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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, November 30, 2004

Removing the sales tax exemption on "groceries," Part III. -- Advice to state from the Atlanta academic think tank study: Accountability.

Part I: A 10-9-04 post entitled: "The time is now; the need is acute; sponsors solicited and welcome -- In 2005 the Gen. Assembly needs to remove the sales tax exemption on groceries."

This post, along with the earlier posts linked therein, reviews the history of the sales tax and also the exemption on "food and beverages," how the exemption is not applicable to SPLOST, why "food and beverages" might not be what you think, and the the current state of the tax situation in Georgia.

Part II: A 11-28-04 post entitled "The Macon Telegraph: Tax breaks, including sales tax exemption for "groceries," costing state hundreds of millions in revenue. Programs to suffer."

This post reviews the same academic study reported in the ajc article highlighted below, and notes that the issue of tax reform and various exemptions is expected to be at center stage in the 2005 legislative session, when state government is expected to consider ever-deeper cuts in human services.

And the posts notes that if this doesn't happen, with the costs of education and health-care rising faster than spending cuts can keep up with them, Georgia may reach a state of "permanent fiscal crisis," according to Alan Essig, director of the nonpartisan Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, the academic study discussed below.

The article in today's ajc is more concerned with accountability for tax breaks for industry recruitment, etc., actually, the lack thereof. But because of some of the quotes that are relevant to the topic of this series of posts, I have included it. The title of the article and some excerpts follow:

Tax breaks get no oversight
Report suggests state cheating itself

State government is losing about $2 billion a year from tax breaks, but lawmakers aren't keeping track of the long-term cost or whether the tax cuts are helping the economy, a new report says.

The report released Monday by the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, an Atlanta think tank, said putting some kind of accountability into the mishmash system of tax breaks is particularly important now because the state could face another budget shortfall of $550 million to $700 million next year.

Senate President Pro Tempore Eric Johnson (R-Savannah) [says] that most of the $2 billion a year Essig points to comes from politically untouchable tax breaks often widely supported by the public, such as the state's decision in the late 1990s to remove the sales tax from groceries at the prodding of then-Gov. Zell Miller. Georgians save about $642 million a year by not having to pay a sales tax on groceries.

And tax breaks approved by Democratic-controlled Legislatures aren't likely to go away under the new Republican rule.

[Alan] Essig is a former Georgia State University fiscal researcher who started the nonpartisan institute a few months back to study state budget policy.

"Once you get a tax break, it's in forever," he noted. "If we're talking about dropping 45,000 children from public health care, we ought to look at some of these expenditures. Maybe there is a strong public policy argument, but we're cutting funding for children, for education." [By "these expenditures," Essig was talking about tax incentives or breaks to create jobs, etc.]

Even with rising tax collections, Essig said the state faces a huge shortfall next fiscal year just to pay for education, health care and prison programs. Because of growth in those areas, collections can't keep up. He said, for example, that while 20 percent more students attend college now than in 2001, there has been almost no increase in the number of college instructors.

Essig said such trends are likely to continue into the next budget year, when Gov. Sonny Perdue and legislators will have to come up with about $500 million just to fund rising health care costs

Monday, November 29, 2004

Democratic candidates for Gov. in '06: Just Taylor or Taylor vs. Cox. -- It ain't over till the fat lady sings, & she most definitely hasn't sung yet.

Today's Baxter & Galloway's PI has its usual great insight into the Democratic lineup for Governor in 2006:

After Nov. 2, the question for Georgia Democrats is whether they can afford a two-person slamfest for governor in '06

Three months ago, Democrats were quick to describe Sonny Perdue as a one-termer, an accidental governor surely vulnerable to the right challenger.

But the numbers racked up by George W. Bush and Johnny Isakson in the November elections, not to mention the sudden completion of the GOP takeover of the Legislature, have changed all that. No longer can Democrats fool themselves into thinking that Georgia voters were merely experimenting when they sent Gov. Roy Barnes packing in 2002.

"It was not a one-time flirtation with Republicans. They may be falling in love — which is bad news for Democrats in 2006," said Charles Bullock, the eminent political scientist up in Athens.

For Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, the results of November don't change the landscape of a race for governor two years hence. They just change the odds. Taylor's got a stash of cash and may have already waded so deeply into the race that turning back would be just as risky as going forward.

But this is not so for Secretary of State Cathy Cox, the other Democrat contemplating a gubernatorial run. Before the Nov. 2 election, the question on everyone's lips at the state Capitol was when Cox would enter the race. Now it has quickly become a matter of 'if."

Most Republicans fear Cox more than Taylor in '06, simply because of the unknown impact she would make among white women, the most fickle sector of the GOP support system. Never before has a woman made a serious play for the Democratic nomination for governor.

But Cox's political base at the Capitol had been in a Democratically controlled House, where she and her father both served. Had Terry Coleman survived as House speaker, Cox in all likelihood would have had the support of both Coleman and his powerful office. Plus all the lobbyist cash he could bring with him. Republican control of that chamber significantly alters the funding picture for Cox.

On a broader scope, state Democratic officials are already making the same calculations that Georgia Republicans had forced upon them throughout most of the 20th century. When it comes to the '06 governor's race, Democrats will have some money, but not enough to finance both a knock-down primary between Cox and Taylor and a general election contest against a superbly funded Perdue.

Some Democratic officials have told us they'd like to see Cox run for lieutenant governor, to create a Taylor-Cox ticket. That's not likely to happen. If Cox decides that patience is the better part of valor, she'd probably stick to her current office — and depend on the strength that incumbency provides.

Interestingly, Cox's future could be in the hands of Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, who wields much more influence in a smaller Democratic party weighted heavily with votes from Fulton and DeKalb counties. So far, Franklin has remained studiously neutral in efforts to shape the '06 contest.

(End of PI.)

Immediately after the election Bill Shipp weighed in with his own thoughts about the foregoing matter, writing "If Cox and Taylor value their political careers, they will avoid a primary fight - or even wait until Perdue's second term ends. By that time, voters really ought to be ready for a change."

I also discussed this issue in a 10-24-04 post under the subtitle "Part I: Conventional thinking, that is, Taylor or Cox vs. Sonny or just Taylor vs. Sonny." (This post contained the following quote: "The word around the Capitol: Cox and Taylor had struck a deal to avoid a costly primary between the state’s two most promising Democrats. Guess what? No deal. “A deal? That’s preposterous. Cathy and Mark don’t even talk,” says a Cox adviser.)

In addition to the factors discussed in the PI article, a couple of thoughts occurred to me that might have some relevance to the Taylor and Cox developing story:

(1) Bobby Kahn: Is there a Bobby Kahn factor floating under the surface here? Some Party officials are out for his head -- although they may settle with just wrestling the Party's Chair from him? (see 11-12-04 post.)(Although this raises the difficult issue of upon whom the Party would bestow the same).

While the Lt. Gov. has been the standard-bearer for the Party (in the absense of a Democratic Governor who has always been the unofficial head of the Party), is there a perceived affinity and identification of interest between the two such that any action involving Kahn could be perceived as a negative for Taylor.

(If there is a perception of identity of interest, at least don't fault Taylor for his generosity to the cause. You will recall that this summer he gave some $500,000 of funds from his Lt. Gov. fund to the Party, funds that under state law can't be transferred from one campaign chest to another. (see 10-21-04 post.)

As many Party loyalists were calling for his head following the 2002 and 2004 meltdowns, Kahn did not help himself by adding to the perception of being on the losing side of things with his backing of Howard Mead's unsuccessful $3 million race for the Georgia Court of Appeals seat.

(2) The black vote: The PI's observation that Ms. Cox's future could be in the hands of Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin is truly fascinating.

While pre-Nov. 2 polls that we have reviewed (11-06-04 post and 10-19-04 post) give Ms. Cox a slight advantage over the Lt. Gov. in a match with Gov. Perdue, I personally do not believe that the Ms. Cox has an edge with just black voters. The Lt. Gov. has worked hard to court this group of voters during his tenure as Lt.Gov., and in some parts of the state has an almost Clinton-like following among black voters.

(3) Fund raising: I have no knowledge about the players, loyalties, politics, etc. (let's just say really anything) in this area, and thus my thoughts are pure discussion and speculation.

I do know the Lt. Gov. has on in-house fund raising machine that is as good as they come.

I also have been told that the Democratic Party's heavy in this area, Kristin Oblander, is on some sort of retainer with the state Party, and regardless, I do know she only works for Democratic candidates (yeah, she's the one that raised the $21 million for Gov. Barnes; she raised it, Bobby Kahn spent it).

Although the clout that Rep. Terry Coleman could have swayed would be missing giving the change in events in the state House as discussed by the PI, it appears to me that Ms. Oblander would consider lending her considerable clout to and working for Ms. Cox, assuming the Lt. Gov.'s staff has its bases covered in-house. (This is where I am ignorant. With her identify and association with the state Party now, assuming my understanding is correct, would she sign up with opposition to the head of the Party? I would think in a New Jersey second, but this is pure guessing on my part.)

In this area, I am showing my ignorance in discussion, but my thoughts occurred to me and I am sharing them with you.

(4) Surfacing of another Democratic candidate. In different times, if Ms. Cox bows out of a challenge with the Lt. Gov. -- whether in taking a hit for the Party or to not risk her political career -- the chances that another challenger would step forward without anything at risk to challenge Mark Taylor increases greatly.

Who could such be? This is the problem. Who? Someone might surface, although at this time given our Party's situation, it is not as likely as in more regular times.

A possibility -- unlikely or otherwise -- would be Rep. Larry Walker. Another just as unlikely would be Roy Barnes. Don't categorically rule such things out. Future events will dictate the future.

(And I do agree that if Ms. Cox does not run for Gov., she will pass on running for Lt. Gov., and remain in her position as Secretary of State. Besides, we sure would miss seeing her on TV in her public-service series.)

(5) The Fat Lady is not even scheduled to sing until after the 2005 session concludes: This much I feel very confident in saying. Much can happen. Here's to hoping it does.

The Gov. began with 2003 session wearing his easy rider motorcycle helmet. This time he may feel inclined to look presidential, and come to the Capitol dressed in an Easter bunny outfit.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

The Macon Telegraph: Tax breaks, including sales tax exemption for "groceries," costing state hundreds of millions in revenue. Programs to suffer.

In the Sunday Macon Telegraph appears another one of Andy Peters' keepers. Stories such as this don't just flow from a reporter's head; there are time and research intensive to produce.

Do you recall the in-depth stories Andy did this summer using data from prior elections to predict the outcome of the various state House and Senate races on Nov. 2? Regardless, let me tell you, he was on the money on all of them.

His headline in his latest article that appears below in bold tells it all.

His research reviews some of the same issues I did in my 10-09-04 post in which I make the case for removing the sales tax exemption on "groceries" during the upcoming legislative session.

Excerpts from Mr. Peters' article follows:

Tax breaks, loopholes, low rates shaving hundreds of millions from state's revenue

Getting a haircut or buying a bunch of bananas in Georgia? You won't pay sales tax. But if you're purchasing shampoo and hairstyling pomade, be prepared to pay it.

Those are some examples, critics say, of odd loopholes and tax breaks in Georgia tax system.

In the past 20 years, the Georgia General Assembly passed countless exemptions in sales tax, income tax and property tax.

All these items add up to a gaping hole in Georgia's bank account, according to academics who study the state budget.

The issue is expected to be at center stage in the 2005 legislative session, when state government is expected to consider ever-deeper cuts in human services. Advocacy groups for the poor, the disabled and children plan to cite the state's deficiencies in collecting taxes to argue against further budget cuts.

Most of Georgia's exemptions, shelters, loopholes and rock-bottom tax levels have either outlived their original purpose, or cost the state more than they produce in other economic activity, one academic said.

If the state doesn't make changes to its tax laws, with the costs of education and health-care rising faster than spending cuts can keep up with them, Georgia may reach a state of "permanent fiscal crisis," said Alan Essig, director of the nonpartisan Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.

"Our tax structure hasn't kept up with the economy or the times," Essig said.

[I]f you're a Canadian driving down Interstate 75 to the Florida beaches, and your sport utility vehicle looks like it's running on empty near Chattanooga, Tenn., hope there are enough fumes left to get to Ringgold to fill up your tank. That's because gas is 8 cents per gallon cheaper in Georgia than Tennessee. Georgia has the lowest motor-fuel tax in the United States, at 12 cents per gallon.

Since taking office in January 2003, Perdue has chopped more than $1.6 billion in state spending. He's told state agency heads that he's likely to propose more spending cuts in the budget for fiscal 2006 that he will submit to the Legislature in January or February.

If you haven't, I encourage you to review my 10-09-04 post. By law our state is required to operate a balanced budget. It we don't repeal the sales tax on "groceries" that should not have been adopted in the first place, the state is not going to have the revenue to continue important human services.

Some might consider the position I advocate as being on the Republican side of the equation. Reading my post should change this. Without this change, I foresee further, deeper and continuing cuts in human services in the upcoming legislative session.

Maybe I'm finally beginning to understand the incomprehensible. -- Georgia Equality now has GOP ties. Whence goeth we from here?

Brian Basinger may be providing me some of the logic I have been missing in my posts questioning the long-term benefits of the ongoing court challenge to constitutional amendment no. 1 (background contained in post of 11-26-04 post and posts linked therein; and I have to say this is significant, even if it isn't, since I promised to quit beating this dead horse in such 11-26-04 post).

On Saturday Mr. Basinger provided the following information the Augusta Chronicle (excerpts):

Chuck Bowen doesn't sound like your typical gay-rights crusader. Gay-rights advocate has a GOP past

Chuck Bowen doesn't sound like your typical gay-rights crusader.

The 48-year-old openly gay South Carolina native made two failed bids for public office in his home state as a Republican and considers former President Nixon his personal hero.

Mr. Bowen also admired the foreign policy and economic agenda of President Reagan, often maligned by many gays for his handling of the AIDS outbreak in the 1980s.

As the new executive director of the statewide gay-advocacy group Georgia Equality, Mr. Bowen said he believes his GOP-tinged background will be an asset in his new nonpartisan job, which he began Nov. 1.

"Gays and lesbians have to learn you can't identify with single-issue candidates," said Mr. Bowen, who now considers himself an independent after being registered as a Democrat in New York since 2002. "You have to look at the whole picture. You might not agree with a candidate's voting record or position on one issue, but you might agree with it on another."

Mr. Bowen arrives in Georgia at a time when knowing how to think like a Republican will be a must for gay-rights supporters.

Many of the top lawmakers who now will be guiding legislation through the state Capitol are self-described conservatives and some have said privately they would like to see more "moral values" laws passed, including a ban on allowing gays and lesbians to adopt or serve as foster parents.

Still, Mr. Bowen is optimistic that common ground can be found.

"It's going to be a long, hard task," he said. "But we've got to pick ourselves up, shakes ourselves off, and we've got to go forward."

Mr. Bowen's political background was one of the major reasons Georgia Equality's board of directors chose him from a field of 11 candidates.

"We've got new political realities to deal with in Georgia," said Sharon Semmens, Georgia Equality board chairwoman. "(Chuck) is familiar with how state legislatures work, and so I think that will serve him well."

If the bolded statements reflect experience and a sense of realism, will someone please tell the Georgia Equality and its new executive director to put their leadership where their mouth is.

The title asks where do we go from here. Could it be that Georgia Equality wants us to play into the hands of the GOP? From reading the above about Mr. Bowen, I would not think he would want to be at the helm of an organization that kept its head in the sand, ignoring reality all around it.

If this is the case, I sure would appreciate learning the logic of how maintaining the current course does not do just that, play into the GOP's hand at election time in 2006.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Surprise: In '03 & '04 the top-giving corporate PAC's did not hedge their bets. They favored Republican candidates 10 to 1.

Actually, I was a bit surprised at the margin of 10-1 given the pre-Nov. 2 narrow division between Republicans and Democrats in Congress.

The criteria for this statistic is corporate PAC's that donated $100,000 or more to presidential and Congressional candidates from January 2003 through the middle of last month. Of the 268 meeting this criteria, 245 gave the majority of their contributions to Republicans.

Among the five most-Republican-leaning corporate PAC's is Georgia's own Flowers Industries PAC: All $131,500 went to Republican candidates. Flowers Industries, as we all know, is a bakery company based in Thomasville. It bakes and distributes Little Miss Sunbeam products.

For your information if you didn't know, corporate PAC's are financed with limited donations from company employees, who can each give up to $5,000 a year. In turn, the PAC's can donate up to $5,000 for a primary and another $5,000 for the general election to each federal candidate they support.

(AP story.)

The Cracker Squire blog may be on the way of the Edsel and Oldsmobile. Its publisher cannot understand plain language.

The publisher of the Cracker Squire may be soon be on life support or worse. The culprit is noted below, but as a result, I may have to seek other gainful employment outside the only field I know anything about, the field and practice of law.

You recall how a couple of days ago I wrote: "You know how things happen in America. They begin in California, then to New York, and then Main Street U.S.A."

Well, things have begun in California.

On Thanksgiving the ajc ran a very disturbing piece from the Los Angeles Times noting that -- hoping to make jury instructions in criminal cases more user-friendly -- the Judicial Council of California is rewriting them to replace legal jargon with common, recognizable phrases.

It seems that "the council," supposedly the policy-making arm of the California courts, approved new ''plain language'' instructions for civil cases last year, and those for criminal matters are expected to be approved next year.

I sure wish they had been accomodating enough for us civil attorneys here on the east coast to have reversed the process, that is, have done criminal instructions first. My law firm only does criminal cases when one of us are appointed in a federal case in the Southern District of Georgia, and I can assure you, it is not something we sign up for.

Anyway, I frankly I don't know if I can cope with what "the council" perceives as progress. And if I, an attorney, have trouble understanding the new mumbo jumbo, woe be the public, the non-lawyer types.

The article gives a before and after example (and the labels in bold are those of the author and not mine, I assure you):

Jargon: A witness who is willfully false in one material aspect of his or her testimony is to be distrusted in others. You may reject the whole testimony of a witness who willfully has testified falsely as to a material point, unless, from all the evidence, you believe the probability of truth favors his or her testimony in other particulars.

Plain language: If you decide that a witness deliberately lied about something important, you should consider not believing anything that witness says. Or, if you think the witness lied about some things but told the truth about others, you may simply accept the part that you think is true and ignore the rest.

P.S. For you lawyer-types:

Whereas you may have an interest in the aforesaid topic, you now therefore can go to this site and build said civil jury instructions within Word (sorry, no option for WordPerfect, the traditional wordprocessor for lawyers).

Some of us need to loosen up a bit, but OK, I surrender; just don't sic the FCC on me. -- I know that the Equal Time Doctrine is still the law.

The reactions to my 11-23-04 post entitled "Taking every position on every issue. -- Sen. John Flipflop Kerry says "You're playing here" ran the gamut.

I should have gotten a gold star for the post. Undoubtedly, it was my shortest. It was short and sweet (well, not too sweet to Sen. Just For Kerry, a/k/a Sen. John Flipflop Kerry):

"Being a team player, I resisted my urge to share this link pre-Nov. 2. I stumbled across it last night looking for an email address."

Most loved it; I got one serious sounding email saying that she bet if the inclination were there, the same type thing could be put together on W. (If you haven't listened to this, you should.)

I didn't respond to the email, but if I had, at the time I would have said loosen up, this is just fun and politics.

But actually, I disagree with her. Kerry might be a flip-flop -- what is this might be stuff; he is a flip-flop -- W's lines are classic in and of themselves, no contrast needed.

Without being requested, I hereby remind our readers of such, this being from a 08-17-04 post:

W -- Reprising a War With Words; But I still miss his Daddy's Veep.

(8-17-04 Washington Post.)

The malapropisms that adorned George W. Bush's 2000 campaign before going into remission during much of his presidency have reemerged to garnish his reelection bid.

"I hope you leave here and walk out and say, What did he say? " Rest is required reading.

But all this does is make me miss Dan Quayle:

It isn't pollution that's harming the environment. It's the impurities in our air and water that are doing it.

I believe we are on an irreversible trend toward more freedom and democracy - but that could change.

This election is about who's going to be the next President of the United States!

One word sums up probably the responsibility of any vice president, and that one word is 'to be prepared'.

If we do not succeed, then we run the risk of failure.

Let me just tell you how thrilling it really is, and how, what a challenge it is, because in 1988 the question is whether we're going forward to tomorrow or whether we're going to go past to the -- to the back!

What a waste it is to lose one's mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is.

Republicans understand the importance of bondage between a mother and child.

The loss of life will be irreplaceable.

END OF 08-17-04 POST, but it is not complete without my friend Rusty's comment to the foregoing: "Slick Willy, wherefore art thou? I miss having a president who can string words together into those . . . things . . . you know, what were those called? Oh yeah, sentences."

I do wish we had some of W's from this summer (the election is over; I did not call him the cowboy; he is my President). They will come, and we will enjoy them then.

As we go about regrouping, let's take good advice, regardless of its dubious source, even from the Philistines. -- Tim Wooten's advice to the Demo's.

Jim Wooten, self-proclaimed Goliath of the Philistines (OK, so it was me who so proclaimed him as such), concludes a recent column with justifiable criticism of all of the pork contained in the omnibus spending bill that was passed without any of our U.S. Congressman or Senators having had the opportunity to read.

This spending bill was the subject of my 11-24-04 post entitled "'We've reached the bizarre point where we approve hundreds of billions of dollars of bills without anyone seeing them." Sen. John McCain."

Mr. Wooten's advice: "Hint to defeated Democrats: Become fiscal conservatives and run against the tax-and-spenders."

Amen to that I say.

I put a quote on this on my website this summer that I love (from the Libertine Party of all sources):


“This seems to be an exciting time to be a Libertarian, if such a thing is possible . . . .

"[I]f some pollsters and pundits are correct, this could be the year in which Libertarians stand a fair chance of shaking up the presidential election. Not by winning, mind you -- even the party’s most enthusiastic drug-legalization advocate would have few illusions there.

"Rather, Libertarians are positioned to effect a November surprise by siphoning votes away from an incumbent president who spends our taxes like lottery winnings, invades other countries under false pretexts and treats the U.S. Constitution as if it were a roll of Charmin.

"‘Several of my Republican friends say they’ll stay home or vote Libertarian instead of supporting Bush,’ says Dave Dellinger, press secretary for the party’s Georgia chapter.’

"‘We used to say that the Democrats were the tax-and-spend party,’ Dellinger says, ‘but under Bush, the Republicans have become the borrow-and-spend party.’”

And in a 09-06-04 post entitled "Suggest to your state legislator that the General Assembly require itself to first review rules' impact on small business," I wrote:

"[W]ouldn't it be nice for Congress to have the General Accounting Office inform states about how much legislation being consider for passage in Washington will cost the states. Sometimes it's unfunded mandates; other times it's Congress cutting taxes on the national level that will result in them going up -- or the states doing without -- on the state level . . . .

In days gone by when the Democratic Party was known as the tax and spend party, it might have been thought Congress would have resisted such legislation.

But with the GOP having won all honors as the borrow and spend party, the Democrats might want such legislation to at least let the states know upfront what it generally takes them several years to find out.

On the state level, this horse is going to be more difficult to ride this coming legislative session as the GOP, in full control, works to balance the state budget, often on the backs of the poor and needy.

But in fairness to all concerned, much in the state budget needs reviewing, and would have been done had Gov. Barnes been re-elected.

This is the result of successive tax cuts during the Miller and Barnes' administrations, and are reviewed in my post of 10-09-04 post advocating ending the sales tax exemption for "groceries."

But we need to keep to theme "borrow and spend" party and such similar labels as they develop in mind, and screw the labels to the sticking point.

And at the same time, we need to take back some of our characteristics and the very essence of our Party that the Republicans have very skillfully succeeded in convincing many who should be (and were) Democrats now belong to the GOP, causing such voters to vote for Republicans even as they are voting against their own best interests.

I conclude this post with some advice I espoused that we follow back in a post of 08-08-04, and is certainly of relevance after Nov. 2:

Mayday Mayday, we're getting hit on the right and barraged on the left.

The previous post concerns the Democratic Party getting hit on the right. This morning in the ajc we read that the Party is in the process of getting barraged on the left by friendly fire. The article notes:

"More than two decades ago, conservative visionary Newt Gingrich set out a strategy that helped Republicans win control of Congress and a majority of the state legislative houses and governorships.

"Now, some liberals are using the methods of the former House speaker in what they hope will be a Democratic comeback.

"Gloria Totten [a seasoned political organizer from the abortion rights movement] heads Progressive Majority [PROPAC, which echoes Newt's conservative Republican group, GOPAC], which is building a 'farm team' of liberal Democratic politicians.

"In one of the best organized of these efforts, a small but optimistic group named Progressive Majority has already begun coaching 93 left-of-center state and local candidates on how to win elections."

To paraphase someone I have little respect for, "Can't we all just get along without your help ma'am, thank you very much?"

For you see, Ms. Totten, here in Georgia we're about the important task of rebuilding the Democratic Party, and in the process showing Georgia and the rest of the good ole US of A that we are "A National Party, You Damned Right We Are."

If you want to be of help, get behind the Democratic Leadership Council or some similar organization.

We are the party of the people, the party of inclusion, and while we want your help, many good Democrats agree with the skeptic quoted in the above link to the ajc article who states:

"I think there is an unrepresented majority of Americans with middle-of-the-road positions on abortion, guns, taxes and a whole host of other issues that are not pure enough for groups on the left or right. The problem is that the process is driven by ideologues and issue purists on the left and right that are equally removed from where most Americans are."

In the process of rebuilding, we are far less interested in black caucuses and white caucuses and Hispanic caucuses. We want Democratic caucuses.

In the process of rebuilding, we are far less interested in liberal caucuses and conservative caucuses. We want Democratic caucuses.

As we rebuild, we want to attract back many white male voters and others groups who may have abandoned us, and in the process, we think labels -- such as the liberal one that you espouse -- at this time could do us more harm than good.

As I said, we are the party of inclusion and want your help, but at this point we do not need to be taking one step forward and two back.


As we regroup, remembering from whence we came will not interfere with our being flexible, innovative, and above all, inclusive of all, including new and accomodating ideas and platforms.

We are down but not out.

We are in the John Paul Jones mode. In his famous naval battle in which over half of his crew, including Jones himself, were either killed or wounded and many men were horribly burned. It was during this battle, when asked if he wished to surrender, that Jones gave the reply "I have not yet begun to fight."

Let's fight, but let's fight smart.

And to borrow from the Coffee County Democrats' new website from the Ballad of Sir Andrew Barton:

"Fight on, my men," says Sir Andrew Barton,
"I am hurt, but I am not slain;
I'll lay me down and bleed a while,
And then I'll rise and fight again."

Democrats can introduce bills also (& we haven't forgotten the Golden Rule and Respect for Others). -- Sen. Tim Golden introduces "Drugs Don't Work."

Valdosta, as is any town in rural Georgia, is proud when one of its own does good. Thus is goes without saying that it is very proud of Sen. Tim Golden.

The Valdosta Daily Times writes about Valdosta and Lowndes County's own Sen. Tim Golden:

Golden named Caucus chairman

South Georgia will retain a strong presence in the Capitol with the announcement that Sen. Tim Golden, D-Valdosta, will be the chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus.

“The fact that I’m a South Georgia conservative appealed to the party, and I’ll be hammering to get the party back on the right issues,” said Golden.

Sen. Robert Brown of Macon, described by Golden as “moderate to conservative,” was named Senate minority leader. Brown and Golden were both elected to the General Assembly in 1990. All of Brown’s time has been spent in the Senate, while Golden served in the House for eight years before moving to the Senate in 1998.

Golden said traditionally, the Caucus takes positions on a number of policies, but he is against the practice. “We will be very choosy about what we pick. We usually push positions for members, but I’ve always rebelled against that. One of the things I made clear to the members of the Senate is that they should vote their districts and their own minds — they should have the freedom to do what’s right.”

Having the visibility as Caucus chairman will benefit South Georgia, according to Golden, as it’s a “policy making position and a leadership position. It puts me in front of 22 senators on a daily basis.”

Although the beginning of the legislative session is still weeks away, Golden said he has already pre-filed his first bill, and is working on two others.

“The Drugs Don’t Work program expires this year after eight years, and I want to make it permanent from now on. As long as companies meet the criteria, we should lock in the 7.5 percent worker’s comp discount.”

As for working with the Senate majority Republicans, Golden said, “If I think they’re right, I’ll support them like I always have. We need to get along and be constructive and proactive. Time will tell.”

On withdrawing from Iraq too early. -- My Mother always told me two wrongs don't make a right.

Although I entitled this post withdrawing from Iraq too early, I recognize that unfortunately, as Bill Shipp wrote this week, "[w]e are engaged in a war that may drag on for generations."

Saving the Iraqi Children

By Nicholas D. Kristof
The New York Times
November 27, 2004

Iraqis are paying a horrendous price for the good intentions of well-meaning conservatives who wanted to liberate them. And now some well-meaning American liberals are seeking a troop withdrawal that would make matters even worse.

Heaven protect Iraq from well-meaning Americans.

Lately, I've been quiet about the war because it's easy to rail about the administration's foolishness last year but a lot harder to offer constructive suggestions for what we should do now. President Bush's policy on Iraq has migrated from delusional - we would be welcomed with flowers, we should disband the Iraqi army, security is fine, the big problem is exaggerations by nervous Nellie correspondents - to reasonable today.

These days, the biggest risk may come from the small but growing contingent on the left that wants to bring our troops home now.

Consider two recent reports.

First, The Lancet, the London-based medical journal, published a study suggesting that at least 100,000 Iraqis, and perhaps many more, had died as a result of the invasion of Iraq. Among Iraqis, the risk of death by violence was 58 times greater after the war than before, and infant mortality also nearly doubled.

That's apparently because of insecurity. A doctor in Basra told me last year how physicians and patients alike had had to run for cover when bandits attacked the infectious diseases unit, firing machine guns and throwing hand grenades, so they could steal the air-conditioners. Given those conditions, women are now more likely to give birth at home, so babies and mothers are both more likely to die of "natural" causes.

The second troubling report, in The Washington Post, recounted that acute malnutrition among children under 5 soared to 7.7 percent this year from 4 percent before the war. Those are preliminary figures, but they suggest that 400,000 Iraqi children are badly malnourished, and suffering in some cases from irreversible physical and mental stunting.

Those glimpses at the public health situation in Iraq are a reminder not only of the disastrous impact of our invasion, but also of the humanitarian impact if we pull out our troops prematurely.

If U.S. troops leave Iraq too soon, the country will simply fall apart. The Kurdish areas in the north may muddle along, unless Turkey intervenes to protect the Turkman minority or to block the emergence of a Kurdish state. The Shiite areas in the south might establish an Iranian-backed theocratic statelet that would establish order. But the middle of the country would erupt in bloody civil war and turn into something like Somalia.

What would that mean? If Iraq were to sink to Somalia-level child mortality rates, one result by my calculation would be 203,000 children dying each year. If Iraq were to have maternal mortality rates as bad as Somalia's, that would be 9,900 Iraqi women dying each year in childbirth.

Granted, my argument for staying the course is a difficult one to make to American parents whose immediate concerns are the lives of their own children. There is no getting around the fact that if we stay, more Americans will die, and this burden will fall inequitably on working-class families and members of minority groups.

I also have to concede that those calling for withdrawal may in the end be proven right: perhaps we'll stick it out in Iraq and still be forced to retreat even after squandering the lives of 1,000 more Americans. Those of us who believe in remaining in Iraq must answer the question that John Kerry asked about Vietnam: "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"

The best answer to that question, I think, is that our mistaken invasion has left millions of Iraqis desperately vulnerable, and it would be inhumane to abandon them now. If we stay in Iraq, there is still some hope that Iraqis will come to enjoy security and better lives, but if we pull out we will be condemning Iraqis to anarchy, terrorism and starvation, costing the lives of hundreds of thousands of children over the next decade.

Those hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, whose lives we placed at risk by invading their country, are the reasons we should remain in Iraq, until we can hand over security to a local force. Saving hundreds of thousands of lives is a worthy cause to risk American lives for, even to die for.

Welcome to the new order, Part IV. -- If the U.S. House of Representatives are game, sure, count the U.S. Senate in.

Senator Frist Tightens the Screws

New York Times Editorial
November 27, 2004

Flexing their new muscles, Congressional Republicans seem intent on reigning as a dissent-smothering monolith. First, House G.O.P. members slavishly obeyed the maneuver by Tom DeLay, the majority leader, to render his control of the caucus ethics-proof by making it possible for a party leader to keep his post even if he is under indictment. His counterpart in the Senate, Bill Frist, was more discreet but no less ham-handed. He has engineered a rules change designed to cow the few Republican moderates who may still be willing to nip back at demands for party fealty.

The rule undercuts members' independence by giving Dr. Frist the power to fill the first two vacancies on all committees. This hobbles seniority, which has been the traditional path to power. The leader now has a cudgel for shaping the "world's greatest deliberative body" into a chorus line. Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine, chronic Republican maverick, got to the heart of the matter in skewering her leader's accomplishment: "There is only one reason for that change, and it is to punish people."

Toadying, of course, would avoid punishment. (Senator Arlen Specter's flirtation with independence already seems shaken by anti-abortion zealots.) Yet in a perverse way, this hubris by the Senate's more potent conservative bloc compounds the value of any dissent. The rule may even brace moderates to stand faster against extreme G.O.P. initiatives.

But nastiness is in the air as the new Congress limbers up. Democrats vow to never forget Dr. Frist's foray into South Dakota to help unhorse his counterpart, Tom Daschle, the minority leader, whose farewell speech was boycotted by a victorious, decidedly unsentimental majority. Dr. Frist, who many expect to run for president next time, seems beyond the range of minority Democrats, but not G.O.P. moderates seething at the rules change.

Welcome to the new order, Part III. -- So you will know. A primer of government of the majority of the majority. And what goes around, comes around.

Excerpts from a 11-27-04 Washington Post article entitled:

Hastert Launches a Partisan Policy

In scuttling major intelligence legislation that he, the president and most lawmakers supported, Speaker J. Dennis Hastert last week enunciated a policy in which Congress will pass bills only if most House Republicans back them, regardless of how many Democrats favor them.

Hastert's position, which is drawing fire from Democrats and some outside groups, is the latest step in a decade-long process of limiting Democrats' influence and running the House virtually as a one-party institution.

Republicans earlier barred House Democrats from helping to draft major bills such as the 2003 Medicare revision and this year's intelligence package. Hastert (R-Ill.) now says such bills will reach the House floor, after negotiations with the Senate, only if "the majority of the majority" supports them.

Senators from both parties, leaders of the Sept. 11 commission and others have sharply criticized the policy. The long-debated intelligence bill would now be law, they say, if Hastert and his lieutenants had been humble enough to let a high-profile measure pass with most votes coming from the minority party.

Citing the increased marginalization of Democrats as House bills are drafted and brought to the floor, Rep. David E. Price (D-N.C.) said, "It's a set of rules and practices which the Republicans have taken to new extremes."

Hastert put his principle into practice one week ago today. In a closed meeting in the Capitol basement, he urged his GOP colleagues to back the intelligence bill that had emerged from long House-Senate negotiations and had President Bush's support. When a surprising number refused, Hastert elected to keep it from reaching a vote, even though his aides said it could have passed with a minority of GOP members and strong support from the chamber's 206 Democrats.

In the new Congress that convenes in January, Hastert's strategy may prove sufficient for GOP victories on issues that sharply divide the two parties, such as tax cuts, several analysts said. But on trade issues and other matters that are more divisive within the parties -- and thus require bipartisan coalitions to pass -- he could face serious problems.

Hastert's "majority of the majority" maxim, [Norman] Ornstein [of the American Enterprise Institute] said, "is a disastrous recipe for tackling domestic issues such as entitlement programs, the deficit and things like that."

I noted in the title that what goes around, comes around, meaning of course that the pendulum always swings, and our day will return.

But by the time I finished this post, I have reconsidered. On particular issues, such a position could perhaps justifiably be employed to gain a more partisan flavor. But to run a country this way as a matter of routine so as to insure that the Speaker keeps his job?

When our day in the sun returns, I think we would do best to not do as those whom we have criticized.

A great article from the Post: (1) On DNC Chair & (2) Without singling Ga. out, it discusses our frustration as one of written off blue states.

Party Debates Ins and Outs of Chairmanship
In February, Democrats Will Rehash Kerry's Defeat and Replace McAuliffe

Washington Post
November 27, 2004

Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack is out, former Vermont governor Howard Dean may be in, a host of others are considering, and everybody wants to know: Whom do the Clintons want?

Less than a month after Sen. John F. Kerry's loss to President Bush, the current parlor game among Democrats is speculation over who will take over the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee when Terence R. McAuliffe steps down early next year.

The prospective battle has become a window in the party's many factions, an early gut check for some prospective 2008 presidential candidates and yet another opportunity for Democratic activists to replay the lessons of Kerry's loss. The selection of a new chairman in early February will provide the first collective judgment by party insiders on what went wrong and what Democrats need to do to begin their comeback.

With Democrats out of power, the new chairman will have substantial power to help organize the opposition to Bush and his second-term agenda, in much the way the Republican National Committee under Haley Barbour (now governor of Mississippi) did after Bill Clinton was elected president in 1992.

The new DNC chairman, along with the party's congressional leadership, will become one of the Democrats' most visible spokesmen over the next year or two. Beyond that, he or she will have to manage the party's disparate coalition -- no easy task when the party does not control the White House -- and prepare for crucial off-year elections in 2005 and 2006 while making sure the fundraising operation, which was one of McAuliffe's biggest accomplishments, does not begin to wither.

McAuliffe was a controversial chairman at times during his four-year tenure, but he will leave behind party machinery that is in far better shape than when he took over. There is no debt for the new chairman to inherit, but updated technology, voter files and a newly renovated headquarters await. "It's not a broke party," said Gina Glantz, who was Bill Bradley's 2000 campaign manager and now is a top official at the Service Employees International Union. "It may be broken, but it's not broke."

But there is disgruntlement among some, particularly the heads of the state parties, many of whom feel neglected after a presidential campaign cycle in which just a dozen or so states were targeted by the Kerry campaign. "There is huge frustration that the party broadly defined was not well served," one longtime DNC member said. "The presidential candidate was well served, but in states not targeted by the presidential [candidate], we were completely shut out."

Mark Brewer, chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party and the leader of the Association of Democratic State Chairs, said: "We're looking for a much more cooperative relationship with the DNC, with much more focus on state parties and on races down the ballot [below the presidential contest]. I'm the chair of a targeted state and I feel that way. Michigan got plenty of attention from the DNC and we're grateful for the financial support, but there's no question we've targeted ourselves into a corner.

When you write off states in election after election, you make it harder and harder to win."

Brewer has asked his fellow state leaders to remain neutral for now in the contest to elect a new DNC chairman, in the hope that they ultimately could become the power brokers in deciding who succeeds McAuliffe. The state chairs have begun to invite candidates for the DNC chairmanship to meet in Orlando on Dec. 12 in what will be a potentially pivotal tryout before the February vote. "Together we can have quite an impact, if we choose," Brewer said.

There is no shortage of names being bandied about as prospective chairs, but only a few real candidates at this point. Kerry was pushing Vilsack, who appeared to be interested until he announced last week that he will not be a candidate. Knowledgeable Democrats say one reason for his decision was his desire to explore a 2008 presidential candidacy, something he would not be able to do as party chairman.

The 2008 race stands as a potential obstacle to Dean as well. After his unsuccessful bid for the presidential nomination this year, Dean expressed a desire to play a role in reshaping the party around the image of his grass-roots candidacy, which provided Democrats with a new model of small-donor fundraising that Kerry and the DNC used successfully after Dean was eliminated from the race.

Dean faces opposition among Democrats who think he is too liberal, but it is not clear that he will end up as a candidate for the chairmanship. Some Democrats say he will not run unless he is convinced he has the votes to win. Others say he must decide whether he is willing to pledge not to run in 2008, which at this point he may be reluctant to do.

"Right now he's not a candidate for anything," said Steve McMahon, a longtime media and strategic adviser to Dean. "He intends to be deeply involved in rebuilding the party and establishing a grass-roots network of activist and small donors. What role that takes is yet to be determined."

Organized labor, one of the most influential voices within the party, does not appear to have a consensus candidate at this point in the contest. Nor do African Americans or other minorities. Two prominent African Americans who have long been active in DNC activities have bowed out: Former labor secretary Alexis M. Herman said last week that she will not be a candidate, and Donna Brazile, who was campaign manager for Al Gore in 2000, took herself out earlier.

Two other African Americans have been mentioned as prospective chairs. One is former Denver mayor Wellington E. Webb, although he is disliked by some in organized labor because of clashes with unions when he was in office. Former Dallas mayor Ron Kirk, who was unsuccessful in his 2002 Senate race in Texas, is the other.

Others draw attention as possible candidates. Among them are Rep. Martin Frost (D-Tex.), who lost his bid for reelection after his district was redrawn in the controversial remapping of Texas at the hands of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R). Some Democrats believe it would be good for the party to have a southerner as chair, which might help Frost. Others point to former Georgia governor Roy Barnes or Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner as other possible southern choices.

Former White House deputy chief of staff Harold Ickes is another possible candidate. Other announced or prospective candidates include New York businessman and Democratic donor Leo J. Hindery Jr.; Donnie Fowler, political director for Gore in 2000 and the son of former DNC chairman Don Fowler; and Simon B. Rosenberg, founder of the New Democrat Network.

Given their stature within the party, an endorsement -- quietly or publicly -- by former president Clinton and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) could give someone a big boost. Ickes is seen as close to the Clintons but there is no indication that they are backing him. "If they've got a candidate, I don't know who it is," one former Clinton White House official said.

Another official who is close to the former president said he doubted either of the Clintons will actively support anyone for the chairmanship. "At the end of the day they're likely to have an interest in who it is and [want] to be comfortable [with the choice] rather than taking someone and promoting them," this Democrat said.

Former chair Fowler said the new chairman must be able to fashion and deliver the party's message while tending to party building in the states and figuring out how to unite the various factions. While noting a personal preference for his son's candidacy, Fowler added, "I'm confident we'll find somebody. I'm not sure that person has been found yet."

Friday, November 26, 2004

Comments from just a couple of his many, many, many admirers. -- They don't call him the Dean for nothing. Bill Shipp, you are the best!!

Georgia Trend has a great article by Jerry Grillo entitled "Who's Who In Georgia Media -- Some have the power, some get the glory. But, by and large, these are the people who determine what makes the news. "

Mr. Grillo has written a great article to introduce his selection of those included, and his list is superb. As you would expect, it includes many of our favorites in the media whom we all recognize as being the best of the best.

The following couple of comments concerned the Dean:

Several . . . journalists came up again and again. Bill Shipp, until this year, a regular Georgia Trend columnist, is one.

"I like Bill Shipp's frankness," says Albany TV reporter Dawn Hobby. "He's not afraid to call it like he sees it." Shipp has been calling it that way for about 50 years and seems to have lost none of his touch. "He's still the very best political commentator in the state," says John Sugg, senior editor of Creative Loafing.

And unrelated to the Dean, I am going to share a couple of sentences with you the event you don't read the article. They concern doing cartoons of politicians:

[Mike] Luckovich [, the Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution] genuinely enjoys irritating some people. One of his favorite all-time subjects is former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. "Newt was great because he was very abrasive and sensitive, and if you hit him with a cartoon it made him angry," Luckovich says with nostalgic glee. "It's disappointing when a politician wants a copy of a cartoon." Ah, the good old days. It was during Gingrich's reign that Luckovich won his Pulitzer.

Welcome to the new order, Part II. -- Ga. GOP House leaders introduce bill to replace local property taxes with a state 3% sales tax to fund schools.

I did a 11-20-04 post entitled "Preparing ourselves for a new order. -- A spending bill addressing the deficit including something about abortions. Why not? It's a new day."

The background was the national scene. As noted in the following described 11-25-04 ajc article on replacing property taxes with a 3% sales tax to fund schools, we also can expect a new day in the new order on the state level.

In the article ajc staff writer Nancy Badertscher has done a great write up on the GOP's proposal of a 3% sales tax increase and shares some of her state-by-state research with us (the lattter is not included in this post). The article:

Republican leaders in the Georgia House intend to use the clout of their new majority to launch a debate on replacing local school property taxes with a 3 percent hike in the state sales tax.

A bill to do just that was proposed during the 2004 General Assembly and went nowhere.

But since then, Republicans have won control of the 180-member House and have voted to put the bill's two main sponsors — state Reps. Jerry Keen of St. Simons Island and Glenn Richardson of Dallas — in charge.

If it gains support in the upcoming General Assembly session, the measure could be on the ballot as a constitutional amendment as soon as 2006.

For property owners, the Keen-Richardson proposal could mean a huge financial break. On average, 55 percent of property tax bills go to the local school system. In some counties, it's as much as 77 percent, according to a study by David Sjoquist, director of the Fiscal Research Center at Georgia State University's Andrew Young School of Policy Studies. For the tax year 2003, the last year for which figures are available, the Revenue Department says property taxes collected statewide for school maintenance and bonds totaled $4.6 billion.

In Fulton County, eliminating the school tax would reduce the property taxes on a $200,000 house by about $1,500. A 3 percent increase in sales tax for a family making $100,000 a year would represent an average increase of about $1,500.

The state now collects a 4 percent sales tax, but local taxes vary substantially. In Atlanta, the total sales tax amounts to 8 percent.

Under the proposal, the money collected from the additional sales tax would be redistributed to school systems based on an as yet undetermined formula. The measure's supporters pledge that individual school systems would not suffer financially.

"Obviously, you cannot fund Gwinnett County [in metro Atlanta] the same amount as you fund Brantley [County, in rural Georgia]," Keen said. "But under our proposal, not a single school system in the state, including the metro systems, would not receive a penny less than they are receiving now."

The proposal's supporters can expect stiff opposition.

Advocates for poor people long have argued that increasing sales taxes hits people who can't afford it hardest. They also argue that property tax relief would do little for people who rent or cannot afford to buy homes.

State Rep. Tyrone Brooks (D-Atlanta), president of the Georgia Association of the Black Elected Officials, said such a sales tax increase would be devastating for poor people, the elderly and people living on fixed incomes.
"I'm very, very concerned about that proposal," Brooks said.

Herb Garrett, executive director of the Georgia School Superintendents Association, acknowledged that the proposal may appeal to homeowners weary of paying school property taxes. But he believes the sales tax plan is a bad idea.

"We believe that the funding of public education ought to be based on a stable and reliable source of revenue, and the sales tax alone does not meet that definition," Garrett said.

Under last year's bill, Garrett said the state would have left local districts unable to spend more than their state allocations.

"That would immediately hamper the ability of parents in north Fulton to have orchestra in high schools," Garrett said. "It would hamper the ability of the city of Atlanta schools from having special remedial courses."
Garrett urged caution. "We think it has real problems, and it deserves a lot more discussion," he said.

Richardson, who will become speaker of the House in January, and Keen, who was picked to be majority leader, said legislators have two incentives to give the sales tax proposal a serious look.

In September, a group of parents and more than 50 rural school districts filed a lawsuit, challenging the current system of funding public education in Georgia. Property owners also are being hit with higher assessments and are clamoring for tax relief, they said.

"We've got two problems. and we need a solution to fix both," Richardson said.

"If education is everyone's responsibility, shouldn't all Georgians be paying for it, not just the one million or so property owners?" Richardson said.

He said the bipartisan group that signed on to the bill this year knows "there are upsides and downsides, as with any proposal. But we've studied it," Richardson said.

One concern — that sales tax revenues could fluctuate with turns in the economy — could be addressed by the creation of a major reserve fund, he said.

House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Richard Royal (D-Camilla) said he introduced the same proposal 10 years ago but was uncomfortable about the reliability of sales tax collections in an economic downturn to pursue it.

Royal said he's keeping an open mind about the Keen-Richardson proposal, but he expressed reservations about the 3 percent cap. Ten years ago, he had calculated a 2 percent sales tax.

"What about growth? Inflation?," he said. "If we put that cap on, it would take another constitutional amendment to raise the cap."

Royal said he also worries about a provision in the bill that would remove all sales tax exemptions, including the one on groceries.* "That would put a $700 million burden placed back on the people of Georgia," Royal said. "I have a concern about that."*

As noted in my 10-09-04 post -- and for the very different reasons discussed therein from those underlying the legislation seeking to change funding for education -- I am very much in favor of removing the sales tax exemption on "groceries." The post is entitled:

"The time is now; the need is acute; sponsors solicited and welcome -- In 2005 the Gen. Assembly needs to remove the sales tax exemption on groceries."

I'm with Rep. Charlie Norwood on this one. Rep. Istook, Vengeance is Mine saith the Lord God. -- Amtrak funding.

I preface my remarks by noting that I am a big Amtrak fan.

As an eight-year old I rode on a train from Waycross to Atlanta through Birmingham to Oklahoma City, stayed several weeks for a visit with my Grandmother, and then made the trip back. And something we as parents wouldn't consider these days, I made the trip all by my lonesome. It was great.

My experiences on the diner, with the conductors looking after the young kid and saying "All Aboard," and just generally watching the countryside go by, were experiences I could not allow my 3 girls to miss, although in truth they would have rather gone along with the Mother's preference of flying as we normally do.

We can drive an hour to Jesup, leave our car parked at the railway station there, and board the Silver Service for Washington. And even when we had flown to Washington to be with Sally's parents over the holidays, on several occasions while my three daughters were growing up, we would board the Metroliner in Washington and head for New York City.

As I noted, there is a special place in my heart for trains.

Excerpts from a 11-24-04 article in The Hill:

Istook derails earmarks. 21 GOP colleagues fume over his stance on Amtrak

Deep in the transportation section of this year’s omnibus spending bill, Rep. Ernest Istook (R-Okla.) dispensed a little appropriator’s justice, punishing 21 Republicans who wrote him a letter in support of $1.8 billion for Amtrak.

Istook, chairman of the Subcommittee on Transportation, Treasury and Independent Agencies, drastically reduced, or entirely excised, the transportation earmarks that those lawmakers were expecting to receive, making good on a little-noticed threat he issued in a letter last February.

Istook’s anti-Amtrak retribution hit several of the Republican majority’s most vulnerable members . . . who won tight races, in part, by convincing constituents of their ability to bring home road money.

The affected lawmakers did not learn of Istook’s drastic action until last Saturday, when the bill was passed. Several of them contacted Republican leaders to inquire if they knew of Istook’s punitive action and were told that party leaders were unaware that Istook was harming vulnerable members.

Reps. John McHugh (R-N.Y.) and Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.) were said to be particularly outraged at Istook’s actions, according several committee sources. Upon learning that his projects were cut, McHugh came close to physical blows with Istook, according to some accounts.

Istook’s office disputed this version of events, but his spokeswoman, Micah Ledorf, said, “I think Mr. McHugh was pretty upset.”

In February, Istook wrote the 32 lawmakers who signed a letter in support of Amtrak funding. “A ‘Dear Colleague’ letter has just been sent to every House Member, to outline the process for reviewing the transportation priorities for your district as we develop our fiscal 2005 bill,” he wrote.

“As you submit these important priorities for your district, please bear in mind that any request for Amtrak funding, even if submitted in a separate document, must and will be weighed against your other requests, and I will consider it as a project request for your district.”

Responding to the lawmakers’ shock that their requested projects were not included in the final bill, Ledorf said, “They can’t say they weren’t warned.”

But aides to those lawmakers said they had not received any indication from Istook, aside from the lone February letter, that their projects would be axed. Nor did some of those lawmakers believe that Istook would make good on his threat.

“The fact that he cut their projects without telling them verbally and that he cut projects to vulnerables is shocking,” a GOP leadership aide said.

Ledorf confirmed that Istook made no additional effort — written, verbal or at the staff level — to inform the 21 lawmakers that their projects were in jeopardy.

“Last year, they had 32 members sign the letter, and this year it was only 21, so some people got the message,” Ledorf said, adding that she expects even fewer public supporters for Amtrak funding in next year’s process.

The other 17 Republicans who signed the bill and had many, if not all, of their projects stripped are . . . Charlie Norwood (Ga.) . . . .

P.S. Rep. Chuck Sims, I think you are just going to love being a part of such a fine, distinguished and considerate group of people.

Stranger than fiction. -- Sen. Kerry’s attempt to play kingmaker met with reactions from polite courtesy to private derision among lawmakers & aides.

On 11-13-04 I did the following post:

I'm with The New Republic on this call, Part II. -- John Kerry is a reminder of our 2004 failure to retire a president with a very vulnerable record.

Part I: 11-10-04 post: "Let me make this perfectly clear. I will never vote for John F. Kerry again, not for Pres., not for Head Janitor, not for anything."

The New Republic, which endorsed Kerry, wants him to move onto other things, get out of the headlines, off the public stage, etc. Excerpts:

He's back. Actually, he never even left. John Kerry, according to reports in The Boston Globe and The Washington Post [and the Cracker Squire blog according to a Nov. 10 post -- I wish], plans to have a prominent role in the Democratic Party. Apparently he's contemplating a political action committee and think-tank to help define the party's future. And, according to those around him, he's also considering another presidential run in 2008.

Kerry's inner circle has come away from the election apparently convinced that he represents the aspirations of nearly half the country...

It is certainly true that the election saw an enormous outpouring of activism on Kerry's behalf. That activism, though, was motivated by opposition to Bush rather than by support for Kerry. He was merely a vessel for righteous outrage over a failed and dangerous presidency. And not a very potent vessel, either. . . .

If the Democratic Party is going to get off its back, it needs spokesmen who can clearly explain its positions without leaving even its own partisans bored or confused. It needs someone who can connect with the economic and moral values of the middle class. And it needs to be able to discuss foreign policy without invoking the word 'alliances' like some kind of irrepressible verbal tic. The longer Kerry overstays his welcome, the harder it will be for such spokesmen to emerge.

Kerry certainly does deserve to retain a role within the party. That role ought to be the same as it was before he ran for president: second-most influential senator from Massachusetts.

I got several emails that, while supportive, hinted that I might have done the above post to kick the man when he was not only down but dead politically.

Read the following, and this isn't coming from Ripley's Believe It or Not (although to me it almost defies credibility; what does it take to get it in his selfish head that he is history, over, and time for him to disappear from the public scene as we are regrouping).

From The Hill, 11-24-04:

Members believe Kerry preparing for 2008 run. His fight over DNC is seen as signaling continued ambition

Many Democratic lawmakers are interpreting Sen. John Kerry’s active participation in selecting the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) as the strongest signal yet that the defeated presidential candidate is keeping his options open for a bid in 2008.

Last week, Kerry contacted nearly every elected member of the House Democratic leadership, and other powerful lawmakers, on behalf of Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa. On Monday, Vilsack issued a statement that he was no longer pursuing the chairmanship.

But Kerry’s aggressive support of Vilsack has convinced many key House Democrats that Kerry wants to install a chairman who would be in Kerry’s debt and would not attempt to dissuade the Massachusetts senator from seeking the highest office again.

Lawmakers and top House aides say that Kerry’s involvement in the DNC race is the latest of several clear signals that he does not plan to fade into the political horizon. They speculated that Kerry could depend on Vilsack’s loyalty, noting that he was on Kerry’s short list as a potential vice-presidential running mate and that Vilsack’s wife publicly campaigned for Kerry in the Iowa caucuses.

Kerry sang Vilsack’s praises in his first meeting with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the new Senate minority leader, Harry Reid (D-Nev.), two weeks ago, according to Pelosi’s public statements. Kerry has also contacted caucus Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, in addition to several other lawmakers who did not want to be named. It was unclear if he had any conversations with House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

Word of Kerry’s staunch backing of Vilsack, and Kerry’s intent to stay involved in internal party politics, has spread throughout the caucus.

“Obviously, Senator Kerry, notwithstanding his loss, is still very much in the mix and cares about where the DNC is heading in the future,” said a key member of the caucus who was contacted by Kerry.

“He has contacted me, and he has shared his opinion. He wants to be part of this process,” Cummings said.

Kerry’s attempt to play kingmaker was met with a range of reactions, from polite courtesy to private derision, among lawmakers and aides.

Some lawmakers said they were taken aback by Kerry’s aggressiveness on this issue.

“He not only lost, he lost badly,” said a key member of the Congressional Black Caucus who did not want to be identified.

Members of Congress do not have a direct say in who becomes the next chairman of the party, though leaders in both the House and Senate are seeking to influence a decision that will have an immediate impact on their midterm elections in 2006. In the absence of a clear national leader who could tip the race in one candidate’s favor, the decision on the next chairman will be more diffuse than in previous years, harking back to the state-by-state, county-by-county process that made Ron Brown chairman in 1989.

Reid had all but offered a public endorsement of Vilsack, shoring up Senate support for Kerry’s candidate. But with Vilsack out of the hunt, the race appears to be even more wide-open, and potential candidates are furiously reaching out to congressional leaders and asking for their support.

The next chairman of the party will be elected by the national committee, which consists of some 447 members. Some of those voters will get a preview of the potential candidates later in December, when state leaders will gather in Orlando.

Simon Rosenberg, the chairman of the New Democrat Network, who is often mentioned as a possible chairman, said Democrats should engage in a long internal conversation at the grassroots level on how the party can return to majority status.

It would be bad for our party to have someone anointed from Washington,” Rosenberg said.

Garnering support from congressional heavyweights appears to be part of the strategy of many of the potential candidates. Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean has been aggressively courting congressional supporters for several weeks. His prospects seemed to improve when Vilsack said he wasn’t interested in the job, according to Democratic strategists.

Dean has run into opposition among some congressional leaders who are demanding that he foreswear running again in 2008. Dean has been coy in his response to those lawmakers who want an assurance that he won’t mount another bid, lawmakers say.

Doubts about Dean’s own ambitions appear to be hurting him in the House. “It’s just an obvious conflict of interest,” said Rep. Al Wynn (D-Md.).

Making a list and checking it twice. Is a TiVo on the list? If it is . . .

I don't have one, and have never really considered getting one. I do know that folks that own them love them. They obviously are a great product (although the company has never really figured out how to market the benefits of the product and service effectively, and for this reason, you don't want to own the stock).

In the event you or a loved one is has a TiVo on your Christmas wish list, be sure to at least consider the news reported today by the Associate Press that TiVo will now start putting up "pop-ads" whenever a user tries to "fast-forward" through recorded commercials.

Although not noted in the AP report, TiVo will undoubtedly sell the four second pop-up spot (it takes four seconds to fast-forward through a 30-second commercial) and as a way to add incremental revenue.

But this new strategy looks a lot like "biting the hand that feeds them." Although TiVo has many great benefits, the company has failed to market the service effectively. You almost have to buy a TiVo in order to really understand what it can do.

But ask anyone who doesn't have a TiVo already what the real benefit of a TiVo is. The answer is almost always "so you can skip commercials." There are a lot more benefits available when you actually get a TiVo - and learn to use it, but the "simple" benefit that most potential subscribers in the future see is "no commercials."

The company hasn't been able to effectively market the real benefits of TiVo, like automated recording of shows and the value of "time-shifting" and even "editing" a show you might otherwise miss.

But now the company plans to dilute the value of the ''no commercials" benefit by substituting a new ad for the skipped ads. In addition, the pop-up ads, which apparently will be static, lacking audio and moving images, will be more like banner ads than true TV commercials. The value of that to advertisers is minimal and the willingness to pay much for them will be low. In the end, the most likely scenario is that the pop-ads will generate very little revenue while making the marketing effort even harder.

Now when he/she asks you for one, you can say, hon, did you know that . . ., and then maybe direct the conversation toward something that you want.


Take your own sweet time Mayor Franklin. And then respond: "You give a little, & maybe I'll give a little." -- Court challenge to const. amd't # 1.

As with my series about Rep. Chuck Sims*, I recognize that I am close to beating to death the topic discussed in my 11-15-04 post entitled "I'm with Speaker-elect Glenn Richardson on this one. -- Plaintiffs in court challenge to Constitutional Amendment # 1 suffer dementia if they think suit is best for Georgia."

That post stated:

"My 11-11-04 post titled in part "Is the GOP hoping for Supreme Court defeat?" The answer "yes" as discussed in the series of posts linked in this 11-11-04 post is so obvious that the question asked is no more than a rheorical one.

"The GOP can hardly contain itself at the very prospect of being able to have another referendum on the ballot in Nov. 2006 if amendment # 1 is declared unconstitional because it violated the Georgia constitution's single-subject rule."

But as Mick Jagger says, "I can't get no satisfaction." And satisfaction for me isn't just being my way or the highway. I might be mistaken; have overlooked or not considered something. But we'll never know. Those bringing and responsible for bringing the court challenge desire no dialogue to ferret out of the issues.

The reasons for the second part of this title to this post are reflected in the above-noted posts and the links contained therein.

The "Take your own sweet time Mayor Franklin. Respond: You give a little, and maybe I'll give a little" has reference to the following article in the 11-26-04 ajc. (And as stated several times in my posts, in politics, to get along, sometimes you have to go along, and we sure need those filing the lawsuit to go along on this one.)

And short of some major development, this is my last post on the topic. For both now and in the future, and the future includes 2006. Those who have brought and are responsible for bringing the lawsuit, along with the gay community's leadership that could exert leadership, have at it.

You are in the process of making your bed, and it will be yours to lie in.

Gay group wants mayor to act now

The state's largest gay rights organization is pressing Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin to either enforce the city's Human Rights Ordinance as it is or come up with a plan to strengthen it so it can survive a court challenge.

Last week, the mayor said the law, which was passed in 2000 ostensibly to end discrimination against gay people, was poorly drafted and may not survive a lawsuit. Franklin told a group of gay business people she was "stuck" about enforcing the ordinance and risking a lawsuit. When running for office, Franklin had said she would enforce it. Later, her administration revised the legislation to strengthen the wording.

This year, however, the ordinance faced its first test when a city commission found that the Druid Hills Golf Club was discriminating against gays. In January, the Human Relations Commission found the club was discriminating by not granting partners of gay members the same benefits as spouses of married members. The ordinance gives the mayor authority to take punitive action — including revocation of liquor licenses or business licenses — against a public accommodation found to be discriminating.

The mayor, however, has taken no action against Druid Hills. The 1,100-member club has threatened a lawsuit if Franklin takes action.

Chuck Bowen, executive director of Georgia Equality, which claims about 15,000 members statewide, said the mayor did not say how she planned to revamp the ordinance to bolster gay rights in the city.

"She is riding the proverbial political fence and she is going to have to fall one way or the other," Bowen said.

Franklin's office did not respond to repeated inquiries. Cathy Woolard, the former City Council president who sponsored the ordinance, would not comment.

The Druid Hills case was brought by two gay members of the club, Randy New and Lee Kyser. New is a former head of Georgia Equality. Kyser's partner, Lawrie Demorest, has been a high-ranking member of several of Woolard's campaigns.

Georgia Equality, which strongly supported Franklin's election in 2001, has been pressing the mayor to take action for months. The club, meanwhile, has argued that the ordinance is unenforceable and unconstitutional.
Reached this week, club president T. Kent Smith had no comment on Franklin's remarks or Georgia Equality's response.

Bowen said of Franklin's remarks that "We don't need to be lectured, we don't need to hear blame being assigned to a previous administration. We just need the mayor to do her job."

Georgia Equality's public call for Franklin to act comes at a low ebb in its political influence, particularly on the issues of marriage and spousal benefits. Gay activists suffered a drubbing at the Georgia polls Nov. 2, when a proposal to amend the Georgia Constitution to ban gay marriage passed by almost 80 percent statewide. The proposal, strongly supported by the Republican Party, even passed in urban, mostly Democratic, areas such as Fulton and DeKalb counties.

* I might have beat the Rep. Chuck Sims topic to death, but Chuck himself remains alive and well, and any party switcher will always remain fair game.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Double jeopardy Q: What is the common link between Ralph Reed, the Commerce Clause and the 21st amendment to the Const. (that repealed Prohibition)?

Time called. Wine, something some of you may have enjoyed with the turkey and dressing today. How so?

Next month, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments involving a clash between the constitution's commerce clause, which empowers the federal government to regulate interstate trade, and the Twenty-First Amendment, passed by Congress in 1933 to repeal Prohibition and authorize states to regulate alcohol within their borders.

The lifting of Prohibition led to a three-tier system to regulate alcohol. Producers sell only to state-licensed wholesalers, who in turn sold only to licensed retailers, who controlled and monitored sales to consumers.

The market began to change during the 1990s with expansion of the Internet, the increasing popularity of wine and the explosive growth of new wineries, particularly small ones that benefited most from Internet sales.

Many small vineyards broke from the standard distribution system by using independent freight carriers to send wine to customers in other states. These vineyards technically were breaking the law but in the early years of the Internet, no one paid much attention.

But beginning in 1996, local wholesalesrs worked with state legislators to win enactment of laws in Florida, Indiana, Utah and five other states that generally make it a felony to ship wine directly to consumers in those states. That's a death penalty for a winery, because state laws require felons to forfeit their alcohol licenses.

The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers, whose political-action committee raised $1 million this year, didn't stop there. In 2000, the group lobbied Congress to pass the Twenty-First Amendment Enforcement Act, which permits state attorneys general to bring cases against wineries in federal courts. The bill became law.

And how does Ralph Reed, former executive director of the Christian Coalition, come into the picture?

Mr. Reed, who now runs a public-relations firm with offices in Washington and Atlanta, was hired by the wholesalers. Even the normally abstemious National Association of Evangelicals is backing the wholesalers, united in their opposition to underage drinking.

The wholesalers asked Mr. Reed to generate letters to lawmakers from "family-oriented" people with religious backgrounds who would write about their concerns about underage consumers buying alcohol over the Internet. In a written statement, Mr. Reed's office said his group "strongly favors enforcing existing restrictions on minors purchasing alcohol."

Juanita Duggan, president and chief executive officer of the wholesalers group, says her members worry that the Internet makes it easier for youngsters to obtain alcohol. The group has a Web site, pointclickdrink.com, depicting, in quick sequence, two teenagers ordering alcohol on a laptop, a driver delivering a package, and a raucous party. "It shouldn't be that easy," the Web site says.

Small wineries say the wholesalers are interested merely in crushing competition, and scoff at the idea that teenagers would order an expensive bottle of wine on the Internet and wait seven days for delivery.

And the story gets even better. Who has been brought in on behalf of the small wineries? Former President Bill Clinton?

No, not even close. Former Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr. Mr. Starr, currently the dean and professor of law at Pepperdine University School of Law, was brought into the case as an expert by the Coalition for Free Trade, a group of wineries that wants to overturn the prohibition of direct wine shipments to consumers.

He has filed a brief in support of the wineries (as an advocate of free markets).

And now you know. Stay tuned.

(11-24-04 wsj.)

P.S. To you lawyer-types out there. Think about it. The outcome of this case potentially could affect more than just the wine-and-cheese set, because other state laws restrict all sorts of Internet commerce. For example, some states require mortgage lenders to maintain a brick-and-mortar presence to do business in the state.

Just what America needs -- more lawsuits.

And you thought Bush was just into the "legal status" for illegal immigrants. -- The GOP would have a field day if a Dem. administration did this.

And you thought President Bush's administration was just pressing for legislation allowing a guest worker plan to give temporary legal status to millions of Mexicans illegally in the United States, despite fears that it might invite a wave of illegal immigration.

Apparently the Bush administration has other things on its mind as well.

An 11-25-04 Associated Press story:

Dublin schools dispute segregation claim

Fifty years after first being ordered to desegregate schools, the city of Dublin is facing a federal lawsuit for allowing city residents to send their children to county schools, causing what the U.S. Justice Department calls a re-segregation of schools.

Dublin school officials insist they've done nothing wrong and that if the transfer policy is rescinded, residents will simply move out of the city to get into a county school district.

After the city schools finally desegregated in 1971, the student population was 57 percent white and 43 percent black. In the past school year, the ratio at Dublin city schools was 72 percent black and 24 percent white. The Laurens County school system was 65 percent white.

The Justice Department alleges that allowing students living in the city to transfer to the county schools is contributing to an increasing racial disparity in the city schools. For years city students were allowed to transfer at will. They're now charged $300 a year to go to schools outside their home district, but the practice continues.

Dublin resident Gayle Stinson pays the fee to send her son to a county school. If she were barred from doing that, she said she might move out of Dublin.

"I know some who have already done that," she told The Macon Telegraph.

Justice Department officials would not comment on the Dublin case. School officials call the lawsuit a waste of time and baseless.

County schools Superintendent Larry Daniel said that if transfers were restricted, the result would be that black/white ratios in both systems would not change much, and a large problem would be created by students who have to switch schools.

"It would be chaos," Daniel said. "It would be a mess, and I don't think it would help either school financially, or the families involved."

Lee Parks, an Atlanta attorney representing the county in the case, has worked on similar cases throughout the country. He said the complaint amounts to the federal government attempting to micromanage a small school system without fully understanding the situation.

He predicted dire consequences should the Justice Department win the case.

"Most parents are not going to have the federal government dictate where their children go to school," he said. "Why they would pick the poor city of Dublin to come down and jump on is beyond any of us."
Not everyone is so critical of the federal intervention.

"I think what the Justice Department is doing can be positive, because it makes you look at what you are doing," said school board member Sandra Scott.

A hearing is expected sometime next year. U.S. District Court Judge Dudley H. Bowen Jr. of the Southern District of Georgia will decide the case.
School board chairman Bob Willis said he hopes Bowen will see that the schools have no racist intent in the transfer policy.

"We have done everything we can possibly do," he said.

I have struck a cord; fortunately, a healthy, positive cord. The Party is alive and well, and there is an intense desire to move forward.

I was a bit overwhelmed with the email I got following my post of 11-24-04 entitled "A report of a meeting of local Georgia Democrats discussing our future. -- The meeting was in Savannah, but it could have been anywhere in Ga."

The story I wrote about didn't hurt the post either. If you've ever met Larry Peterson, you will appreciate the guy. He talks straight, and he knows his subject. The title of his article that my post was about was:

"How can Democrats regain the inside track? Local Democrats meet to mull over what - if anything - they should do to regain the loyalty of rural voters, especially whites. Talking the same language wouldn't hurt, most agreed."

It sort of sets the tone wouldn't you say.

Back to my post. I wrote about a certain Karen Arms, someone I did not know from Adam, but whose input hit be side the head like a flying chair at a Pistons came. She is reported to have said that "Democrats should 'kiss off the rural vote. We should forget about framing the message to rural people. We should frame the argument in urban terms."

Holly smoke, I thought to myself. Trying simultaneously to be diplomatic not knowing if I was dealing with one of Savannah's blue-bloods but not mince words, I wrote:

"Georgia is overflowing with folks coming here from other regions of the country, folks who have the skills and education to fill the job requirements of the new industrial age.

"We welcome these new Georgia citizens to our great state, and want them to be good Democrats. But if you come, don't be a carpetbagger. I don't know Karen Arms. She has a couple of things to say in the below story, things about folks that I am working to get back into our fold, not permanetly exclude.

"Karen Arms' ancestors may have come to Savannah with Oglethorpe, I don't know. But as noted, she sounds like a carpetbagger to me. If she is not, I apologize to her, and just note that this is not the message I think we want to be putting out.

An update on Karen Arms. And this I quote from an unnamed source who sent me an email:

"Karen Arms is a Brit (naturalized citizen, maybe). At least one other Brit, a European and a couple Jersey-sounding Yankees were at the meeting. Some of them are from the Landings. Place is full of rich Yankees. All very smart. Just ask 'em. Nice folks all at the meeeing, but it seemed ironic in light of message that we need to talk to people in they're own language."

Another email I received appreciated my using the term carpetbagger, and defined such term as follows: "Anybody who comes down here for a visit and forgets to go home is a carpetbagger."

You won't find such classic defintions in Webster. Rather you find the bland: (1) a Northerner in the South after the American Civil War usually seeking private gain under the reconstruction governments; or (2) an outsider; especially : a nonresident or new resident who meddles in politics.

For you folks who write, keep the emails coming, but don't be afraid to post a comment rather than sending your emails to be privately. That way our readers can enjoy.

You can use the anonymous option (the other option also allows you to sign in using a handle other than your full name), and no one knows wheterh you are a heavy whom I appreciate reading this blog just as I appreciate those who, along with me, share the status of being no more than a proletariat, a commoner, but as proud as punch to swear allegiance to the Party that cares as surely as grits are groceries, and will -- just as did the Phoenix -- arise from the ashes to live and rule again.

One email I received urged me to republish an earlier post about carpetbaggers for the benefit of some readers who may not have been regular readers way back then, and being in the what the heck mood, I will, but first, let me report that fortunately the state Senate did not follow the advice of the Karen Arms of the Party.

(And Karen, you must know that I am just picking on you to make a point. We want and welcome you to the Party. But we cannot right off an entire section of this great state as did the Kerry campaign with the South, including the our whole state. It is not smart politics. And in the past, no one would have accused our Party leaders of having fallen off a turnip truck.)

This past week it was announced that a Middle Georgia moderate and a South Georgia conservative will serve as Democratic Party leaders in the state Senate for the next two years.

Specifically, the Senate Democratic Caucus elected state Sen. Robert Brown of Macon as minority leader and state Sen. Tim Golden of Valdosta as minority caucus chairman. Robert Brown has served in the Senate since 1991 and recently was a senior campaign adviser to my good friend U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall.

Tim Golden for sure is a "one of us" type guy, served four terms in the Georgia House before his election to the state Senate in 1998.

Both are assets to our Party, and will serve our Party's interests well.

Now to the requested earlier post, it was an 08-29-04 post titled and the post being as follows:

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

The Gwinnette 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.