but the campaign is confirming it. Looks like Tom Crawford broke the news (subscription required) but I saw Tom linked off Blog for Democracy.

Michelle Grasso with Sen. Chambliss' campaign says they don't have a date or location yet, but Sen. McCain will be here.

"I just don't have a date yet," she said. "I've got a scheduling meeting at 2 o'clock."

Michelle said they've asked Gov. Sarah Palin to come, too, but no word on that.

No word yet on an Obama visit for Jim Martin yet, either, but you gotta think that's coming.

UPDATE: Coverage of Sen. Chambliss' initial announcement from Brunswick.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Monday's Republican caucus votes

There's been some brouhaha over the fact that, because he is in Iraq, pretty cool nice guy state Rep. Doug Collins might not be able to vote in Monday's Republican caucus votes. Those votes decide, among other things, the Speaker of the House for the coming legislative session.

Dick Pettys over at Insider Advantage wrote about the situation. Basically the caucus rules don't allow a proxy vote.

But now Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson has emailed caucus members language for a rule change, and surely it will pass and Rep. Collins will get to vote. From the proposed change:
Proxy votes from absent caucus members will be counted only if the absent member is serving on active duty in a branch of the United States Armed Forces and cannot attend the election meeting in person because of such duty and has, in writing, designated an eligible member of the caucus as their proxy to vote in his or her stead and has delivered such writing to the caucus Secretary prior to the election of the caucus officers.
As for the caucus elections themselves, I may already be on record about this, but I predict Speaker Richardson keeps his spot and it won't be close, various pot stirrings aside.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Audit: ATF loses one weapon a month

Well this is disturbing. From a press release from Oklahoma U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn's office, detailing an oversight report on the Department of Justice:
FBI public affairs staff, who are also responsible for working with non-fiction programs such as America’s Most Wanted to find and capture criminals, must divide their time to work with Hollywood. Some of their recent efforts have included helping with the fictional movies The Kingdom, Shooter, and Breach, and television programs like Without A Trace, and CSI.

The DOJ Inspector General conducted a comprehensive study examining eight years of expired DOJ grants, which found that billions of dollars in grant funding have been mismanaged. $7.4 billion in grants were not properly closed, allowing this money to simply sit in DOJ accounts. At the same time, $106 million in grants was erroneously disturbed to non-compliant grantees that were ineligible to receive the funding.

DOJ spent at least $312 million over seven years on conference attendance and sponsorship. In 2006, the agency sent 26,000 employees (one fourth of its total workforce) to conferences and spent $46 million in the process. These funds instead could have paid for more than 400 additional DOJ lawyers.

A DOJ Inspector General audit found that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), could not account for 76 weapons and 418 laptop computers. On average, ATF loses more than one weapon and seven laptops every month. In addition, the FBI and the DEA could not account for nearly 250 weapons.
I'm sure Justice officials have their side to this, too. But you can download the full report here.

UPDATE: The DOJ's answer, from a spokeswoman in the public affairs division:
* The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that policies and procedures regarding conferences are clear and consistent and that spending is appropriate. The Department has taken significant measures to ensure we have adequate oversight and control in this area.

* There has been a 36 percent cut in conference spending since FY 2004.

* Conferences serve a legitimate law enforcement purpose as they bring together federal agents, DOJ personnel and state and local law enforcement personnel for training and information sharing on a variety of issues including: information technology; state and local law enforcement cooperation; national security; drugs; guns; and crimes against children.

* The report contains previously released (old) information from an OIG report issued a year ago and contains information about conferences held two years ago.

* The Department has already addressed concerns from the OIG report and procedures have been put in place to ensure more consistent reporting, oversight and tracking for conferences and related expenditures.

* As an example, new guidelines were established in April 2008 to address conference approval, planning, and cost reporting.

* The report highlights conferences that are sponsored by non-DOJ groups that were attended by a small number of the 106,000 DOJ employees. The Department does not control the event agenda or spending at this kind of conference. The report takes a small number of conference topics and misportrays them as representative of all DOJ conference activities. This does not represent a realistic picture of DOJ conference activities, which are focused on critical law enforcement-related activities.

* In FY 2007 more than 19,000 DOJ employees have participated in conferences designed to provide critical operational training, such as FBI covert activities and foreign language training, intelligence analyst training, and ATF explosives training. Our U.S. Attorneys employees have attended conferences in support of DOJ law enforcement initiatives for fraud, anti-gang violence and internet crimes against children. The Department’s grant making components have offered training to more than 10,000 employees from our state and local law enforcement partners.
As for the gun losing stuff, this is a statement from the FBI:
FBI Assistant Director John Miller today responded to the release of the Office of the Inspector General’s (OIG) report entitled “The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Control over Weapons and Laptops Follow-up Audit.”

“It is notable that the Inspector General has concluded the FBI has made significant progress in decreasing the rate of loss for weapons and laptops. The OIG determined that when compared with figures from 2002, there has been a 349% reduction in the average number of weapons lost or stolen in a given month and a 312% reduction in the loss or theft of laptop computers.

“Still, we differ with the OIG’s conclusions in some areas. In a detailed response to the OIG, we outlined objections to certain conclusions and negative inferences made in the report, specifically with respect to lost weapons attributed to the audit period, which we believe pre-dated the audit. Nonetheless, we acknowledge more needs to be done to ensure the proper handling of the loss and theft of weapons and laptops, and the information maintained on them. We appreciate the work done by the OIG and agree with the majority of their recommendations. We have or will be implementing those recommendations.

“While the Inspector General acknowledged that the loss of certain resources is inevitable in an organization the size of the FBI, we nevertheless stand committed to increasing institutional and personal accountability to further increase the progress we have made in minimizing the loss of firearms and information technology components.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation: Now losing 349 percent fewer weapons in an average month.

Word on the street today

I've been out and about today, and I'm heading out again soon. But there doesn't seem to be the kind of energy out there you might expect the day after a historic election.

The Obama folks seem happy and satisfied, but last night's jubilation hasn't carried over to today. They just kind of have these wistful smiles - a sense of satisfaction and a job well done. They're basking, in a sense, not celebrating.

"This is a big deal," Wendolyn Smith, a Macon Obama volunteer said. "This is over the charts. ... Not just because he's black. He's not just black, he's mixed. ... He's one for all people. There's hope for this country after all and this is a big deal. And the fact that he is a minority makes it greater. Our country is moving forward."

And the McCain folks - I'm not seeing nearly the wailing and gnashing of teeth I expected (whiny Democrats, circa 2000 and 2004, please take note). Perhaps it's because they saw an Obama victory coming, but the folks I've talked to have been terribly reasonable.

I walked up to one guy, 26, white, wearing a business suit with a striped tie, Ray Bans and a cell phone stuck to his ear. He's a financial adviser named Mason Freelin, and he said he voted for McCain, but was happy with "either candidate."

"I think it's a good change for our country," he said of an Obama presidency. "I think it moves us in the right direction. We've lost a lot of credibility in the world's eye, and I think Obama will move us in the right direction."

Just another day in America, where we make history every day.

Obama front pages

You can look at front pages from across the nation here at the Newseum. It takes a while to load, probably because a lot of people are accessing it today.

I like what we did with our front page today, but I like The Anniston Star's headline better: "In Our Lifetime."

UPDATE: Our publisher just walked by. He said, "I think we sold all our papers." I imagine that's the case in most cities.

God bless the ones who run

Man, I will bang on these guys every day and at every opportunity. But it takes a special type to run for office. All images from our crack photography staff here at The Telegraph.

Rick Goddard, loser in the 8th District, hugs a supporter. That's his campaign manager, Lonnie Dietz, clapping in the background.

The thrill of victory. U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall, winner in the 8th.

Bibb County Commissioner Joe Allen, winner of re-election, with his wife and daughter.

And, while we're at it, a word for the poll workers. That ain't no easy 12-hour job:

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Freeman / Epps too close to call in H.D. 140

State Rep. Allen Freeman, R-Macon, is locked in another close one. Former Twiggs County Commissioner Bubber Epps leads him by about 100 votes.

Salzer and Galloway say there won't be any big power swings in the Legislature, so the outcome probably won't get a lot of attention on the state level. But it's interesting locally.

Breaking thoughts on the election: 8th District and local

Numbers are rolling in a little faster in Bibb County than in years past.
Rick Goddard is running about 1,000 votes behind the McCain / Palin ticket in Houston County, where he has to run strong to take down U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall in the 8th Congressional District.

Since the Mac Collins race two years ago wasn't in a presidential year, it's hard to make a fair comparison. But it's something to watch. This is the county's Web site for results.
This is the closest I could come to a comparison, from our 2006 coverage:
In Houston County... (Gov. Sonny) Perdue won all but three of 28 Houston precincts. Marshall picked up eight of those precincts, as well as the three that went to (Lt. Gov. Mark) Taylor. But he also ran strong in several other precincts that Perdue won, coming within a few percentage points of Collins in five of them.
Bottom line: Houston County is likely to be the most important county in the race again.
Goddard is still running about 54-55 percent in Houston County, about 2,500 votes below the McCain / Palin pace. Meanwhile, Marshall seems to be reaping most of the benefit of higher turnout this year, compared to 2006, in the more rural counties.

Bodes well for Marshall.
For comparison's sake: Past Georgia election results from the Secretary of State's Office.

The 2006 8th District Race.

The 2006 governor's race, which is almost worthless because everyone in Houston County loves them some Sonny Perdue.
Mac Collins won 54 percent of Houston County in his failed 2006 bid to unseat Marshall. Right now, with 13 of 26 precincts in, Goddard is running at 54.9 percent. Given that you'd expect Collins to have done better than Goddard outside of Houston County, that probably won't be enough.

Statewide, Marshall has a healthy lead, but none of the Houston precincts have uploaded to their site. That was a problem two years ago, too.
Goddard is still at about 54-55 percent in Houston County. Meanwhile, Marshall seems to be reaping the benefits of higher turnout in the more rural parts of the district while still running very strong in Bibb County.

Bodes well for Marshall. If I had guts, I'd call this thing.
It's 9:27 p.m. and I've got just enough guts. With the caveat that early / absentee voting is going to be a big number in this and every race, it's over. I just can't see Gen. Goddard making up the difference.

CAVEAT No. 2: The Secretary of State's Office doesn't have any Monroe County numbers up and Collins won that county in 2006, but not by a big enough margin for me to expect Goddard to make up the difference.

UPDATE: CNN hasn't called the 8th District yet. If I thought anyone was reading this in real time, I might be sweating it.
It also looks like Chairman Charlie Bishop is toast here in Bibb County. Again, he'd have to win the early vote by a hefty margin to pull it out. But, if there's anyone I've seen come from behind at the end of a race, it's him.
Final word in the 8th: Gen. Goddard has called U.S. Rep. Marshall to concede. He ran a good race, but Marshall goes back to D.C. looking just about unbeatable now in the 8th District.

And it looks like Marshall won Houston County. Wow.

Voting-wise, it's a ghost town out there

I just visited three precincts in East Macon, and called two in south Macon. Not only are there no lines, there are machines sitting empty. The after-work voting crush simply never materialized in Macon's heavy minority precincts.

We've also got a couple of reporters in North Macon (which should be Charlie Bishop / John McCain territory), and they say it's the same situation.

I don't know what all that means, except that early voter turnout will apparently keep me from having to wait for lines to die down after 7 p.m. before we start getting local results.

The reasons people vote and the supposed "Obama Bump"

Every election day I'm reminded how differently much of the general public views politics compared to those of us who work in the field, or who follow it very carefully.

There has been an assumption that the "Obama Bump" will help down-ticket Democrats as first time voters brought out by Obama vote for other Democrats as well.

But why would they? These are people who have been uninspired to vote before. Why would they lean to a particular party when they aren't engaged enough to know much about it? Might not incumbents, or anyone with superior name recognition, benefit more from the "Obama Bump" as voters simply hurry to finish out their ballot?

I met a woman today in south Macon who said she "just came out to vote for Obama." I asked her who she voted for in the Bibb County Commission Chairman's race here, which pits white Republican incumbent Charlie Bishop against black Democrat Sam Hart.

She said she thought she voted for Bishop, but wasn't sure.

Now this was a young black female Obama voter. This ought to be right where Sam Hart lives. But it wasn't.

It would be interesting to see how incumbents and people whose name appears first on the ballot do with first time voters.
UPDATE: According to Bibb County Elections Supervisor Elaine Carr, who gets top billing on the ballot depends on who the governor is. Since Georgia has a Republican governor, Republicans get the top spots on the ballot.
People's reasons for voting often make me shake my head, but there were some particularly good ones today. These are all from Bibb County voters who also gave their names, but I'm not going to publish their names here.

A 19-year-old white male voting for Obama: "I just felt like it."

A 47-year-old white male voting for Rick Goddard in the 8th Congressional District: "I saw his signs more than the rest of them."

Same guy, on who he voted for in his state representative race: "Freeman, I think."

Young black female who voted for Obama: "I just like the way he speaks."

Brilliant reasons all. Folks, "I've said it before and I'll say it again: Democracy simply doesn't work."

An open letter to the President-elect

Dear Sir:

I don't care which of you wins. But I care about this country, so I want your best from day one, and then every day for four years.

Truth be told, neither one of you impressed me very much this year. You both kind of worry me, in fact.

But, Mr. Obama, your words were beautiful. And, Mr. McCain, your patriotism runs deep. Neither translates directly into governance.

We have many problems to address. And notice that I said address, not solve. Life is not a phenomenon that lends itself to solutions.

The economic problems we face are in many ways cyclical and, perhaps, unavoidable. The cycle is that we take too much. We forget what our parents told us, that if something sounds too good to be true, it is.

The dream called America is not a big house and a 50-inch T.V. It's freedom.

We've got to have someone who can convince Americans to sacrifice, to be their brother's keeper to some extent, the world over, without being forced to.

Sen. Obama, I think you're going to win this thing. That's what the polls say. Please don't try to enact a far-left agenda, even if you get a strong Democratic House and Senate.

That's not what America wants, and it's not what America needs. America needs to remember that one of the things that makes us great is how disagreeable we all can be, while remaining one America. We need someone who will lead us in the true spirit of compromise and respect for others opinions.

And remember that the man most responsible for your election is probably George W. Bush, so don't let it all go to your head.

We have the wars to address in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a borderline pacifist, I don't know what to tell you about that. I do know that war so seldom is the answer.

There is an old proverb, perhaps ironically an Islamic one: "Blood does not wash blood." You may know it in another form, from the Beatitudes: Turn the other cheek.

No, I don't expect you to always do that. But I do expect you to keep it in mind, to be prayerful and cognizant of the footprint America so often leaves on a world we don't always take the time to understand.

Sen. McCain, should you pull this off, I ask that you be yourself — or, at least, the man I believe you to be. Remember this phrase when those same old advisers begin to whisper, but your heart tells you different: I am the one they elected.

I know you want to keep us safe, but I'd rather you help keep us free. I say help because that's a job for 300 million Americans. We must all stand up against violence and oppression.

And, I don't know how to say this tactfully, but please don't die. Gov. Palin isn't ready to be president of the United States, and I think you know it.

Gentlemen, something has been resonating with me since I read it in National Geographic. A reader wrote in and said "We didn't leave the stone age because we ran out of stones."

Of course he was talking about oil. But there's a broader meaning. We should not be bound by the constraints of old things, whether they be technology or the way we see the world.

When you take office Jan. 20, I don't ask that you forget history. That would be folly. I ask that you forget anger, that you abandon prejudice and that you discard revenge.

I ask that you lead us out into the future, with all our eyes forward, to a horizon where anything is possible.

Good luck, and may God be with you.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Well, I'm back

Thanks to Keich for keeping things rolling while I was gone. He hit on some good issues, with a lot of facts supporting them.

Obviously, he has no idea how we do things around here. Never, ever use your whole ass, Keich.

I checked in with state and national political coverage while I was gone. And I was struck by how little of it I actually needed to know about.

Not exactly a shock, and not good news for a man in my business.

More things of questionable importance in the big scheme of things to come. If you haven't voted yet, please be patient in line tomorrow, and cordial to those who disagree with you.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


For what is probably my last post, I thought I would address something I’m willing to bet few readers are familiar with: Piracy.

Yes, that’s right. The odd Johnny Depp summer-blockbuster aside, I doubt many of you expend much thought on the topic. In fact, some of you likely think piracy is something that exists only on the silver screen or history books. Am I right?

Unfortunately, for the men and women who ferry various goods around the world, piracy is a very real problem. Though it wasn’t reported very much here in the States, the recent seizure of a Ukrainian ship carrying Russian-made tanks and arms by Somalian pirates attracted worldwide attention and provoked both NATO and the UN to action. The pirates demanded $20 million for their "booty."

The recent Somali incident is illustrative of a worldwide problem that affects international trade and security. And if you’re wondering why you should care, consider that with international piracy on the increase, shipping costs and the costs of insuring the goods being shipped will likely increase. Now, who do you think ends up paying for these increases? Consumers, maybe?

Here's where attacks tend to occur:

Why Somalia? Well, The Times has a good story here:

Basically, the country is one of the world’s largest failed states.

Oh, and every single ship heading North or South through the Suez Canal (which connects The Mediterrean wit the Red Sea and saves ships the trouble of having to sail around Africa) has to ply the waters between Somalia and Yemen.

Check out the map to see what I mean.

Contemporary pirates tend to be armed with automatic weapons, rocket-propelled-grenades and a host of other weapons that make them slightly more intimidating that a guy in a frilly shirt who is swinging on ropes with a knife clutched between his teeth. In other words, Captain Morgan these guys aren’t. . .