.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Cracker Squire


My Photo
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.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

The Court of Appeals, Part V. -- Mead says two opponents part of conspiracy to scrap and steal gold off the Capitol.

According to the 10-31-04 PI, although former Gov. Roy Barnes and the Rev. Jesse Jackson both were the stars of robo-calls made on behalf of Howard Mead, "[i]n metro Atlanta, the content of the Barnes robo-call changed significantly. It emphasized that Mead's two opponents, Debra Bernes and Mike Sheffield, were part of the Republican plot to take over the Georgia judiciary."

I thought this was a non-partisan race. Why couldn't it just be a plot to do something against all of the good people of Georgia? Why limit it to be being just a blot by the GOP? And besides, I thought Bush and Isakson were supposed to win in Georgia Tuesday.

I just don't understand lawyers and politics.

The power of the pen. In just 3 business days one can get documents from gov'tal agencies. -- Thanks ajc for the Kmart piece. Most informative.

Have you ever heard of the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD)? It recruits businesses, trade partners and tourists to Georgia.

You may still know it as the Georgia Department of Industry, Trade & Tourism.

I have been the attorney for the Douglas-Coffee County Industrial Authority for many years, and recently, we followed the lead of GDEcD and changed our name to the Douglas-Coffee County Economic Development Authority.

Economic development is a tough game when you live in the Other Georgia. In Douglas and Coffee County we pride ourselves we all of the good fortune we have enjoyed. Such success led Tom Perdue (yeah, that one, as in former Gov. Joe Frank Harris' Chief of Staff, Mac Barber and Sen. Chambliss) to dub us the "Oasis in the dessert."

Where I am going with this? Recruiting businesses and industry is both an art and a science, and at a minimum it requires patience and discretion.

I once heard the attorney for the development authority is a neighboring city relate has one evening the authority was discussing a prospect. The authority chairman asked that the reporter from the local paper to put his notepad down -- something customary for us in the Other Georgia -- and the authority proceeded to discuss how a large tire factory was considering locating to the area.

The next morning on the front page of the local paper was the headline: "XYZ Tire Co. considering [the Georgia town] for new plant."

That afternoon the authority received the call. All negotiations about the company's possible plant location in the area were off.

This past Friday I read a story in the ajc's business section under the headline "Ga. $28 million shy of Mich. Kmart bid.

In the business index of the ajc the story gets one's interest up by proclaiming "Wooing Kmart a 'delicate balance.' Documents offer rare look at Georgia strategy."

Go to the story itself, and the headline is "Kmart: Georgia cautious in attempting to lure retailer to leave Michigan."

The story begins noting:

"Georgia may have to dig between the sofa cushions for change if it wants to win Kmart from its home state of Michigan.

"The Peach State's economic incentive package is about $28 million short of what Michigan is offering to keep the headquarters of the country's third-largest retailer, according to state documents obtained through a freedom of information request. [The authors mean through a Georgia Open Records Act request.]"

The story proceeds to tell about what Kmart has told Georgia it wants; what Michigan is offering; etc.

And then it notes: "The documents offer a rare glimpse into the internal discussions of negotiating to land a large company in Georgia."

A couple of days ago I had a post about being lunched. The post was entitled "Reading about getting breakfasted over Kerry, & then being lunched over Shipp, all in 24-hr. period. -- Politics lives always for the moment to come." The "breakfasted" bit had come from a Baxter & Galloway piece noted in the post.

This past summer I had the pleasure of meeting Charles Gay with the ajc. He has the final word on what makes it into much of the paper, but I feel confident the editor for the business section is someone else.

If I was Gov. Perdue or Mayor Shirley Franklin, or if I worked with GDEcD, and my state, city and department are still recruiting Kmart, I would have been looking for someone to breakfast, lunch, sup and dine on Saturday morning.

Come on guys. Whose side are you on anyway? At least stay in Georgia; in the Other Georgia you would be tar and feathered (and possibly quartered) and run out of the state, or at least to "the" Georgia.

Sometimes a man -- make that a moderator -- has just gotta do what a moderator's gotta do. -- Mr. Williams does his job on The Ga. Gang today.

Part I:

In a 10-17-04 post entitled "The comment heard round the world by moms (soccer, terror and otherwise). -- Sen. Kerry speaks for Mary Cheney," I gave the Senator hell for his comment in Debate No. 3 about Mary Cheney. I noted:

"When it became Kerry's time, and he said 'We're all God's children, Bob. And I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she's being who she was, she's being who she was born as,' I said out loud, 'how in the hell does he know, and thought to myself, does he think he knows everything?

"I probably wouldn't have reacted as harshly toward Kerry -- and recognize that I am talking about reacting in the privacy of my living room rather than in a public place -- had he not mentioned the Vice President's daughter by name, and then began dispensing his superior knowledge as if from Mt. Sinai, presuming to know what Mary Cheney would say.

"Whether it was a cheap shot or an indiscretion -- I don't buy the post debate spin of it being a compliment to the Cheney's (spare us here Senator) -- the damage was done. How much damage? Only time and the voters will tell."

Part II:

In a 09-21-04 post entitled "I'm with Vice President Cheney on this one -- Same sex-marriage and gay bashing," I wrote:

In our 8-21-04 post entitled "You saw the Cheney headline: "[F]reedom means freedom for everyone." -- But there is more here . . . .," we reviewed the Vice President saying that he sees gay marriage as a state issue, that he and his wife Lynne have a gay daughter, and thus it's an issue with which his family is very familiar. The Vice President states:

"With respect to the question of relationships, my general view is that freedom means freedom for everyone. People . . . ought to be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to."

Another Republican who also has a gay daughter sees it differently. That person is Sadie Fields -- president of the Christian Coalition of Georgia, principal leader in the effort to incorporate the gay marriage ban into the state constitution, the person responsible for delivering the votes in the Georgia House responsible for getting the proposed constitutional amendment on the Nov. 2 ballot, and without question one of the most powerful women in Georgia politics (if not the most powerful) -- until this past week has never publicly mentioned the sexuality of her only daughter.

Unlike Vice President Cheney who last month broke with President Bush on the issue, saying that people ought to be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to, Sadie Fields has made no such concession on behalf of her daughter.

Ms. Fields told PI (9-21-04) according to:

"I love my daughter, but I don't agree with her choices." "[The Nov. 2 issue] is not about prejudice. This is about doing what's right, regardless of the pain."

And what does the daughter tell PI: "I would hope that Georgians don't let fear and prejudice divide their state in the same way they've divided my family."

As so accurately observed by the PI, "Sadie Fields and others may disagree, but given the random nature of homosexuality, it's hard to throw a rock in the gay marriage fight and not hit someone you know, even love."

Should this news give those opposing the constitutional amendment cause for rejoicing and dancing in the streets. I would hope not, and it should not.

But it should give all Christians pause to remember and consider the words of the Master and Greatest Teacher of all times who tells us in Matthew 7:1 "Judge not, that ye not be judged."

I'm with the Vice President on this one.

(Also see our 9-08-04 post entitled "A kinder, gentler challenge to a duel -- Sid vs. the Dean on Endorsing Nov. 2 same-sex marriage amendment," a post that could be updated by noting that Louisana has become the second state to vote overwhelming against same-sex marriage.)

Part III:

This past week Sadie Fields' daught Tess Fields sent a highly personal public letter to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's editorial page, criticizing what she called her mother's "bigotry" and "abject hostility toward gay and lesbian people." (ajc story).

In an interview with the ajc, Tess Fields said she was speaking out partly to answer an opinion piece her mother wrote in Monday's Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and partly to offer encouragement to people opposing the amendment.

The story in the ajc also noted:

"Sadie Fields was clearly surprised to learn of her daughter's letter from a reporter Thursday night. In an emotional interview, she said her daughter's sexuality and their strained relationship is deeply painful for her. The Christian Coalition leader, who also has two sons, said that she loves her daughter and prays for her daily.

"'I would give my life for her, but I can't affirm her in her choices,' she said. Sadie Fields said she would continue to support the constitutional amendment because, 'it is the right thing to do.'

"'The amendment issue is larger than just one relationship,' she said. 'It's not just about me and my daughter. It's about the future of this country.'"

"Senate President Pro-Tempore Eric Johnson (R-Savannah) called the letter a 'private, personal matter.'

"'It certainly personalizes the issue, but I think most Georgians have gay members of their extended families, gay co-workers or friends,' he said. 'I think there is already an acknowledgement that gay people can have a loving relationship, but it does not mean we should change civilization's view of marriage.'"

Part IV:

On the same day that the ajc runs its story, the AP runs a story noting:

"Just days before Tuesday's referendum, Tess Fields sent a letter to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's editorial page criticizing what she called her mother's 'bigotry' and 'abject hostility toward gay and lesbian people.'"

The AP quotes at length from the open letter and the ajc story.

Part I lambasting Kerry was included to show you I don't like people talking about other people's family. It shows a lack of character, among other things.

Parts II through IV are background for Part V.

Part V:

Today on The Georgia Gang Phil Kent goes ballistic about the Associated Press writing an article about Sadie Fields' daughter, etc.

Moderator Dick Williams politely tells him politely but firmly that we are not even into the issue of fair comment. This was a news item, etc.

Mr. Kent did look a bit red today in his grey suit. Maybe he had too much sun last week. Or it could be he's been like an ostrich with his head in the sand, and missing what has been going on, all on account of sending out emails for the Mike Sheffield campaign.

Regardless, I feel certain many watchers of The Gang were scratching their heads wondering as I was.

Thanks Dick.

The Court of Appeals Election, Part IV (I think). -- Reaping what you sew, and still longing for yesteryear.

In a post I did yesterday entitled "Ga. Court of Appeals: Bernes, Sheffield & (not Tom, Dick or Harry) Mead, Part I. -- The prior debate, State Bar Poll; "the" questionnaire; etc.," I noted:

"With all due respect to Messrs. Bill Shipp, Phil Kent, Jim Wooten and other very knowledgeable and distinguished laymen who are very opinionated about the manner in which the Georgia electorate should choose its judges, the manner in which Howard Mead has conducted his race for a seat on Georgia Court of Appeals makes me long for the days of yesteryear."

I then noted that with respect to our judicial elections, the present represents a "current sad state of affairs."

This election year's "the" questionnaire (that is, the Christian Coalition questionnaire), for better or for worse, probably represents the epitome of elections yet to come.

You recall that the questionnaire asked the candidates about their "judicial philosophies" on U.S. Supreme Court cases dealing with five issues: abortion, homosexual conduct, prayer at public school graduations, parental choice in education and scholarships for theology majors at state colleges.

The results were distributed to 750,000 Georgians in a voter guide -- a first for the Christian Coalition in judicial races.

(The post I did yesterday talks about how Mike Sheffield was the only Court of Appeals candidate to return the questionnaire, and how Sadie Fields notes the votes he got showed the power of her organization.

I agree, but if I were a political science major working on my masters or PhD, I would love to do my masters or thesis on the topic of whether such attention got won him the battle -- a slot on the runoff -- but ultimately lost him the war.

While the debate discussed in my post showed him to be a very pleasant and experienced person, as does his record, the press centered on one thing -- the opinions he expressed in the questionnaire. Sort of reminds one of Sonny Boy Perdue and Justice Leah Ward Sears, does it not.

Maybe the Dean will share his thoughts on this in the future.)

I do not anticipate the result of selectively responding or refusing to respond to such questionnaires to be as muted as it was this year.

(The issue of whether judicial candidates can respond to such questionnaires, along with whether they should, is covered in my earlier posts that are repeated in yesterday's post. Whether official sounding groups should annoint themselves as a chosen few and publicly get involved in recommending such action is one of the subjects of this Part IV.)

You noted that Bill Shipp has his opinion on judicial races. I did, and he shared it in a column back in June of this year that one paper headlined "Muzzling judges subverts First Amendment." Excerpts follow:

Are persons who interpret laws somehow more precious than those who make laws or implement them?

Yes, says an outfit with the temerity to call itself the Georgia Committee for Ethical Judicial Campaigns, composed mostly of swells from the state bar association.

They want judicial candidates to sign "don't tell" pledges -- promises not to reveal how they stand generally on pressing controversies facing society.

This is an outrage. The federal courts have said, in no uncertain terms, that candidates for judicial elections in Georgia are subject to the same First Amendment grilling aspirants for other offices endure.

Why should voters be kept in the dark about how a candidate for judge feels generally about the death penalty or homosexual lifestyles or even an unfettered press?

The Georgia Christian Coalition has sent a questionnaire to judicial candidates asking their philosophical views on a broad list of questions ranging from abortion rights to capital punishment. Most candidates for judges have declined to respond.

A gay rights group has mailed a similar set of questions and received even fewer responses.

Of course, no candidate is compelled to answer such inquiries. But neither is he or she required to sign an oath pledging to remain mute on pertinent topics.

The Committee for Ethical Judicial Campaigns wants the state to return to the bad old days when judges -- often generous financial backers of victorious gubernatorial candidates -- were appointed without the public having the slightest idea of who these judges were or what they stood for.

A compelling case can be made that popular election of judges can lead to the same abuses as the election of other officials. Special interests will undoubtedly weigh in with millions of dollars to influence the outcome of judicial elections. Such has already happened in Texas and Alabama.

So what? Special interests (which sometimes include you and me) try their darnedest to influence elections in the legislative and executive branches. And if this silk-stocking "ethics" bunch trying to keep candidates silent is not a special-interest group, then the phrase "special interest" has no meaning.

If Georgians are unhappy with the elective method of choosing judges, then we should change the state constitution to make the posts appointive and then subject to an up-or-down referendum later. [What the Dean is referring to here is the so-called "Missouri Plan." Something new? No, it has been discussed since I started practicing law in 1973.]

Until that happens, these Armani-tailored lawyers should stand down in their efforts to subvert the First Amendment. Surely, in this era of transparency and sunshine, these kings of jurisprudence must feel a modicum of guilt as they ask Georgians to cast ballots for persons whose views are sworn to secrecy.

[I love it!!! Just think, if the Dean had been up against Clarence Darrow rather than populist William Jennings Bryan in the Scopes Trial, our state would have been spared all of the great national publicity it recently got courtesy of Sonny Boy Perdue and Kathy with a "K" Cox. Why? The Dean would have won.]

And I mentioned Jim Wooten. Interesting, but after I get through sharing with you what Mr. Wooten had to say, you are going to see Shipp, Wooten & Cottingham all agreeing on something.

That's scary -- it can't be good. It sort of sounds like that law firm I wrote about in my 09-20-04 post entitled "I'm a lawyer too. I'm with the firm of Carter, Kahn & Cooter -- Zell's at it again (as in, a response always begets a response)."

You can't remember the law firm part? Okay, it you insist. But for the record, rather than being a law firm, "Carter, Kahn & Cooter" was supposed to represent for Zell a "Board of Deacons for Democratic Disaster." (Being a Methodist, I couldn't relate to Baptist talk, and thus the law firm talk.)

So this guy walks into a bar and sees this comely, smartly dressed woman perched on a bar stool. Naturally, he approaches her and says, "Hey there gorgeous, how are you."

Already having a couple of power drinks under her belt she turns around, looks him right in the eye and says, "Look Mac, I'll screw anybody, any time, any where, my place, your place, front door, back door, it doesn't matter. I've been doing it since I got out of college. I just flat out love it."

Eyes now wide with interest he says "No kidding! I'm a lawyer too. What firm are you with?"

Okay, back to Jim Wooten. Excerpts from Mr. Wooten current column in the ajc:

And neither does the posse of lawyers that arrogates to itself the right to declare what candidates for judicial office can say to the voters of Georgia.

The group, styling itself as the Georgia Committee for Ethical Judicial Campaigns, presumes a particularly troublesome authority. It is the authority to ride the back woods and keep the good order and peace in the wild new frontier of judicial elections by deciding what judicial candidates should be permitted to say. It exercises without legal authority a parallel role to that legally vested in the Judicial Qualifications Commission.

[Amen I say; tell it all Brother Wooten, tell it all. And I am being as serious as a heart attack.]

In a pronouncement last week -- the week before Election Day -- the group declared that Mead had misbehaved.

[I left it out in my previous Part III post on the Court of Appeals race, but such pronouncement immediately made headlines, including being discussed in the ajc and Morris News Service links above. To the public, it appears as if this group has legitimacy, as if it were the Warren Commission.]

My greater concern is their legitimacy [I assume Mr. Wooten means lack thereof; or their appearance of legitimacy] and their potential to be unaccountable vigilantes who, in their zeal to do good, unnecessarily stifle judicial debate — and improperly influence election outcomes.

Howard Mead is not my choice for the Court of Appeals. I prefer a more conservative candidate — Sheffield for certain, Bernes possibly.

But all of them put their names, fortunes and reputations on the line. When they step over, or exaggerate, we don't need speech police.

Georgians have good sense. We can detect . . . . Trust us. _______________

With Jim Wooten and Bill Shipp being on the same page on this one, folks should listen up.

Jim Wooten says this group, styling itself as the Georgia Committee for Ethical Judicial Campaigns, presumes to exercise "without legal authority a parallel role to that legally vested in the Judicial Qualifications Commission." He is so right about this.

And Bill Shipp says this outfit with the temerity to call itself the Georgia Committee for Ethical Judicial Campaigns [sounds pretty dern official doesn't it?] is composed mostly of "swells from the state bar association," "Armani-tailored lawyers," and "kings of jurisprudence."

My take: The press started writing about this group this summer when news of Sadie Field's questionnaire surfaced.

When Fields and the survey's author, Atlanta attorney Jim Kelly, told the press the questionnaire is objective, the press needed someone to counter. Bang. The Georgia Committee for Ethical Judicial Campaigns.

In a 05-13-04 story in the ajc, it is noted:

"Critics say the survey is an attempt to push the group's conservative agenda.

"The intent is clear that they want judges in their corner on their issue," said Bill Ide, chairman of the Georgia Committee for Ethical Judicial Campaigns. 'Legislators can be lobbied, but we're very concerned that judges be fair and impartial and base decisions on the merits of a case when they walk into court.'

"Ide said he would advise judicial candidates not to answer questions intended to elicit a commitment on how they would rule on an issue.

"Critics say the survey is also part of an effort to oust state Supreme Court Justice Leah Sears, who is being challenged by former Cobb County Superior Court Judge G. Grant Brantley in the July 20 primary."

And as you may recall, and in what Bill Shipp deemed an "outrage:"

"Alas, three jurists -- Supreme Court Justice Leah Sears, Appeals Judge Ed Johnson and appeals court candidate Thomas C. Rawlings -- have yielded to the committee's siren call. They have signed a document declaring, in effect, they don't believe the people have a right or need to know where they stand on public matters." (From the Bill Shipp column discussed above.)

Based on what I can tell, this group is a group because it says it is a group.

(I mentioned Phil Kent earlier in this post, and to see his role, see Part III post on the Court of Appeals race I did yesterday, specifically the 10-28-04 ajc article entitled "Judicial candidate's ad creates lawyer brouhaha," that notes that Mr. Kent, being a consultant for Mike Sheffield, immediately circulated the Mead "condemnation," and in a subsequent discussion, we learn the group has bylaws. Hot stuff.)

Members of the media. I don't know how you verify a story, but I understand that good rules of journalism require you get a story collaborated by a couple of other sources (something Mr. Rather should have done). Just like a police officer is asked to show his badge, check out the authority of those seemingly speaking with authority.

In this case, had Howard Mead not been so out of line, a group appearing to speak for the Georgia Bar declaring his conduct "misleading," "improper," "unethical" and being in "violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct" could have done irreparable damage.

As it was, maybe its just a little bit of reeping what you sew.

When an attorney gets something from the State Bar or a legitimate committee, it is considered important, as in having an effect on our ability to continue having the right to our livelihood, the practice of law.

Seeing something like this in the paper and floating around the "internets" detracts from the dignity of the State Bar and its solemn function.

Enough, enough. Earlier in this post I noted that given "the" questionnaire and the manner in which Howard Mead has conducted his race for a seat on Georgia Court of Appeals, it sure makes me long for the days of yesteryear.

One part of Mr. Shipp's column that I left out noted:

"As a result [of victorious gubernatorial candidates appointing judges without the public having the slightest idea of who these judges were or what they stood for], Georgia has been treated to a long list of surprises on the bench, ranging from a judge who refused to remove her hat during court to one who accepted sides of beef from attorneys appearing before him to another who believed in 'magic numbers' to help decide legal matters. As for the decisions these odd folks handed down, we'll leave that to your imagination."

The Dean is right on the above; I am familiar with the individuals described (although in South Georgia we routinely give smoked hams and a mess of fish -- cleaned of course -- rather than sides of beef -- only joking); I still long for yesteryear.

And while some how, some way, the present mess gets fixed a bit, I feel certain that for now the good Dean will join me in saying that despite our having had a few losers, Georgia has had its shares of excellent judges both on our trial and appellate courts.

Georgia Court of Appeals: Anybody but Tom, Dick or Harry Mead, Part III -- Send Howard Mead a clear message that this court seat is not for sale.

This post is about the Mead charade.

I have not seen any polling data, but given the amount that Mead is spending to try to buy himself a seat on the Court of Appeals, success is a distinct possibility.

In this post I am critical -- reflecting disgust and anger on my part -- of Mead for his ads, his tactics, his misrepresentations.

In a post I did yesterday I noted: "I feel very comfortable in strongly recommending a vote for Debra Bernes on Tuesday 10. At the same time, I genuinely congratulate both candidates for a fine and honorable showing at the Atlanta Press Club debate. You both did the bar proud.

I certainly cannot say the same for Mr. Mead, who prior to his attempt to buy seat on the Georgia Court of Appeals, had a distinguished and honorable record of service with our profession and this state, not to mention impeccable an undergraduate and law school pedigree at Harvard.

But you know what might not be so funny, at least not to me.

Given the amount of money he is spending and the numbers of eyes who have heard his name alone with respect the the Court of Appeals seat, the last laugh may be his.

I am an attorney, and as such, there is a very good possibility that within the next 12 months I will be arguing before him if his bankroll proves successful. If this happens, please know this.

Everything that I have written yesterday, today and may write tomorrow, is just for your entertainment. Actually, I think Mr. Mead is a wonderful person.

And I also must say how wonderful and effective his TV ads are that are done by fellow lawyer Bobby Kahn. Whoever thinks some holes ought to be barred in judicial races is just not with it.

That said, it is time to load my L.C. Smith double-barrell shotgun for some fall hunting.

A 10-22-04 ajc article by Bill Rankin is entitled "Big bucks buy blitz in judge's race." Excerpts:

Howard Mead seems to be doing all he can to make the most of a second chance.

Once a lawyer for Democratic Govs. Zell Miller and Roy Barnes, Mead has spent a record $1.3 million for a chance to sit on the Georgia Court of Appeals, in what typically would be a low-profile race.

As Mead blankets the airwaves with TV ads, his two opponents are accusing him of trying to buy the election and of denigrating the legal profession.

Mead has raised a record amount for a judicial campaign in Georgia, thanks largely to $1.09 million in personal loans to his campaign --- for a job that pays $152,139 a year.

The winner Nov. 2 will succeed retiring Judge Frank Eldridge. Appellate court judges are seldom challenged for re-election and rarely defeated when they do have opposition.

Mead, who taught at the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech after leaving the governor's office, said he wants to follow in the footsteps of Elbert Tuttle, the former federal appeals court judge in Atlanta whose landmark rulings in the 1960s led to the integration of public schools and facilities.

Our courts are too important to let special interests start taking them over by electing their own candidates," Mead said. "If there's something I can do to step up to the plate and stop that, I'll do it."

[Uh, excuse me, but what did this guy just say? What special interests, and what taking over? Your contributors point more to someone being backed by special interests than the other candidates. You take after Sen. Kerry Sir, in being willing to say anything to try to get a vote. And what are you going to do to stop such taking over? Oh, your stepping up to the plate is a second attempt to try to buy yourself a seat.]

To get his message across, Mead has spent more than $1 million on some of the most pointed TV ads in the history of Georgia's judicial elections. While some ads extol Mead's work at the Capitol, others take shots at his opponents for becoming criminal defense lawyers.

One ad notes that while Mead left a lucrative law practice [and what lucrative law practice would that be Sir?] and entered public service to fight for tougher drunken driving laws and remove corrupt public officials from office, Bernes and Sheffield "made different choices." They left their positions as prosecutors "to become high-priced criminal defense lawyers and work for the kind of people they once sent to jail."

Another ad claims that Bernes and Sheffield have been "working to keep drunk drivers, drug dealers and child molesters out of jail." It is the reason, the commercial boasts, "police and prosecutors across Georgia have endorsed Howard Mead for Court of Appeals."

[Even after this contradiction that follows, Mead continues to run this ad. It was on following The Georgia Gang this a.m.]

When asked which law enforcement officials have endorsed him, Mead ticked off a number of sheriffs and prosecutors, including District Attorney Danny Craig of Augusta, Monroe County Sheriff John Cary Bittick and Hall County District Attorney Jason Deal, who contributed $500 to Mead's campaign.

But Craig said he is endorsing Bernes and has put up signs promoting her candidacy around the Augusta area.

"Mr. Mead's ads are despicable," said Craig, who was a defense lawyer before becoming a prosecutor. "The last time I checked, the Constitution affords everyone the right to a lawyer."

On Thursday, Mead said he was disappointed Craig is not endorsing him as he had pledged to do in June.

Judicial openings in Georgia rarely inspire hotly contested political campaigns. Historically, with few exceptions, judicial candidates ran on their records, hardly ever criticized their opponents and never stated their positions on hot-button issues.

Mead's aggressive advertising campaign has incensed his two opponents, who are firing back.

Sheffield said that when he left the DeKalb County district attorney's office in 1984 he became a public defender, hardly a high-paying job. After moving his practice to Gwinnett County in 1999, Sheffield noted, he began prosecuting cases once again as a solicitor in Duluth.

"This guy apparently will do anything or say anything to get elected to this position," said Sheffield, who is president of the Gwinnett Bar Association. "At the same time, he's never been a prosecutor, never been a criminal defense lawyer, never had a jury trial and never had a case before the [state] Court of Appeals or the Georgia Supreme Court."

Sheffield describes himself as a conservative candidate who opposes abortion rights and same-sex marriage. Of the three candidates, he has raised the least amount of money --- $65,287, according to campaign disclosure reports.

Bernes, who left the Cobb County district attorney's office in 1999 and is a private lawyer in Marietta, also criticized Mead's ads.

"It's disturbing to me that someone sworn to uphold the law is criticizing another lawyer for being an integral part of the judicial process," she said. "I think his commercials are denigrating to the legal profession, and I think it really shows his inexperience."

Bernes said she respects Mead's public service, but voters should consider her "wealth of appellate experience." As a prosecutor, Bernes said, she wrote more than 400 appeals.

Bernes, past president of Cobb's bar association, has raised $361,509 in political contributions and plans to begin airing her own ad next week. She described it as a "positive" commercial about her family and professional accomplishments.

Sheffield and Bernes are counting on strong support and high turnout in their home counties. If no candidate gets at least 45 percent of the vote in the nonpartisan election, a runoff would be held Nov. 23.

Mead has received strong financial support from Barnes and his former chief of staff, Bobby Kahn. Mead purchased his TV ads through Kahn's company, LUC Media Group Inc.

Mead discounted the suggestion that he is not experienced enough to sit on the appeals court. He said he served as a law clerk for two federal appeals court judges, which he said makes him uniquely qualified to sit on the state Court of Appeals.

[This guy's eyes are brown. As an attorney, it is difficult to believe he is putting such trash out for public consumption. That is, having clerked for judges -- despite not true "lawyer" experience -- makes him uniquely qualified to sit on the state Court of Appeals.]

"I've got a lot more relevant experience than those two combined," he said. "I've been a lawyer for two governors and two federal judges, and I'm proud of it."

[Ditto above about the guy's eyes being brown. "I've got a lot more relevant experience than those two combined." Doing what, misrepresenting things. Boy your mama needs to wash out your mouth with some soap.]

The only time the three candidates squared off before a state appellate court, "I won and they lost," Mead said, referring to his successful challenge before the Supreme Court of the July 20 election results.

[You got a point there son. But the next round, like the first, will be before the Court of Public Opinion.]

More excerpts, this time again from Bill Rankin in a 10-28-04 ajc article entitled "Judicial candidate's ad creates lawyer brouhaha:"

[Mead] ads note that Mead left a private law practice and joined the public sector to work for Govs. Zell Miller and Roy Barnes, while Bernes and Sheffield left jobs as prosecutors to become criminal defense lawyers "to keep drunk drivers, drug dealers and child molesters out of jail."

Mead defended his ads as an accurate portrayal of the three candidates' career paths.

And one more, this time from an article by Walter C. Jones for Morris News Service in the 10-28-04 Augusta Chronicle:

Mr. Mead, who is spending $1 million of his own money in a three-way race for an open seat on the court, has blanketed the state with ads showing him talking with police officers and meeting in the Appropriations Committee room of the Capitol.

An announcer says his opponents, without calling Michael Sheffield and Debra Bernes by name, left jobs as prosecutors to be "high-priced criminal-defense lawyers and work for the kind of people they once sent to jail."

Actually, Mr. Sheffield left to work as a public defender for 15 years before entering private practice, and Ms. Bernes' defense income was $8,000 less than what Mr. Mead was paid working in Gov. Roy Barnes' office. Mr. Mead, incidentally, has never argued before a jury or appeals court. Mr. Sheffield and Ms. Bernes have.
Leeza R. Cherniak, an Atlanta lawyer, former member of the Georgia Indigent Defense Council and legal analyst for a TV station [said s]he has contributed $50 to Ms. Bernes, though she has never met her.

"I was going to support Howard Mead. ... until I saw his ad," Ms. Cherniak said.

Mr. Mead said in an interview that he was merely contrasting the career paths to show he had not traded on his political connections after Mr. Barnes' defeat and had instead taken a job teaching college.

The ads imply defense attorneys can't become fair judges while also implying that Mr. Mead would judge criminal cases harshly . . . .

Today on The Georgia Gang Bill Shipp said if Howard Mead wins, it will change judicial politics forever.

It sure will. This go round it might be his money. If it works, and he is elected, Pandora's Box is already open.

Georgia Court of Appeals: Bernes, Sheffield & (not Tom, Dick or Harry) Mead, Part II. -- Debra Bernes clearly is the best candidate.

The previous Georgia Court of Appeals post of yesterday was entitled "Ga. Court of Appeals: Bernes, Sheffield & (not Tom, Dick or Harry) Mead, Part I. -- The prior debate, State Bar Poll; "the" questionnaire; etc." In it I reviewed the events leading up to the runoff being postponed, and shared my reasons for why I am going to vote for Debra Bernes.

What about hearing from some others?

Okay, how about someone down my way, such as The Albany Herald. In a 08-07-04 post, the title tells it all: "Bring it on baby -- The Albany Herald endorses Ct. of Appeals candidate Bernes."

And then we have The Atlanta-Journal Constitution (ajc), noting in an Oct. 15, 2004 endorsement that "Bernes the best blend of legal expertise and judicial termperament." It also noted:

"Bernes spent 20 years in the Cobb County district attorney's office and has written more than 420 appellate briefs. She entered private practice five years ago and is immediate past president of the Cobb Bar Association.

"As a prosecutor, Bernes worked on many high-profile cases, including handling legal motions in the Cobb County prosecution of Fred Tokars, the Atlanta lawyer convicted of arranging the brutal 1992 murder of his wife, Sara."

And also down my way, sort of, The Savannah Morning News, noting that Bernes "has the best combination of experience, knowledge and temperament in a three-candidate field." (Morning News.)

[Other endorsements by the Savannah Morning News include: Bush, Isakson, Burns, Baker (for PSC), "No" for Amendment No. 1 [yes, that's right, "No" for # 1], and "Yes" for Amendment No. 2.]

And The Augusta Chronicle (Chronicle), noting:

"Her experience is tough to beat.

"Debra Bernes is a former 20-year Cobb County assistant district attorney, and now a general practitioner in Marietta. She has 25 years of experience in appellate work, having authored or co-authored 400 briefs and argued some 60 cases before the appellate court and Georgia Supreme Court. She is a leader in her profession - immediate past secretary of the Georgia Bar Association's Appellate Section, and immediate past president of the Cobb County Bar Association - and in her community: Kiwanis, Jaycees, Junior League and more.

"Beyond all this, we like Debra Bernes because, as a 20-year prosecutor, she is tough as nails. And, just as important, she promises to interpret the law, not make it. That is paramount today, with so many courts overstepping their bounds."

There are others listed on her website, but they are along this line and this gives a good flavor.

I love it when someone agrees with me. Is it great minds thinking alike or the answer being so obvious? -- More kind words for Bush, the elder one.

Just yesterday in a post entitled "John Flipflop Kerry has not been an easy man to stand by his side. -- The low post; the high post; and one hilarious post," I had some nice things to say about Bush, the elder one that is.

And today one of my favorite columnists endorses him, again, the elder one. Don't miss reading a word of this classic.

The Apparent Heir

By Thomas L. Friedman
October 31, 2004
New York Times

Columnists for this newspaper are not allowed to endorse presidential candidates. But I think this election is so important, I am going to break the rules. I hope I don't get fired. But here goes: I am endorsing George Bush for president. No, no - not George W. Bush. I am endorsing his father - George Herbert Walker Bush.

The more I look back on the elder Bush - Bush 41 - the more I find things to admire and the more I see attributes we need in our next president.

Let's start with domestic policy. The elder George Bush was the real uniter, not divider, the real believer in a kinder, gentler political dialogue. Yes, he had a Democratic Congress to deal with, so he had to be more conciliatory, but it came naturally to him. In 1990, the elder Bush sided with
Congressional Democrats to raise taxes, because he knew it was the right thing for the economy, despite his famous "Read my lips" pledge not to raise new taxes. While that 1990 tax increase contributed to his re-election defeat, it laid the foundation for the Clinton tax increases, which, together with Mr. Bush's, helped to hold down interest rates and spur our tremendous growth in the 1990's and the buildup of a huge surplus.

On foreign policy, the elder Bush maintained a healthy balance between realism and idealism, unilateralism and multilateralism, American strength and American diplomacy. He believed that international institutions like the U.N. could be force multipliers of U.S. power. Rather than rubbing Mikhail Gorbachev's nose in the dirt, the elder Bush treated him with respect, and in doing so helped to orchestrate the collapse of the Soviet Union, the liberation of Eastern Europe and the reunification of Germany without the firing of a single shot. The nonviolent unraveling of the Soviet Empire ushered in a decade of prosperity and an era of unprecedented American power and popularity.

The alliance that Mr. Bush, Brent Scowcroft and James A. Baker III built to drive Saddam out of Kuwait had so many allies it virtually turned a profit for America. Mr. Bush chose not to invade Baghdad in 1991. Right or wrong, he felt that had he tried, he would have lost the coalition he had built up to evict Saddam from Kuwait. He obviously believed that the U.S. should never invade an Arab capital without a coalition that contained countries whose support mattered in that part of the world, such as France, Egypt, Syria or Saudi Arabia.

The elder Bush rightly understood that it was not in Israel's interest, or that of the U.S., for Israel to be expanding settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. The Madrid peace conference convened by the elder Bush paved the way for both the Oslo peace process and the Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty, which ended Israel's diplomatic isolation with countries like India and China. It was also the elder Bush who laid the groundwork for the
Nafta free-trade accord, completed by President Bill Clinton.

In short, the elder Bush understood the importance of acting in the world - but acting wisely, with competence and preparation. His great weakness was his public diplomacy. He wrongly antagonized American Jews by challenging their right to lobby on behalf of Israel. He could have given more voice to the amazing liberation of humanity that the collapse of the Soviet Union represented and to the American anger over the Tiananmen Square massacre. Although, in his muted response to Tiananmen, the elder Bush kept China-U.S. relations from going totally off the rails, which kept China on a track to economic reform. Although he raised taxes, he never really explained himself. So his instincts were good, his mechanics were often flawless, but his words and music left you frustrated. Still, the legacy is a substantial one. Over time, historians will treat the elder Bush with respect.

So as we approach this critical election of 2004, my advice, dear readers, is this: Vote for the candidate who embodies the ethos of George H. W. Bush - the old guy. Vote for the man who you think would have the same gut feel for nurturing allies and restoring bipartisanship to foreign policy as him. Vote for the man you think understands the importance of facing up to our fiscal responsibilities for the sake of our children. And vote for the man who has the best instincts for balancing realism and idealism and the man who understands the necessity of using energetic U.S. diplomacy to make Israel more secure - by helping to bring it peace with its Arab neighbors, not just more tours from American Christian fundamentalists.

Yes, next Tuesday, vote for the real political heir to George H. W. Bush. I'm sure you know who that is.

Assessment of military & civilian types in Iraq = Jan. elections not sure thing. -- Write this down: if/when we call them off, it isn't Kerry's fault.

A New York Times article reports:

Senior American military commanders and civilian officials in Iraq are speaking more candidly about the hurdles that could jeopardize their plans to defeat an adaptive and tenacious insurgency and hold elections in January.

Outwardly, they give an upbeat assessment that the counterinsurgency is winnable. But in interviews with 15 of the top American generals, admirals and embassy officials conducted in Iraq in late October, many described risks that could worsen the security situation and derail the political process that they are counting on to help quell the insurgency.

For the first time, military officers also disclosed that the United States could begin withdrawing its 138,000 troops from Iraq in July, if Iraqi security forces have established control and the threats plaguing Iraq now have lessened. "It's a mark on the wall," said one senior officer.

But when pressed in interviews and informal conversations - mostly not for attribution, because of fear that their more candid remarks could be used as campaign fodder back home - senior commanders and civilian officials voiced misgivings about how their plans could go awry, reflecting the unpredictability of events in Iraq.

A classic line in the article follows, and you don't have to have been in the military where we knew that OD means Olive-Drab, FM means Field Manual, etc., to appreciate the title of the noted 43-page document:

"The military is measuring its progress against a 43-page document, prosaically titled "Multinational Force Iraq Campaign Plan: Operation Iraqi Freedom."

Is the use of the adjective "Multinational" an attempt at irony or just wishful thinking? Maybe it's just being truthful. More than one is multi, and although I did not forget our great friend and ally the Brits, perhaps I did forget Poland.

Voters, their minds made up, say bin Laden changes nothing. -- This is good news, regardless of one's political persuasion.

The 10-31-04 New York Times reports that if Osama bin Laden imagined that, in releasing a threatening new videotape days before the presidential election, he could sway the votes of Kerry supporters or Bush supporters, "he has another thing coming."

The article was based on interviews in Colorado, Arkansas, Ohio, Las Vegas (this is a state isn't it?) and Iowa. A good sampling I would say, and good news indeed, regardless of how you will or have voted.

The "another thing coming" I hope Osama has is rotting in hell after we get him.

For how the campaigns themselves feel about the tape, see 10-31-04 New York Times article which can be summarized as follows:

Even Democrats described Osama bin Laden's videotaped message as somewhat welcome news for President Bush.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

"It was the best of times; it was the worst of times," says Macon Telegraph's Charles Richardson of the concluding days of the '04 election season.

"The best of times:"

The title to a 10-24-04 post says it all: "Yes! Yes! -- Macon Telegraph Endorses Sen. Kerry. Bring it on baby, bring it on!"

"The worst of times:"

A 10-29-04 column in the Macon Telegraph reads:

"Blatantly false and misleading attack ads and negative campaigning have been the rule rather than the exception in many races. Democrat Denise Majette, in her U.S. Senate race against Johnny Isakson, and Republican Calder Clay, in his challenge to U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall, have been two of the most egregious offenders. They should be ashamed, and we hope they have not done themselves or their campaigns any favors."

(Charles my friend, if it was not you who wrote these wise words and words to the wise, they sure seem to have your name on them. If I assumed as much in error, I will print a retraction. And hey, Georgia, and especially Middle Georgia, appreciates what you and your fine paper deliver each and every day.)

The voting for President in Georgia. -- Who needs to wait for Nov. 2? The kids have voted.

A posted comment to a Thursday post noted that "[f]rom what I am hearing out of DeKalb, Kerry may only lose by as few as 6. What do you think?"

Why do I need to think? All I need to do is get the results of the Georgia Student Mock Election.

The results this year: Bush earned 98,151 votes or 50.6 %; Kerry received 89,523 votes or 46.2 percent; anad the rest of the votes went to the Libertarian candidate and write-ins.

Georgia students have never failed to predict the outcome of the presidential election. The first winner they chose was Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter, who won the presidency in 1976.

(10-30-04 ajc.)

John Flipflop Kerry has not been an easy man to stand by his side. -- The low post; the high post; and one hilarious post.

When this thing is over and W is sent back to his ranch in Crawford, Texas, wouldn't it be nice if the powers that be could revisit the primary process by which we now choose our nominee.

I will remain convinced that Edwards would have been a much easier sell, providing a candidate who we could have gotten ourselves and others excited about rather than just providing an alternative to the cowboy.

Bush has done all that could have possibly been expected of him to assure himself one term, following the footsteps of his father (who, though I had to overcome my feelings that he was a wimp, was a much better President than Jr.).

And Kerry bless his heard has done just about everything in the book wrong until he finally started listening to Clinton & company late in the game. And even so, the man refuses or is above saying hey, I goofed up on a couple of things, and apologize, just as is the case with the infallible and inexorable Bush who has led his Potemkin Presidency.

(See 08-31-04 post referring to a 08-29-04 entitled "Sen. Kerry, the Olympics bring to mind the Greek Tragedies and the word catharsis -- And we Americans are a forgiving people.")

Rather than the good, the bad and the ugly, let's try (1) the low point for me; (2) the high point for me, and (3) the if you can't laugh at this, then you take this stuff too seriously.

(If you want to substitute post for point as noted in the title, that works for me; basketball is my game, college basketball that is.)

The low point for me:

We wrote about it in the 08-10-04 post entitled "Kerry said what about Iraq? -- Be careful here Senator." The day after the dumb remark at the Grand Canyon, after he had had a week to think about it, and we would later learn, not followed the advice of his handlers, the next day the headlines were as follows:

The headline in the ajc: "Kerry says Bush was right to invade Iraq."

The headline in the Washington Post: "In Hindsight, Kerry Says He'd Still Vote for War Challenged by President, Democrat Spells Out Stance"

Excerpts from the 08-10-04 post:

"Responding to President Bush's challenge to clarify his position, Sen. John F. Kerry said Monday that he still would have voted to authorize the war in Iraq even if he had known then that U.S. and allied forces would not find weapons of mass destruction."

"Last Friday, Bush challenged Kerry to answer yes or no to the question of whether he would support the war 'knowing what we know now' about the failure to find weapons of mass destruction that U.S. and British officials were certain were there."

"Is Kerry going to continue allowing the President to set the agenda?"

"We will hear more about this Kerry 'yes' between now and November -- especially during the debates -- than his earlier I did but I didn't."

The high point for me:

The 1st Debate (if you thought I was going to say his acceptance speech at the convention, I would say I would have to rate this as my biggest "relief" and "sigh" part of the campaign; that night we found out that at least we had a run at the White House despite not having the most appealing candidate).

In my post dated 10-02-04 post was entitled in part "The Bush Scowl is destined take its place with the Gore Sigh and the Dean Scream."

But the Bush Scowl was not what made this the high point of this long campaign season.

Rather Debate No. 1 gave me and fellow Democrats my truly first reason to smile since Sen. John Flipflop Kerry got the nomination.

After the Thursday night debate, the 10-02-04 post states:

"On Friday morning [after Debate No. 1] Democrats all over the United States emerged from their homes with a new spring in their steps. After the presidential debate the night before, many of them had a new experience: It was possible to be for John Kerry and not just against President Bush."

And finally, and as with the Good Master's story about the wine at the wedding party, the best being saved for last, the if you can't laugh at this, then you take this stuff too seriously:

If any Philistines are around, turn the volume down so they can't hear. But when you start chuckling yourself, and one asks "What's so funny," heck, go ahead and share it with 'em. It won't change any minds at this point, but it sure confirms what I said at the first part of this post about the man being a hard one to stand by.

I love it, and Go Democrats!! The link is appropriately named: The Ultimate John Kerry Ad. Double click on it now and enjoy.

(And if you think I am being sort of flippant here at the end, acting if if we have the hay is in the barn, know the truth. While optimistic, I am scared to death.)

Ga. Court of Appeals: Bernes, Sheffield & (not Tom, Dick or Harry) Mead, Part I. -- The prior debate, State Bar Poll; "the" questionnaire; etc.

To be careful here, let me be very particular.

Bernes, as in Debra Bernes.

Sheffield, as in Mike Sheffield.

Mead, as in Howard Mead (and not Tom, not Dick, not Harry on any ballots, please).

With all due respect to Messrs. Bill Shipp, Phil Kent, Jim Wooten and other very knowledgeable and distinguished laymen who are very opinionated about the manner in which the Georgia electorate should choose its judges, the manner in which Howard Mead has conducted his race for a seat on Georgia Court of Appeals makes me long for the days of yesteryear.

But before visiting this current sad state of affairs, this Part I will recall the big news back in August about "the" questionnaire that the Christian Coalition sent to all judicial candidates; the debate between Round 2 runoff candidates Bernes and Sheffield, etc. -- background stuff if you will for Round 3, courtesy of judicial candidate Howard Mead.

A 08-06-04 post noted the following:

From the 8-6-04 ajc:

The Court of Appeals candidates comment on "the" questionnaire:

Debra Bernes from Marietta:

During the campaign, Bernes declined to answer a Christian Coalition questionnaire that sought candidates' views on U.S. Supreme Court decisions on hot-button social issues such as abortion, homosexual conduct and school vouchers. She said she was concerned her answers might force her to recuse herself if such issues came before the court.

"When you start expressing opinions, it begins to look like you're making campaign promises," she said.

Bernes said she considered herself neither liberal nor conservative. "I'll fairly and impartially decide each and every case," she said."

Mike Sheffield from Lawrenceville:

Sheffield said he would be a conservative judge and called himself the "Georgia values" candidate. He had not hesitated to express his opinion about a number of prominent social issues, such as his opposition to abortion rights and same-sex marriage.

He noted he was the only candidate among six in the Appeals Court race to answer the Christian Coalition's questionnaire.

Sheffield said he answered the questionnaire because he believed the issues were unlikely to come before the Court of Appeals. He also cited court decisions allowing judicial candidates to speak more freely when running for election.

"I thought it was important . . . to let the voters know how I stand on these issues," he said.

[Sid comments: I will vote for Bernes, and am proud to have voted for Justice Sears on July 20. Although Sears used the same reason as Bernes for not sending back the questionnaire -- she might have to recuse or disqualify herself from hearing a case if it came before the Court -- I don't buy this. Sheffield uses the same logic by saying he answered the questionnaire because he does not he believe the issues were likely to come before the Court of Appeals. Hogwash on this line of reasoning by Sears, Bernes and Sheffield.The correct reason for not answering the questionnaire is found in the other reason Bernes gave: "When you start expressing opinions, it begins to look like you're making campaign promises."]

And about "the" questionnaire:

From a 08-05-04 post:

[O]n my website under recent quotables I noted . . .


-- 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 6: The non-partisan runoff for the Georgia Court of Appeals between Debra Bernes and Mike Sheffield. Friends, this race needs our attention.

July 25 -- Seasoned and knowledgeable Dick Pettys of the AP has a good article posted 7-25-04 (I saw it in the Macon Telegraph) entitled "Is Christian right losing its punch in Georgia politics?" that takes us back on memory lane to days of 1988 and Pat Robertson. You need to read this article.

One point that Dick does not make, though, was made in ajc's Political Insider dated 7-22-04 on the Christian Coalition in the context of Court of Appeals candidate Mike Sheffield, and is the reason that this group can never be overlooked:


Sadie Fields, executive director of the Georgia Christian Coalition, sets her organization's value at 204,899 votes -- roughly 16 percent of all ballots cast on Tuesday.

That's the number of votes that Mike Sheffield got in the six-way state Court of Appeals race. Sheffield and Grant Brantley, the unsuccessful candidate for the state Supreme Court, were the only two statewide judicial candidates who cooperated with the Christian Coalition's summer questionnaire. Their glossy photographs appeared on half a million fliers distributed in hundreds of churches across the state.

Brantley had his own problems, but he had his own resources, too, so it's difficult to determine what oomph the Coalition provided.

But Sheffield is a Democrat, who had no money and little other exposure in the campaign, other than the Christian Coalition fliers.

'That's the watermark for me,' Fields said.

And then the Debate, discussed in a 08-06-04 post entitled "The Aug. 6 Court of Appeals Debate -- You Did Good Debra Bernes."

I am going to post the 08-06-04 post in its entirety because of its relevance -- in particular the last sentence saying "You both did the bar proud." -- to what is going on now in what has been deemed unethical conduct by a candidate. It follows:

The clear winner in my opinion: Debra Bernes.

Although I think Debra Bernes comes out of top in the debate with Mike Sheffield, hear me out. Unlike past races for appellate seats where a generally uninformed public -- and yes and most definitely this includes the Georgia bar, that is, attorneys -- risks the applicable court getting an weak judge because we voters do not have a clue for whom we should vote, in this case either one of these candidates will do a good job if elected.

Based on the debate, I feel vindicated in earlier casting my lot with Ms. Bernes. As I wrote one of my email buddies yesterday, August 5, I spent a lot of time researching my decision to vote for Bernes over Sheffield.

It is not because I am a traditional Southern Democrat that I reached this decision. Rather it is because I am different from many current liberal Democrats who, just because one candidate sucked up to Sadie Fields in returning the survey with his opinions expressed therein, I automatically opt for the other candidate. Rather my vote is determined by my evaluation of who would be the better judge.

As was stated in the debate by both candidates, when a judge is sitting as a judge, the judge is required to set aside the judge's personal beliefs and follow the law. He or she must take off his or her private citizen hat and put on a judge's hat. If the candidate cannot do this, the candidate should not be seeking a judicial position.

As I opined in one of my earlier posts, saying that a candidate would be required to recuse himself/herself because of previously expressed personal views is hogwash.

Unlike situations where an attorney's campaign contributions to a judge or relationship with a judge (such as the judge having been a member of attorney's law firm) can present circumstances that make it impossible for the judge to fairly decide a case -- or be perceived as being as unable to fairly decide a case so as to bring the integrity of the court into question -- any personal and previously disclosed feelings and beliefs about an issue do not automatically result in recusal unless the judge feels that because of such beliefs, the judge would be unable to render a fair and impartial decision.

I feel very comfortable in strongly recommending a vote for Debra Bernes on Tuesday 10. At the same time, I genuinely congratulate both candidates for a fine and honorable showing at the Atlanta Press Club debate. You both did the bar proud.

And of course we all recall the rest, leading up to Round 3 that has been going on this past week and will conclude (supposedly) on Nov. 2.

But before leaving this post to do Part II, let's recall the State Bar polling results posted on a 08-05-04 post entitled "The facts ma’am, only the facts -- Part I (Court of Appeals race)" (WITH THE ADDITION TO SUCH POST OF THE DATE ON HOWARD MEAD):

The State Bar of Georgia polls its members in contested appellate races to aid Georgia voters in making informed decisions.

The complete results of the poll can be seen at this website. Attorneys rate the judicial candidates under four categories -- well qualified, qualified, not qualified and lack of sufficient knowledge to express opinion. These results are hereby incorporated (OK, this is for legal reasons), but below I give the names of four candidates, followed by the number of well qualified each of the four candidates received:

Grant Brantley 10702
Leah W. Sears 328

Debra H. Bernes 650
Michael M. Sheffield 267
Howard Mead 175*

(* As noted above, this post is updated, and the results for Howard Mead were not included in the initial 08-05-04 post since he was not one of the top two vote getters that we anticipated would be in the runoff.)

Friday, October 29, 2004

I'll be voting Republican for PSC candidate Robert "Bobby" Baker.

Incumbent Public Service Commission (PSC) Commissioner Robert "Bobby" Baker, a Republican, has more than earned re-election.

As he had done in the past, last week 87-year-old Democrat Mac Barber, a fixture in state politics for decades who was first elected to the General Assembly in 1948 and later served four six-year terms on the Public Service Commission, started running ads in local papers all over the state.

(You remember Mac Barber, a name Tom Perdue wishes he had never heard.)

Will Mac's "mode of operation" work again? It has before. It did with Jim Boyd this summer.

Do your part. Encourage your friends and co-workers to vote for Bobby Baker.

Vote "Yes" for State Constitutional Amendment No. 2.

What you will see on the ballot:

"To provide the Supreme Court jurisdiction to answer questions of law from federal courts. (House Resolution No. 68): Shall the Constitution be amended so as to provide that the Supreme Court shall have jurisdiction and authority to answer questions of law from any state appellate or federal district or appellate court?"

You don't care why, and while maybe not the best endorsement, this proposed amendment is backed by the State Bar of Georgia. No one is opposed to it.

Will it pass? Most folks vote "no" when they do not understand a proposed constitutional amendment. Neither the State Bar of Georgia nor the state or federal judiciary has not done a good job of getting the word around that voters should vote "yes."

(If you want to know what the amendment will do, see Voters Guide 2004 in the ajc.)

Here's to hoping that a healer-type will be elected on Nov. 2. --A Hole in the Heart.

A Hole in the Heart

By Thomas L. Friedman
October 28, 2004
New York Times

When you read polls showing a significant number of Americans feel our country is on the wrong track, what do you think is bothering people? I think it's a deep worry that there is a hole in the heart of the world - the moderate center seems to be getting torn asunder. That has many people worried. And they are right to be worried.

American politics is so polarized today that there is no center, only sides. Israeli politics has become divided nearly to the point of civil war. In the Arab-Muslim world, where the moderate center was always a fragile flower, the political moderates are on the defensive everywhere, and moderate Muslim spiritual leaders seem almost nonexistent.

Europe, for its part, has gone so crazy over the Bush administration that the normally thoughtful Guardian newspaper completely lost its mind last week and published a column that openly hoped for the assassination of President Bush, saying: "John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr. - where are you now that we need you?" (The writer apologized later.) Meanwhile, French and German leaders seem to be competing over who can say more categorically that they will never send troops to help out in Iraq - even though the help needed now is to organize the first U.N.-supervised democratic election in that country.

How do we begin to repair this jagged hole? There is no cure-all, but three big things would help. One is a different U.S. approach to the world. The Bush-Cheney team bears a big responsibility for this hole because it nakedly exploited 9/11 to push a far-right Republican agenda, domestically and globally, for which it had no mandate. When U.S. policy makes such a profound lurch to the right, when we start exporting fear instead of hope, the whole center of gravity of the world is affected. Countries reposition themselves in relation to us.

Had the administration been more competent in pursuing its policies in Iraq - which can still turn out decently - the hole in the heart of the world might not have gotten so large and jagged.

I have been struck by how many foreign dignitaries have begged me lately for news that Bush will lose. This Bush team has made itself so radioactive it glows in the dark. When the world liked Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, America had more power in the world. When much of the world detests George Bush, America has less power. People do not want to be seen standing next to us. It doesn't mean we should run our foreign policy as a popularity contest, but it does mean that leading is not just about making decisions - it's also the ability to communicate, follow through and persuade.

If the Bush team wins re-election, unless it undergoes a policy lobotomy and changes course and tone, the breach between America and the rest of the world will only get larger. But all Mr. Bush and Dick Cheney have told us during this campaign is that they have made no mistakes and see no reason to change.

The second thing that is necessary to heal the hole in the world is a decent Iraqi election. If such an election can be brought off, the Europeans, the Arabs and the American left will have to rethink their positions. I know what I am for in Iraq: a real election and a decent government. The Europeans, the Arabs and the American left know what they are against in Iraq: George Bush and his policies. But if there is an elected Iraqi government, it could be the magnet to begin pulling the moderate center of the world back together, because a duly elected Iraqi government is something everyone should want to help.

The real question is, What if we get a new Iraqi government but the same old Bush team incompetence? That would be a problem. Even an elected Iraqi government will see its legitimacy wane if we cannot help it provide basic security and jobs.

Last, we need to hope that Ariel Sharon's hugely important effort to withdraw Israel from Gaza will pave the way for a resumption of negotiations with the Palestinians. When there is no peace in the Holy Land, and when America has no diplomacy going on there, the world is always more polarized.

I am no Sharon fan, but I am impressed. Mr. Sharon's willingness to look his own ideology and his own political base in the eye, conclude that pandering to both of them is no longer in his country's national interest, and then risk his life and political career to change course is an example of leadership you just don't see much of any more in democracies.

I wonder what Karl Rove thinks of it?

And all God's children said, Amen.

Reading about getting breakfasted over Kerry, & then being lunched over Shipp, all in 24-hr. period. -- Politics lives always for the moment to come.

Late last night I chuckled to myself when reading today's PI. Under an article entitled "Welcome to South Georgia: The land of fighting words and short tempers," Baxter & Galloway wrote:

"Politics lives always for the moment to come. [Don't ask me why, but I love that line. By the way, it has nothing to do with this post.] And it can't come soon enough.

"At 7:20 a.m. Thursday on U.S. 27 in Bainbridge, in a brightly lit gas-and-go, Charlie the Cashier breakfasted on a customer who had dared to speak well of John Kerry."

I chuckled on the "breakfasted on a customer bit," thinking how this good, Democratic, no doubt God-fearing, patriotic American stops in a convenience store in the early a.m., possibly still half asleep, to by some gas or get a cup of coffee.

Rather than "have a good one" or "preciate it," -- as the proprietor would have expected had he/she been there -- the customer gets the riot act read to him by a red-neck member of the now Big Tent Party finishing up his night shift.

And the hell of it, of course, is that the one doing the breakfasting probably has not and will not bother to vote. Why? He's not registered, I'll wager a day's wages.

While I didn't get breakfasted, I got "lunched" early afternoon when I made one of my infrequent stops to one of our many banks in Douglas. I am in Rotary with the President, but as readers of this blog know, have been 10 feet under the last couple of weeks, and consequently have missed Rotary.

I was in, the the dining or lunching begins, me being the "eatee."

"I can't believe your buddy Shipp endorsed Bush; he's losing it. I just can't believe it," he says.

"Listen ____, it was tongue-in-cheek I assure you," I said. "But I went back and read it several times, and any irony in it went right over my head," he said. "Plus I had some guys from Atlanta [who work witht the same bank] tell me the same thing, that they had read his saying he was voting for Bush."

Listen, few things in the world I "know know." This is one. I assured him I would email me him my blog informing the world that it was tongue-in-cheek, and despite my assertions therein that I did not know for sure it was tongue-in-cheek, I really did. Shipp is not voting for Bush.

The post I forwarded my banker friend was dated 10-06-04, was entitled "Okay, okay, I'll do it. Today's "I am going with Bush in 2004 (and Perdue in 2006)" post was tongue-in-cheek. You can still speak to me."

My 10-06-04 post begins:

"The most I have in common with President Bush is that we are both Methodists. Today, after an early a.m. post entitled "I'm with the Dean on this one -- The V.P. Debate last night convinced me. I am going with Bush in 2004 (and Perdue in 2006)," I was treated as if I was a Baptist in a liquor store.

"You know what I mean. As in how do you tell the difference between a Methodist and a Baptist? A Methodist will speak to you in the liquor store.

"You can still speak to me, and while you are at it, keep reading my blog."

The post concludes:

"If Bill Shipp and Sid Cottingham vote for George W. Bush for President of the United States on Nov. 2, it means one of the following things. Either the voting machines failed in Alpharetta and Douglas.

"And if not this, that the Martians have invaded, and Bill and I panicked and headed for some place that our President assures us daily is safe -- Iraq or Afghanistan come to mind -- and that Martians have voted in our stead."

Go back and re-read Mr. Shipp's column that is included in an earlier 10-06-04 post. And if you are still not convinced that I know about what I speak, then know that I do. And the Dean's reaction to the reaction of so many?

Well, you remember reading Brer Rabbit and the Tar-Baby, and how Tar-Baby lay still, en Brer Fox he lay low.

Shipp is in the Brer Fox mode, as when Brer Fox he sorter chuckle in his stummuck, he did, but Tar-Baby ain’t sayin’ nuthin’.

Oh yeah, and one more thing. Shipp's laughing all the way to the ink store.

Uh-oh . . . . -- A videotape shows a huge supply of explosives still at the Al Qaqaa munitions complex nine days after the fall of Baghdad.

The first two paragraphs of a 10-29-04 New York Times article entitled "Video Shows G.I.'s at Weapon Cache:"

A videotape made by a television crew with American troops when they opened bunkers at a sprawling Iraqi munitions complex south of Baghdad shows a huge supply of explosives still there nine days after the fall of Saddam Hussein, apparently including some sealed earlier by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The tape, broadcast on Wednesday night by the ABC affiliate in Minneapolis, appeared to confirm a warning given earlier this month to the agency by Iraqi officials, who said that hundreds of tons of high-grade explosives, powerful enough to bring down buildings or detonate nuclear weapons, had vanished from the site after the invasion of Iraq.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

PI reports that many believe Rep. Isakson may be state's top voter getter.

Friday's PI notes:

"Given the surge in voter registration, and the crush of advance voting — thought to be of slight advantage to Democrats — Republicans are acknowledging that President Bush might not get the 55 percent of the Georgia vote that he achieved in 2000.

"Many, in fact, are holding out the possibility that Isakson could top Bush in the vote count on Tuesday."

I agree. In a 10-19-04 post I predicted:

"The race between Isakson and Majette will not be close. Also, Isakson will garner more votes than the cowboy."

Same-sex/union const. amdt. post-Nov. 2, Part II. -- PI adds color to this, noting this will allow Gov. Perdue to lose the battle and win the war.

I posted one earlier today entitled in part "Same-sex/union const. amdt. post-Nov. 2. -- Ear plugs and not soap requested of gay bashers after amdt. is ruled unconstitutional," indicating that I feel confident the constitutional amendment will be declared unconstitutional after it is passed on Nov. 2.

The PI adds color to this:

Win or lose, Sonny wins on the gay marriage amendment

Curiously, gay marriage was never mentioned from the stump Thursday. But in the RV, it came up in the course of general conversation. That a court challenge almost certainly awaits the amendment on the other side of Tuesday. And that the state Supreme Court could toss the amendment aside.

The prospect brought a faint smile to the governor's lips. A reworked anti-gay marriage amendment couldn't come back until November '06, when Sonny Perdue would be running for re-election.

Only for those who just can't get enough. -- Kerry's Senate record, 6,000 votes in 19 years forge profile.

Bill Shipp wrote this week: "I can't wait until this election is over. I have had enough of George Bush's war with Iraq, John Kerry's war with North Vietnam and even Zell Miller's war with himself."

Sort of for the same reasons, I am giving no excerpts of an article that appears in today's Chicago Tribune on Kerry's record in the U.S. Senate. But for those of you who can't get enough of this stuff, I will tell you that it is a very balanced article and gives a fairly favorable assessment of the Senator's record.

Maybe the reason I differ a tab with the Dean on not being in a hurry for the race to get over is that I have a gut feeling that time is on Kerry's side. But in look at the 2004 Presidential Electoral College Predictions website that my friend Steve put me on a couple of weeks ago (and then was reviewed in the wsj, which link is available at the like to the Predictions), things took a little turn for the worse today.

Go to this website, and also the one it references, NowChannel.com.

And read the wsj article.

Same-sex/union const. amdt. post-Nov. 2. -- Ear plugs and not soap requested of gay bashers after amdt. is ruled unconstitutional.

A 09-25-04 post entitled "Judge Russell does not mess around. Effort to halt referendum falters -- Nov. 2 referendum and judicial activism, Post II," while indicating that I would vote "no" on the gay-bashing constitutional amendment, explained in layman's language -- to the extent this is possible for an attorney -- why I felt certain Judge Russell would let the election go forward.

"The judicial power will not be exerted . . . to stay the course of legislation while it is in process of enactment," the Georgia Supreme Court had written in a 1920 case, and this case was determinative with Judge Russell and the Georgia Supreme Court that this week affirmed Judge Russell's decision.

But as explained in the 09-05-04 post, the Nov. 2 election is only the first step. Also as explained in the 09-05-04 post, if the gay-bashing amendment is defeated on Nov. 2, there will be nothing else to take to the Georgia Supreme Court, and basically, if you understand this as explained in my 09-05-04 post, you understand why Judge Russell and the Georgia Supreme Court decided this case correctly.

But as we know, the amendment will pass, and then the case will find itself back in court, and hopefully before Judge Russell and on up to the Supreme Court again.

The outcome. The constitutional amendment as passed -- duly ratified and proclaimed and all that stuff -- will be declared unconstitutional under the Georgia constitution. You can take it to the bank.

Now this go around, Judge Russell and the Justices on the Georgia Supreme Court were not what, you got it, activist judges.

I am a triathlete. I am going to encourage my fellow jurists to get in a little activity between now and the upcoming court challenge -- a little jogging, cycling, swimming, anything. While being active might not make them an activist judge, it will come closer to being accurate than that used by the GOP.

You recall Bill Shipp's take on this. "As nearly as we can tell, a 'judicially activist' jurist is one who rules against your wishes."

In the 09-05-04 post I recounted how Sen. Mike Crotts (R-Conyers) -- who introduced Senate Resolution 595 which authorized the gay marriage referendum during the 2004 session of the General Assembly -- said after he heard Judge Russell asking the parties questions.

"Here's a judge being fair, not trying to be an activist judge who is trying to circumvent the voice of the people," Crotts said.

As I said in my 09-04-04 post:

"Spare us Senator, spare us. You need to wash out your mouth with soap.

"Had Judge Russell not brought up the 1920 Supreme Court case, and ultimately ruled against SR 595, not only would you have called her an 'activist judge,' but this would have been the nicest thing you and Jim Wooten and other gay bashers would have had to say about her."

After the initial and final rulings on the constitutionality of the amendment are announed, it sure would be nice if the gay bashers would supply the activist judges some ear plugs. Nice, decent folks should not have to be subject to having to hear what they are going to be called.

And especially when, just as they did in allowing the amendment to be voted on, they are just doing their job as they swore they would do when they became judges and justices.

God Bless America!!

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

This race one of most exciting ever. Remember Clinton-Dole in '96? Didn't think so. And so many more will vote now. -- 3 more battleground states?

Instead of shrinking, the number of battleground states appears to be growing as Nov. 2 nears. A 10-27-04 Washington Post is entitled:

3 States May Be Back on the Table -- Close Race Forces Parties to Reassess 11th-Hour Ad Buys


The electoral map unexpectedly -- and perhaps temporarily -- expanded yesterday [Tuesday], with Democrats suddenly playing defense in their traditional stronghold of Hawaii and some party strategists eyeing two other states that Sen. John F. Kerry had all but written off, West Virginia and Arkansas.

Strategists in both parties said they are confident that Hawaii would remain in Democratic hands on Election Day, and most predicted that Arkansas and West Virginia would stay in Republican hands. But the flurry of interest in these states in the campaign's final week underscored not only how close the race between Kerry and President Bush remains but also the combatants' desire to test every opportunity and protect against every contingency.

Former president Bill Clinton, according to party strategists, has implored the Kerry campaign for weeks not to give up on Arkansas, a state Gore narrowly lost, and plans to campaign there Sunday.

[A DNC official said last night] that, given how hard it is to buy advertising time in Florida or Ohio now, spending a little money in a state such as West Virginia is attractive.

Bush strategists said earlier they were surprised when Kerry seemed to give up on West Virginia, but one Bush adviser said in an e-mail that regardless of what the Democrats and their allies do in the final week, "they can't win Arkansas and West Virginia."

Leaping Lizards!! Hold the ladder steady. -- Sec. of State Cathy Cox says 72% to vote. Wow!!

Apparently I missed it yesterday, but I just read online that Secretary of State Cathy Cox predicted yesterday that 72 percent turnout of Georgia voters -- just over 3 million people. This rivals the 1992 turnout.

I did see that morning that Galloway and Company in PI reviewed early "voting numbers for 80 of Georgia's 159 counties. Of those, 17 counties — like DeKalb — have already exceeded a week's worth of votes cast in July."

"So we have a surge on our hands," the PI said, and so it would certainly seem.

Continuing, the PI noted: "So far, it appears that rural Georgia — with a few notable exceptions — is sticking with Nov. 2. In raw numbers, metro Atlanta is where the advance votes are."

Being personally acquainted with Mr. Galloway as I am proud to be able to say I am, I can assure you he was in Jack Webb mode when reporting the facts ma'am, just the facts about rural Georgia. I can assure you there was nary a suggestion that we might just be, well, let's just say provincial in rural Georgia, yeah, that will work.

I have never missed a vote, and living in God's country as I am glad I do, I don't have to worry about long lines. And even if there is a bit of a wait, there is always good conversation to be had with your friends rather than standing next to someone you've never seen with a Yankee -- or even worse, Brooklyn -- accent, or yet even worse, having to look at someone with nose rings or nose balls or whatever they are who thinks you are weird for not being with it.

I sort of feel about voting on Nov. 2 as a farmer client once told me about "the" Bible.

"Son," he asked, "what's yo preface on the good Book?"

I started to say that I didn't rightly know, but knowing what he meant, I politely said, "Do you mean do I prefer the King James or the Revised Standard Version?"

"That's right son, what's yo preface."

"Well Sir," I replied, "I have always been a King James man myself."

"Proud of you boy; me too," he said, "I likes it just the way the good Lord wrote himself."

By this time Mr. Galloway is thinking . . . . How did Cottingham get from there -- my comment on rural Georgia -- to here. Hum, maybe Cottingham is being a bit defensive. As Hamlet's guilt-ridden mother put it, I think he "doth protest too much."

I love it.

Is this a great country or what!!

Looking past the election. No matter who wins on Tuesday, one thing that appears to be a result of the Bush years: The End Of the "Jewish Vote."

Yesterday I did a post entitled "Mayday Mayday, we're getting hit on the right and barraged on the left by 'friendly' fire" that reminded readers of the topic of a 10-09-04 post discussing an erosion of support among black voters, and then revealed how the Democratic Party is also suffering erosion from another traditionally friendly block of voters, Jewish voters.

Today's post is a column by editor of the New Republic, Peter Beinart, entitled "The End Of the 'Jewish Vote.' It appears in the Washington Post, and I think explains the issue of erosion among Jewish voters. This is, in political terms, a historic development. The column:

The End Of the 'Jewish Vote'

No matter who wins on Tuesday, commentators will likely sift through the exit polling and declare that, in at least one respect, President Bush failed. Early this year some Republicans boasted that Bush would realign Jewish American politics -- ending the community's 80-year love affair with the Democratic Party. In recent weeks, however, with polls showing most Jews planning to vote for John Kerry, the brash predictions have stopped. Jewish Democrats are poised to declare victory, to announce that Bush's overtures have come to naught.

But that won't be true. Because while President Bush hasn't realigned the Jewish vote, he has done something even more intriguing: He has ended it.

The term "Jewish vote" implies a shared political perspective that binds Jews more to one another than to gentiles. In this sense, there has not been an "Episcopalian vote" or a "Catholic vote" for a long time. In the 1950s Christian denominations meant something at the polling booth. Catholics and Southern Baptists generally voted Democratic. Episcopalians and other main-line Protestants, especially in the North, voted Republican. But starting in the 1970s, religious denomination began to matter less -- and religious intensity to matter more and more. Catholics who went to Mass every week started voting more like Episcopalians who went to church every week than like Catholics who didn't. During the culture wars of the 1990s, the trend accelerated. This spring a study by the University of Akron's John Green for the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found "that religious traditionalists, whether Evangelical, Mainline Protestant or Catholic, hold similar positions on issue after issue, and that modernists of all these various traditions are similarly like-minded." With the critical exception of African Americans -- whose religiousness has not generally inclined them toward the GOP -- traditionalist Christians voted Republican while modernist Christians voted Democratic.

Jews, however, were different. As late as 2000, Al Gore and his Orthodox running mate, Joe Lieberman, didn't just win most of the Jewish vote, they won a large majority among Orthodox Jews -- the "traditionalists" whom sociologists might have expected to join their Christian counterparts. But it now appears that, like Jimmy Carter, who won the votes of his fellow evangelicals in 1976, Lieberman simply delayed his community's migration into the Republican Party. This year, for probably the first time, Orthodox Jews will vote like "traditionalist" Christians. Conservative, Reform and non-affiliated Jews, on the other hand, will vote like secular, or "modernist," Christians. And the Jewish vote, in a meaningful sense, will cease to exist.

George W. Bush deserves much of the credit. Some commentators speculated that his strong support for Ariel Sharon would win over Jewish voters. Actually, it has divided them. Orthodox Jews are far more likely to vote on Israel than other Jews. According to a recent American Jewish Committee survey, 74 percent of Orthodox Jews feel "very close" to Israel, compared with only 31 percent of Jews overall. And Orthodox Jews are also more likely to oppose dismantling settlements, which puts them more in sync with Bush and Sharon's hard-line policies.

If Bush's Israel policy has attracted Orthodox Jews, his domestic agenda has alienated their non-Orthodox counterparts. In particular, Conservative, Reform and unaffiliated Jews express a clear antipathy toward the agenda of the Christian Right. According to the American Jewish Committee, roughly three-quarters of them oppose government aid to religious schools. But among Orthodox Jews, who are far more likely to send their children to such schools, and who often feel considerable financial strain as a result, the sentiment is almost exactly the reverse. Two-thirds of the Orthodox support government funding of religious education. When Republican Sens. Norm Coleman and Rick Santorum traveled to Borough Park in Brooklyn during the Republican National Convention to meet with a select group of Orthodox rabbis, school vouchers was among the top issues on the agenda. Gay marriage also pits Orthodox Jews against their more secular counterparts. As Binyamin Jolkovsky, editor and publisher of JewishWorldReview.com, recently told the Jewish Week newspaper, "There are two distinct Jewish communities right now, the general Jewish community and the Orthodox. Our value systems are so different."

Don't expect this to have a dramatic impact at the polls. Orthodox Jews make up less than 10 percent of the American Jewish population, so even though they will probably vote overwhelmingly for President Bush, he will still overwhelmingly lose the Jewish vote as a whole. But beyond Nov. 2, the Orthodox migration into the Republican Party is part of a larger transformation: Religion is eclipsing ethnicity as a force in American politics. To be an Irish Catholic or a German Lutheran used to have real political meaning. Today those patchwork divisions, which stretch back more than a century, are fading. Increasingly, America, or at least white America, has just two political cultures: religious and secular. And next week Jews -- who have held out longer than their Christian brethren -- will finally choose sides.