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Cracker Squire


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Location: Douglas, Coffee Co., The Other Georgia, United States

Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

I love it when someone agrees with me; is it great minds thinking alike or the answer being so obvious? -- Time for Kerry to say I'm sorry.

On Sunday, August 29, I entitled a post "Sen. Kerry, the Olympics bring to mind the Greek Tragedies and the word catharsis -- And we Americans are a forgiving people."

I know what Kerry needs to do, and when I post it I hope someone can get it to Kerry. I am going to send it to the group Veterans for Kerry of which I am a member, but all are afraid to tell the Emperor he is naked. He needs to get his mess straight. Time is our enemy. Bush should not be a factor now, and he is more than ever. Kerry must do something and do it now.

What must Kerry do?

My Sunday post continues:

Because of something Kerry said over 30 years ago, he has picked a fight he cannot completely win, in my opinion, because of something he said during his Congressional testimony in 1972.

Any thoughts over the next day or so before writing my own will be duly noted, but the title of this post is a hint to my suggestion of the only thing Kerry can do at this point to put Vietnam behind him and move on.

Kerry needs to eat some crow and apologize about saying, years ago (1972) as a youth, something he didn't really mean and he knows now and knew then was and is not true.

Saying it was a disservice to all who have served this great country, and with this said, Kerry stands behind his record, and is moving on. With this behind him, Bush will attack Kerry's volunteering for duty and his service in Vietnam at his peril.

Well, for starters I threw you off. I said 1972. The year Kerry -- as a youth said things I do not believe he meant then or now -- was 1971. The setting was the photo you see of the Senator in his fatigues with his long hair, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

At that hearing he said that all American soldiers had committed war crimes as a matter of official policy. "Crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command" were his words.

The words were incendiary. They were viewed as the words of an anti-war activist accusing his fellow veterans of committing atrocities on a daily basis with the full knowledge of their officers. That is, atrocities of the type represented by what was known as the My Lai Massacre were commonplace and condoned.

The My Lai Massacre occurred in 1986 in Viet Nam. It involved the massacre by United States soldiers of as many as 500 unarmed civilians -- old men, women, children.

For those of you who have not heard of it, ask someone older who was Lt. William Calley. He or she will remember this is the officer who was court-martialed for the incident.

I was an Army officer at the time Kerry made this remark. All of my training was for going to Vietnam as a 1st Lieutenant and a platoon leader. Such training was under the tutelage of officers and soldiers who had served in Vietnam, and the war, Charlie (the Viet Cong soldiers), and war stories were very much an important part of our unofficial training.

When I heard his words, I was incensed. If this were my reaction sitting in front of a TV in America, imagine the reaction of those that were and had been there and knew knew he was lying, and in the process helping to turn the country against them. "Baby-killers" guilty of committing war crime were what some called our soldiers.

There were other post-war activities by Kerry, but none of this magnitude.

Does Sen. Kerry still holds this view today? He has not told us otherwise.

A wsj editorial I read said: "Mr. Kerry has never offered proof of those charges, yet he has never retracted them either. At his recent coronation in Boston he managed the oxymoronic feat of celebrating both his own war-fighting valor and his antiwar activities when he returned home. This is why the Swifties are so incensed, and this is why no less than World War II veteran Bob Dole joined the fray on the weekend to ask that Mr. Kerry apologize for his unproven accusations."

Since the Abu Ghraib prison incident, much of the public has perceived the Bush administration of arrogance. Is Kerry guilty of the same by not sucking it up and saying hey, I'm made a mistake. Catharsis is good for the soul, and Americans are a forgiving people.

Why did I decide to do this post today? Because today there is a column in the Washington Post by Richard Cohen that has the same advice for Kerry and says it a hell of a lot better than I can.

It is a must read, and excerpts will leave something important out. Thus the whole column follows below.

Today in the Washington Post is the following column entitled:

Needed: Straight Talk From Kerry, by
By Richard CohenTuesday, August 31, 2004

John Kerry, the Democratic Party's not-so-happy warrior, is breaking with tradition this week and making at least one campaign appearance while the Republicans dominate the news and hold their nominating convention (a real cliffhanger). In a sense, I applaud this aggressiveness, because Kerry could use every day he's got left until the election. On the other hand, now would be the time to pause and wonder what has gone wrong and what can be done about it. Kerry could start by clearing his throat.

At the moment, the Democratic nominee seems to be speaking from under water, making glub, glub sounds as he tries to explain his original vote in support of the Iraq war resolution, his subsequent vote against funding the war and now his conduct in Vietnam lo these many years ago and what he said afterward. The man carries a heavy burden -- a long and complicated public record that can be mined for the occasional negative nugget. It does not help any that as a public speaker he is no public speaker.

It just so happens that a man has appeared among us here who can show Kerry what to do. Sen. John McCain has been the toast of the town in New York this week, his birthday (68) being celebrated like the 12 nights of Christmas, only maybe a bit longer. On Sunday, though, McCain was all business when he appeared on "Face the Nation" and was asked right off the bat whether Kerry's recent dip in the polls was attributable to those wretched TV ads attacking his war record. McCain did not launch into praise of George Bush as almost any other politician would have done, but instead ripped the muggy air with candor. "I can think of no other reason," he said. Maybe you heard the thunder.

The irrepressible blurting out of the obvious, a McCain trait for many years, not only stood in marked contrast to what I had been watching before he came on -- George Pataki and Rudy Giuliani in full insincerity about the marvels of the Bush presidency -- but to politicians in general. It is a magical thing McCain does: Tell the truth, tell it simply and get on with life. The formula is so obvious, you'd think more politicians would adopt it, if only because it works -- never mind any silliness about truth being its own reward. Bluntness is, bluntly speaking, what Kerry could use in abundance.

At the moment the issue is Kerry's Vietnam service. He was first attacked for being a hot dog and a phony who did not really earn his medals. George Bush himself has now sort of put that matter to rest by conceding that Kerry is a hero -- although apparently not enough of one for Bush to denounce the ads. Now a second front has been opened. New ads attack Kerry for what he said after returning from Vietnam and becoming a leader of the antiwar movement.

This is a moment for Kerry to speak plainly, to embrace all Vietnam veterans and say that any suggestion that they were war criminals does not represent how he feels now and how he felt then -- and if he gave the opposite impression, he's sorry. If it takes an apology -- if it takes saying he was once an angry young man who saw blood spilled in a dubious cause -- then that's what he should say. Otherwise Vietnam and its immediate aftermath will stick to him as has his complicated and too-nuanced position on the Iraq war.

Kerry's inability or refusal to walk his cats back to the origin of his problems -- a wrong vote on Iraq and some incautious words on Vietnam -- has trapped him in a kind of rhetorical molasses. He's always trimming weeds that need to be yanked out by the roots.

Either by happenstance or design, I've been with John McCain for three nights in a row and have watched the magic he works on people. At a dinner one evening, someone asked the secret of his appeal. A colleague and I looked at each other in disbelief. It's his honesty, his willingness to (mostly) say what's on his mind. He just clears his throat and says what has to be said. John Kerry ought to try it. It could make him president.

Don't leave home without enough of it -- Homeowners Come Up Short on Insurance

My wife Sally doesn't read my blog. Heck, I don't blame her. But since she handles the finances (and lack thereof), etc., at our house, I hope she will review an 8-31-04 N.Y. Times article on home insurance. Excerpts:

[A burned-out California couple's] woeful shortfall in insurance coverage, experts say, is a plight shared unknowingly by millions of American homeowners. It has been fed largely by a shift in the way property insurance has been sold in recent years.

In a move to cut costs from claims, insurance companies began in the late 1990's to phase out coverage that guaranteed the replacement of a destroyed home, regardless of the expense to the insurer. In place of that unlimited coverage, which had become nearly universal, insurers substituted a similar-sounding policy with a crucial difference: it pays only the amount stated on the policy plus, typically, an additional 20 percent to 25 percent.

For their part, insurers insist that it is the consumer's responsibility to acquire adequate coverage.

The old policy was called a guaranteed replacement policy. The new one, which most Americans now have, is called an extended replacement policy.
"People look at this and it says 'replacement' and they think, 'That's good, I get my house replaced,' " said John Garamendi, the insurance commissioner in California. "But they don't get their house replaced. They get money up to the set limits plus the extended 20 percent or 25 percent."

While most insurance policies include a built-in escalator to keep pace with general inflation, the costs of building supplies and paying for construction crews have been rising at a faster pace, in many cases widening the gap between the amount a house is insured for and what it will cost to rebuild it.

A residue of racism and classism still taints some of Georgia's rural counties -- Did I hear it takes one to know one?

An 8-28-04 ajc editorial discusses underperforming schools in rural Georgia suffer in the context of the Gov. Perdue's recently assembled task force to re-examine school finance and come up with a more equitable way to fund public education in Georgia. The 23-member task force will focus on reforming the school funding formula established in 1985 as part of then-Gov. Joe Frank Harris' Quality Basic Education (QBE) Act.

We will all be hearing more about this as time moves on.

An 8-25-04 ajc article discusses this task force, and also how about 50 of the state's 180 school systems have organized as the Consortium for Adequate School Funding to contest the way state dollars are distributed (generally, on a formula based on student count). A lawsuit has been in the planning stage for at least two years and should be filed next month, the ajc article says.

For me the lawsuit isn't news. My school system (the Coffee County School District) is the largest school system in the suit. Most of the systems are small, real small.

The purpose of this post. To fuss at the writer of the ajc editorial. I know you can't write an editorial to please all of the people all of the time, and the editorial is a fine piece of work.

That said, let me observe that when someone tells me he or she is not prejudiced but . . ., most of the time you are looking at a bigot.

Me? Just as Zell claims he was born a Democrat and will die a Democrat, I was born colorblind and will die color-blind.

The editorial notes that "[a] residue of racism and classism still taints some rural counties." If this means that this is the case in rural Georgia, but most certainly not in the metro areas, I say baloney and hogwash.

Bush's Big Priority: Energize Conservative Christian Base

A fascinating wsj article discusses Bus's unusual strategy of playing down the importance of the swing vote as demographics shift since 2004. This stuff is fascinating. Excerpts:

In the tight 2004 race, no group is more important to Mr. Bush than evangelicals and Christian conservatives. As Republicans gather for their national convention in New York, these religious conservatives are at the heart of a Bush campaign that is turning traditional general-election strategy on its head. Instead of focusing on undecided swing voters, Bush advisers are putting top priority on maximizing voter turnout among conservative constituencies already disposed to back the president.

Behind the new strategy lies the story of a changing America, and of a campaign scrambling to keep up.

The nation's face is being reshaped in ways that aren't helpful to the Bush effort. The Hispanic population is exploding in size, and Hispanic voters are heavily Democratic. Other nonwhite ethnic groups are also growing. If all demographic groups split their votes this fall as they did in 2000, the Bush team estimates that Mr. Bush would finish with three million fewer votes than Democratic candidate John Kerry. In 2000, Mr. Bush lost to Al Gore by 500,000 votes in the popular vote. The growth in Hispanics largely accounts for the bigger gap.

Other trends also put bumps in Mr. Bush's road. Younger voters who grew up in the era of Bill Clinton rather than Ronald Reagan seem harder for Republicans to reach. Also, Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg notes that birth and demographic trends make them the most diverse generation yet: Just 65% of them are white, compared to 90% of seniors 65 and older. Early on, these youngest voters were the most supportive of the war in Iraq of any age group. Now they are the least.

Among women in 2000, Mr. Bush was 12 points behind Mr. Gore, but as president he seemed to narrow the gender gap after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Republicans spoke hopefully of "security moms." Yet polls show the gap has widened again. Meanwhile, Democrats are mounting an unprecedented effort to register unmarried women -- an estimated 20% of the electorate that tends to be less educated, less affluent and Democrat-leaning.

Many Arab-Americans and Muslims, who once seemed an emerging Republican constituency, are upset over Iraq. Among senior citizens, Mr. Bush had hoped that with the new Medicare prescription drug law, he'd more than make up the four percentage points by which he trailed Mr. Gore among voters 60 and older. Instead, polls show roughly half of seniors oppose the law, and a majority oppose him.

These are the headwinds that help explain Mr. Bush's unconventional strategy. Since the advent of television brought presidential candidates into voters' living rooms, the general-election campaigns of both major parties have been targeted toward winning swing voters at the political center. Now, more than any modern campaign, the Bush effort, led by White House adviser Karl Rove, has downplayed that goal in favor of a drive to wring more votes from the president's committed core of supporters. Mr. Rove calls it a "mobilization election."

Viewers of this week's Republican convention won't hear much about the strategy. For the broad national television audience, the party is showcasing moderates such as former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Some party strategists, accustomed to the more traditional courtship of suburban swing voters, consider Mr. Rove's approach risky. Playing to conservative Christians and other elements of the Republican base could alienate wavering voters such as Jews who are attracted by the president's strong support for Israel. One of Mr. Bush's initiatives that might turn away moderates is his embrace of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

Yet the math behind the strategy is powerful. Some 195 million Americans were eligible to vote in 2000. Only 105 million actually did, splitting virtually evenly between Mr. Bush and Mr. Gore. If the views of nonvoters resembled those of voters, as opinion surveys suggest they did, there were as many as 45 million potential voters for both Messrs. Bush and Gore who stayed home.

Among the group of latent Bush supporters, the president's strategists have focused particularly on white Christian conservatives. Exit polls of actual 2000 voters show conservative Christians making up 14% of the electorate, but Republican Party surveys suggest that the same group is typically closer to 19% of voters.

From that, Mr. Rove concludes that some five million conservative Christians failed to turn out four years ago. Because 82% of those who voted backed Mr. Bush, the nonvoters represented a missed opportunity in the range of four million votes.

Moreover, Christian conservatives are part of one big demographic trend that is working in Republicans' favor -- the rapid development of "exurbs" beyond the suburbs of big cities. Married families with children, many of them conservative Christians, are flocking to these exurbs but are often slow to register and vote.

"It takes them time to get settled, pick the right grocery store, the right church, and then get registered to vote," says Mr. Rove. "These are places we've got a lot of natural support that we've got to energize and turn out."

Mr. Kerry isn't seriously contesting Mr. Bush for the votes of white evangelicals or other conservatives, since his chances of winning significant support are slim. Instead, his campaign is seeking to win Ohio and other battleground states by exploiting anxieties over Iraq and the economy to rally blacks, union members and suburban moderates to the Democratic ticket.

Christian conservative churches have become prominent features of many exurban areas, and their members tend to like Mr. Bush's positions such as his support of a gay-marriage ban.

(wsj. Email for whole article.)

I watched some of the convention on PBS last night. One person interviewed indicated (I believe) that in 2000, 42% of the GOP delegates considered themselves born-again evangelists. This year, the figure is up to 50.5%.

Monday, August 30, 2004

People vote color, right? Not necessarily. Macon's Mayor Ellis says: "What you do is don't play race politics," -- Who said that? Mayor Ellis????

An article in the 8-30-04 edition of The Macon Telegraph by Travis Fain and Don Schanche Jr. is entitled "Georgia slowly becoming less likely to vote by race." Someone elseother than Merrs. Fain and Schanche must have written the headline.

The article quotes my friend Laughlin McDonald of the American Civil Liberties Union who has spent his career fighting to ensure full political participation for black voters throughout the South. He said he would like to believe things are changing, but he is skeptical.

"I would like to think voters are voting in a less polarized way, but that's not always the case," Mr. McDonald says.

We all recognize that race remains a significant factor in political races, but I do not think you can find the proof in the puddin from state races inGeorgia this year and some of the races discussed in this article.

Stem Cells Research is a Hurdle for GOP Campaign

Three years ago, President Bush used his first televised presidential address to put the emotional issue of embryonic stem-cell research behind him.

He unveiled a compromise: The federal government would, for the first time, provide funding for the research, but wouldn't pay for work that required new embryos to be destroyed. Scientists and patients advocates, who wanted the funding spigot fully opened, grumbled but accepted the decision -- as did abortion foes who wanted the work banned.

But as Republicans gather in New York this week for their convention, the stem-cell controversy has grown more divisive. A number of conservative Republican Party stalwarts, including Sens. Trent Lott and Orrin Hatch, have joined Nancy Reagan and party moderates in breaking with the president on the issue.

With polls on stem cells running strongly against the president, Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry senses a big opening on the issue.

Embryonic stem cells are present in the first few days after conception and eventually develop into eyes, muscle, organs and all the other tissue in the body. Scientists hope one day to be able to use stem cells to create specialized cells that can treat spinal-cord injuries, Parkinson's disease, diabetes and other illnesses. But harvesting stem cells destroys the embryos that produce them, a process that has plunged the work into controversy since 1998, when University of Wisconsin researchers first drew stem cells from human embryos.

Researchers would also like to create stem cells that are a genetic match of an individual patient, through a procedure known as "therapeutic cloning." In that process, a cell is taken from the patient, inserted into an egg emptied of genetic material and coaxed to grow by electric or chemical stimulation. In 1996, a similar process was used to create the world's first clone of an adult mammal, Dolly the sheep. Cloning is even more controversial because embryos are created specifically for research.

Pummeled by abortion foes on one side and scientists on the other, President Bush tried to split the difference in his Aug. 9, 2001, address. He said the federal government would back research on stem-cell lines developed by that date, but wouldn't put money into work that required new embryos to be destroyed. With the existing stem cells, "the life and death decision has already been made," he said.

After the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington a month later, the stem-cell issue faded. But advocates continued to work to block a ban on cloning, which had passed the House of Representatives, from becoming law.

The Senate never voted on the bill.

So far, while stem cells are rising as a campaign issue, cloning hasn't really registered. If it does, the Kerry campaign says it will point to Sen. Hatch's support for the procedure, which mirrors Sen. Kerry's. Says Sarah Bianch, the Kerry campaign's policy director: "Standing with Orrin Hatch is a safe place to be."

(wsj. Email for article.)

What did Zell know and when did he know it? -- Inspector Clouseau checks behind Political Insider’s Sherlock J. Galloway and Dr. Tom Baxter Watson

An earlier 8-07 post entitled "Mama said they'd be days like this -- the Zell Miller conundrum" quotes the following from an ajc article entitled "State Democrats let Miller be; Some hold out hope for backing in future:"

Democrats across the country have had no qualms about attacking Sen. Zell Miller, the highest-ranking member of their party to oppose John Kerry's election.

But one group of Democrats has been conspicuously low-key in its criticism: Miller's fellow Georgians.

An 8-30 article from the AP says "[t]he toughest question isn't why he made the leap, but when?" Continuing trying to come up with an answer to this question, the article quotes Rep. John Lewis:

"I don't understand what happened and how it happened," said U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a longtime Miller friend and the dean of Georgia's congressional delegation. "It's not like Zell Miller. This man is a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat."

The AP notes that "[t]wo years ago it was practically impossible to turn on a television in Georgia without seeing a commercial showing Miller strongly endorsing one of the state's Democratic candidates."

The AP article's conclusion on the when question? It doesn't give one.

Is there an answer? Well, in reading the Political Insider today I thought that maybe Messrs. Galloway and Baxter were onto something that might shed some light on the when question.

The 8-30 Political Insider reports that in doing some investigative reporting, it came upon a link on the website of Republican state Senate candidate Nancy Schaefer. Ms. Schaefer was the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor against Pierre Howard in 1994, when Miller was seeking his second term as governor, and the PI reports that such link has a page devoted to Miller's keynote speech at a dinner for Family Concerns, the conservative organization that Schaefer founded and heads.

1994 I thought, that was way back there, we might be onto something here.

The Pl quotes the following from Miller's speech for Family Concerns:

"I want you to know my Lord and Savior has forgiven me. And I hope you and Family Concerns can forgive me for my neglect and lack of understanding on the issues that were important to you and should have been to me."

I searched in vain in the PI article for the date of such speech (other than the obvious, that Ms. Shaefer is presently a candidate), knowing this might be our best lead to date on the when issue.

The next step? You guessed it. Google Nancy Schaefer to find her website. I did, and on her website is a link to Zell Miller. Voila! Eureka I exclaim.

A date is there, but dernit, no real help. Sen. Miller gave his speech containing the above quotes from the PI on May 3, 2004. Heck, we all knew it had to be before then.

Not being able to find an answer to the when question raised by the AP article noted above, I thought to myself. Asking the when question assumes there is an answer.

Sen. Miller in his book would object to this quesation, insisting that any such question be rephrased from when, to when if ever? To this he responds, it wasn't me folks, the Democratic Party left me, I didn't leave it.

This response by the Senator is beyond the scope of this post. But already the State Democratic Party and the talking heads are having fun this week with flashbacks and replays from days gone.

What isn't beyond the scope of this post are my thoughts on why most Georgia politicians, unlike many Democrats, do not criticize him.

As noted in the above-noted ajc article, many state party members believe attacking Zell would not help — and might actually undercut — their efforts to elect Democrats to state offices in November and beyond. I must add to this that Bobby Kahn, David Worley and Keith Mason must be excepted from such generalization.

The same folks, with my same exceptions, believe that with today's polarized electorate, Miller may be energizing Republicans, but he is not attracting a lot of Democratic defectors.

And also these folks, they recognize something that many Democratic voters do not care to recognize -- Zell remains one of Georgia's most popular politicians a potent political force in the state.

Is there anything to the headline in the above-noted ajc headline that some may hold our hope for future help by Zell? Charles Bullock, a University of Georgia political scientist, this so, and notes in this article that leading Democrats in Georgia may already be focused on their own races in 2006, when they may turn to Miller for an endorsement.

I ask, is there anything else? And I say yes, a big yes.

A lot of them just like Zell personally, the same thing I have said before about myself on this blog. Forget the politics part.

Forget the politics and GOP versus Democrats stuff. I have known him forever, and he is just a likeable type guy.

For much of the public who do not know him personally, a reason they like him is summed up in the following comment about Sen. Miller from Dick Yarbrough:

"He says what is on his mind. He always has. The media have a major case of the tut-tuts because he isn't saying what they want to hear. As if Zell Miller gives a quart of mule spit what the media thinks. I like that."

And I am not saying the following is true, but the following thing that Dick Yarbrough says about Max Cleland is not the sort of thing you will hear said about Sen. Miller:

"Democrat Max Cleland had an unfortunate accident in Vietnam when somebody dropped a grenade and he lost both legs and an arm. He has put his life back together and I greatly admire him for that. I didn't admire him as a senator. He spent more time cuddling up to the liberal wing of the Democratic Party than he did representing the people of Georgia. When Cleland was Georgia's secretary of state, he always spoke to me. When he was elected senator, he acted as if he didn't know who I was. I didn't like that."

As far is did Zell ever change, this is what Mr. Yarbrough says in an open letter to the Senator:

"In this day of sound bites and polling data and political consultants, you tell it like it is."

"Some people say to me, 'What in the world has happened to Zell Miller?' I reply, 'Nothing. The governor who bailed out Bill Clinton's floundering campaign for president and made the keynote address at the 1992 Democratic Convention is no different than the senator who is pushing for the re-election of Republican President George W. Bush. He is acting on his convictions.'"

It is hard not to like someone who can laugh at himself. In early April the Political Insider printed the following letter that Zell had sent to the Washington Post:

"It was a clever little article on Sunday ('Miller Accused of Flip-Flopping Over Kerry'), but incorrect. The Kerry campaign had no more to do with coining the nickname Zig-Zag Zell than Al Gore did with inventing the Internet.

"The nickname was first hung on me nearly a quarter of a century ago in a 1980 race for the U.S. Senate by my then-opponent and now-close friend Norman Underwood. Since then, by the way, I've won five statewide races in Georgia and carried that nickname along with me on every one.

"I also take exception to the comment by Kerry aide Stephanie Cutter that it's going to be lonely out there for me. I believe that in the South, fully one-third of Democratic voters will support George Bush for president -- maybe more.

"And by the way, that same night that I introduced John Kerry so pleasantly, he spoke of how happy he was that Zell Miller was back in politics and in Washington. I wonder if Jumpin' John has flip-flopped on that?"

And regardless of how one might feel about Zell, who will say the man can't make a speech. We will be exposed to a current and some former ones this week.

The following is part of one you no doubt saw some sound bites from and maybe the whole thing. It is part of what he had to say on the Senate floor about this year's Superbowl halftime show (he called the speech the Deficit of Decency' in America):

"The Old Testament prophet Amos was a sheep herder who lived back in the Judean hills, away from the larger cities of Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Compared to the intellectual urbanites like Isaiah and Jeremiah, he was just an unsophisticated country hick.

"But Amos had a unique grasp of political and social issues and his poetic literary skill was among the best of all the prophets. That familiar quote of Martin Luther King, Jr. about 'Justice will rush down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream' are Amos's words.

"Amos was the first to propose the concept of a universal God and not just some tribal deity. He also wrote that God demanded moral purity, not rituals and sacrifices. This blunt speaking moral conscience of his time warns in Chapter 8, verse 11 of The Book of Amos, as if he were speaking to us today:

That 'the days will come, sayeth the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land. Not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the word of the Lord.

'And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east. They shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it.'

"'A famine in the land'. Has anyone more accurately described the situation we face in America today? 'A famine of hearing the words of the Lord.'

"But some will say, Amos was just an Old Testament prophet - a minor one at that - who lived 700 years before Christ. That is true, so how about one of the most influential historians of modern times?

"Arnold Toynbee who wrote the acclaimed 12 volume A Study of History, once declared, 'Of the 22 civilizations that have appeared in history, 19 of them collapsed when they reached the moral state America is in today.'

"Toynbee died in 1975, before seeing the worst that was yet to come. Yes, Arnold Toynbee saw the famine. The 'famine of hearing the words of the Lord.' Whether it is removing a display of the Ten Commandments from a Courthouse or the Nativity Scene from a city square. Whether it is eliminating prayer in schools or eliminating 'under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance. Whether it is making a mockery of the sacred institution of marriage between a man and woman or, yes, telecasting around the world made-in-the-USA filth masquerading as entertainment.

"The Culture of Far Left America was displayed in a startling way during the Super Bowl's now infamous half-time show. A show brought to us courtesy of Value-Les Moonves and the pagan temple of Viacom-Babylon.

"I asked the question yesterday, how many of you have ever run over a skunk with your car? I have many times and I can tell you, the stink stays around for a long time. You can take the car through a car wash and it's still there. So the scent of this event will long linger in the nostrils of America.

"I'm not talking just about an exposed mammary gland with a pull-tab attached to it. Really no one should have been too surprised at that. Wouldn't one expect a bumping, humping, trashy routine entitled 'I'm going to get you naked' to end that way.

"Does any responsible adult ever listen to the words of this rap-crap? I'd quote you some of it, but the Sergeant of Arms would throw me out of here, as well he should. And then there was that prancing, dancing, strutting, rutting guy evidently suffering from jock itch because he kept yelling and grabbing his crotch. But then, maybe there's a crotch grabbing culture I've unaware of."

But as bad as all this was, the thing that yanked my chain the hardest was seeing that ignoramus with his pointed head stuck up through a hole he had cut in the flag of the United States of America, screaming about having 'a bottle of scotch and watching lots of crotch.' Think about that.

"This is the same flag that we pledge allegiance to. This is the flag that is draped over coffins of dead young uniformed warriors killed while protecting Kid Crock's bony butt. He should be tarred and feathered, and ridden out of this country on a rail. Talk about a good reality show, there's one for you.

"The desire and will of this Congress to meaningfully do anything about any of these so-called social issues is non existent and embarrassingly disgraceful. The American people are waiting and growing impatient with us. They want something done.

"I am pleased to be a co-sponsor of S.J. Res. 26 along with Senator Allard and others, proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to marriage. And S.1558, the Liberties Restoration Act, which declares religious liberty rights in several ways, including the Pledge of Allegiance and the display of the Ten Commandments. And today I join Senator Shelby and others with the Constitution Restoration Act of 2004 that limits the jurisdiction of federal courts in certain ways.

"In doing so, I stand shoulder to shoulder not only with my Senate co-sponsors and Chief Justice Roy Moore of Alabama but, more importantly, with our Founding Fathers in the conception of religious liberty and the terribly wrong direction our modern judiciary has taken us in.

Everyone today seems to think that the U.S. Constitution expressly provides for separation of church and state. Ask any ten people if that's not so. And I'll bet you most of them will say 'Well, sure.' And some will point out, 'it's in the First Amendment.'

"Wrong! Read it! It says, 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.' Where is the word 'separate'? Where are the words 'church' or 'state.'

"They are not there. Never have been. Never intended to be. Read the Congressional Records during that four-month period in 1789 when the amendment was being framed in Congress. Clearly their intent was to prohibit a single denomination in exclusion of all others, whether it was Anglican or Catholic or some other.

"I highly recommend a great book entitled Original Intent by David Barton. It really gets into how the actual members of Congress, who drafted the First Amendment, expected basic Biblical principles and values to be present throughout public life and society, not separate from it.

"It was Alexander Hamilton who pointed out that 'judges should be bound down by strict rules and precedents, which serve to define and point out their duty.' Bound down! That is exactly what is needed to be done. There was not a single precedent cited when school prayer was struck down in 1962.

"These judges who legislate instead of adjudicate, do it without being responsible to one single solitary voter for their actions. Among the signers of the Declaration of Independence was a brilliant young physician from Pennsylvania named Benjamin Rush.

"When Rush was elected to that First Continental Congress, his close friend Benjamin Franklin told him 'We need you. . . we have a great task before us, assigned to us by Providence.' Today, 228 years later there is still a great task before us assigned to us by Providence. Our Founding Fathers did not shirk their duty and we can do no less.

"By the way, Benjamin Rush was once asked a question that has long interested this Senator from Georgia in particular. Dr. Rush was asked, are you a democrat or an aristocrat? And the good doctor answered, 'I am neither'. 'I am a Christocrat. I believe He, alone, who created and redeemed man is qualified to govern him.' That reply of Benjamin Rush is just as true today in the year of our Lord 2004 as it was in the year of our Lord 1776.

"So, if I am asked why - with all the pressing problems this nation faces today - why am I pushing these social issues and taking the Senate's valuable time? I will answer: Because, it is of the highest importance. Yes, there's a deficit to be concerned about in this country, a deficit of decency.

"So, as the sand empties through my hourglass at warp speed - and with my time running out in this Senate and on this earth, I feel compelled to speak out. For I truly believe that at times like this, silence is not golden. It is yellow."

One of my yellow dog Democrat friends had the following response to Miller's comments: "Zell Miller is an idiot. He's lost it."

And this friend was worked up and mad. Me, I was laughing so hard about Zell talking about the following stuff that my stomach hurt too much to let all of his carrying on about his social and political views faze me at all:

Compared to Isaiah and Jeremiah, Amos was just an unsophisticated country hick; made-in-the-USA filth masquerading as entertainment; the pagan temple of Viacom-Babylon; the scent of this event will long linger in the nostrils of America; I'm not talking just about an exposed mammary gland with a pull-tab attached to it; Wouldn't one expect a bumping, humping, trashy routine entitled 'I'm going to get you naked' to end that way; Does any responsible adult ever listen to the words of this rap-crap; And then there was that prancing, dancing, strutting, rutting guy evidently suffering from jock itch because he kept yelling and grabbing his crotch. But then, maybe there's a crotch grabbing culture I've unaware of; the thing that yanked my chain the hardest; etc.

Liking Zell personally as I do, do I think he should switch parties? Hell, who am I to say. If he told me what to do and I did not agree with it, you can imagine what I would tell him in a respectful manner.

Liking Zell personally as I do, do I think he should be giving the keynote address at the Republican National Convention?

No, but Zell will be Zell. Always has been, always will be.

Do I have anything else to add? Yes, folks in the other Georgia sometimes have good ideas, believe it or not.

A case in point. My neighbor in Laurens County (yes, the county that had the messed up ballots in the Court of Appeals' election) Rep. DuBose Porter (D-Dublin) has some thoughts that in fairness to the Democratic Party ought to have gone through Sen. Miller's mind.

Rep. Porter questions why Miller didn't work within our Party to move it closer to the political middle. As Rep. Porter so eloquently puts it:

"I wish he was working more on ways to correct the Democratic Party rather than going and giving a speech at the Republican Convention," said Porter, House speaker pro tempore. "I wish he was giving that speech at the Democratic Convention."

(see 8-29-04 article in ajc.)

And the winner is . . . Jay Bookman -- A very timely column entitled "I, too, was abandoned by my party"

Hands down, no question about it. One of the best columns from this week and maybe the entire month came on Monday, 8-30-04, by Jay Bookman, deputy editorial page editor for the ajc. It is must reading. Posting excerpts will not do it justice. To wet your appetite, I'll give you one:

"The [Republican] party that had embraced Milton Friedman's common-sense warning that there's no such thing as a free lunch was telling taxpayers they could have a free lunch, dinner, dessert and after-dinner cigar as well."

You want more? The only way is to give it all to you. It follows:

I, too, was abandoned by my party

U.S. Sen. Zell Miller, a lifelong Democrat, says he feels abandoned by his party, which is why he'll be delivering the keynote address for the Republicans at their convention this week in New York City.

I have some sympathy for the senator. In fact, looking down the list of GOP speakers scheduled for primetime TV makes me downright nostalgic for the Republican Party of my youth and early adulthood, the party that might still draw my vote today had things gone differently. Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Arnold Schwarzenegger, New York Gov. George Pataki . . . almost every prominent remnant of the party's moderate wing will be up on stage for the national viewing audience, providing an image of reason for a party that otherwise treats them as illegitimate cousins.

If only that image were still real . . .

Growing up in a military family during Vietnam, I had little natural sympathy for the anti-war protests of that era; through my teenage years, it seemed to me that President Nixon was handling difficult times pretty well, at least until Watergate exposed his true character. But that was just one man's corruption, and in 1976 I proudly cast my first vote for Republican Jerry Ford over Democrat Jimmy Carter.

The GOP back then was still friendly to the environment; Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency and signed many of our landmark environmental laws. It still basked in its legacy of support for civil rights, and its strategy of wooing white Southern Democrats made bitter by their own party's role in ending segregation had not yet become evident. Its fiscal conservatism appealed to me as well. In my eyes, the Republican Party stood for competence and reason in a raucous era when neither was much evident.

But then came Ronald Reagan, who led the party to places I could not follow.

In the '80 campaign, I was startled by Reagan's contention that we could slash taxes and raise defense spending while still balancing the budget. It was an insult to basic intelligence. The party that had embraced Milton Friedman's common-sense warning that there's no such thing as a free lunch was telling taxpayers they could have a free lunch, dinner, dessert and after-dinner cigar as well. And from there it got worse.

Today, the modern Republican Party no longer has a plausible claim as the party of fiscal responsibility. That legacy began to crumble under the massive deficits created by Reagan, and it suffered another hit when it took Bill Clinton, a Democrat, to bring the budget under control and produce a surplus. But the truly fatal blow to that reputation -- the blow that has put it in the grave and tossed dirt on it -- came just in the last few years, as a Republican Congress and a Republican president approved the largest expansion of nondefense spending in the last 40 years, blithely dismissing the exploding deficit as somebody else's problem.

Well, I have two children, and they're that "somebody else."

Under Reagan, the party also began to woo conservative Christians with suggestions that by seizing political power, they could help save the soul of the American nation. Party leaders cynically calculated that they could milk the Christian movement for votes without ever really letting them have real power, but they were wrong. Today, the one-time party of limited government has mutated into a party that treats government as a legitimate tool for the cultural, moral and religious re-engineering of our nation.

Most of all, though, the Republican Party seems to have lost interest in competence. In economics, in foreign policy, on environmental and scientific issues, the voices of the competent have been silenced so the trumpets of the true believer can be heard. When practicality clashes with ideology or theology, practicality loses, particularly under the current administration.

In fact, "moderate" is about the worst thing that one Republican can call another Republican these days, which tells you a lot. The few moderates who remain have to fight for survival every day, until that magic moment once every four years when they are invited up to the podium, tokens of another, better time.

A fair economic litmus test question -- Are you better off now than 4 years ago?

Since Ronald Reagan posed the question with devastating effect in his 1980 bid to unseat President Carter, it has become an economic litmus test for incumbent presidents: Are you better off than you were four years ago?

An 8-30-04 article in the L.A. Times reviews how our nation is split on this issue, and has a line I need to add to my repertoire of one-liners:

"Just as all politics is local, perhaps most economics is personal."

The "perhaps" can be dropped.

The Philistines are after our friend 3rd District Congressman Jim Marshall -- Send him some stones and your dollars

On 8-30-04 Don Schanche Jr.of The Macon Telegraph Staff Writer reports:

Middle Georgia is likely to take a mud-bath during the next 10 weeks, as U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall, D-Ga., and challenger Calder Clay slug it out in a re-match.

Two years ago, Marshall beat Clay by a mere 1 percent.

The 3rd Congressional District, which occupies most of central Georgia, is generally considered one of the few in the nation not already locked up by one party or the other.

Political scientist Larry Sabato at the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, lists it among his "dirty thirty" competitive House races, "guaranteed to see the lion's share of money and mudslinging."

The good Lord doesn't make 'em better than Jim Marshall. He and Buddy Darden are two class acts.

Visit Congressman Marshall's website, and if you can, he sure needs our financial support (682 Cherry Street, Suite 300Macon, GA 31201).

Bush vs. Kerry On Your Tax Bill -- We report, you decide

Under President Bush we have had two tax bills that lowered income taxes, one in 2001 and the second in 2003.

For married couple filing jointly with adjusted gross incomes of about $225,000 or higher, and for single taxpayers with an income of $185,000 or higher (assuming typical itemized deductions), Kerry proposes to restore the following rates to what they were under President Clinton (that is, before the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts):

• Raising the top marginal income-tax rate of 35% back up to 39.6% and raising the 33% rate to 36%.
• Raising the 15% top rate on dividends to as high as 39.6%.
• Raising the top rate on capital gains from selling securities held more than one year from 15% to as high as 20%.

(We recall that prior to the 2003 tax cut, dividends were taxed at the same rate as ordinary income rather than at the favorable rates that apply to net capital gain. Now, after the 2003 tax cut, dividends are taxed at the favorable rates that apply to net capital gain, that is, 15% and 5%. This explains why the tax rates on dividends, under Kerry's proposal, would be higher than the tax rates on net capital gain.)

(As a tax practitioner for some 30 years, my platform contained some proposals for tax changes from someone who has been there and done that. These are on my website. Not having seen the light of day, maybe they will someday.)

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Sen. Kerry, the Olympics bring to mind the Greek Tragedies and the word catharsis -- And we Americans are a forgiving people

On Friday, August 27, there is a post entitled "Kerry's Attempt to Finesse Iraq Issue May Backfire -- More on Kerry's dumb "Yes" answer " that features a Washington Post article on Kerry's misstep that "all" consider a blunder other than Kerry himself.

The comments to this post were as follows:

Rusty observed: "The Kerry campaign has been stumbling around like a drunken teenage girl on prom night, and not just on this issue, The response the Swift Boat Fibbers has been sad to watch. Those spokespeople need to get together and coordinate and get some message discipline. Bush is creeping back up in the polls, and will likely get a bigger bounce from his convention than Kerry did, despite what conventional wisdom would dictate. How Bush is even still in this election is beyond me..."

Mae commented: "Lets just let Edwards answer policy questions on everything."

I commented to the comments: "Calling it sad is being kind. I think I know what Kerry needs to do, and I have been debating whether to post it for several days. Your comment has given me the resolve to say yes, do it. I hope someone can get it to Kerry. I am going to send it to the group Veterans for Kerry of which I am a member, but all are afraid to tell the Emperor he is naked. He needs to get his mess straight. Time is our enemy. Bush should not be a factor now, and he is more than ever. My post will be tomorrow, and it will address your very point. Kerry must do something and now."

Well, I didn't do the post yesterday, and the rain continued over the weekend. Today there is a N.Y. Times article that discusses Bush's direct role in shaping election tactics and his unusual level of involvement in the campaign and campaign decisions. One quote from the article concerns Kelly's dumb "Yes" answer:

"Two weeks ago, after learning that Mr. Kerry said he would have voted to authorize the president to invade Iraq even if he had known that Saddam Hussein was not armed with unconventional weapons, the president jumped at what he described as a political opening, aides said.

"That was a mistake - we need to seize on it," Mr. Bush said, according to aides. The next day, he began hammering Mr. Kerry on the issue, and has not stopped."

Today on The Georgia Gang Bill Shipp questioned the sanity of those running Kerry's campaign, noting that Bush must have a spy within the campaign's ranks suggesting moves guaranteed to fail (this is a lot of paraphrasing other than the "spy" bit).

In particular, Mr. Shipp wondered why in the world would the campaign have sent former Sen. Max Cleland to Crawford, Texas in the recent campaign stunt, something that further focuses on Vietnam, an issue that is killing Kerry. (We discussed the stunt in an earlier post entitled "I hope Cleland and the press corps flew Delta -- Otherwise what a waste of our Kerry political contributions.")

Folks, the Okefenokee Swamp (and no damnit, I didn't say anything about Route 3 Swamp Road) is about 45 minutes from Douglas. Some of us old-timers remember a comic strip entitled Pogo. A likeness of Pogo is on the water tower in downtown Waycross. Pogo and his friends lived in the Okefenokee Swamp, and one of Pogo's most famous lines was "We have met the enemy . . . and he is us." (Pogo's creator was Walt Kelly, an animator who worked with Walt Disney, and yes, this is another story.)

You know where this is leading, and thus I won't say it.

The weekend The Macon Telegraph had an editorial entitled "Candidates shortchanging electorate with side issues." The well-reasoned editorial reads as follows:

All right, presidential candidates, you've had your fun. It's time now to cut short the dog-and-pony show and concentrate on dealing with real issues facing this country.

While they may think it's accomplishing their goals when they blindside the American public with antics that mean next to nothing - refighting the 30-year-old Vietnam War or doing something tacky like sending a disabled veteran to the president's home in Texas to deliver a message he got got days ago, really suggests that they think the voters must be idiots who can't cope with real issues.

But let's assume that this is not what they think.

Whether or not John Kerry got a Purple Heart for a minor wound, or whether or not George W. Bush went into the Air National Guard to avoid combat in Vietnam, has little if any relevance now. What the candidates should be doing now is to tell us what they think the major issues are, in their order of priorities, and how they intend to address these concerns.

Once they do that, then the voters can reasonably choose the candidate they believe is best for the job.

But time is growing short. Bush and Kerry must attend to those issues confronting us now. Some of the more pressing issues include:

• What is the best outcome we can expect in the Iraq war, and how can the United States most effectively achieve that end and then get out with the fewest possible losses? We've lost about a thousand soldiers so far. Is it time to have an exit strategy worked out?

• Is the U.S. role to be the world's policeman? Or, would it be a wise move to re-establish ties with countries that apparently think we've developed a John Wayne complex? Is there a reasonable middle ground we on which we should be standing - providing strength when necessary while taking into consideration how we can respond to crises without tromping on our allies' toes?

• How can we best address the problem of Islamic terrorism? What is the fastest and most efficient way we can devise to analyze intelligence data to detect and stop attacks? (Hint: the 9/11 Commission's recommendations are a good place to start.)

• How can we best address the problem of immigration? How and to what degree should the United States restrict entry to potential new citizens, students or visitors?

The list goes on and on. Improving public education. Addressing problems of health care. Tax code changes. Social Security issues Entitlement programs, prison system woes, church and state questions. Jobs and the economy. A huge growing national debt. All are important, and all cry out for attention.

These are the problems facing America. To avoid them by substituting smoke-and- mirror issues shortchanges the electorate.

Amen, everyone was heard to say, and hear hear to the message and the messenger. The problem is, Bush has been gaining on the battle that some would argue Kerry began, and thus Bush will would ask, why should he cease and desist going with a winning strategy.

How did Kerry begin it? It could be argued he did so in a two-step maneuver. First, on February 8 of this year he questioned President's Bush's military-service record by saying:

"The issue here, as I have heard it raised, is was he present and active on duty in Alabama at the times he was supposed to be. . . . Just because you get an honorable discharge does not in fact answer that question."

And then after having first questioned Bush's war service, at the convention Kerry made his Vietnam service an important part of his campaign.

Will Bush cease and desist? Of course he won't. This week will get him going even stronger, as it is time for him and the GOP to be front and center rather than Kerry and the Demo's.

Any solution? The big bucks Kerry is spending ought to produce something, and such big bucks should have produced someone who was not afraid to tell the emperor he would be exposed as naked if he fell into Bush's trap and said "Yes" after having had an extended period of time to formulate an answer (if he even wanted to answer at all, that is, why let Bush set the election's agenda).

Someone ought to have been willing to say, fire me if you want to Senator, but if you say what you say you are going to say, you risk losing this election. You risk exposing America to four more years of Bush and Cheney. You Sir, are wrong, and a damn fool if you say "Yes," no disrespect intended Sir.

Well, it didn't happen, and thus we must make the best of what we have.

The solution: A rule in politics is that anyone who picks a fight ought to be prepared to finish it. Because of something Kerry said over 30 years ago, he has picked a fight he cannot completely win, in my opinion, because of something he said during his Congressional testimony in 1972.

Any thoughts over the next day or so before writing my own will be duly noted, but the title of this post is a hint to my suggestion of the only thing Kerry can do at this point to put Vietnam behind him and move on.

Kerry needs to eat some crow and apologize about saying, years ago (1972) as a youth, something he didn't really mean and he knows now and knew then was and is not true.

Saying it was a disservice to all who have served this great country, and with this said, Kerry stands behind his record, and is moving on. With this behind him, Bush will attack Kerry's volunteering for duty and his service in Vietnam at his peril.

Attempt to Track Malpractice Cases Is Often Thwarted – How: Delete Physician's Name From Suit Before Settling -- We report, you decide

On a summer day six years ago, Elizabeth Riley entered Northwestern Memorial Hospital. She was vomiting and complaining of the worst headache of her life.

The 33-year-old cosmetics saleswoman was diagnosed with a neck sprain and sent home. Ten days later, Ms. Riley suffered a massive stroke. Part of her brain had to be removed and she was left a paraplegic.

Ms. Riley's father, Gerard, acting on her behalf, sued Northwestern and the doctor who treated her, contending they should have detected a bulging and leaking blood vessel inside her skull. The doctor responded that Ms. Riley hadn't followed his advice to see her own doctor in two or three days and to come back if her symptoms worsened. In 2002, after nearly three years of litigation, the lawsuit took a strange turn. Just before the case went to the jury, Mr. Riley agreed to dismiss the doctor as a defendant in the suit. The following day, the doctor's employer settled the case for $17.5 million.

It was one of the largest medical malpractice awards ever in Illinois. But it was never reported to the nation's only central repository for malpractice information, a government-run facility known as the National Practitioner Data Bank. That's because such cases are allowed to go unreported under a widely used but little-known clause in the rules governing the Data Bank's operation.

The clause is known in the medical and insurance worlds as the "corporate shield." It comes into play when individuals filing malpractice claims remove a doctor's name from the claim, leaving only the hospital or another corporate entity identified as the responsible party. The Data Bank's rules require the reporting only of doctors named in final malpractice settlements, so a payment doesn't have to be reported when a doctor's name is removed from the claim.

Such an omission appears to undermine the main purpose of the Data Bank. It was created by Congress nearly 20 years ago to improve patient safety, after a number of cases surfaced showing that states and individual organizations had failed to restrict the practices of possibly incompetent physicians. The Data Bank was designed to make it easier for hospitals and state licensing boards to check on doctors' qualifications before hiring or licensing them.

Instead, the Data Bank could be missing information on as many as half of malpractice payments. Without the corporate shield, the number of malpractice payments reported to the Data Bank each year could double to 38,000, according to an estimate prepared in 1998 by the federal government agency charged with administering the Data Bank.

In Ms. Riley's case, the doctor was employed by Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation Inc., a not-for-profit corporation that employs doctors who work at Northwestern hospital. A spokesman for the foundation, which settled the case, confirmed that the case wasn't reported to the Data Bank. "We'd prefer not to get into" whether the foundation asked Ms. Riley's attorneys to dismiss the doctor from the suit prior to settlement, the spokesman said.

Northwestern hospital conducted an internal review of the case, a hospital spokeswoman said, but she declined to comment on the results.
The federal agency that administers the Data Bank, the Health Resources and Services Administration, has known of the impact of the corporate shield for more than a decade. It has tried twice to change the rules governing the Data Bank, in 1998 and 2000. But its efforts were stymied by medical groups and malpractice-insurance companies, many of which are represented on a 30-member executive committee that advises the HRSA on the Data Bank.

At least one of those groups on the committee, the American Medical Association, wants the Data Bank abolished. The AMA argues that malpractice claims data are not a good indicator of a doctor's skills. Doctors also worry that a listing in the Data Bank could hurt their prospects for employment. However, some hospital executives say malpractice suits are so common that a notation in the Data Bank wouldn't necessarily hurt a doctor's chances of getting hospital privileges.

(wsj. Email me to request whole article.)

I confess that the man is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't as far as I am concerned -- Commissioner of Insurance John Oxendine

You know the type -- it matters not what he or she does, you always suspect a rat, an ulterior motive, etc.

Well, I readily confess that this is my immediate thought and reaction to anything I read or head about what John Oxendine has said or done.

Friday I read in an insurance industry publication Insurance Journal: "Ga. Commissioner Fines Loan Company $400,000." Then in the weekend edition of one of our local papers I find the same article.

Just another press release from the Commissioner's office -- hardly? In this one the Commissioner is claiming to have actually done something that his job description requires him to do.

My cynical reaction -- what a dumb loan company. Doesn't it know that even though "cuff link Carl" Sanders beat "they ate my bar-b-que Marvin Griffin" decades ago, the same rules still prevail in certain departments in state government?

And even if that Georgia gubernatorial race -- being in 1962 and that represented good's triumph over evil for me when I was 13 -- was before this loan company's time, didn't it's officers see The Godfather? You pay up one way or the other.

(As an aside, 1962 was an important year in Georgia history. That year in Westberry v. Sanders a federal court invalidated our state's county-unit system, and thus was born the one man one vote concept. And Gov. Sanders became Georgia's first governor elected by popular vote rather than under the county-unit system. The county-unit system was somewhat akin to the electoral college on the federal scene, but with significant differences.)

(For the what it's worth department, while I generally agree with doing away with the county unit system -- there is some logic to having our state senate comprised differently than the state house just as it is with the U.S. Senate, not necessarily by county, but on some other basis than just one man one vote -- currently I am not in favor of doing away with the electoral college. It might need some revising, I really don't know; all I know about it is what I learned in college while minoring in political science and watching it every four years. Thus I am not an expert in the subject to say the least. But I do know that I don't want New York, California, Florida and Pennsylvania being the only states that determine who our president will be. But I digress big-time, and back to Commissioner Oxendine and unsolving the mystery: did he actually fine a company that had contributed to his campaign.)

Well, I checked out the poor company, and you are not going to believe what I found out. According to Cathy with a "C" Cox's records, the company -- Covington Credit of Georgia Inc. -- has made no contributions to his majesty. Not directly; not toward his state car with its leather seats and upgraded CD player and a premium cassette player and police package; nothing. What was the company thinking.

Now if the company was overcharging, put it to 'em, shut it down, make it hurt, whatever it takes. $400,000, if that won't do it, make it $4,000.000. If you are regulated under the Georgia Industrial Loan Act, you are already loaning funds to those least likely to be able to repay.

Well, although it was no surprise to learn that Covington Credit of Georgia, Inc. -- being a company that the Commissioner regulates and one that he fined -- had made no contribution to his majesty, I did find a couple of items of interest.

The first item of interest: Even though we are two years away from the Commissioner's re-election or his trying to move up the ladder to Lt. Gov. or some other office, he still needs the assistance of some heavy duty "campaign" advice, to the tune of paying $17,000 in January of 2004 to McLaughlin & Associates of New York for "campaign consulting."

Maybe Oxedine was paying this New York outfit to advise him that under Georgia law his office is not bound by the opinion of the Office of Inspector General (yes, this is one of the Governor's arms).

You remember the opinion and report: Georgia Insurance Commissioner Oxendine blatantly disregarded a state ban on automobile purchases and should repay taxpayers for the car with luxury upgrades that he bought, according to this report by the state's Inspector General.

Continuing, it said that if Oxendine does not repay the state the $25,689 he spent to purchase a 2003 Ford Crown Victoria with leather seats and six-disc CD player, the state Attorney General's office should consider forcing him to comply, Inspector General James Sehorn wrote in this report.

"Commissioner Oxendine's actions were in blatant disregard for established authority," this report stated. "When informed that he would not be allowed to purchase his automobile, his response was, in general, 'Try and stop me.' "

The second item of interest: What or who is "Oxendine Working for Georgia" at 1498 Buford Hwy, Sugar Hill, GA 30518-0000, which was good for a $5,000 expenditure in May 2004 as a "contribution" from Oxendine's campaign fund?

Were these payments indirectly relieving some of the Commissioner's financial pain for getting right when he succumbed to public pressure and undid what he would not even then concede was wrong anyway? Probably not; both probably as legitimate as they can be.

But this guy needs to clean up his public perception so that people who by nature are not cynical and who are trusting -- yes, I am talking about myself -- will not doubt what he says because he is the one saying it. Maybe the $17,000 campaign expenditure was for a course on being diplomatic and making a good public impression, and I just haven't been able to notice the results.

Oxendine's press release in my hard copy of The Douglas Enterprise reports that as Insurance Commissioner, Oxendine is responsible for regulating companies that make consumer loans of $3,000 or less under the Georgia Industrial Loan Act., and concludes: "Such companies . . . are regularly examined by Oxendine's office."

Maybe they are, but his saying it does not convince me that they are. As I noted early in this post, I just don't have a good comfort level with this guy, whether I should or shouldn't.

Based on my 25 to 30 years of working with local governments, I know that they do go through thorough annual audits, and that such audits by state agencies ought to be routine, just as routine as the State Department of Education's annual auditing of the finances of each and and every school district in the state of Georgia.

Well, it's almost 9:30 on Sunday morning. Time for my workout and watching The Georgia Gang on Fox 5 at 9:30. Then to church.

I'm with the flaggers on this one -- Mock hanging of Confederate flag; I say hang the carpetbagger

The Gwinnett Daily Post has an article entitled "Plan for mock lynching of a Confederate flag stirs controversy." And damn well it should.

It seems as though this guy from Florida – a no-good Yankee carpetbagger no doubt – has got it in his mind to hold a mock lynching of a Confederate flag as part of an art exhibition at a Gettysburg College art gallery early next month.

There is a minor movement afoot to cancel the show. Count me in.

Of all places, Gettysburg, a sacred place where both sides fought valiantly and lost thousands and thousands of lives. I took my three girls there, and hope to take my grandkids there one day just as I look forward to taking them to the Statute of Liberty.

I voted with the majority (the vote was 3-to-1) in the nonbinding referendum that approved our present flag, almost a replica of the Confederate national flag, the Stars and Bars. And I am proud of our present flag, not just because it is a part of our heritage and disguishes us from say Nevada, but because it is one good-looking flag.

I also liked the looks of the flag the legislature adopted in 1956 that contained the St. Andrew’s cross. I also like the looks of the flag the legislature replaced in 1956, but not as much as I did the looks of the 1956 flag.

(Andrews was the brother of Simon Peter, was supposedly the first-called disciple, and was reportedly crucified by the Romans on an x-shaped cross, claiming he did not feel worthy to be crucified on a regular cross as Jesus was.)

Am I glad we changed flags? You dern right I am. We had no choice.

Congress could outlaw "white only" signs, but not what the Confederate battle flag based on the St. Andrews cross had come to be – a symbol of rascism and hatred. Unfortunately, to many Americans it conjured up memories of lynchings, the KKK and nightriders, Jim Crowism, etc.

It had to go and I am glad it is behind us. Changing it took courage. We won’t hear about it next week, but Sen. Miller almost lost re-election in 1994 as governor for trying to change the flag during his first term.

And we all know it contributed to Roy Barnes’ defeat. Barnes has said: "Of course, I knew there was a chance [that changing the flag] would affect my re-election, but I also knew that the time had come to do it. We had watched what was happening in South Carolina and Mississippi. I didn't want the flag to divide Georgia more than it already had. It was the state government that changed the flag in 1956, and it was our responsibility to correct that mistake.''

I am happy the Stars and Bars has no such connotation. To try to give it such would be a mistake and injustice to the South’s history and heritage. As the Confederate national flag, Stars and Bars is part of our history as are our ancestors who fought with valor to the end, regardless for which side.

Just as the we now sing that great anthem The Battle Hymn of Republic which was the Union's marching song, we should not forget what the colors blue and grey represent, or let the song Dixie go the way of the Edsel and Oldsmobile, and not appreciate the book and movie Gone with the Wind.

And as far as I am concerned, neither should our Confederate Monuments in counties such as my own and so many others in Georgia and the South; the statutes that line the streets in Richmond, Virginia; and those on state capitols throughout the South, be regarded as other than part of our region's history.

The Civil War, the War Between the States, the War of Northern Aggression -- call it what suits you -- is part of our history. The Confederate flag is part of that history. The carpetbagger and not our history is who needs to be lynched.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country . . . . -- But to recite such at Rotary, come on Rep. Isakson, spare us please

Many of you no doubt know the Boy Scouts oath that begins "On my honor I will . . . ." .

Well, in Rotary we have something known as the four-way test. It consists of four questions:

Is it the truth?

Is it fair to all concerned?

Will it build good will and better relationships?

Will it be beneficial to all involved?

Laugh if you like, but I like the four-way test.

But do I like what I read today in Albany Herald? Let's just say that I am glad I wasn't there "making up" (attending another club's meeting to make up for missing one in our home club, for me, the Douglas Rotary Club).

I would have thought, Johnny, Johnny, spare us please.

Thursday in Albany Isakson talked with the Albany Rotary Club about the war in Iraq, and used Rotary's four-way test to justify it. Excerpts from the Albany Herald article:

Isakson said "yes" can be the answer to all of the [Rotary four-way test] questions concerning the war.

"We have found 400,000 Iraqi bodies in eight graves in Iraq. We have found canisters redesigned to carry ... chemical weapons. In the Euphrates River we have found the precursors to sarin gas. We have found buried Scud missiles. We have found the engines to those Scuds in Jordan," he said, supporting the argument that the war was to protect the United States and Iraq's neighbors and citizens.

In the long run, he said, the war will build goodwill and better relationships.

"Right now, no, it's not. But did the dropping of nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki immediately build good relations? Now (Japan) is one of our strongest partners," he said.

And, he said, ridding the world of dictators and extremists and their weapons will benefit the world.

Oh ye of little faith -- Georgians can always count on the Dean to tell it like it is -- Cong. Jack Kingston and Mayor Franklin

In an earlier post entitled "Does the Congressman think it is Republican money -- Hang tough Mayor Franklin," I said I must have been asleep at the wheel in missing an article on Mayor Franklin and a sitting Congressman and a Congressional candidate.

I wrote: "I can't believe I missed it and haven't seen anything about it anywhere else."

Well, even as I was pecking away, the good Dean had already penned and distributed another one of his classics on the subject. I should have known. I do have the faith.

Anybody can read and report. The Dean -- in a way that only the Dean can do and that makes him Georgia's Dean -- can tell like it is. Excerpts from one of Bill Shipp's weekly columns:

The latest news reports on 1st District Rep. Jack Kingston can't be true. He's too smart to make such a dumb move.

Kingston's aides say the Savannah congressman is having second thoughts about supporting federal funds for Atlanta's multibillion-dollar sewer makeover.

If Kingston says "no" to federal funds for Atlanta, then "no" it is. Kingston is the state's sole chairman of an appropriations subcommittee, chairman of the House GOP caucus and the closest thing Georgia has to congressional muscle in D.C.

He is angry at Democratic Mayor Franklin because she is supporting Democratic challenger John Barrow of Athens against incumbent 12th District Rep. Max Burns, R-Sylvania.

In this era of personalized, give-no-quarter partisanship, opposing funds for fixing Atlanta's sewers to exact revenge on a Democrat-controlled City Hall may make perfect sense to obtuse partisan zealots.

Never mind that Atlanta's untreated and unchanneled wastewater is defiling half the state, including the property of thousands of Kingston's constituents.

Never mind that when a new school is built or a road paved in rural Georgia (even in parts of Kingston's and Burns' districts), much of the tax-supported funding for the project can be traced back to metro Atlanta.

Downstate politicians may hate the idea, but Atlanta and environs are the economic engine of the state. What rational public official could possibly entertain undermining Atlanta's economy - no matter how badly he wishes to take a swipe at Her Honor?

For Georgia's ranking congressman - and a co-chief of the Republican National Convention - to move against Atlanta to satisfy a petty partisan grievance defies comprehension.

Most of Georgia's congressional delegation, including Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Moultrie, favors helping Atlanta. But Kingston holds the trump card and the power to trash the clean water project.

Say it ain't so, Jack. Say you were just fooling when your staff threatened to hit Atlanta where it hurts, in the federal pocketbook.

Say you didn't mean it when you sent word to career Democratic activist Franklin to keep her mouth shut in "a faraway from Atlanta" congressional contest against a GOP incumbent. That is not the democratic way, Jack, or the Republican one either.

We're sure the reports of such lunacy are way off base.

Get right, Jack. The elections will shortly be over. Governance goes on. You may return to Georgia one day. You don't want to find a state whose main rivers have turned into open sewers because a Savannah congressman split with an Atlanta mayor over a House election that has little to do with either of them.

GOP Congressman Max Burns has a firm grasp on the obvious -- No Child Left Behind

If you are a teacher or school administrator, you will enjoy reading this article from the Athens Banner-Herald. I did as a school board attorney whose wife Sally teaches.

The federal No Child Left Behind law, which mandates academic achievement goals for schoolchildren locally and across the country, may need to be changed so that it's more practical, Republican Congressman Max Burns told Clarke County educators Friday after listening to them detail problems they've had with the law's implementation.

The above is the good news. The bad -- Burns made the comment in Athens (Georgia that is); when he gets back to Washington, he will no doubt toe the party line.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Dumb and dumber -- No more Tide at my house

P&G more than tripled A.G. Lafley's long-term incentive pay to $9.86 million, citing its chief executive's stewardship of the company's turnaround.

Mr. Lafley's total compensation was $15.06 million last year. In the previous fiscal year, his compensation was $11.84 million. He did not exercise any options during either year.

I don't have any grandchildren yet; but since I will, I am going to be pushing diapers. At least not Pampers.

I follow Procter & Gamble Co. The guy has been there four years. This is more insanity from corporate America.

Kerry's Attempt to Finesse Iraq Issue May Backfire -- More on Kerry's dumb "Yes" answer

The 8-27-04 Washington Post discusses Kerry's predicament with his dumb "Yes" answer that we covered in an earlier post with the title "Talk about cringing -- Fallout from the ill-fated "Yes" answer."

On the 8-10-04 post below appears: "Kerry said what about Iraq? -- Be careful here Senator" concerning the headline "Kerry says Bush was right to invade Iraq." The post predicts that "We will hear more about this Kerry "yes" between now and November than his earlier I did but I didn't."

Frankly, I was then and remain in shock that this was the response. Maybe there was some purpose in the response that was going over my head, that I was missing. I mean after all, it wasn't like the Senator responded to a question at a news conference that he had no clue was coming.

[The post goes onto to quote a New York Times article that says the call on his answer was made by Kerry himself. I conclude the post with the following:]

I once heard a joke about a guy praying to the good Lord that he win the lottery. After much prayer, he heard a deep voice from above saying "Help me here, buy a ticket."

Senator Kerry, help us here. Buy some advice; listen to some advice; do something.

Back to the Washington Post article. It notes:

President Bush's rationale for war in Iraq continues to crumble, but it seems that Sen. John F. Kerry has his own war problem.

While the effort to tar Kerry's Vietnam record has not been a positive development for the Democrat, it has obscured media coverage over a more current subject -- Kerry's position on the conflict in Iraq.

In case you missed it, Bush forced Kerry into a corner earlier this month by demanding he answer a simple yes-or-no question: "Knowing what we know now [would Kerry] have supported going into Iraq?"

If Kerry answered no, then the Bush campaign would take the sound bite and make the argument that Saddam Hussein would still be in power if Kerry had been president. If Kerry answered yes, they would argue that his position was essentially the same as Bush's position and that his criticism of the president's Iraq policy was hypocritical.

[Well, it was not that limited. The prior post notes:

Mr. Kerry's answer is being second-guessed among his supporters, some of whom argued that he should have been more wary of the trap.

"I wish he had simply said no president in his right mind would ask the Senate to go to war against a country that didn't have weapons that pose an imminent threat," said one of Mr. Kerry's Congressional colleagues and occasional advisers.

Oh, well, that's behind us. The Washington Post writer continues:]

"After months of attacking President Bush's motives and credibility during the Democrat presidential primary, going so far as to declare himself the anti-war candidate, John Kerry now says knowing what he knows now he would still have voted for the Iraq war," said Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie at a news conference this week. "Senator Kerry's ever changing positions on Iraq are not the kind of steady leadership we need in these times of challenge and change. And we're going to continue to make that point between now and November 2."

Whatever the case, Kerry's position on Iraq is similar enough to Bush's to make the most important issue for most voters a non-issue. This might help Kerry with some independent voters in key battleground states, but a question remains over just how fired up the party's base will be able to get for a candidate who has an almost indistinguishable foreign policy from that of a president they strongly dislike.

Kerry's unwillingness to disavow his vote for the war has meant that he also hasn't been able to take advantage of dissent from some in the president's party. More and more members of Congress -- including conservative Rep. Doug Bereuter, a Republican from Nebraska -- say that they wouldn't have voted for the war if they knew then what they know now.

More Americans Were Uninsured and Poor in 2003

Here is an article (unlike wsj unless I email it to you) that you can read for yourself. New York Times on the subject as reported by the United States Census Bureau. (Details were summarized in a post below from the wsj.)

We report, you decide -- A viewpoint on Medicaid

The Macon Telegraph gives its take on the current fiscal situation with Medicaid in today's editorials. Take a minute now and read this; we are going to be hearing a whole lot more rather than less about this topic in the future. The tenor of the editorial is found in its headline "Medicaid expenses place state in no-win situation" and first paragraph:

Gov. Sonny Perdue is faced with a conundrum. The dictionary defines "conundrum" as a "problem admitting of no satisfactory solution." The state has many problems, but the one fleeing solutions the fastest is Medicaid. The program is running a $172 million deficit, and none of the ideas to cut back on services or eligibility are palatable.

Number of uninsured Georgians continues to rise

The 8-27 -04 Macon Telegraph reports:

The number of Georgians without health insurance has risen for the third straight year to 16.4 percent of the state's population, the Census Bureau reported Thursday.

The bureau also reported a marginal increase in the median household income, when adjusted for inflation, and a slight decrease in the number of Georgians living below the poverty level.

The numbers may worsen an already bleak position for the department, which is considering cutting at least $172.6 million and perhaps as much as $327.6 million from Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids in next year's budget. The cuts could deny, reduce or eliminate benefits to thousands of low-income women and children as well as to the blind, aged, disabled and those in hospices.

Small businesses are facing increasing economic pressure to discontinue - or not start - insurance programs. And rising health care rates are eating up more of the state budget, as Medicaid is expected to consume 60 percent of new state revenue by 2011 - a level that the governor's office says is unsustainable.

All quiet on the economic front

Economists slashed their forecasts for third-quarter growth, but they see the weakness as short-lived and anticipate job growth ahead.


Health-care costs going up "only" 9.6% next year -- Get ready for less spendable income

Employers believe that they can slow the rate of increase in health-care costs to 9.6% in 2005, but only after shifting more of the expense to their employees.

In the survey's final results last year, employers said they expected health-care costs to increase 13% going into 2004.

Still, at more than three times the current rate of general inflation, the more moderate increase leaves little room for companies to cheer.

What's more, many employers will manage to whittle their health-care spending only after raising workers' deductibles and copayments, cutting back some health benefits and limiting the number of plans they offer, said Blaine Bos, a senior health-care consultant at Mercer and the survey's chief analyst.


Influx of Hispanics, Asians marks metro area's growth

The 8-27-04 ajc reports:

Metro Atlanta's population boom keeps booming along — adding about 320 people a day since 2000 — with the fastest growth among Hispanics and Asians.

The 20-county metro area's population increased by 9 percent between 2000 and 2003 and now is about 4.4 million, according to estimates released Thursday by the Census Bureau.

The percentage of whites in the overall metro population has decreased from 60 percent to 58 percent in the last three years. Black population growth, at 11 percent, barely outpaces the overall rate. Blacks make up 29 percent of the total metro Atlanta population.

Within the five core counties, Hispanic and Asian populations are growing the fastest in Cobb and Gwinnett. Cobb's Hispanic population has grown 22 percent and its Asian population 20 percent over the last three years. Gwinnett experienced a 31 percent increase in Hispanic population and a 26 percent jump in Asians.

Metro Atlanta's soaring Hispanic population — now almost 350,000, nearly double the population of Columbus — may be even larger than the census numbers indicate, said demographer [Doug] Bachtel [, a demographer at the University of Georgia.]

"Nobody is certain how many Hispanics there are here because some of them are here illegally," Bachtel said. "There are various guesstimates. It could be one-and-a-half or two times the official number."

No more special sessions please -- Budget cuts to close state parks

Dave Williams of The Albany Herald and GDP reports that several state parks and historic sites will be shut down next year by budget cuts, but the Department of Natural Resources hasn't decided which, according to Department of Natural Resources Noel Holcomb said.

Closing parks and historic sites would save $316,500, while a separate proposal to close some of the state's wildlife-management areas would save about $304,000.

Now they are coming out of the woodwork; where were they when I needed them -- Majette gets more help

Ajc's 8-27-04 PI reports another Miller veteran is joining Rep. Denise Majette's campaign for U.S. Senate. Chicago-based consultant Jim Andrews, who was Miller's chief strategist in his 1994, will serve as general consultant for Majette.

Most recently, Andrews worked on Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards' primary campaign for president.

He also has worked for the former North Carolina U.S. Senate nominee Harvey Gantt.

Political consultant and former Miller press secretary Rick Dent, who also signed on with Majette this week, said Andrews brings "a solid strategic
mind and a lot of experience in Georgia" to the campaign.

Harvey Gantt was the first black elected to the office of Mayor in Charlotte, my old stomping grounds when I attended Davidson College and where I met my wife Sally at Queens College. He was the first black to enter the previously all-white Clemson University.

And he lost to Jesse Helms not once but twice in races for the U.S. Senate.

And yes your are right. He was the victim of the Hands Ad (an ad up there in the ranks with the Willie Horton ad). In the 1990 U.S. Senate race, Gantt was running strong. Helms ran the hands ad, a/k/a the White Hands ad.

The ad shows a pair of white hands crumpling a job rejection notice as a voiceover says that Helms opposes racial quotas in hiring. Helms recovered the lead and won.

Lunch at midtown -- A send-off party for Sen. Miller

Why don't we meet at, say, Sen. Miller's Colony Square office at noon.

The 8-27-04 ajc's PI reports that a little meeting is planned by a coalition of Atlanta groups outraged at Miller's endorsement of George W. Bush has gathered outside his office.

I don't know the menu, but hopefully at the next post-November 2 rally we can say and serve "let them eat crow."

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Report that Shows Poverty Rise Also Comes Under Political Fire

Poverty is escalating and health-care coverage is slipping, the latest Census Bureau report said, in what some are calling a politically timed news release.

The bureau reported today that the number of Americans living in poverty increased by 1.3 million last year -- a 3.8% rise -- while the ranks of the uninsured swelled by 1.4 million -- a 3.4% rise -- in the third straight annual increase for both categories. Median household income, adjusted for inflation, remained basically flat last year at $43,318. Whites, blacks and Asians saw no noticeable change, but income fell 2.6% for Hispanics to $32,997. Whites had the highest income at $47,777. The figures represent economic changes that have already occurred, Anirvan Banerji, director of research for the Economic Cycle Research Institute, said. "Once you are well into a expansion, you are still waiting for trickle down to the weaker and more vulnerable sectors of society," he said.

The news itself surprised no one, but the timing of the news raised many eyebrows. Some Democrats questioned why the reports were released together in August, rather than separately in September as had been done in the past. Many accused the White House of trying to downplay the bad news. Releasing the figures at the same time and not so close to Election Day, "invites charges of spinning the data for political purposes," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D., N.Y.) Census Director Louis Kincannon -- a Bush appointee -- denied politics played any role in moving up the release date. "There has been no influence or pressure from the [Bush] campaign," Mr. Kincannon said Wednesday.

(wsj online)

Stay the course in Iraq, 3rd District Congressman Jim Marshall says

An 8-26-04 article in the Macon Telegraph reports:

Congressman Jim Marshall returned this week from the Middle East more convinced than ever that the United States must stand firm in Iraq until the Iraqis are able to secure their own country.

"It's easy to go back and second guess a lot of decisions that we've made. I don't think there's a lot of value in that," said Marshall. "It would be a major mistake for us not to hang in there long enough to give it a good shot at Iraq becoming a peaceful, anti-terrorist country."

Although no one has found the weapons of mass destruction which were key to the Bush administration's rationale for war, Marshall said leaving Iraq now would create another failed state - a vacuum to be filled by jihadist militants, bent on violence against the United States and its allies.
But Marshall said success in Iraq is by no means assured. It depends on Iraqis taking charge, despite the attacks on Iraqis who cooperate with Americans.

"We may or may not be able to do this. It's going to be a tough go. The American people need to stay resolved."

Marshall was more sanguine about the outlook for Afghanistan.

He said efforts to register voters and build schools there are taking hold. And he said Afghanis in general dislike the Taliban more than they dislike Americans.

Marshall remains deeply concerned that the United States will feel another major terrorist strike within the next couple of years.

Marshall, a Democrat, represents Georgia's 3rd District. He faces a challenge in the November general election from Republican candidate Calder Clay III.

This must be April fool's day -- White House Shifts Its Focus on Climate

Just because the convention is around the corner and its election season has never seemed to matter. But its good news, and so let's enjoy it.

According to the 8-26-04 N.Y. Times, the administration has issued a report indicating that emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases were the only likely explanation for global warming. The article notes:

In a striking shift in the way the Bush administration has portrayed the science of climate change, a new report to Congress focuses on federal research indicating that emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases are the only likely explanation for global warming over the last three decades.

Previously, President Bush and other officials had emphasized uncertainties in understanding the causes and consequences of warming as a reason for rejecting binding restrictions on heat-trapping gases.

[The report] also says the accumulating emissions pose newly identified risks to farmers, citing studies showing that carbon dioxide promotes the growth of invasive weeds far more than it stimulates crops and that it reduces the nutritional value of some rangeland grasses.

American and international panels of experts concluded as early as 2001 that smokestack and tailpipe discharges of heat-trapping gases were the most likely cause of recent global warming. But the White House had disputed those conclusions.

[T] report was disputed by some groups, aligned with industry, that oppose restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions and have attacked science pointing to dangerous human-caused warming as flawed.

At the same time, the report did not please environmental groups, which have repeatedly criticized Mr. Bush for opposing efforts to require restrictions on the gases linked to global warming, though he has gradually come around to the position that warming is at least partly caused by emissions.

"The Bush administration on the one hand isn't doing anything about the problem, but on the other hand can't deny the growing science behind global warming," said Jeremy Symons of the National Wildlife Federation.

The latest analysis, done at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., found that natural shifts in the output of the sun and other factors were responsible for the warming from 1900 to 1950, but could not explain the sharp and continuing rise since 1970.