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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.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

New Order of Catholic Priests Is Forming to Fight Abortions.

The Roman Catholic Church plans to establish its first religious society devoted exclusively to fighting euthanasia and abortion, church leaders said this week.

The society will be funded through private donations . . . , and is being established with the knowledge and blessing of the Vatican.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, churches risk losing their tax-exempt status if they endorse or oppose political candidates.

But they can adopt political positions and, to a limited degree, lobby to influence legislation.

Planned Parenthood said it feared that people trained by the society would use hardball tactics against healthcare providers, such as organizing clinic blockades.

(3-31-05 The Los Angeles Times.)

Supreme Court Removes Hurdle to Age Bias Suits.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that workers who sue employers for age discrimination need not prove that the discrimination was intentional, adopting an interpretation of federal law that holds employees can prevail by showing a policy has a discriminatory impact on older workers, regardless of the employer's motivation.

(3-31-05, New York Times.)

Clerics Refuse to Tolerate Gay Tolerance Event in Jerusalem.

Few places on Earth provide more inter-religious conflict than Jerusalem, but major leaders of Christianity, Judaism and Islam there have found one thing to agree on, a common adversary.

International gay leaders are planning a 10-day WorldPride festival and parade in Jerusalem this August, hoping to make a statement about tolerance and diversity in a city that is home to three global religious traditions, the New York Times reports.

In response, Israel's chief Sephardic and Ashkenazi rabbis, the patriarchs of the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian churches, and three senior Muslim prayer leaders are making a rare show of unity, saying the festival is something they just won't tolerate.

"They are creating a deep and terrible sorrow that is unbearable," Rabbi Shlomo Amar told a news conference. Abdel Aziz Bukhari, a Sufi sheik, added: "We can't permit anybody to come and make the Holy City dirty. This is very ugly and very nasty to have these people come to Jerusalem."

The leaders' joint opposition was initially generated by the Rev. Leo Giovinetti, an evangelical pastor from San Diego whom the Times calls a veteran of the American culture war over homosexuality and a frequent visitor to Israel. Organizers of the gay pride event said that 75 non-Orthodox rabbis had signed a statement of support, and that Christian and Muslim leaders as well as Israeli politicians were expected to announce their support soon.

(3-31-05 WSJ online.)

Judge Blocks Rule Allowing Companies to Cut Benefits When Retirees Reach Medicare Age.

A federal district judge on Wednesday blocked a Bush administration rule that would have allowed employers to reduce or eliminate health benefits for retirees when they reach age 65 and become eligible for Medicare.

Ten million retirees could have had benefits cut under the rule, which was adopted last April by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The rule "is contrary to Congressional intent and the plain language of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act," the 1967 law that bans most forms of age discrimination in the workplace, Judge Brody wrote.

The erosion of retiree health benefits is an explosive political issue.

The rule would have created an explicit exemption to the age discrimination law, allowing employers to reduce health benefits for retirees when they became eligible for Medicare. Under the rule, Judge Brody said, employers could have given older retirees "health benefits that are inferior" to those given retirees younger than 65.

[The AARP was] the main plaintiff in the case . . . .

Christopher G. Mackaronis, a Washington lawyer for AARP, said Wednesday: "The rule was an example of executive arrogance. Federal agencies have no authority to rewrite laws passed by Congress. The rule was adopted in April 2004, but officials tucked it in their back pocket while they courted older voters last year. After the election, they moved forward with the regulation."

No law requires employers to provide health benefits to workers or retirees. Employers can legally provide benefits to active workers and not to retirees. Many employers have eliminated retiree health benefits. But, Judge Brody said, if an employer provides benefits to retirees, it cannot discriminate among them on the basis of age.

Terri Schiavo case: A conservative Republican judge goes out of his way to directly criticize the Congress and President Bush for what they've done.

One judge of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta rebuked President Bush and Congress for acting "in a manner demonstrably at odds with our founding fathers' blueprint for the governance of a free people."

Judge Stanley F. Birch Jr., appointed by the first President Bush in 1990, wrote that federal courts had no jurisdiction in the case and that the law enacted by Congress and President Bush allowing the Schindlers to seek a federal court review was unconstitutional.

"When the fervor of political passions moves the executive and legislative branches to act in ways inimical to basic constitutional principles, it is the duty of the judiciary to intervene," wrote Judge Birch, who has a reputation as consistently conservative. "If sacrifices to the independence of the judiciary are permitted today, precedent is established for the constitutional transgressions of tomorrow."

In particular, Judge Birch wrote, a provision of the new law requiring a fresh federal review of all the evidence presented in the case made it unconstitutional. Because that provision constitutes "legislative dictation of how a federal court should exercise its judicial functions," he wrote, it "invades the province of the judiciary and violates the separation of powers principle."

David J. Garrow, a legal historian at Emory University who closely follows the 11th Circuit, said Judge Birch's opinion was striking because the judge was a conservative Republican, especially regarding social issues. Judge Birch wrote the ruling for a three-judge panel of the court last year unanimously upholding a Florida law that prohibits gay men and lesbians from adopting children.

Things you might later wish later you had not said. - Rep. Tom DeLay to critics: "Bring it on."

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) challenged his liberal critics yesterday to "bring it on," as major conservative groups organized a formal defense against questions about DeLay's ethical conduct.

(3-31-05 The Washington Post.)

As a moderate GOP senator, I worried about size of federal deficit, not about effect of gays on institution of marriage. Now it is reversed.

In a 3-21-05 post write-up about this year's highly successful Jefferson-Jackson dinner, I wrote in part:

Gov. Warner said he believes strongly that to capture the White House:

(1) Democrats must appeal to moderate Republicans and rural America; and

(2) Democrats must be fiscally responsible, and become the party known for being fiscally conservative. For him, being fiscally conservative means someone who pays his bills and meets his commitments.

He noted that moderate Republicans are an endangered species.

When Gov. Warner said that the path to victory for the Democratic party is to go after moderate Republicans and convince them that the Republican Party they once knew is gone, he noted that moderal Republicans are upset that the party of Lincoln and Eisenhower has become the party of Ralph Reed and Tom DeLay.

John C. Danforth, a former United States senator from Missouri, resigned in January as United States ambassador to the United Nations. He is an Episcopal minister.

As you read his following contribution he had in the 3-30-05 New York Times, does it also occur to you that these might be some of the moderate Republicans about which Gov. Mark Warner spoke?

Mr. Danforth's column:

By a series of recent initiatives, Republicans have transformed our party into the political arm of conservative Christians. The elements of this transformation have included advocacy of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, opposition to stem cell research involving both frozen embryos and human cells in petri dishes, and the extraordinary effort to keep Terri Schiavo hooked up to a feeding tube.

Standing alone, each of these initiatives has its advocates, within the Republican Party and beyond. But the distinct elements do not stand alone. Rather they are parts of a larger package, an agenda of positions common to conservative Christians and the dominant wing of the Republican Party.

Christian activists, eager to take credit for recent electoral successes, would not be likely to concede that Republican adoption of their political agenda is merely the natural convergence of conservative religious and political values. Correctly, they would see a causal relationship between the activism of the churches and the responsiveness of Republican politicians. In turn, pragmatic Republicans would agree that motivating Christian conservatives has contributed to their successes.

High-profile Republican efforts to prolong the life of Ms. Schiavo, including departures from Republican principles like approving Congressional involvement in private decisions and empowering a federal court to overrule a state court, can rightfully be interpreted as yielding to the pressure of religious power blocs.

In my state, Missouri, Republicans in the General Assembly have advanced legislation to criminalize even stem cell research in which the cells are artificially produced in petri dishes and will never be transplanted into the human uterus. They argue that such cells are human life that must be protected, by threat of criminal prosecution, from promising research on diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and juvenile diabetes.

It is not evident to many of us that cells in a petri dish are equivalent to identifiable people suffering from terrible diseases. I am and have always been pro-life. But the only explanation for legislators comparing cells in a petri dish to babies in the womb is the extension of religious doctrine into statutory law.

I do not fault religious people for political action. Since Moses confronted the pharaoh, faithful people have heard God's call to political involvement. Nor has political action been unique to conservative Christians. Religious liberals have been politically active in support of gay rights and against nuclear weapons and the death penalty. In America, everyone has the right to try to influence political issues, regardless of his religious motivations.

The problem is not with people or churches that are politically active. It is with a party that has gone so far in adopting a sectarian agenda that it has become the political extension of a religious movement.

When government becomes the means of carrying out a religious program, it raises obvious questions under the First Amendment. But even in the absence of constitutional issues, a political party should resist identification with a religious movement. While religions are free to advocate for their own sectarian causes, the work of government and those who engage in it is to hold together as one people a very diverse country. At its best, religion can be a uniting influence, but in practice, nothing is more divisive. For politicians to advance the cause of one religious group is often to oppose the cause of another.

Take stem cell research. Criminalizing the work of scientists doing such research would give strong support to one religious doctrine, and it would punish people who believe it is their religious duty to use science to heal the sick.

During the 18 years I served in the Senate, Republicans often disagreed with each other. But there was much that held us together. We believed in limited government, in keeping light the burden of taxation and regulation. We encouraged the private sector, so that a free economy might thrive. We believed that judges should interpret the law, not legislate. We were internationalists who supported an engaged foreign policy, a strong national defense and free trade. These were principles shared by virtually all Republicans.

But in recent times, we Republicans have allowed this shared agenda to become secondary to the agenda of Christian conservatives. As a senator, I worried every day about the size of the federal deficit. I did not spend a single minute worrying about the effect of gays on the institution of marriage. Today it seems to be the other way around.

The historic principles of the Republican Party offer America its best hope for a prosperous and secure future. Our current fixation on a religious agenda has turned us in the wrong direction. It is time for Republicans to rediscover our roots.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Budget battle has made Rep. Pence a major player.

The budget showdown this month, in which fiscal hawks forced House GOP leaders to support an anti-spending measure, made Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) a contender for Speaker, Capitol Hill insiders say.

Pence’s chances of becoming the next Speaker are a long shot, but the fact that some are mentioning his name suggest that Pence’s political star is on the rise.

[Several Republican lawmakers] credited Pence with standing up for the conservative wing of the party during the budget battle.

(3-30-05 The Hill.)

Shipp: General Assembly provides evidence of power shift in politics.

This week Bill Shipp writes:

Who runs Georgia?

Who are the main players and institutions that now decide the destiny of the Peach State?

When the first Republican-run legislative session in 130 years adjourns this week, you may have a good idea of who steers contemporary Georgia and the direction these fresh faces are taking us. Just browse the stacks of legislation created by the 2005 General Assembly. The freshly printed reams of paper tell the tale.

President George Israel and his Georgia Chamber of Commerce are likely the most powerful behind-the-scenes force in state politics today.

The Georgia chamber and its corporate allies won nearly every important issue they tackled - from capping malpractice judgments and institutionalizing state secrecy to reducing corporate taxes and watering down environmental regulations.

The Georgia Christian Coalition, led by Chairwoman Sadie Fields, also experienced unparalleled success. The legislature adopted the first significant anti-abortion measure in years. A required 24-hour waiting period for an abortion is but a tiny first step. A deluge of more rigorous anti-abortion bills is expected shortly.

In fact, the Christian right romped in its special arena perhaps even more so than big business did in theirs.

In addition to the anti-abortion measure, moral-values politicos seriously floated - and in some cases passed - bills restricting divorce, clamping down on the distribution of birth-control pills and condoms and spending more tax dollars on tax-exempt church groups. Gay rights are out. The Ten Commandments are in. The success of the religious right has left its adversaries bewildered. The activist conservative church rolls. Other folks had better keep their lips buttoned, if they know what's good for them.

The conservative church is so sure of its footing in the leadership parade that Ralph Reed, king of the evangelical organizers, kicked off a campaign for lieutenant governor - a bid that may morph into a bid for governor by the time the next legislative session convenes. Reed contends his controversial connections to casino gambling in Texas are irrelevant in Georgia. He may be right.

The old guard is gone. Lawyers, once dominant in both the House and Senate, couldn't muster enough muscle to stop passage of the harshest anti-plaintiff tort-reform measure in the country. The Legislative Black Caucus, formerly an essential element of the Democratic majority leadership, has been left all but toothless. That any white lawmaker would dare mention requiring photo IDs for voting demonstrates black power's current ebb.

Labor unions, which never had much clout in the legislature anyway, are so far out of the loop today they may as well not exist. Public-interest and pro-consumer lobbyists would have accomplished more if they had spent the winter on Florida's beaches. They were ignored in Georgia's Gold Dome.

Environmentalists took a shellacking on several fronts. When this legislature quits its regular session, the slow-growth people may find their hands virtually tied in trying to use environmental laws to stave off new developments.

The legislature's top leaders - House Speaker Glenn Richardson, R-Hiram, and Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson, R-Savannah - have set new precedents. Barring an 11th-hour glitch, their session has been a model of efficiency. Debate was stifled. Amendments were quashed. The legislature abandoned its traditional but cumbersomely democratic committee system. The General Assembly train now runs on time.

The once-powerful governor's office played a relatively minor role. Georgia's first modern Republican governor, Sonny Perdue, had difficulty gaining passage of a weak-as-water ethics-in-government bill and appeared preoccupied as more important issues rose and fell. Business lobbyists were less than enthralled with the ethics idea.

Nearly 60 years ago, two progressive Georgians, Calvin Kytle and James Mackay, wrote a book titled "Who Runs Georgia?"

Kytle and Mackay concluded, sort of, that big business directed the state through a variety of surrogates. That was hardly headline news then. However, Kytle and Mackay might be startled at some of the brand names missing from today's power circle.

In their era, the big-stick carriers included Coca-Cola, Georgia Power, Southern Bell, C&S, First National Bank of Atlanta, the railroads, the airline/airplane industry and the insurance companies.

Only the insurance firms survive among the top dogs. The others are in decline or out of business. Coke has slipped. Georgia Power is still a player but with fewer chips. Southern Bell is BellSouth, whose global concerns often eclipse its Georgia ties. C&S and First Atlanta were swallowed up long ago. The rusting railroads are sidetracked. The air-travel and plane-making businesses are on the canvas.

No one in Kytle and Mackay's time ever dreamed of behemoth politically connected companies called AFLAC, Earthlink and ChoicePoint.

In the authors' era of the Talmadges and venerable Sens. Richard Russell and Walter George, Kytle and Mackay would have scoffed at the notion Georgia's most prominent political figure would one day be U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, a Republican who has served less than one term. Or that two established medical doctors would forsake their practices to become junior members of an unexceptional state congressional delegation.

U.S. Supreme Court rules that the gender equity law Title IX should guard those seeking to enforce it, thereby expanding Title IX protection.

The Supreme Court strengthened enforcement Tuesday of the landmark Title IX law of 1972 that bars sex discrimination in schools and colleges, ruling that teachers and coaches may challenge schools for giving girls second-class treatment without fear of being punished.

In a 5-4 ruling, the high court said the law not only protected girls and women who might be victims of discrimination, but also those who sought to enforce its guarantee of equal treatment.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said it was crucial that teachers and coaches spoke up when they saw evidence that women's or girls' teams have smaller budgets and poorer facilities. And if these employees are not protected from retaliation when they complain, "Title IX's enforcement scheme would unravel," she said.

She sided with liberal Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony M. Kennedy joined Thomas' dissent.

(3-30-05 The Lost Angeles Times.)

Group calling for DeLay's resignation is spending $75,000 to run commercials in the majority leader's home district in Texas.

The advertisement opens with a man wearing cuff links and a Rolex watch walking down the stairs into a basement, where he begins washing his hands. An announcer ticks off cases surrounding Mr. DeLay as the figure tries harder and harder to get clean.

"Tom DeLay can't wash his hands of corruption by involving Congress in one family's personal tragedy," an announcer says, referring to Mr. DeLay's involvement in the Terri Schiavo case. "But Congress can certainly wash its hands of Tom DeLay."

Another group is spending $25,000 to pressure Republican lawmakers to denounce Mr. DeLay.

One Democratic lobbyist said, "You can't complain of partisanship when you are one of Congress's leading partisans. This is somebody who has contributed to the sharp and bitter partisan environment in Washington."

(3-30-05 The New York Times.)

The Washington Post reminds us that casting DeLay as a symbol of Republican excess was the same tactic critics once did with former House speaker Newt Gingrich.

Democratic officials in the House and Senate said that news coverage of DeLay's ethics problems, his travel and ties to lobbyists, and his high profile in the congressional intervention in the Terri Schiavo case, have given them an opening to use him as more of a foil. They said that until now, he was so little known to the public -- despite his enormous power at the Capitol -- that attacks on him were not effective.

The group also plans ads designed to put pressure on Republican members to "stand with DeLay or decency."

The announcement will come two days after the conservative editorial page of the Wall Street Journal said: "The Beltway wisdom is right. Mr. DeLay does have odor issues. Increasingly, he smells just like the Beltway itself." (See 3-29-05 post entitled "If you are a conservative Republican and The Wall Street Journal starts writing bad stuff about you . . . . - Rep. DeLay 'Smells Like Beltway.'")

(3-30-05 The Washington Post.)

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Supreme Court Rejects Abortion-Consent Case.

In a blow to abortion foes, the Supreme Court refused to overturn a lower court decision that threw out an Idaho law requiring women younger than 18 years old to seek parental permission for abortions, except in medical emergencies. The Supreme Court offered no comment on the lower court decision, which found the Idaho law's definition of a "medical emergency" unduly restrictive. Most U.S. states require parental consent or notification for abortions by minors, but Idaho's law was challenged by Planned Parenthood as being especially strict.

The Supreme Court in its landmark 1973 case Roe v. Wade, ruled that a woman has a constitutional right to abortion before the fetus is viable and to terminate her pregnancy if it poses a risk to her health. At issue was whether the Idaho law was unduly burdensome on young mothers by limiting abortions without consent to "sudden and unexpected" instances of physical complications.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said yes, saying there was no reasonable explanation for the restriction. Other emergency medical procedures are allowed on minors without parental permission that do not fit the "sudden and unexpected" category, it said. The court said the rest of the law couldn't be salvaged because the emergency provisions were too important.

The justices' move Monday sidesteps a highly charged issue amid continuing speculation about a looming vacancy on the high court. At least three justices on the high court have said they believe Roe v. Wade should be overturned. Liberal groups have vowed to fight any judicial nominee that opposes the landmark ruling.

The last major abortion decision by the Supreme Court came in 2000, when the court ruled 5-4 to strike down Nebraska's ban on so-called partial-birth abortion because it failed to provide an exception to protect the mother's health.

(3-28-05 WSJ.)

Ruling could be near -- maybe as soon as 10 days -- in gay marriage suit.

The Georgia Supreme Court has refused to let lawmakers go to court to defend Georgia's constitutional amendment banning gay marriage -- perhaps signaling that a decision in the case challenging it is near.

The court on Friday declined to consider an appeal by former state Sen. Mike Crotts and other lawmakers who wanted to argue in favor of the ban, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman and curbs the legal recognition of same-sex civil unions.

In January, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Constance Russell said she would rule in the case against the state soon after that issue was settled.

Jack Senterfitt, attorney for Lambda Legal Defense, a pro-gay rights group, . . . said he expects a ruling in the next 10 days.

(3-29-05 AP.)

"I think it's absolutely classic America. Everything is for sale in America."

"I think it's absolutely classic America. Everything is for sale in America, every type of personal information," Robert Gellman, a privacy and information policy consultant, tells the New York Times, in response to news that the parents of Terri Schiavo have authorized a conservative direct-mailing firm to sell a list of their financial supporters, making it likely that thousands of strangers moved by her plight will receive a steady stream of solicitations from anti-abortion and conservative groups.

If you are a conservative Republican and The Wall Street Journal starts writing bad stuff about you . . . . - Rep. DeLay "Smells Like Beltway."

The Monday Wall Street Journal has as the title of its lead editorial "Smells Like Beltway." Prior to recounting all of Rep. Tom DeLays ethics troubles, it notes:

"In Beltway-speak, what this means is that Mr. DeLay has an "odor": nothing too incriminating, nothing actually criminal, just an unsavory whiff that could have GOP loyalists reaching for the political Glade if it gets any worse.

"The Beltway wisdom is right. Mr. DeLay does have odor issues. Increasingly, he smells just like the Beltway itself."

Then the Journal gives an "abbreviated rap sheet against Mr. DeLay" (the WSJ is a subscription, but if you want the article, I can e-mail it to you), concludes (excerpts):

"Taken separately, and on present evidence, none of the latest charges directly touch Mr. DeLay; at worst, they paint a picture of a man who makes enemies by playing political hardball and loses admirers by resorting to politics-as-usual.

"The problem, rather, is that Mr. DeLay, who rode to power in 1994 on a wave of revulsion at the everyday ways of big government, has become the living exemplar of some of its worst habits."

"Rather than buck this system as he promised to do while in the minority, Mr. DeLay has become its undisputed and unapologetic master as Majority Leader.

"Whether Mr. DeLay violated the small print of House Ethics or campaign-finance rules is thus largely beside the point. His real fault lies in betraying the broader set of principles that brought him into office, and which, if he continues as before, sooner or later will sweep him out."

(3-28-05 WSJ.)

If Dem. Party can't mount a challenge against weak incumbent in '06, it will have trouble with fundraising & recruiting candidates in the future.

Excerpts from:

Both parties' futures hinge on '06 races

By Jay Bookman
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
March 28, 2005

[T]he 2006 campaign . . . will tell us a lot about the future of both the Republican and Democratic parties in Georgia.

The race to watch in the Republican Party is the primary contest for lieutenant governor between former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed, who is making his first foray into electoral politics as a candidate, and state Sen. Casey Cagle of Gainesville, who in his time in the Legislature has pursued a bluntly aggressive course on behalf of developers and other business interests.

The entry of Reed, with his fame and presumed ability to raise a lot of money, has already scared state Sen. Bill Stephens out of the primary and into the safer race for secretary of state. It also sent another hopeful, John Oxendine, scuttling back to his current job as insurance commissioner, a low-profile post that would offer most people little potential for embarrassing themselves. But with his antics with state cars and sirens, and his desperate search for the TV lights, Oxendine has milked that limited potential for all it is worth. [Amen on the latter about Oxendine Brother Bookman.]

Cagle's hopes depend on tapping into a significant anti-Reed sentiment, and there's no question that it does exist. The question for Cagle is whether enough of those voters will show up in the Republican primary, and whether Reed's involvement in the growing scandal in Washington over Indian casinos will further tarnish his reputation. With so much of his political appeal tied to his Christian image, such allegations could be more damaging to Reed than to a more typical candidate.

A Reed victory, on the other hand, also would be viewed as a victory for the Christian conservative contingent in the state party, and it would set him up perfectly for a run for governor in 2010. It would make Reed the most prominent figure in state politics, overshadowing whoever happens to be governor in the next four years. It could also be the stepping stone to even bigger things beyond.

Among Democrats, the critical primary contest pits Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor against Secretary of State Cathy Cox for the right to run against Gov. Sonny Perdue. Taylor and Cox are both seasoned, smart politicians who have been targeting this race for years, and in Perdue they have an incumbent who hasn't exactly set the world afire. The best that can be said of him is that he has set exceedingly modest goals as governor, and on occasion came close to meeting them.

Given that situation, the 2006 governor's race will tell us a lot about the future of the Democratic Party in Georgia. The days of its dominance are long over; what remains to be determined is whether it is still capable of mounting a serious challenge under the right conditions, or whether it will soon become as ineffectual as the Republicans were for so long.

If Democrats can't beat Perdue next year, or at least make it a tough race that is settled by no more than 2 percentage points or 3 percentage points, it's hard to see how they can turn things around.

More specifically, if the party can't mount a challenge against a weak incumbent with the likes of Taylor or Cox on the ballot, its candidates will have a harder time in the future convincing donors to contribute to their races. The party also won't be able to attract ambitious young talent to its ranks. They will either go into some other line of work or run as Republicans.

Already, that pipeline of talent is running dry, as demonstrated by the party's inability to put up a strong candidate against Johnny Isakson for an open U.S. Senate seat last year. If that is followed by a less-than-credible showing for the state's top political job in '06, the Democrats will no longer pose a viable threat to the Republicans.

And without a viable opposition party, the party in power has no check on its worst impulses. As events in Washington demonstrate all too well, that can have enormous consequences.

Party identification is now a powerful indicator of how someone votes in national elections.

Excerpts from a 3-29-05 Washington Post article entitled:

Partisan Polarization Intensified in 2004 Election
Only 59 of the Nation's 435 Congressional Districts Split Their Vote for President and House

Political polarization intensified during the 2004 elections, continuing a trend that has defined voting behavior for most of the past decade and that has left the two major parties increasingly homogenized and partisan.

Only 59 of the 435 congressional districts went in different directions in presidential and House elections last year, according to newly released data from the political analysis firm Polidata. In the remaining districts, voters either backed both President Bush and the Republican House candidate or John F. Kerry and the Democratic House candidate.

In 2000, there were 86 such "split-ticket" districts, and in 1992 and 1996, there were more than 100 such districts.

The steady decline in districts where voters pick different parties to represent them in the White House and Congress reflects in part the effects of the redistricting process, which has created more and more strongly Republican or strongly Democratic districts.

In the presidential race, 93 percent of self-identified Republicans backed Bush and 89 percent of Democrats supported Kerry. Independents went 49 percent for Kerry and 48 percent for Bush.

In the more distant past, voters were far more likely to split their tickets when voting for Congress, particularly in the era when the South was heavily Democratic, albeit conservative. But the GOP takeover of the South, and to a lesser extent the decline of Republican moderates and liberals in the Northeast, has produced the new patterns.

[These] figures show again the depth of the Democrats' problems in the South. Not only did Bush carry every southern state, he carried the overwhelming percentage of congressional districts, except those where minorities are in the majority.

How would Bush and Kerry have fared if the electoral college determined its allocation of electoral votes on the basis of who won each congressional district, as some advocate, rather than on who wins the popular vote in each state? Bush would have won by an even larger margin, with 317 electoral votes rather than the 286 he actually captured.

Monday, March 28, 2005

M.L. had a dream; S.L. has a theory, & it is different from the Dean's theory about Reed. - Forget Kingston challenging Perdue; it might well be Reed.

Jim Galloway of the AJC (and co-author of the Political Insider) reports the following (excerpts) from Waycross, 36 miles from Douglas, God's country, the Other Georgia, USA:

Ralph Reed meets with supporters

In the first week of his new career as a political candidate, Ralph Reed found himself at a small country club on the edge of the Okefenokee Swamp.

The topics of discussion for the prospective lieutenant governor included education funding, roads, classroom sizes, immigration and taxes, taxes, taxes.

None of the attendees mentioned abortion. They didn't have to. This was the former head of the Christian Coalition before them.

No one mentioned the $4 million Reed's company allegedly received for helping to close an Indian casino . No one cared.

A New York Times photographer snapped pictures.

"My opponents are going to talk about me. I'm going to talk about Georgia," Reed said more than once. His was the only allusion to what could be the biggest roadblock to the decision by Reed — a lightning rod on the national stage — to leave the backroom of politics and seek elective office.

After the meeting in Waycross, Reed said the scandal would have no impact on his campaign — that he didn't know the origins of the money he was paid, knew nothing of Abramoff's agenda and was guilty of nothing more than opposing the expansion of casino gambling.

"I knew it was a broad coalition. You never know every single coalition partner," Reed said. "How was I supposed to know, if his own law firm didn't know? He deceived his law firm, he deceived his clients and he deceived me.

U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, who plans to hold hearings on the topic in September.

There was the implication among Reed supporters that only Democrats and the media were interested in the Washington affair.

But some Republicans disagree — particularly those supporting state Sen. Casey Cagle, the only other Republican candidate for lieutenant governor.

Joel McElhannon, a consultant for the Cagle campaign, predicted the fall congressional hearings would mark a turning point in what's certain to be the most expensive and longest campaign for lieutenant governor in Georgia history.

The largest part of the evening conversation dwelt on finding more money for rural school systems. Van Herrin, a member of the Brantley County Board of Education, filled Reed in on a lawsuit against the state demanding equal funding for all school systems in Georgia.

[To digress, my school system, the Coffee County School District, is the largest school system among the plaintiff school districts. The case was being heard by Judge Rowland Barnes, and now a new judge will have to take over.]

While Cobb County in suburban Atlanta is contemplating the expenditure of $100 million to give laptops to middle and high school students, Brantley County is holding bake sales to buy photocopy paper, he said.

Reed spoke of shifting away from income and property taxes for education and other state funding.

Kay Godwin, a local dental hygienist and Republican activist who organized the event, helped deliver South Georgia to Gov. Sonny Perdue in 2002, has known Reed since his Christian Coalition days. "He's the one who trained us in grass roots," she said.

In a 3-24-05 post, we learned that the Dean thinks that Reed may be running for lieutenant governor to avoid the tough questions that are more likely to be asked of a gubernatorial candidate and the more thorough vetting of a gubernatorial candidate's background than that of someone seeking a lesser office.

That made a lot of sense when I read it, and it still is convincing.

But reading about Ralph Reed's first week of planned campaignimg made a Ford light bulb flash in my head.

When dealing with the base of the Republican Party -- which of course includes religious conservatives such as the Christian Coalition and born-again or evangelical Christians -- they could care less about the $4.2 casino episode. Jim Galloway just reported as much.

And the press, well, the press is going to inquire about this and anything else with Ralph Reed's fingerprints on it, regardless of what office the guy seeks, high or low.

Thus it came to me that the reason Reed is beginning so early for lieutenant governor -- on announcement day he called it a marathon -- is that he wants to build on his base over the next two years.

And why has he been saying that he is going to be on -- he could have said lead -- the Perdue cheerleading team?

The answer, according to the Ford light bulb realization, is that if -- and maybe when -- Perdue continues to do as poorly as he has been, bang, guess who gets drafted to run against Perdue to save the GOP from a Democratic challenger and their loss of power in Atlanta.

Sound crazy? It is possible, not likely, not unlikely, but possible I assure you.

And to think that I was thinking that it would be Rep. Jack Kingston that would emerge as the Republican who stepped forward to keep the governor's mansion within the GOP's grasp come '06.

But I do admit I was a little slow in coming to realize all of this, and it took Jim Galloway's reporting of how Reed is being received in South Georgia to make the bulb go off in my head.

Wow folks, this is heavy. And the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that this is exactly the thinking of one intimately involved in and who helped craft both the Contract with America, which the GOP rode to a congressional majority in 1994, and the Declaration for a New Georgia, which was the Republican's campaign document in 2002, when Gov. Sonny Perdue was elected.

Which, if it is true or possible, goes to show Gov. Perdue that he indeed better be paying very careful attention to the political landscape and a certain adage that might apply in his and Reed's situation -- keep your friends close but your enemies closer.

P.S. After preparing this post, I read today's Political Insider. It has a couple of more comments on Reed and his trip to South Georgia, noting:

Over the din of a two-piece band [in Waycross], Reed grinned from ear-to-ear. "What Sonny got in 2002, I got tonight," he said.

In this new Republican world, south Georgia is a bastion of social conservatives — more so than Georgia's suburbs. This is where Reed should run strongest. "I don't think people understand the extent that I've worked the state over the last six years," Reed would say the next day. That work includes the 2002 campaign, which saw victories for both Sonny Perdue and Saxby Chambliss, and the 2004 presidential campaign, which required the recruitment of hundreds of south Georgians to send into Florida — which Republicans placed in Reed's hands.

The '06 race for lieutenant governor will be something different. The two top candidates on a party's ticket have rarely coordinated before. Usually they don't even like each other. But Reed fully intends to create a Perdue-Reed ticket for next year. And coordination can be restricting.

For instance, Reed favors a shifting away from taxes on income and property to fund the state's current $17 billion annual budget. "Those two taxes are taxes on jobs and home ownership," he said.

But it will be hard for him to say too much more — how fast to make the shift, what kind of sales taxes might replace them — without making promises that Perdue might not want to keep in a second term.

Truly this could be -- how can it help but be -- a campaign where the tail (Reed) wags the dog (Perdue).

Am I ready to abandon my thoughts set forth above about Reed jumping to the top slot "for the best interest of the state GOP"? You are joking aren't you.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

GOP & Dem's assume it will be Perdue in '06. But Shipp agrees with Sid it is possible that an ABS -- Anybody but Sonny -- candidate will emerge.

The week Bill Shipp writes:

What is the most career-crushing event that could befall Democratic candidates for governor Mark Taylor or Cathy Cox before next year's election?

Answer: A primary election.

No, no - not a Democratic primary between the two, but a Republican primary. A spirited GOP opponent for Gov. Sonny Perdue could turn out to be a promotion spoiler for either Cox or Taylor.

No matter who wins the Democratic primary, he or she is depending on Sonny Perdue to be the Republican nominee.

All Democratic guns are already aimed at Perdue. The first Democratic Party ads for the 2006 campaigns are beginning to pop up on the Internet and in e-mails.

They zero in on Perdue's efforts to take money away from the HOPE scholarship program, while spending a bundle renovating the governor's mansion. The ads remind voters that Perdue once opposed HOPE scholarships and the lottery. The ad blitz against him has just begun.

No other Republican is mentioned. Perdue is villain No. 1.

In the minds of the Democratic brain trust, the face of Perdue is the Brand X trademark for the Georgia GOP. The Democrats possess real poll numbers to suggest Perdue is a drag on the Republican Party.

Many of the Georgians reportedly most unhappy with Perdue's performance are disappointed Republicans - people who would vote for a viable GOP alternative candidate in a primary, if such a person existed.

As of now, no anti-Perdue Republican candidate is in sight. The GOP is stuck with Perdue.

Secretary of State Cathy Cox is depending on energizing anti-Perdue Republicans and independents to vote in the Democratic primary to give her the nomination and, ultimately, wrest the governor's post from the incumbent. Lt. Gov. Taylor is also banking on Republican help in the primary, though to a lesser extent than Cox.

Remember that next year's election will be different. The only marquee contest is for governor. For the first time since 1994, Georgia will not have a U.S. Senate race on the ballot to compete for attention with the battle for governor. Most of the congressional elections will be humdrum, incumbent-dominated affairs.

Few, if any, primary contests are in sight in the down-ballot races for minor state offices.

The Republicans' legislative leadership is mostly an uninspiring lot, not likely to motivate a rousing voter turnout. A couple of the best-known state lawmakers are expected to leave the General Assembly to go for Congress or seek other state offices.

So that leaves Perdue all but alone to battle the Democratic nominee, whose allies will transcend party affiliation.

Some Republican leaders are well aware of the uphill battle they face. After struggling for 130 years to win a governor's election, they could be on the verge of losing that high office again, after only one term. It might be a long time before they get an opportunity to return. So they seek the ATP candidate - an alternative to Perdue in the Republican primary.

Who might they persuade to take on the governor as a Republican in hopes of spoiling the Democrats' best-laid plans?

• Former Congressman Mac Collins once appeared a likely candidate for governor. However, he is expected to seek a return to Congress in 2006 in a newly configured district. He also proved to be a letdown as a statewide candidate for Senate last year.

• Premier political consultant Ralph Reed, an announced candidate for lieutenant governor, has been approached about going for governor. For now, however, he has promised to stay put in the No. 2 race. Besides, the national media's war drums are growing louder regarding Reed's multimillion-dollar fees for dabbling in Indian-run casinos in Texas.

• Former Cobb County Commission Chairman Bill Byrne says he's ready to go again. His failure to gain traction among voters in the 2002 primary appears to rule him out.

• Congressman Lynn Westmoreland seems ready-made to take on Perdue. Once a great booster of the present governor, Westmoreland found himself battling a Perdue-supported candidate in last summer's congressional primary. As former minority leader of the state House, Westmoreland also almost went into shock when Perdue came out foursquare in favor of raising state taxes. Westmoreland, seen by some as a natural party leader, may feel lost and unappreciated as a freshman House member in a Georgia delegation that does little more than rubber-stamp President Bush's agenda. Why not come home and go for the top?

Despite this hot-stove-season speculation, Democrats Cox and Taylor continue to sleep soundly, feeling all but certain that one or the other will face Perdue on Election Day 2006. They have yet to contemplate the sudden change in political tactics that would be required if their opponent turned out to be ABS - Anybody But Sonny.

Cathy Cox says of registered voters in Georgia, almost 55% are women. In last November's election, women made up 56% of Georgians voting.

Excerpts from:

Cathy Cox: 'We've come a long way'Secretary of State notes strides, pushes for more progress for equality

By Larry Gierer
The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer
March 27, 2005

It seems like an awfully good time for someone to run for election as the first woman governor of Georgia.

Cathy Cox certainly thinks so.

Cox, the state's first woman Secretary of State, now in her second term, won re-election with 61 percent of the vote.

Cox told [an audience], "Fewer than 100 years ago, women didn't have the right to vote in Georgia, now the state legislature is 20 percent women."

Noting that a woman is now the chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court as well as the state's secretary of education, she told those gathered that "women must continue to break down barriers and keep pushing against that glass ceiling so that years from now only in history books will we read about inequality for women."

A native of Bainbridge, Ga., Cox said her "heart is in rural Georgia" and that the next decade needs to be boom years for business in places around the state "other than Atlanta."

Cox said wherever she goes, she encourages more women to follow in her footsteps and get involved in politics and run for office. "The excuse I hear most," she said, "is that politics is too mean.

Legislature enters hectic, 'scary' final days. - Everyone is relieved when its over, especially if no serious damage was done in the final day or so.

Legislature enters hectic, 'scary' final days

By Doug Gross
Associated Press
March 27, 2005

Scary. Hectic. Dangerous. Bewitching.

Those are all words used by lawmakers to describe the frantic final days of Georgia's Legislative session.

The quick, in-and-out meetings of January are long gone as House and Senate members return this week for the final three days of their 40-day session. Now, the marathon, morning-to-night meetings have begun - bringing with them the opportunity for mistakes, omissions and old-fashioned political trickery.

"We're at that bewitching time," said Senate Republican Leader Bill Stephens of Canton. "Virtually anything can happen."

Capitol regulars can recite instances of efforts gone awry in the final days of past sessions. Like House leaders simply forgetting to vote on a highway-funding plan that they had gone out of their way to announce earlier in the session. Or a hastily amended Senate plan that, technically, made it illegal for nurses to give shots.

"Things get so hectic," said University of Georgia political scientist Charles Bullock. "There are times when something will get passed on the last night, then the legislators go to the governor and say, 'Could you veto that?'"
Bullock said the assembly's 40-day limit - one of the nation's shorter legislative sessions - creates havoc by its very nature.

"In Congress, you may want to get out of town, but you don't have a drop-dead date," Bullock said. "Here, you do."

Adding to this year's hurry is a desire by statehouse Republicans - who control both chambers for the first time in 134 years - to adjourn on the Legislature's 39th day. It's a largely symbolic gesture, since lawmakers may take as much time off between in-session days as they like, but one they believe will show they are more efficient than the Democrats who were previously in control.

Among the bills still hanging in the balance when the Legislature returns Tuesday will be an overhaul of the state's child support laws, Gov. Sonny Perdue's government ethics reforms, and the $17 billion state budget.

Last week, Senate Republican whip Mitch Seabaugh, of Sharpsburg, spent most of a day shuttling between the House and Senate, helping a colleague get a bill passed. He said his job of keeping members of his party in line on key votes gets tougher as the session gets later.

"This is the scary time," Seabaugh said. "This is the time something could slip through if you're not careful."

On Thursday - a 12-hour day in the Senate - Sen. Steve Thompson rushed into the chamber from a hallway meeting, only to find he was a few seconds too late to cast a vote on a minor bill.

"Absent for Georgia!" he said, mimicking an ad a political opponent used against him after tallying every vote he had missed in nearly two decades in the Legislature.

The vote was one of over 50 the Senate conducted that day, and occurred roughly eight hours after the chamber convened.

The flurry of activity also can provide cover for lawmakers to introduce brand-new ideas, or politically unpopular ones, to colleagues who won't have much time to decide whether they like them.

When the Senate and House disagree on the exact wording of a bill, a six-member panel from both chambers negotiates, and can completely rewrite the bill if they choose.

"The conference works it out, the clock's running and there's just no time," to carefully study the results, Bullock said. "You've just got to step forward and say 'yay' or 'nay.' "

Rep. Dubose Porter, of Dublin, the Democratic leader in the Republican-controlled House, said he'll be on the lookout for ideas that have been squelched by lawmakers earlier in the year coming back up as amendments to more popular bills.

"The heads of those ugly snakes could come back up," he said.
According to UGA's Bullock, such vigilance is a good idea.

"When they say, 'This is just a little, old bill that doesn't do anything,' that's when you've really got to get on your guard," he said.

The Congressmen comment on the redistricting plan.

Georgia congressmen watch their words in redistricting process

By Jeffrey McMurry
Associated Press
March 27, 2005

Few topics send members of Congress tiptoeing on political eggshells more delicately than redistricting.

Republicans wanting to re-draw the lines to perhaps expand their 7-6 congressional advantage in upcoming elections were careful not to insult the current constituents much, in case they have to run for those seats again. Democrats trying to block the new map were careful not to demonize the proposed districts, knowing those could well be their future constituents.

[Rep. John] Barrow, who is from Athens, said he has no beef with the new district Republicans are trying to carve for him, which would not include his hometown and could make a GOP candidate more competitive there. It's changes to other seats - those currently held by Democrat Jim Marshall of Macon in middle Georgia and Republican Phil Gingrey of Marietta in northwestern Georgia - that Barrow says concern him.

Under the proposed changes, blacks in those districts would have less of an influence in elections, Barrow says. The courts would have to decide whether those districts are compliant under the Voting Rights Act.

Gingrey, on the other hand, would appear to be a near shoo-in for future re-election bids if the courts approve the new version of his district, which excludes some majority black, predominantly Democratic counties he currently represents. But a spokeswoman for the congressman says he has mixed feelings about the change. [Sure he does; spare us please.]

"We are obviously sad to lose the people in the southern part of our district," spokeswoman Becky Ruby said. "You give up some of this for what is ultimately a better map for everybody."

Marshall could have the most to lose. His district would stretch farther south along or near Interstate 75 through the middle part of the state, picking up a few more GOP-leaning territories and potentially making the seat more competitive - for future Democratic candidates, if not for him.

He had little to say about the plan - only a one-sentence statement, which hardly slammed it.

"If the districts change, I'll just be representing more people and will keep doing what I have been - trying my best to reflect the values and advance the interests of Georgia," Marshall said.

Democratic Rep. Sanford Bishop, who represents the southwest corner of the state, had plenty of complaints about the way Marshall's district was redrawn but no complaints about his own.

Bishop said some of Georgia's biggest farming communities would lose either him or Rep. Jim Kingston, members of the powerful Appropriations Committee, as their congressman under the changes. But of more serious legal concern, Bishop said, is the reduction of black constituents in Marshall's district.

"I see some retrogression in Jim Marshall's district in terms of black voter-age population and the ability of black voters to influence that district," said Bishop, who is black. "It would appear that what has happened is it's been bleached."

Lynn Westmoreland, a freshman GOP congressman and former state lawmaker who has been the delegation's most vocal member on redistricting, says Republicans are ready for any court fight challenging the new map.

"I think it's going to go right through, clean as a whistle," Westmoreland said. "The Justice Department is going to love it. The people of Georgia are going to love it. The only people that don't like it are the whiners that in 2001 stuck these maps down our throats and didn't really care what we said about them."

Fortune 500 co.'s that invested millions in electing Republicans are emerging as the earliest beneficiaries of a gov't controlled by Bush & GOP.

Fortune 500 companies that invested millions of dollars in electing Republicans are emerging as the earliest beneficiaries of a government controlled by President Bush and the largest GOP House and Senate majority in a half century.

MBNA Corp., the credit card behemoth and fifth-largest contributor to Bush's two presidential campaigns, is among those on the verge of prevailing in an eight-year fight to curtail personal bankruptcies. Exxon Mobil Corp. and others are close to winning the right to drill for oil in Alaska's wildlife refuge, which they have tried to pass for better than a decade. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., another big contributor to Bush and the GOP, and other big companies recently won long-sought protections from class-action lawsuits.

Republicans have pursued such issues for much of the past decade, asserting that free market policies are the smartest way to grow the economy. But now it appears they finally have the legislative muscle to push some of their agenda through Congress and onto the desk of a president eager to sign pro-business measures into law. The chief reason is Bush's victory in 2004 and GOP gains in Congress, especially in the Senate, where much of corporate America's agenda has bogged down in recent years, according to Republicans and Democrats.

Bush and his congressional allies are looking to pass legal protections for drug companies, doctors, gun manufacturers and asbestos makers, as well as tax breaks for all companies and energy-related assistance sought by the oil and gas industry.

With 232 House seats, Republicans have their largest majority since 1949. This is the first time since the Calvin Coolidge administration in 1929 that the GOP has simultaneously held 55 or more Senate seats and the presidency. Senate Republicans are only five votes shy of the 60 needed to break the most powerful tool the minority holds in Congress -- the filibuster.

[I]n the early days of the 109th Congress, it is corporations, which largely bankrolled the GOP's resurgence that began a decade ago with the Republican takeover of the House, that are profiting.

[I]n the 2004 elections, Republicans received 66 percent of corporate political action committee (PAC) money, which reflects a trend of businesses tilting support toward the GOP over the last decade. In 1993-94, business PACs gave slightly more to Democrats.

(3-27-05 The Washington Post.)

Get your message down, and then stick with it. A message from Ralph Reed to an early audience in the metro.

The experts will tell you to get your message down -- I call it you stump speech -- and repeat it until you are tired of hearing yourself give it. At about such as you are tired of your message, voters are just beginning to hear it. And forgetting all else, stay on message.

Is Ralph Reed going with what the experts say? If he does, this is the speech that Georgians will be hearing for the next several months as Reed has just kicked off his two-year marthon campaign for . . . .

And why post such? In politics as in life, keep your friends close but your enemies closer.

Address by Ralph Reed, Jr.
to the
Rotary Club of Gwinnett
Duluth, Georgia
March 1, 2005

I want to take a minute and talk about the 2004 elections, the meaning of that victory for the state of Georgia, and also provide a glimpse into how the outcome of the elections will affect public policy at the national and state level.

On November 2, 2004, George W. Bush received 62 million votes for President of the United States, 12 million more votes than he received four years earlier, and more votes than any candidate has received in history. He was the first candidate for President in either party to win a majority of the popular vote since 1988.

Turnout was up overall, but in the Bush states (the so-called Red states) turnout surged by an estimated 22 percent. This pattern prevailed nationwide. President Bush won a higher percentage of the vote in Massachusetts in 2004---even though it was his opponent’s home state. And he won a higher percentage of the vote in North Carolina than he did in 2000, this time with a member of the opposing ticket from the Tar Heel state, whereas four years earlier the running mate, Joe Lieberman, was from Connecticut.

President Bush won re-election as the first incumbent president to gain seats in the House and Senate since Franklin Delano Roosevelt did it in 1936. Any time you are mentioned in the same breath as FDR as President, that is very select company. The last time a Republican incumbent President gained House and Senate seats while being elected was Calvin Coolidge in 1924---so it had not happened in 80 years.

The victory was impressive and across the board. President Bush won a majority of the Catholic vote (52 to 47 percent) against the first Catholic nominee for President by either major party in 44 years. He won 40 percent of the Hispanic vote, the highest percentage by a Republican presidential candidate in history. In the all-important state of Florida, the President won 56 percent of the Hispanic vote. The gender gap, the traditional Democrat advantage among women voters, stood at 16 points in 1996, but fell to a statistically insignificant 5 points in 2004.

In the South the President carried all 14 states and their 173 electoral votes. The average margin in those states was 58 to 42 percent. Here in Georgia, the President’s margin of victory rose from 303,000 votes in 2000 to 550,000 in 2004. He carried 131 of Georgia’s 159 counties. This outcome vindicated the pre-election verdict of Senator Zell Miller, who correctly concluded that the Democratic Party is truly a “national party no more.”

This trend has potentially significant long-term ramifications. No Democrat has ever won the White House without carrying at least four Southern states. And failing to do well in the South is becoming more important due to our region’s growing population. In 1960 the South represented one-fourth of the national vote and the Electoral College; today it represents one-third of the national vote, and it continues to rise as its population grows.

Here in Georgia, Republicans added four new seats in the state Senate and elected a majority in the state House for the first time in134 years. This had actually been the desire of the state’s citizens since at least 2000, when Republicans won a majority of the statewide vote for state Senate and state House but were precluded from gaining a majority by gerrymandered districts. Johnny Isakson was elected to the U.S. Senate and for the first time since Reconstruction both Senators from Georgia are Republicans.
How did these victories occur? There are three main reasons, and they applied in the presidential race as well as the contests here in Georgia in 2002 and 2004.

First, Republicans built a stronger and more effective grassroots organization. At the Bush-Cheney ’04 campaign, we recruited 1.4 million volunteers, registered 3.3 million new voters, and re-energized 7 million Republican voters who had become inactive. Those volunteers made 15 million voter contacts in the final week of the campaign by phone, email, or door-to-door campaigning. Here in Georgia, we recruited 41,000 Bush-Cheney volunteers even though we were not a targeted state and had little in the way of national resources. In cooperation with the party’s 72 Hour Task Force, those volunteers were deployed in key counties and state legislative districts where they knocked on tens of thousands of doors and made hundreds of thousands of phone calls.

Second, we simply had better candidates. President Bush, Governor Perdue, Saxby, and Johnny Isakson all motivated our core supporters but also ran as bridge-builders and unifying candidates who reached out to voters who had not always felt welcome in our ranks. That is why we did well among Hispanics, young people, women, veterans, small business owners, and seniors. President Bush is a strong leader who took clear positions and had an optimistic vision of where he wanted to take the country.

Third, we ran on a bold, conservative agenda that is also compassionate. President Bush believes very strongly that he was not elected to pass on to his successors the same challenges he inherited from his predecessor. That is why he is tackling the impending fiscal crisis facing Social Security in spite of the fact that the politics of the issue can sometimes be difficult. The truth is that Social Security begins to pay out more than it takes in from workers by 2018. By roughly 2027 the annual deficit between revenue and benefits will be $200-300 billion a year and by 2042 the system is effectively insolvent, unable to pay beneficiaries their promised benefits.

On terrorism, the President is committed to bringing human freedom and liberty to people who have only known oppression, tyranny and bloodshed. Think about this: in the past roughly 130 days we have seen over 100 million people on two continents---Ukraine, Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Palestinian territories---freely choose their own leaders in the first truly democratic elections that many of those nations have ever known. Now Egyptian President Hosni Mabarak has called for elections in his country, the Syrian-dominated puppet regime in Lebanon has been dissolved, and we are closer to true peace between a democratic Palistinean state and Israel than at any time since the Camp David accords were signed.

Like the President, Governor Perdue believes in governing exactly as he campaigned, with bold ideas and real solutions to the problems facing our state. After years of dramatic increases in state spending, Governor Perdue is restraining the appetite for further taxes and spending through fiscal restraint. The budget picture has improved, we have created about 40,000 new jobs in the past year, the General Assembly will soon pass real ethics reform, and we have fixed the gerrymandered state legislative districts, and I hope will soon repair the gerrymandering of Congressional districts. The Governor has also led education reform measures like the master teacher program and the virtual classroom initiative, which allows students in rural areas gain access to advanced placement and college preparatory classes.
The General Assembly has passed civil justice reform to lower the litigation tax that Georgians bear, a cost of nearly $800 to $1,000 per person.

Although the main focus was on common-sense limits on non-economic damages, an even more important provision was the offer of judgment, which states that if a plaintiff declines a reasonable offer of settlement and then fails to win a greater judgment in court, that plaintiff must pay the court costs and attorney fees for the person they sued. I believe this will restore confidence in the civil justice system, make it easier for Georgia to attract business and create jobs, and made it easier for physicians and hospitals to do their job of healing and caring for their patients.

I have recently announced my candidacy for Lt. Governor of Georgia. My governing philosophy is very simple. I believe that government should do a few things and do them well: protecting the borders, maintain a safety net for the least fortunate, keeping our neighborhoods safe, and, at the local and state level, educating our children. I would like to see us look at ways to restrain spending by tying the budget to increases in the population and inflation. In the 1990’s the population increased by 23 percent while the budget doubled. Right now our population is increasing at a rate of 2 percent a year, revenue is increasing at 6 percent, and Medicaid spending is increasing at 16 percent. We need budget and Medicaid reform to keep spending from exploding and potentially squeezing our ability to fund education.

A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the President’s second Inaugural in Washington. I know that the pundits and the press like to suggest that the President is inarticulate. I disagree. I thought his inaugural address was one of the most stirring and eloquent in our nation’s history.

In that address, the President said that we should believe the evidence of our eyes. What is that evidence? We have seen terrorists with hearts filled with hatred turn airliners into missiles and fly them into skyscrapers in the heart of the financial capital of the world. We have seen husbands and wives trapped on those airliners spend the final moments of their lives making a final call on a cell phone to a parent, a spouse, or a child, leaving a simple message on a tape machine that said, “I love you.” We have seen firefighters and police charge up smoke-filled stairwells to their deaths as they sought to save others. We have seen the bravery and heroism of our soldiers who are risking their lives every day to give freedom to people on the other side of the world that they do not even know.

The sum total of this evidence, in the President’s words, is that “Life is fragile, evil is real, and courage is triumphant.”

The President called us to “serve a cause larger than your wants, larger than yourself---and in your days you will add not just to the wealth of our country, but to its character.”

That is what you do every single day as Rotarians, as Georgians, and as Americans. I urge you to continue to do so and in so doing we will build an even better Georgia and America. Thank you.

Christian conservative leaders mounting campaign to win control of local government posts & GOP organizations.

Christian conservative leaders from scores of Ohio's fastest growing churches are mounting a campaign to win control of local government posts and Republican organizations, starting with the 2006 governor's race.

In a manifesto that is being circulated among church leaders and on the Internet, the group, which is called the Ohio Restoration Project, is planning to mobilize 2,000 evangelical, Baptist, Pentecostal and Roman Catholic leaders in a network of so-called Patriot Pastors to register half a million new voters, enlist activists, train candidates and endorse conservative causes in the next year.

The initial goal is to elect Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, a conservative Republican, governor in 2006. The group hopes to build grass-roots organizations in Ohio's 88 counties and take control of local Republican organizations.

"The establishment of the Ohio Republican Party is out of touch with its base," said Russell Johnson, the pastor of the Fairfield Christian Church and the principal organizer of the project. "It acts as if it lives in Boston, Mass."

Pastor Johnson's challenge to the party establishment could have far-reaching consequences in a state dominated by Republican elected officials but still considered a bellwether in presidential politics. Conservatives in other swing states are watching closely.

The church leaders say they will try to harness the energy of religious conservatives who were vital not only to Mr. Bush's narrow victory in Ohio but also to passage of an amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage. The amendment, known as Issue 1, was credited with drawing large numbers of rural and suburban conservatives to the polls and increasing Mr. Bush's support among urban blacks.

Republican officials are watching warily. The chairman of the state party, Robert T. Bennett, warned that the decade-long dominance of his party could be jeopardized if it was pushed too far to the right. "This is a party of a big tent," Mr. Bennett said. "The far right cannot elect somebody by itself, any more than somebody from the far left can."

In a three-way primary [for governor], many Republican leaders say, Mr. Blackwell has a solid chance of winning because conservatives represent much of the party's base. But moderates worry that he could alienate independent voters and lose the general election. Some are discussing enlisting the White House to prod Mr. Blackwell to quit the race.

The project, which describes itself as nonpartisan and nonprofit, will not endorse candidates. But Mr. Blackwell will be invited to speak to pastoral meetings and to a statewide Ohio for Jesus rally next spring, along with other prominent Christian conservatives like the Rev. Franklin Graham, Dr. James Dobson and Charles Colson, the plan says.

Democrats say they are buoyed by the insurgency of Mr. Blackwell. "He's formidable in many ways, but he's the candidate we'd most like to run against," said Greg Haas, a strategist for Michael Coleman, the mayor of Columbus, who is seen as a favorite for the Democratic nomination.

In an interview, Mr. Blackwell, who is black, said that Ohio had shifted to the right and that he now represented mainstream voters. He also predicted that he would draw black religious conservatives into the Republican Party, breaking the Democrats' hold on urban precincts.

"I think what's happening is we're seeing a struggle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party," he said. "And that's healthy."

(3-27-05 The New York Times.)

When this really gets started nationwide, fasten your seatbelts. It is going to be a wild ride, one I have been waiting for for several years. When its over -- and assuming we keep a low profile and don't mess things up -- we will know our day has returned. Yes! Yes!

The battle over the budget between Speaker Richardson and Senate President Pro Tem Johnson both truly fascinating & historic.

The Republican-led Legislature recessed Thursday for a long Easter weekend amid an ongoing fight over the placement of hometown projects in the $17.4 billion state budget.

Republican leaders in the House used their version of the budget to propose $3.5 million in local community grants they say are needed to promote economic development and education throughout the state. Most of the 45 projects are found in the districts of powerful GOP leaders and their conservative Democratic allies.

However, the top GOP members of the Senate want the money placed in a development fund that would be managed by the state Department of Community Affairs. The agency would be in charge of deciding what communities get the money.

Lawmakers from both chambers continued to fight over the budget Friday afternoon, calling off the fruitless negotiations by midday and deciding to meet again Monday. The budget drama slowed business at the Capitol during the next-to-last week of the 2005 legislative session.

House Speaker Glenn Richardson, R-Hiram, refused to take up any Senate bills for consideration during much of the day Thursday in order to force the Senate to give in on the budget. The effort failed to produce immediate results.

Democrats have called the proposed local projects the same type of "pork barrel" spending that they were criticized for when their party was in charge of the Legislature.

(3-25-05 Morris News Service.)

A Do-Nothing Governor's legacy in the making.

In a 12-29-04 post I wrote about Bill Shipp's wish list for 2005, noting in part:

At a most appropriate time, the Dean shares his 2005 wish list. I can understand the Dean realistically being hopeful on most everything on his list except the last one.

The Dean often engages in tongue-in-cheek, and when from time to time such goes right over the heads of some of his readers, they get upset with him, real upset.

I don't know if the Dean was engaging in such when he penned the last item on this list or if, by the time he was about through with his column, he was finishing a refreshing glass of holiday eggnog, spiked with some fine bourbon with just a dash of some freshly ground nutmeg courtesy of lovely wife Reny.

Why do I say such?

The last item on the Dean's wish list is "Gov. Sonny Perdue will prove his critics wrong. He will do something."

Because while all good Georgians would appreciate their Governor actually doing something, we have an enigma here with this Governor.

We know he is a Do-Nothing Governor who hasn't done anything; we assume he wants to remain a Do-Nothing Governor who won't do anything; but we don't know if this Do-Nothing Governor, assuming he ever wanted to do anything, could do anything.

Thus how could Shipp hope the man can do something that the man might be incapable of doing.

You know what I mean, don't ya? Sort of like how much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood. We know the woodchuck can't chuck wood. We don't know whether Sonny can chuck. Can you chuck Sonny? If you can, I'm with the Dean. Start chucking.

But still we don't know if he can. Thus I remain undecided -- with the Dean, was it tongue-in-cheek or the eggnog?

Heck, truth be told, I'm getting all mixed up myself. Sally, how about a little eggnog.


I think Gov. Perdue has proved his critics wrong; I think Sonny Perdue has, finally, started chucking.

And in the process, we are close to witnessing the Governor's legacy.

What, pray tell, could I be writing about? You got it. Shorter lines for getting a drivers' license.

On Thursday the Governor won Senate approval Thursday to dismantle the 4-year-old Department of Motor Vehicle Safety and shift its functions and 1,400 employees to four existing state agencies and a new department focused on driver's license services.

Perdue has billed the move as key to ending long lines at driver's license centers across the state, particularly in metro Atlanta.

The 137-page bill also reduces the number of times you’ll need to visit. It calls for new 5-year and 10-year licenses and it eliminates most eye exams. Only first-time drivers and people over 65 would be tested.

The bill passed the House two weeks ago on a tie-breaking vote from Speaker Richardson and must return there for final approval of some Senate changes.

The bill does have its critics. Why dismantle a whole department to address problems in one division? Why ignore reports that the agency is working and is considered a national model? Why do it without a firm estimate of what it will cost?

Senate Democrats initially tried to scuttle floor debate because the bill did not have a fiscal note, a report by state auditors on the likely costs.

Sen. David Adelmansaid, "This is a far-reaching bill, and no one in this room has a clue of the fiscal impact."

They’re set to debate it Tuesday in the House. If it passes and the Governor signs it, the changes would take effect July 1.

Some Democratic Senators claim that the state may lose federal highway funds and may have to spend millions. Others have said that Perdue wants to dismantle the DMVS as one of the last vestiges of the administration of his predecessor, Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes.

(Lawmakers Friday night and 3-25-04 AJC.)

Come on Democrats. Not that you could even if you wanted to with all of the Hawks flying about this coming Tuesday, but don't deny Gov. Perdue his wish in this legislation. It is his legislation; his legacy; his first real day in the limelight since recently neutering poor old Nelson (3-7-05 AJC.).

Don't make it rough riding for him. As a state we lose either way.

On the one hand, if he thinks it will be rough riding ahead Tuesday, he might decide to again sport his easy rider motorcycle helmet as he did to begin the 2003 session.

And if he thinks this would not portray the appropriate image, he may feel inclined to look presidential, and given the current season and all such, come to the Capitol dressed in an Easter bunny outfit.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Georgia will remain one of five states without a hate crimes law. - Legislature makes no move to reinstate hate crimes law.

Georgia's hate crimes legislation was passed five years ago after a close, contentious debate. The legislataion was intended to set tougher penalties for people who target victims because of race, religion or sexual orientation.

But the legislation passed in 2000 wasn't so limited in its wording, leading the Georgia Supreme Court to strike it down, saying the law could be applied to every possible prejudice, "no matter how obscure, whimsical or unrelated to the victim."

Georgia's law was the nation's only law not to specify which groups were covered, instead vaguely including any crime motivated by "bias or prejudice."

In striking down the law, the Supreme Court in an unanimous opinion noted that a more refined law would probably pass legal muster, in effect, inviting the Legislature to fix the legislation so it would pass judicial muster.

Despite some assurances from black legislators that a new hate crimes law would be a top priority in the 2005 legislative session, apparently there was too much going on to get to it.

The inaction means Georgia will remain one of five states without a hate crimes law, at least for another year.

"I'd hate to say it was forgotten. It was just something we didn't push in the first week and the second week, and then legislators got bogged down with other things," said Rep. Tyrone Brooks, D-Atlanta . . . .

The law's original sponsor -- Democratic Sen. Vincent Fort of Atlanta -- said black lawmakers have been too busy fighting other battles in the first Republican-controlled Legislature in modern history.

"A lot of my time has been engaged in playing defense, preventing bad things from happening," said Fort . . .

Some black lawmakers worry that if the hate crimes bill barely passed under Democratic control, it stands less of a chance now. In the first debate, two vocal opponents to the bill are now the top-ranking lawmakers in both chambers - Republicans Glenn Richardson (House Speaker) and Eric Johnson (President Pro Tem of the Senate).

(3-26-05 AP article by Kristen Wyatt.)

Schiavo Case Tests Priorities Of GOP. - Were DeLay's ethic problems a motivating factor for intervention? Many in GOP suspect so.

A week after their unprecedented intervention in the Terri Schiavo case, Republican congressional leaders find themselves in a moral and political thicket, having advanced the cause as a right-to-life issue -- only to confront polls showing that the public does not see it that way.

"How deep is this Congress going to reach into the personal lives of each and every one of us?" asked Rep. Christopher Shays (Conn.), one of only five Republicans in the House to vote against the Schiavo bill.

Republican lawmakers and others engaged in the debate say an internal party dispute over the Schiavo case has ruptured, at least temporarily, the uneasy alliance between economic and social conservatives that twice helped President Bush get elected.

One senior GOP lawmaker involved in the negotiations, who did not want to speak for the record, said that DeLay, who is fighting ethics charges on several fronts, faced considerable pressure from Christian conservative groups to respond to pleas by the parents of the brain-damaged woman to intervene before her husband, Michael Schiavo, removed the feeding tube that kept her alive. The lawmaker said that DeLay "wanted to follow through" but added that many House Republicans were dubious and suspected that the leader's ethics problems were a motivating factor.

DeLay and Frist . . . questioned Schiavo's medical condition -- a persistent vegetative state with no hope for recovery, according to the doctors who examined her. DeLay said of Schiavo, "She talks and she laughs and she expresses happiness and discomfort," and he blamed her inability to speak on the fact that "she's not been afforded any speech therapy -- none!"

In a Senate floor statement March 16, Frist . . . described her as having "a severe disability similar to what cerebral palsy might be."

Aggravating GOP frustrations are disturbing new polls, including a CBS survey that found that 82 percent of Americans -- including a whopping 68 percent of people who identify themselves as evangelical Christians -- think Congress's intervention was wrong.

Democrats, who note that the action is identified with the GOP-led Congress and the president, hope that the public's negative response could translate into a more general unease with Republican rule.

(3-26-05 The Washington Post.)

Dick Yarbrough brings us a play-by-play of a Congressional Oversight Hearing on one of the hottest topics of the current legislative sessions.

I did a 12-14-04 post captioned: "As I expose some of you to the middle where we must go to win again, let me introduce someone I admire & respect. - Dick Yarbrough, a Great American."

That post read in part:

The last time a post included anything about Dick Yarbrough was an 08-30-04 post about Zell. This doesn't mean I don't read his columns. On the contrary, I never miss one. I love his writing, his style, his ability to say what I wish I had said.

Do we see eye-to-eye on everything? No, but we do on many if not most. He voted for President Bush; as you know, I voted for Sen. John Flipflop Kerry. Do you remember those lines I had in a 11-02-04 post:

"It's not for nothing that people in Massachusetts joked that his initials stand for Just For Kerry. Or that people spoke of him as the guy who refuses to wait in lines at restaurants because he thinks he's above everybody else."

When writing about those lines a couple of days later, I wrote in a 11-06-04 post:"

"I know some people who think they are too good to wait in lines at a restaurant with the rest of us proletariats and commoners. I don't care for peole who think they are too good to wait in lines at a restaurant, such people thinking they are above the rest of us."

Unfortunately for me, I have never met Dick Yarbrough. I am familiar with his extremely successful journey through life so far and his accomplishments. They are many.

Although I have never met him, I sense that Mr. Yarbrough would have the same feelings about some who refuses to wait in restaurant lines as I do and you probably do. Put another way, Dick Yarbrough is one of us; he understands us. Remarkably, many politicians do not.

All of the foregoing to let you know I am going to share one of Mr. Yarbrough's columns from five or six months ago so you can get to know him before I share a column he wrote immediately after Nov. 2.

I have been saving the post-Nov. column, but felt if I had posted it right after the election, many of you would have outright rejected his wisdom as poppycock.

Then came in the 12-14-04 post Mr. Yarbrough's column entitled:

A salute to some live Democrats

By Dick Yarbrough
June 23, 2004

A member of the Loyal Opposition - meaning those who don't agree with anything I say, which includes about half of the inhabited Earth - confided to a friend that ''the only Democrats Dick Yarbrough likes are dead Democrats.'' Not true. There are a lot of live Democrats I like.

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

Sam Nunn is my favorite Democrat of all time. He is smart as a whip and was a pleasure to work with. We have had some great senators from Georgia, but none better than Sam Nunn.

I like former Gov. Joe Frank Harris. We were fraternity brothers at the University of Georgia. He was a good guy then and he is a good guy now. Harris has as little ego as any elected official who ever lived.

I like George Busbee, a hard-working governor with a great sense of humor.

I like Carl Sanders and Ernest Vandiver. Both came along at just the right time, when Georgia was struggling with civil rights issues, and they got us through that tough period in better shape than Alabama or Mississippi.

I like Roy Barnes. He lost an election he should have won, but he has been graceful in defeat. I particularly like the fact that he spent six months doing legal aid work.

I like Terry Coleman, the Democratic speaker of the House, and DuBose Porter, the speaker pro tem. I like former Majority Leader Larry Walker. Same for former Lt. Gov. Pierre Howard. I like Secretary of State Cathy Cox and her predecessor, Lewis Massey, and I wish Massey would run for public office again.

Now, here are some live Democrats I don't like.

I don't like Jimmy Carter's perpetual grandstanding. He was out of his league during his one-term presidency, yet former presidents didn't publicly undercut him as he has President Bush. One thing Carter's apologists don't mention is the mean-spirited gubernatorial campaign he ran against Carl Sanders in 1970, when he tried to out-Wallace George Wallace. Don't believe me? Look it up. Jimmy Carter either didn't mean what he said during that campaign, or he didn't have the courage of his convictions when he was elected. Either way, I don't like that.

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

I don't like Ted Kennedy, because he caused the death of an innocent young woman and then was a coward about admitting what he had done. Today, he waddles into the Senate and sits in moral judgment of other people. God will get him for that.

I don't like former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, because he always looks as though he is about to come unhinged. I don't like people who scare me.

There are a whole bunch of live Democrats that I like and some that I don't. I hope this revelation totally befuddles the Loyal Opposition. I would like that.

With the foregoing post being an introduction to Dick Yarbrough for some of you, I hope I have whet your appetite (or at least your curiosity) enough to read his column that was the subject of the post that followed the above-post. If you read it, and are enough out of post Nov. 2 denial to accept it, you are half way there in understanding why we Democrats got our butts kicked last Nov. 2. One paragraph from his column to further encourage you to go read it now:

Democrats are as out of touch with American values as are the national media. Democrats thought they could win the election without the South. As I said a year ago, it can't be done. We represent the traditional values that can get you elected - or defeated.

His columun is entitled "Liberals are out of touch and on wrong side of the cultural divide," and can be found at this link.

Enough of the past. This week Dick Yarbrough's column is nothing heavy; just pure vintage Dick Yarbrough fun.

Columnists on steroids?

By: Dick Yarbrough
March 25, 2005

Rap! Rap! Rap! This session of the Congressional Oversight Committee on Burning Issues and Other Stuff is now in session. I want to remind my colleagues that our hearings are being televised. Therefore, it is critical that we posture a lot and wave our hands and not fall asleep so voters back home will think we are right on top of things. That way, nobody will bother us and we can get back to sponging dinners and campaign funds off lobbyists.

Today, we are looking into the disturbing issue of potential steroid use among newspaper columnists. Our first witness is Mr. Dick Yarbrough, a modest and much-beloved columnist from Georgia. As chairman, I will ask the first question: Chairman: “Mr. Yarbrough, we all know that steroids make people do some strange things. I noticed that as you entered the committee hearing room today, you ate a camera, two microphones and a doorknob. Are you on steroids?”

Yarbrough: “Mr. Chairman, I don’t want to talk about the past. I want to make this a better world for all mankind and to be a role model for young journalists in hopes they can emulate my remarkable career as a modest and much-beloved columnist. I will say only that I didn’t have my Froot Loops this morning. That tends to make me a little cranky.”

Chairman: “Senator Bilgebag?”

Bilgebag: “Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Yarbrough, have you ever used steroids?”

Yarbrough: “Senator, I don’t want to talk about the past. I want to make this a better world for self-important yuppie-boomers, who stand around yakking on their cell phones in hopes that we will be impressed. As to your question, there have been scurrilous rumors that I may have eaten broccoli willingly. One could reasonably assume that I was whacked out on something big-time.”

Chairman: “Congressperson Jones-Smith, do you have a question for our witness?”

Jones: “Thank you, Mr. Chairperson and let me first say how much I appreciate the chairperson holding these critical hearings. He/she is a dedicated public servant and a credit to all Euro-Americans. Mr. Yarbrough, columnists from the New York Times and the Washington Post who have appeared before this committee use such politically correct terms as ‘indigenous people’ and ‘undocumented workers,’ instead of terms like ‘Eskimos’ and ‘illegal aliens.’ I don’t believe I have ever seen such terms in your columns. Why are you so politically incorrect? Is it because of steroids?”

Yarbrough: “Congresswomanperson, I don’t want to talk about the past. I want to make this a better world for everybody, except France and the Dixie Chicks. Besides, I have been instructed by my attorney, who is a gay Cherokee Indian, to tell you to buzz off.”Chairman: “Congressman Blather, you have the next question.”

Blather: “Mr. Yarbrough, I have in my hand a newspaper article that says you were seen hanging out with a bunch of baseball players and that someone slipped you some cream to rub on your skin. We have every reason to believe that cream was a steroid. Sir, do you confirm or deny that story?”

Yarbrough: “Mr. Blather, I don’t want to talk about the past. I want to make this a better world for humor-challenged liberal weenies and turn their frowns upside down. The cream was for the arthritis in my fingers, which makes it tough for me to type my column each week.”

Blather: “What happened when you used the cream?”

Yarbrough: “I still have the arthritis, but now I can type 36,000 words a minute.”

Chairman: “Mr. Yarbrough, we are going to adjourn this important hearing now that everybody back home has seen us on television. As you can tell, Congress and the American people are very concerned about the possibility of rampant steroid use among newspaper columnists. Given your unsatisfactory responses today and the lack of an adequate testing program, you have given us little choice but to do what we do best—pass a bunch of meaningless laws that nobody, including us, will understand.”

Yarbrough: “Mr. Chairman, I don’t want to talk about the past. I am here to make members of Congress look relevant. Otherwise, you might have to go home and get real jobs.”