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Cracker Squire


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

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

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Methodists Reinstate Defrocked Minister.

An appeals panel of the United Methodist Church has reinstated a lesbian minister who was defrocked in December after revealing in a sermon to her Philadelphia congregation that she was living with her gay partner.

The decision overturns a ruling by a lower church court that removed the Rev. Irene Elizabeth Stroud from the ministry for violating Methodist law that forbids "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" to be ordained or serve as members of the clergy.

The seesaw in church courts is only the latest sign of the divide over homosexuality in the United Methodist Church, the nation's third-largest Christian denomination, with 8.2 million members. For years, gay members of the clergy in the denomination have functioned under a "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Ms. Stroud's case will probably be appealed to the church's equivalent of the Supreme Court - the Judicial Council - which has consistently ruled against openly noncelibate gay clergy members . . . .

Conservatives in the church yesterday attributed the decisions in favor of openly gay clergy members to geography. They said church regions in the Northeast and the West were more liberal toward homosexuality than most other Methodist regions.

The church's Book of Discipline says that active homosexuality is incompatible with the teachings of Jesus. But it also calls homosexuals "individuals of sacred worth."

(4-30-05, The New York Times.)

Friday, April 29, 2005

Summary of 2nd Annual Democratic Candidate Training Project Session & Reports it was an Overwhelming Success!! - Way to go Team!!

The second annual session of the Red Clay Candidate Training Institute was an overwhelming success.

On Saturday, April 9, over 60 prospective candidates from around Georgia (residing in 49 different State House districts) spent 7 hours hearing focused, hard hitting presentations on how to run a winning campaign. Our excellent speakers included Rep. DuBose Porter, Sen. Kasim Reed, Rep. Calvin Smyre, Rep. Brian Thomas, Washington pollster Mike Bocian, Kristin Oblander (fundraising), Jon Anderson (direct mail) James Washburn, Esq. (campaign finance law), and Tharon Johnson (field operations).

“I run to win,” said one of our speakers. We share this philosophy, and that is why we held this training session. Winning takes hard work, and we were happy to work hard to bring campaign experts into the presence of our next generation of Democratic office-holders to hone their skills as they begin their journey into the calling of public service.

This event was offered free of charge to the prospects, with beverages, lunch, and a notebook included. This would not have been possible without the generous support of several people. The Red Clay Democrats would like to say thanks to those who provided support to make this event happen: Kilpatrick Stockton, LLP; The Barnes Law Group, LLC; Tommy Malone, Esq.; The Butler Wooten firm; and the Cobb County Democratic Party. Thanks also to all of our speakers, who generously gave of their time.

The next Red Clay Candidate Training Institute will be offered in January or February, 2006. Stay tuned for details at www.redclaydemocrats.org (where you can join the e-mail list and be assured of early notice of the application process).

Bush double downs on social security plan & debate. If he fails, he risks early admission into the lame-duck status.

A Gambler Decides to Raise the Stakes

By Dana Milbank and Jim VandeHei
The Washington Post
April 29, 2005

President Bush made a huge gamble last night in a bid to restore momentum to his flagging proposal to restructure Social Security -- and to his presidency.

With two in three Americans disapproving of the way Bush has handled Social Security, many political observers thought it would be prudent for Bush to cut his losses and negotiate a bipartisan compromise on Social Security, perhaps without the personal accounts he has promoted for the past several months.

Instead, Bush held a prime-time news conference and doubled down on his bet. He continued to press for private accounts while adding a proposal that would cut Social Security spending by $3 trillion over 75 years -- openly defying the longtime belief that proposing cuts in the beloved program is bad politics.

The president's gamble was presented modestly last night, as a plan to help the working poor. "I propose a Social Security system in the future where benefits for low-income workers will grow faster than benefits for people who are better off," he said in a brief opening statement.

Democrats immediately branded Bush's proposal a massive cut in Social Security. And conservative Republicans worried that the new plan would eventually doom the private accounts they prefer, and prove costly for the party in next year's midterm elections.

Whatever the merits of Bush's new proposal, the president has taken another one of the bold strokes that worked so well for him in his first term. After a 60-day campaign failed to produce enthusiasm for his proposal for personal accounts, Bush is trying to sell his plan as a boon to the working poor at the expense of wealthier Americans. This time, he is calculating that he can apply enough pressure on Democrats up for reelection in 2006 to support his plan.

The outcome of Bush's bet will have an impact far beyond Social Security. If he succeeds, he will regain control of a national agenda that has slipped from his grasp in recent months. If he fails, he risks early admission into the lame-duck status that eventually afflicts all second-term presidents.

One hundred days ago, Bush began his second term with great confidence and a bold agenda: He would enact major Social Security and energy legislation, and win confirmation of strong conservatives to top positions in the judiciary and throughout the administration. Expanded and unified Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress would approve his tax and spending cuts.

Instead, Bush finds that Americans have turned against him on Social Security, and some moderate Republicans are joining a united Democratic Party in opposition. A key Bush nomination -- ambassador to the United Nations -- is in trouble in the Senate, and the No. 2 Republican in the House, Tom DeLay (Tex.), is dogged by an ethics controversy. Meanwhile, high gas prices, jittery financial markets and criticism over the Terri Schiavo case have contributed to a Bush popularity that has equaled the lowest levels of his presidency.

Bush said last night that he is not discouraged by the reversals. "We're asking people to do things that haven't been done for 20 years," he said. "We haven't addressed the Social Security problem since 1983. We haven't had an energy strategy in our country for decades. So I'm not surprised that some are balking at doing hard work. But I have a duty as the president to define problems facing our nation and to call upon people to act. And we're just really getting started in the process."

Throughout his first term, Bush's bold strokes served him well: Despite losing the popular vote, he enacted major tax cuts and education legislation and led the nation in two wars. He repeatedly gambled on major policy matters by refusing to compromise -- and he repeatedly won, gaining more power each time.

But an end to Bush's winning streak in the second term could cause the opposite phenomenon. "It's important when a [president] makes a major decision, that is resolved in [his] favor more times than not," said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.). Otherwise, he said, presidential power is gradually drained.

Democrats, bludgeoned in the last election, have suddenly regained confidence. "He's going to continue a downward spiral of weakness," predicted Mark Mellman, a Democratic pollster. "Weakness begets weakness and failure begets failure . . . The only way for him to get out of this downward spiral is to change the agenda."

White House aides took the risk of a nationally televised news conference because they know that the next few weeks will be crucial in determining the success of Bush's second term. Aides who dismissed talk of a second-term funk only weeks ago grant that the coming weeks represent a crucial test of Bush's strength.

"We acknowledge there is a lot noise coming out of Washington" about nominees and ethics, said a senior White House aide who requested anonymity in order to speak candidly. "The president is talking about two things people care about" -- energy and Social Security -- but "it is not necessarily getting through because we are competing with a lot of other story lines here."

By all accounts, the president is in a difficult position. He needs to rise above the "noise" to regain the advantage on Social Security and other big items. But he also needs to win battles over nominees to prove to lawmakers that he still has clout on the big issues.

White House aides told Bush the media would pounce on the end of his 60-day tour touting Social Security changes (Sunday) and the 100th day of his second term (Saturday), and the news conference offered Bush the opportunity to go on the offensive -- at least for an evening.

For months, Bush had resisted giving specifics about his plan other than saying it should include personal accounts. But declining to offer specifics became untenable. GOP pollster David Winston said Bush succeeded in convincing Americans there's a problem that needs fixing, but "there's a frustration" in the public because "there's a time delay between being convinced there's a problem and learning what the solution looks like."

Now that Bush has offered more specifics, he encounters a new set of risks. Democrats are ready to pounce on Bush for his plan to index benefits to prices rather than wages, which they say will mean a major benefit cut. "For the first time ever, you'll see a Social Security solvency plan that is solely based on deep cuts to the middle class," said Gene B. Sperling, who was President Bill Clinton's economic adviser.

And conservative Republicans will balk at his call last night for "progressive indexing," which would reduce future payments for middle- and upper-income retirees by linking increases to prices rather than wages. Stephen Moore, a leading proponent of personal accounts, warned of a "nightmare" in which benefit cuts "cost Republicans the Senate in 2006."

"He has a clear conundrum right now," Moore said.

Congress Passes Budget With Cuts in Medicaid and in Taxes.

The House and Senate broke a lengthy impasse over federal spending Thursday night, narrowly adopting a $2.56 trillion federal budget for 2006 that aims to trim the growth of Medicaid by $10 billion over five years, add $106 billion in tax cuts and clear the way for oil drilling in an Alaskan wildlife refuge.

Congress has failed to adopt a budget for two of the last three years, and Republican leaders hailed the votes as a victory. With the federal deficit at a record level, President Bush and Congressional Republicans - prodded by fiscal conservatives in their party - have promised to rein in government spending. Adopting a budget was a test of their ability to make good on that vow.

(4-29-05, The New York Times.)

The news conference was not as billed, but the President did do one thing I certainly liked.

While President Bush's news conference last night was billed as his most ambitious push yet for changes to Social Security, it was also an hour spent defending a nascent second term that seems to have stalled.

While, as the New Times points out, he provided no details and stopped well short of offering a full-fledged plan to deal with the problems of the Social Security system, what I like about last night was that he distanced himself from accusations by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist that the Democratic filibuster of Mr. Bush's judicial nominees is an attack on "people of faith."

(4-29-05, The Wall Street Journal online.)

Thursday, April 28, 2005

How safe is Barrow's job? Prospective new congressional district boundaries open door to African-American candidate.

Excerpts from a 4-24-05 Savannah Morning News article by Larry Peterson:

[The new 12th Congressional District] looks tailor-made for an African-American challenger to Barrow.

Barrow says he'll move if he must to remain a resident of the 12th.

[T]he voting age population of the new 12th would be more black than the old one - 41.5 percent compared to 39 percent.

Meanwhile, black voters make up an increasing share of the Georgia Democratic electorate. Charles Bullock, a University of Georgia professor of political science, estimates that 60 percent to 65 percent of the people who would vote in the new 12th's Democratic primary would be black.

"Barrow would be very vulnerable," Bullock said.

Bullock and Dave Simons, a Savannah political consultant who works mostly with Republicans, view Majette as an especially formidable challenger to Barrow.

Majette, whose recent roots are in the Atlanta area, is an outsider to the 12th. But Barrow would find it hard to tar her as one, because - in the new district - he'd be one, too, Simons and Bullock say.

Moreover, they add, she'd gain from the statewide name recognition she earned during her U.S. Senate campaign.

Barrow will run with the full support of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and her leadership team . . . .

Simons doubts that national Republicans will go all-out in the 12th.

"There are probably at least a couple Congressional districts here in Georgia that likely will be higher priorities," he said. "I'd be hard-pressed to think that a Republican has anything but an outside chance in the 12th."

House Passes Bill Tightening Parental Rule for Abortions.

The House passed a bill on Wednesday making it a federal crime for any adult to transport an under-age girl across state lines to have an abortion without the consent of her parents. A vote on a similar bill is expected in the Senate later this spring or early this summer, and backers says its chances are good.

The bill, intended to prevent minor girls from going to different states to circumvent more restrictive laws in their home states, applies to adults who accompany girls 17 and under. It also, for the first time, requires doctors who perform abortions on under-age girls to comply with state notification laws, and in some cases to notify the girl's parents in person.

Twenty-three states require parental notification and 10 require parental notice but permit other adults to be notified, or allow health providers to waive the requirement. Seventeen states, including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and California, have no law restricting access to abortion for minors.

(4-28-05, The New York Times.)

House Overturns New Ethics Rule as Republican Leadership Yields.

In a rare retreat, the Republican-led House on Wednesday overturned contentious rule changes made to the House ethics process, with Republicans saying they surrendered to the Democrats to try to restore a way to enforce proper conduct in the House.

(4-27-05, The New York Times.)

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Democratic challenger to DeLay bows out.

A Democratic challenger who won 41 percent of the vote against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay in 2004 said Monday he won't make a second attempt to unseat the incumbent.

Richard Morrison cited family and financial obligations.

"Over the weekend, I had to put pen to paper on how to support my family during a campaign," Morrison said. "To have to begin campaigning now (for the March 2006 primary), I just don't have the money to put aside my law practice long enough to do this."

Former U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson has announced that he'll run in the Democratic primary while Houston City Councilman Gordon Quan has said he is considering it.

DeLay has represented the district since 1984.

(4-25-05, the Associated Press.)

A Georgia Democrat & Proud of It. - Let's strike while the iron is hot (we said on March 4), Part II. - The iron is still hot!!

A 3-4-05 post captioned "A Georgia Democrat & Proud of It. - Let's strike while the iron is hot," read as follows:

In December my fellow Coffee County Democrats honored me by electing me as our county's State Committee Member. I will attend my first meeting as an official voting member of the Democratic Party of Georgia on Tuesday, March 15.

I am a longtime member of the Douglas Rotary Club. But I could use just about any other service club or social group, and what I am going to say would probably yield the same result.

If I ask for all of those in my Rotary Club who consider themselves to be Democrats to please raise their hands, few if any hands will go up. This is just the way things have gotten in Georgia, one of the reddest of the red states, and having Just For Kerry as our nominee did not help.

But I know -- just as you know with respect to groups of which you are a member -- that there are a significant number of Democrats in the club or group; I am going to refer to them here as "closet Democrats."

I ask all of you who read this blog to join me in meeting a challenge of bringing these closet Democrats out of the closet and into the open. I am going to begin in Douglas and Coffee County, and ask you to do so in your respective communities across the state of Georgia.

I need the Democratic Party of Georgia to assist me in meeting this challenge. I hope the party will give serious thought to having bumber stickers (white on navy background or navy on white background) available to hand out at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner on March 15 that say the following, line by line:

A Georgia
& Proud of It

It is possible that this might start something, especially as we are watching the Philistines drop the ball weekly in Atlanta as they continue to demonstrate their arrogance and political overreaching.

We know we're supposed to strike while the iron is hot. The iron is hot my friends, and I do believe the time is now.

While the call for assistance in meeting this challenge went unanswered, this did not impede the Coffee County Democrats. Having missed having "A Georgia Democrat & Proud of It" bumper stickers available for the March 15 State Committee Meeting and Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, we have gone forward to have them ready for the May 21 State Committee meeting.

Since this has turned into a local versus a state party funded project, we will have to charge for our bumper stickers. We are most anxious on seeing one on your vehicle in Atlanta on May 21.

To see the bumper sticker, go to CoffeeCountyDemocrats.com, and scroll down just a tad. If you are interested in ordering one, contact our local chair Danita Knowles for details. Her e-mail is danitaknowles52@charter.net.

(1) Poll finds Perdue, Cox dead even in race for governor; (2) Findings on Perdue show Democrats with reason for hope.

AJC's James Salzer reports that a new poll suggests Secretary of State Cathy Cox starts with a stronger chance of ousting Gov. Sonny Perdue than does her Democratic rival, Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor. In a Zogby International poll for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Cox was dead even with Perdue, Georgia's first Republican governor since Reconstruction. Perdue, meanwhile, was 13 percentage points ahead of Taylor in a head-to-head matchup.

68 percent of poll participants said they had a favorable impression of Perdue, who has come across as a friendly everyman during his first 2 1/2 years in office, making up for legislative setbacks with a common touch.

Cox also had a high approval rating, 62 percent, while 47 percent had a favorable impression of Taylor.

The promising numbers could help Cox make up some of the fund-raising ground she has ceded to Taylor, who raised $1.3 million in the final nine months of 2004, while Cox didn't start collecting money until this year.

"This will really produce a new conventional wisdom about the Democrat primary," Emory University political scientist Merle Black said of the AJC poll.

Rick Dent, a consultant for Taylor's campaign, responded: "This poll is just another in a long series of polls that show Sonny Perdue is extremely vulnerable to our Democratic candidates. And we believe in the next 18 months, Mark Taylor's record of protecting HOPE scholarships, creating jobs and expanding family health care, and his ability to get things done, will prevail over both Cox and Perdue."

Black, the Emory expert, said the fact that fewer than half of the respondents say Perdue is doing a good or excellent job provides Democrats with reason for hope.

"If he were running with two-thirds of people saying he is doing a good job, it would look bleak for Democrats," he said.

Bush Takes Risk With Show of Support for DeLay.

President Bush is doing for Tom DeLay what he refused to do for Trent Lott three years ago: taking a political risk to defend an embattled congressional leader's career, several Republican officials and strategists said.

With DeLay facing intense scrutiny of his travel, fundraising practices and relationship with controversial lobbyists, Bush yesterday offered the Texas Republican a timely show of support by inviting him to a public event and aboard Air Force One for a trip back to Washington from Texas. Scott McClellan, speaking to reporters before the flight, said the president supports DeLay "as strongly as he ever has."

While the two men have never been close personally, Bush has told friends he needs DeLay's help enacting a second-term agenda and does not consider the allegations against the House majority leader serious enough to warrant the cold shoulder he delivered to Lott (R-Miss.), then Senate majority leader, in 2002. Lott was forced to step down after making racially insensitive comments, and the president refused to voice support for Lott, which many Republicans said contributed to the Senate leader's fall.

The president has carefully avoided defending DeLay on specific charges and instead focused largely on his leadership skills, his character and his ability to pass Republican legislation in the House.

For DeLay, the president's backing buys him time, at the very least.

(4-27-05, The Washington Post.)

The Hatch Act 101. - Judge rules sending political e-mail while at work not a violation (in this particular case).

The Hatch Act, which dates to 1939, is supposed to keep politics out of the federal workplace and ensure that taxpayer-supported resources are not misused in the service of partisan campaigns.

Under the act, federal employees cannot engage in political activity while on duty, use their official authority to influence an election, solicit money for a partisan candidate or run as a candidate for partisan office. They may, however, run in nonpartisan elections, vote, express opinions about candidates and, on their own time, contribute money and campaign for or against a candidate.

Two government employees did not violate restrictions against partisan politics in the federal workplace last fall when they sent politically charged e-mails to more than 20 of their colleagues, an administrative law judge ruled this month.

The April 14 ruling by Judge Arthur J. Amchan of the Merit Systems Protection Board dismissed attempts by the Office of Special Counsel to have the two Social Security Administration workers fired for violating the Hatch Act, which limits political activity by employees in federal offices and on government time.

Amchan ruled that the e-mails amounted to the electronic equivalent of a discussion of politics around the office water cooler, something that is legal.

(4-27-05, The Washington Post.)

GOP to Reverse Ethics Rule Blocking New DeLay Probe.January Change Led Democrats to Shut Down Panel.

House Republican leaders, acknowledging that ethics disputes are taking a heavy toll on the party's image, decided yesterday to rescind a controversial rule change that led to the three-month shutdown of the ethics committee, according to officials who participated in the talks.

A congressional aide said that changing the rules will mean "a couple of great days for Democrats" but that Republicans have calculated this will deny them long-term use of the ethics issue heading into next year's midterm elections.

(4-27-05, The Washington Post.)

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Filibuster Rule Change Opposed by Strong Majority of Americans.

As the Senate moves toward a major confrontation over judicial appointments, a strong majority of Americans oppose changing the rules to make it easier for Republican leaders to win confirmation of President Bush's court nominees, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News Poll.

But by a 2 to 1 ratio, the public rejected easing Senate rules in a way that would make it harder for Democratic senators to prevent final action on Bush's nominees. Even many Republicans were reluctant to abandon current Senate confirmation procedures: Nearly half opposed any rule changes, joining eight in 10 Democrats and seven in 10 political independents, the poll found.

(4-26-05, The Washington Post.)

With the nation lurching toward the government sponsorship of religion, the GOP is becoming a political arm of the religious right.

A New York Times editorial about the:

The Disappearing Wall

To the dismay of many mainstream religious leaders, the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, participated in a weekend telecast organized by conservative Christian groups to smear Democrats as enemies of "people of faith." Besides listening to Senator Frist's videotaped speech, viewers heard a speaker call the Supreme Court a despotic oligarchy. Meanwhile, the House majority leader, Tom DeLay, has threatened the judiciary for not following the regressive social agenda he shares with the far-right fundamentalists controlling his party.

Apart from confirming an unwholesome disrespect for traditional American values like checks and balances, the assault on judges is part of a wide-ranging and successful Republican campaign to breach the wall between church and state to advance a particular brand of religion. No theoretical exercise, the program is having a corrosive effect on policymaking and the lives of Americans.

The centerpiece is President Bush's so-called faith-based initiative, which disregards decades of First Amendment law and civil rights protections. Mr. Bush promised that federal money would not be used to support religious activities directly, but it is. The program has channeled billions of taxpayers' dollars to churches and other religion-based providers of social services under legally questionable rules that allow plenty of room for proselytizing and imposing religious tests on hiring. The initiative even provides taxpayers' money to build and renovate houses of worship that are also used to offer social services.

Offices in the White House and federal departments pump public money to religious groups, but provide scant oversight or accountability to make sure that the money is spent on real services, not preaching. Indeed, Mr. Bush's goal is to finance programs that are explicitly religious.

A recent want ad posted by a taxpayer-financed vocational program of the Firm Foundation for inmates in a Pennsylvania jail stipulated that a job seeker must be "a believer in Christ and Christian Life today" and that the workday "will start with a short prayer." A major portion of inmates' time is spent on religious lectures and prayer, according to a lawsuit filed by two civil liberties groups.

The Bush administration and Congress have turned over issues bearing on women's reproductive rights to far-right religious groups opposed not just to abortion, but to expanded stem-cell research, effective birth control and AIDS prevention programs. The Food and Drug Administration continues to dawdle over approving over-the-counter access to emergency contraception for fear of inflaming members of the religious right who deem any interference with the implantation of a fertilized egg to be an abortion. This foot-dragging may be good politics from one narrow view, but it harms women and drives up the nation's abortion rate.

The result of this open espousal of one religious view is a censorious climate in which a growing number of pharmacists feel free to claim moral grounds for refusing to dispense emergency contraception and even birth control pills prescribed by a doctor. Public schools shy away from teaching about evolution, and science museums reject scientifically sound documentaries that may offend Christian fundamentalists. Public television stations were afraid to run a children's program in which a cartoon bunny met a lesbian couple.

In a recent Op-Ed article in The Times, John Danforth, the former Republican senator and U.N. ambassador who is also a minister, said his party was becoming a political arm of the religious right. He called it a formula for divisiveness that ultimately threatened the party's future. With the nation lurching toward the government sponsorship of religion, and the Senate nearing a showdown over Mr. Bush's egregious judicial nominees, it is a warning well worth heeding.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Illegal Immigration Fears Have Spread. Populist calls for tougher enforcement are being heard beyond the border states.

The armed volunteers patrolling the Arizona-Mexico border may be the starkest sign of frustration with the nation's immigration laws, but across the country there is a growing populist movement also taking matters into its own hands.

In Washington, Colorado, Virginia and elsewhere, grass-roots organizations are forming to pass initiatives and pressure politicians into enacting laws denying benefits to illegal immigrants. There are already groups in seven states and more are expected by the end of summer. One congressman may even run for president on a platform of securing the border.

The issue, experts say, is affecting more people than ever before and the gap between the public and policymakers is widening.

"Immigration is now a national phenomenon in a way that was less true a decade ago," said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Immigration Studies in Washington. "In places like Georgia and Alabama, which had little experience with immigration before, people are experiencing it firsthand. Immigrants are working in chicken plants, carpet mills and construction. It's right in front of people's faces now, which is why it's become a political issue where it wasn't relevant before."

Supporters of tougher enforcement say the rise of citizen groups is a natural response to the federal government's reluctance to repair a situation nearly everyone admits is broken.

"The issue is about elites, major financial interests and global economic forces arrayed against the average American voter," said Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which favors strict immigration policies. "The depth of anger should not be underestimated."

Georgia's migrant population has mushroomed, growing from between 25,000 and 35,000 in 1990 to 228,000 by 2000, according to government statistics.

Though these statistics motivate many grass-roots operations, their real inspiration has come from Kathy McKee. She launched Proposition 200, which passed overwhelmingly last year in Arizona. The measure requires evidence of legal residence before people can vote or get state welfare services.

"The reason for this movement is that people have lost hope that the government is going to do its job," she said. "The people in Washington are listening to their contributors who are businesses, and businesses, almost without fail, want illegal immigration."

This groundswell of citizen activism worries proponents of more open immigration laws. The Catholic Church will begin a public relations counteroffensive next month against those calling for tighter border controls.

Though Democrats have traditionally held more liberal views on immigration, the issue is splitting the Republican Party.

"You have the cultural conservatives versus the libertarian, pro-business wing of the party," said Wayne Cornelius, director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at UC San Diego. "The cultural conservatives will not let this issue go away. They will keep holding the president's feet to the fire."

[W]hile Bush and the Senate try to balance the needs of immigrants and business with better border security, others want tougher action.

In the House of Representatives, there are efforts to keep illegal immigrants from getting driver's licenses. Some activists are calling for the National Guard to patrol the border. Meanwhile, talk radio and cable news programs fan the passions of those who feel the country is losing its sovereignty.

(4-25-05, The Los Angeles Times.)

Calling all Democrats! Calling all Democrats! Do you want to be a part of the Democratic Party's historic journey to victory in '06? Then listen up.

Recently the Democratic Party of Georgia (the "DPG") announced that it would be holding training sessions in various Georgia cities on topics including field organization, fundraising, membership building, election code compliance and county party officer administration. Seventeen such sessions are to be held all over the state.

Who doesn't need some help in at least one of if not all of these areas.

The second such training session, appropriately entitled "'Back to Grassroot' Training," was held this past Saturday in Waycross from 10:00 until 3:00. The session was well attended, the presenters did an excellent job, and the high level of enthusiam by all in attendance was most encouraging.

The initial session was held a few weeks ago in Macon (April 2), and according to various reports, was as well attended and productive as the day of learning we had in Waycross.

The interactive training sesssion in Waycross was chairly jointly by Anne Baratoletti of the North Fulton Democrats, Danita Knowles, Chair of the 1st Congressional District and of the Coffee County Committee, and Pat Pullar, Deputy Director of the DPG. Each is to be commended for her presentation and sharing of a wealth of knowledge and experience.

Our party leaders need a pat on the back for presenting this training seminar in 2005, well in time for those attending to take it back to their county committees so as to be ready for the 2006 primary season.

I have been preaching that our party has to have everything down pat by the fall of this year, ready to do battle in 2006, and this productive day in Waycross furthered that goal.

I strongly encourage you to check your calendars and see if you can make one of the following training sessions. You will be a better prepared Democrat if you are able to do so.

May 7: Dalton
May 14: Valdosta
June 11: Lawrenceville
June 25: Brunswick
July 9: Albany
July 23: Columbus
August 6: Athens
August 13: Augusta
September 10: Savannah
September 24: Blairsville (Zell will be a presenter here. Just joking.)
October 8: Marietta
October 22: Milledgeville
November 5: Cochran
November 19: LaGrange
December 3: Bainbridge

Back to Waycross. The Ware County Committee allowed us to use its regular meeting place at the Machinist Hall on Lee Avenue, and party faithfuls Jerry Richardson and Merlene Petty put out the red carpet for all of us. To them and Jerry's lovely wife Marlene who provided us with a great meal, a kind and hearty South Georgia word of thanks.

Unexpectedly, Capitol Hill Democrats Stand Firm. Republicans "were over-reaching. There was no mandate for what they were doing."

Democrats were supposed to enter the 109th Congress meek and cowed, demoralized by November's election losses and ready to cut deals with Republicans who threatened further campaigns against "obstructionists." But House and Senate Democrats have turned that conventional wisdom on its head.

They have stymied President Bush's Social Security plan and held fast against judicial nominees they consider unqualified. To protest a GOP rule change, they have kept the House ethics committee from meeting. And they have slowed -- and possibly derailed -- Bush's nomination of John R. Bolton to become ambassador to the United Nations.

Democrats credit House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) with promoting solidarity through pep talks, lectures on loyalty and constant reassurances that Republicans are overplaying their hand. But the GOP has inadvertently helped, they say, by unwisely diving into the Terri Schiavo case and by starting the year with a drive to rewrite Social Security, considered sacrosanct to the Democratic Party.

"Rather than break Democrats apart, it brought them together," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), a former Clinton White House strategist.

From there, he said, emboldened Democrats hung together when House Republicans tried to change ethics rules to their advantage, and when Senate Republicans threatened to change filibuster rules to confirm judges who Democrats oppose. And when GOP leaders tried to insert Congress into the case of Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman -- a move polls found deeply unpopular with many Americans -- Democrats had greater confidence than ever in their leaders' strategies, Emanuel said.

Republicans "were over-reaching," he said. "There was no mandate for what they were doing."

The 109th Congress is still young, and Republicans have plenty of time to recover from their early setbacks.

In the House, several Republicans privately worry they are losing the public relations battle over ethics, which centers on Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.). The GOP opened the year by changing ethics committee rules, making it harder to investigate complaints lodged against lawmakers. But Republicans have shown hints of retreat in recent days -- first by offering to waive the new standard in order to investigate DeLay, and later by Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) saying he would consider restoring the original rule altogether.

(4-25-05, The Washington Post.)

New Wave of Oil Drilling.

As Congress moves toward opening protected Alaskan wilderness to petroleum drilling, energy company activity is picking up in California's coastal waters, where new exploration has been blocked for more than two decades.

Drillers are reworking wells and considering reviving old platforms in places where exploration is allowed. They're attempting to extend the life of leases on undeveloped offshore tracts holding a combined estimated 1 billion barrels of oil and 500 billion cubic feet of natural gas that the companies have been forbidden to tap.

Representatives have passed separate measures that lift the federal moratorium on drilling in part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, commonly known as ANWR.

(4-25-05, The Los Angeles Times.)

Chinese import gains of as much as four-digit percentages in some textile categories since quotas on textile imports fully lifted on January 1.

Pressure is growing in both the U.S. and Europe for governments to reverse their nominally free-trade positions and protect their manufacturers from Chinese imports.

Brussels most recently upped the ante, unveiling data that showed a "dramatic" surge in imports across a wide range of apparel made in China and promising a probe into first-quarter imports of stockings, socks, blouses, bras, T-shirts and other times worth $1.4 billion, the Financial Times reports. Imports of sweaters alone rose more than fivefold since quotas on textile imports were fully lifted Jan. 1. The skyrocketing increases -- Chinese data have showed gains of as much as four-digit percentages in some textile categories -- appeared to support the worst fears of U.S. and European textile makers, which say thousands of jobs are at stake, The Wall Street Journal notes.

(4-25-05, The Wall Street Journal online.)

In Telecast, Frist Defends His Effort to Stop Filibusters. James Dobson says Supreme Court "unaccountable," "out of control," & a despotic oligarchy.

In a Sunday telecast organized by Christian conservative groups to denounce the Democrats as "against people of faith" for blocking judicial nominees, Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee stepped up his threats to change Senate rules to circumvent those blockades while simultaneously calling for "more civility in political life."

In a short videotaped statement included in the telecast, which was called Justice Sunday and emanated from a packed Baptist mega-church here, Dr. Frist, the Senate majority leader, neither referred to religious faith nor addressed criticism that the event was inappropriately dragging religion into a partisan battle.

About 2,000 people packed into the Highview Baptist Church here for the telecast, and organizers said it was broadcast to several hundred churches by satellite, thousands of people over the Internet and 61 million households over Christian radio and television stations.

Liberal groups, meanwhile, stepped up their attacks on both Dr. Frist and the proposed rule change. About 1,200 liberal Christians gathered at a rally at a Presbyterian church here to protest what one speaker, the left-leaning evangelical Jim Wallis, called "a declaration of a religious war" and "an attempt to hijack religion."

Separately, MoveOn.org, a liberal advocacy group, said it was paying $700,000 for television commercials attacking the rule change, including some depicting a herd of Republican elephants trampling Congress.

Dr. James Dobson, founder of the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, whose political sister group was a sponsor of the event, defended Mr. DeLay and his attacks on the judiciary, calling the Supreme Court "unaccountable," "out of control," and a despotic oligarchy.

Dr. Dobson accused the justices of "a campaign to limit religious liberty" through 40 years of decisions limiting publicly supported expressions of religion. The founding fathers, he said, intended for the president and Congress to "check the judiciary and it hasn't done it," he said.

"You have a court that is out of control," Dr. Dobson said.

One Republican senator, however, distanced himself from the telecast as well as the attacks on the judiciary. Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who supports changing the confirmation process, said in an interview on "Fox News Sunday" that the groups behind the telecast should "not to go down the road of saying that the Democratic senators are not people of faith or questioning their religious - that they're religious bigots."

"I don't think that helps the country," he said, "and I don't think that's fair."

(4-25-05, The New York Times.)

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Medicaid, Part I.

Medicaid was enacted in 1965 as a joint federal-state program to provide basic care for poor children, pregnant women and people with disabilities. States administer the program and pay 20% to 50% of the total costs. The federal government funds the remainder. (The federal contribution varies from state to state, with the poorest states receiving the largest amounts.)

States can opt out of Medicaid, but since 1982 every state has participated. By law, they must offer specific benefit packages to certain groups, including poor pregnant women and young children. They are also free to go beyond those minimum standards.

Historically, lawmakers have considered it a bargain to go beyond because the federal government pays for so much of the program. So states from California to Maine have expanded Medicaid to cover working parents, lower-middle-class children and elderly citizens struggling to pay for the many services not funded by Medicare.

The result: Medicaid now covers 53 million Americans. The program pays the bills for nearly 60% of all nursing home residents and finances 37% of all births. Because most states have added prescription drug benefits, Medicaid covers the hefty pharmacy bills for many patients with AIDS, many transplant recipients and many senior citizens on dialysis or undergoing chemotherapy.

The program also covers the more mundane medical expenses of low-income working families.

By federal law, states must provide certain benefits for Medicaid recipients, including:

• Inpatient and outpatient hospital services

• Physician, psychiatrist and nurse practitioner visits

• Nursing home and home healthcare for adults

• Family-planning services and supplies

• Lab and X-ray services

• Transportation to medical appointments

(4-24-05, The Los Angeles Times.)

Frist Initiative Creates Rift in GOP Base. Evangelicals, who can marshal millions of voters vs. businesses, which donate millions of dollars.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist will draw a chorus of amens tonight when thousands of evangelicals across the nation hear his call to put more conservative judges on the federal bench.

But even as the Tennessee Republican addresses "Justice Sunday" — a 90-minute simulcast to conservative churches that enthusiastically backs a Senate rule change to speed judicial confirmations — the leader faces apprehension from another key GOP constituency.

The country's leading business lobbying associations, close GOP allies in recent legislative efforts and political campaigns, have told senior Republicans that they would not back the Frist initiative to force votes on President Bush's judicial nominees.

Business leaders say they fear the move would lead to a shutdown of Senate action on long-awaited priorities — as Democrats have threatened if Frist moves ahead with a rule change that they say would drastically alter the traditions of a body designed to respect the rights of the minority party.

"If we do that, then all else is going to stop," Thomas J. Donohue, head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said during a meeting with reporters Friday.

The lack of support from business presents a dilemma for Frist, who wants to build ties with the Republican base ahead of his likely 2008 presidential bid but now must balance competing demands from two pillars of Republican politics: evangelicals, who can marshal millions of voters, and businesses, which donate millions of dollars. Both groups played pivotal roles in securing Bush's reelection last year and expanding the GOP majority in Congress — and both have made clear that they expect to be rewarded.

(4-24-05, The Los Angeles Times.)

My Yankee friend gives her opinion on GOP --the self-proclaimed party of moral purpose -- bullying on Bolton.

Excerpts from:

GOP bullying on Bolton

By Joan Vennochi
The Boston Globe
April 22, 2005

What kind of moral value is this? Faced with a Republican with a conscience, President Bush attributes GOP concern over the nomination of John R. Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations to partisan bickering.

‘‘Sometimes politics gets in the way of doing the people’s business,’’ Bush said yesterday . . . . He urged senators to ‘‘put aside politics’’ and confirm Bolton.

That is an overt presidential mischaracterization of what is happening to his nominee, a mischaracterization that a morals class might even consider a falsehood. Democrats surely can be accused of partisanship in trying to block Bolton’s nomination. But how does that charge apply to Republicans who are feeling queasy about the nominee and want more information from him?

"My conscience got me,’’ said Republican Senator George V. Voinovich of Ohio, explaining on Tuesday why he changed his mind about supporting Bolton as UN ambassador. ‘‘I wanted more information about this individual and I didn’t feel comfortable voting for him.’’

As a result, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was forced to postpone a vote on Bolton’s nomination.

Since then, other Republicans are wavering as well. Senator Lincoln Chafee, a Rhode Island Republican, who earlier was inclined to support Bolton, said he wanted to consult with colleagues. And Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, is also expressing concern about some of the accusations against Bolton. ‘‘I think these charges are serious enough to demand they cry out for further explanation,’’ he said.

The pressure is now on Republicans on the Foreign Relations Committee. Will they fold in the face of the onslaught from Bolton’s supporters, or do the right thing and ask Bolton to come back and address the charges?

[If Bolton is asked to come back, the Republicans] know that Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, is correct in assessing the potential for the nominee to die a ‘‘death of a thousand cuts.’’

But how does the GOP, the self-proclaimed party of moral purpose, overlook a Republican senator’s freely expressed conscience? Democrats did not beat that out of Voinovich; they did not pound at his door, shout threats, chase him down hallways, or throw things at him. They merely presented information that gave him and other Republicans pause, making them desire more information from the nominee.

That is not stopping the people’s business, as Bush charges.That is that is doing the people’s business, as high a moral purpose as there is in Washington.

Shipp: Card-carrying teacher union members love Perdue's sweet talk so much they're not likely to return to the Dem. fold. -- Sid strongly disagrees.

Excerpts from Bill Shipp's column this week:

Before the dust settles, the regents-foundation-Adams-Dooley battle may accrue to [Cathy] Cox's benefit. The out-of-control fussing clearly demonstrates the Peach State is bereft of able, cool-headed leadership. For now, however, the noisy feud simply knocks Cathy out of the headlines.

Cox believes firmly she has a good chance to send Perdue back to Bonaire and become Georgia's first woman governor. At first glance, election statistics seem to be on her side. More women than ever are participating in Georgia politics.

In the 2002 gubernatorial election, 54 percent of the voters were women. That might sound like a big advantage for Cox. However, many, if not most, of those females voted in favor of Republican Perdue and against Democratic incumbent Roy Barnes. Teachers, who detested Barnes, were the nucleus of Perdue's female fan base.

Unlike Barnes, the present governor has not uttered an unkind word about teachers or school administrators. From Perdue's public pronouncements, one could presume every teacher in Georgia is performing at an unparalleled level of excellence.

Barnes, you will remember, had the audacity to assert that part of education's problems lay in teacher incompetence. He also won legislative approval of a law making it easier to discharge unsuitable teachers. Perdue's people repealed the measure and restored teacher tenure.

Card-carrying teacher union members love Perdue's sweet talk so much they are not likely to return to the Democratic fold, even to vote for a well-qualified Democratic woman.

The governor's flattery has turned their heads so completely that many are oblivious to what has really happened to them.

For instance:

• In the four budget years in which the ever-critical "King Roy" was governor, teachers' base salaries rose 15.7 percent. In Honey-Lips Perdue's three budget cycles, base teachers' salaries have risen by slightly more than 4 percent. Perdue's last budget broke new records for overall state spending and borrowing.

• In Perdue's last two budget years, teachers' cost for health insurance has risen by 13 and 9 percent $40 to $100 a month, depending on the health-care plan.

Under Barnes, teachers who completed national board certification received 10 percent salary increases. With Perdue in charge, a national-board-certified teacher does not receive the "salary enhancement" unless that teacher moves to an officially designated "underperforming" school.

A national-board-certified teacher with 10-plus years experience could expect to receive an annual pay increase of $10,000 during the Barnes years. That same teacher may experience a loss of at least $5,000 with Perdue in charge.

Additionally, during the Barnes years, class sizes began to shrink. Now some classes are growing larger, making teaching more difficult.

Still, Cathy Cox or any other Democrat, using cold facts about hard cash, will have difficulty converting the teacher bloc, especially when the avuncular GOP incumbent continues to say lovely things.

P.S.: The above numbers, by the way, came from a committee of nonpartisan educators who woke up one morning, took a second look at "Uncle Sonny" and shrieked, "Who is this guy, and what has he done to us?"

(4-23-05, The Athens Observer.)

I strongly disagree with my friend Bill Shipp on this early call. As we all know, teachers voted against Barnes in 2002, and not for Perdue.

Contrary to what the Dean implies, I perceive a neutral feeling among teachers toward Perdue, and even a tad of resentment from GAE and PAGE toward Perdue from a couple of missteps from this past legislative session.

I think the slate is clean going into the 2006 legislative session with respect to the Republican nominee, whoever this is, and the Democratic nominee, whoever this is.

If pressed to give an early edge to one party or the other, and disregarding national politics, etc., I would give the edge to the Democratic Party simply because of Perdue's uncompelling story of gubernatorial leadership in education and everything else (excepting his public neutering of poor ole Nelson).

He's not one to take trouble lying down. Inside Tom DeLay's defense strategy -- and what it means for Team Bush..

[I]n Tom DeLay's world, when the going gets tough, the tough raise money. Most politicians react to stress and controversy by employing the duck and cover—clamming up and lying low until the storm blows over. Not DeLay. Far from avoiding fights, he picks them. Far from avoiding emotional issues, he seeks them. If there is a conservative flag to wave, especially a religious one, he wraps himself in it. The embodiment of the Republican's cash-and-carry, hardball approach to governance, DeLay is embracing the stereotype, aiming to raise twice as much money as he did for his 2004 campaign. In the old days—before the remorseless camps of Red and Blue—a politician in DeLay's predicament would have done one of two things: called a press conference to declare his innocence and answer all questions—or gone silent and called his lawyer. But now everything is a campaign, an ideological war in which the combatants, or at least some of them, believe that nothing less than the sanctity of life is at stake—and every moment is perfect for a funder at a French restaurant.

The fate of Tom (The Hammer) DeLay is important on its own; he is, after all, a key leader of the conservative movement. But something larger is at stake: the agenda of George Bush and the Republican Party, especially their shared goal of remaking the federal judiciary in the image of conservatism. Will DeLay's in-your-face approach to his own salvation help reach that goal—or sabotage the effort by turning every news cycle into a Daily Drama of DeLay? That's clearly how the Democrats want to play it. And, indeed, some Republican polltakers are seeing evidence that public support for Bush's judicial agenda is being hampered by the visibility of DeLay and his religious allies. "He helps us gets things done in the House, no question of that," said a White House insider. "But I'm not sure his strategy now is helping us—or him, for that matter."

(May 2 issue, Newsweek.)

Records show that a lobbyist paid for DeLay's airfare, contrary to what DeLay has been saying.

House ethics rules bar lawmakers from accepting travel and related expenses from registered lobbyists. The House Majority Leader has said that his expenses on a 2000 trip were paid by a nonprofit organization, and that the financial arrangements for it were proper.

The airfare to London and Scotland in 2000 for then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) was charged to an American Express card issued to Jack Abramoff, a Washington lobbyist at the center of a federal criminal and tax probe, according to two sources who know Abramoff's credit card account number and to a copy of a travel invoice displaying that number.

(4-24-05, The Washington Post.)

Dean's polling finds: Voting decisions are influenced as much or more by their religious faith as by traditional political issues.

Howard Dean's Democratic National Committee has been studying the electorate, and the party's problem with voters of faith is both worse and better than he feared.

The former Vermont governor, in one of his first actions as DNC chairman, commissioned pollster Cornell Belcher to survey voters in eight states won by President Bush last November: Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, New Mexico and Nevada.

What Belcher found that worries the Democrats is that a significant percentage -- 47 percent of voters and 51 percent of white women in the eight states -- said their voting decisions are influenced as much or more by their religious faith as by traditional political issues. Not surprisingly, they went heavily for Bush over Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), with 66 percent backing the president.

But Belcher's survey also persuaded Dean and other DNC officials that these voters may not be beyond their reach. "These so-called values or faith voters are some of the most economically anxious voters in the electorate," Belcher said. "They're tremendously cross-pressured between their pocketbook concerns and their moral values concerns."

Dean believes that provides an opening for Democrats, but only if Democratic candidates learn to speak a different language. "Democrats wonder why people vote against their own economic interest," he said. "The answer is that Democrats don't connect with people's fears about how to raise their children in a difficult social environment."

The former presidential candidate said issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion are not the major obstacles facing Democrats, but the impression that Democrats convey to these voters is that their answer to those fears is more government. "The message people hear is, 'Oh, we'll raise your children for you.' That's the wrong message," Dean said.

Dean called the survey "the best poll I'd seen in 10 years," and said he hopes to road-test a message designed to reach enough voters in competitive red states to turn the tide. "If it works," he said, "the other folks in Washington will pick it up very quickly."

(4-24-05, The Washington Post.)

With respect to the abortion, recall my 4-18-05 post on refining our message on being pro-choice, not pro-abortion, which post alluded to how we raise our children. The post noted:

The abortion message:

As I have stated before on this blog, I am pro-choice, not because I am a Democrat, but because I think it should be a woman's choice, and definitely not mine unless it happened to be my wife or daughter.

But what if someone has religious convictions different from me; do we not have room in the Party for such person?

And as we reach out to religious voters, we should quit arguing the legality of abortion, and rather shift the theme to abortion should be "safe, legal and rare." And just as we want to see fewer abortions, we want our children to learn good values -- at home, in school, at Sunday school and at church with their parents.

Good values, health care, jobs and sex education can reduce the number of abortion procedures, and who can be opposed to that.

My assessment of Dr. Dean to date. So far, so good. In fact, very, very good.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

New Rules Limit House Committee Franking. - About time!!

In an attempt to retard what one lawmaker described as a “deeply troubling” use of mass mailings, the House Administration Committee on Thursday approved guidelines that would limit committee spending on franked mail and apply new restrictions to the process.

(4-21-05. Roll Call.)

Cathy Cox C.C. Chm.: At very few times in history does a person in political life arrive at a time & place that is made for their skills & training.

The following is the speech Donalsonville businessman and Cathy Cox’s Campaign Committee Chairman Dan Ponder delivered during Cox’s kick-off rally for her 2006 gubernatorial race Tuesday in Willis Park in Bainbridge.

What a pleasure and an honor it is for me to be here today to offer my endorsement and support to Cathy Cox as Georgia’s next governor. When I left politics five years ago, I would never have imagined that I would become actively involved in a statewide race. I was content to be involved on a more local level with the races of several Republicans, including Saxby Chambless, Johnny Isakson and George Bush.

So today, I want to answer the question that many of you have on your mind. What is a Republican, with solid credentials in his party’s politics, doing chairing the campaign of a Democrat for governor?

It is a question that I love to answer because it gives me the opportunity to say why I believe that Georgia needs Cathy Cox as our next governor.

I believe that our state, and indeed our country, have succumbed to the politics of divisiveness, where honest debate and opinion takes a back seat to partisan politics. Personal attacks are accepted. Power is the paramount concern. Honest dissent, even within parties, is viewed with scorn and often not tolerated by leadership.

I believe that what is best for Georgia can indeed be what is best for all Georgians, regardless of their geographic location, their race, their socio-economic status or their party. I believe that we can hold those that represent us to a higher standard of governance, where bridges are built and not burned.

At very few times in history, does a person in political life arrive at a time and place that is made for their skills and training. I believe that Georgia is ready to make history by electing a person that does not represent the Republican Party, the Democratic Party or the Libertarian Party, but rather who openly runs on a platform of working with and for Georgians, all Georgians.

I won’t vote for Cathy Cox because she is a liberal or conservative. I will vote for her because she graduated from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, the University of Georgia School of Journalism and the Mercer University School of Law. She understands the role that education must take in our state’s future. She is a person with experience and values that transcends labels and enables her to see our state from different perspectives.

I won’t vote for Cathy Cox because she is from a small town, but rather because she also moves easily within the metro areas of our state. She grew up with small-town values, but understands the importance of Atlanta and other cities within our state and how for our state to be successful, all areas must prosper and grow.

I won’t vote for Cathy Cox because she was raised in a small family business, but rather because she has overseen an office that deals with the largest corporations within our state. She has taken the Secretary of State’s office to new heights within our state, leading the way by decentralizing offices, increasing efficiency by harnessing the power of the Internet and implementing our hugely successful electronic voting system.

Cathy doesn’t just make promises . . . she delivers results.

I won’t vote for Cathy Cox because she is a woman, but rather because she is a leader and role model for Georgians, male and female alike. I raised my two daughters to believe that if they set their standards high, worked hard and kept their focus they could be anything they wanted to be, including governor.

I won’t vote for Cathy because she is a woman, but I am very proud that Georgia has reached the point in its history where being a woman is not the issue, but rather which person will be the best governor for our state.

I won’t vote for Cathy Cox because she talks about her faith, but rather because she quietly lives her faith without judging others. Her high moral standards and personal character make her a leader of substance leading by example rather than words.

I won’t vote for Cathy Cox because I agree with her on every issue, but rather because she has a vision for this state. She is a big picture thinker who understands politics. To reach our potential as a state, she knows that we must find ways to be more inclusive of all Georgians. It is not about winning, but rather about leading.

And finally, I won’t vote for Cathy Cox because she is a Democrat, but rather because she is a Georgian. She is committed to working with all parties, to building up rather than tearing down, to hearing all sides and to keeping her door open to new ideas and solutions, regardless of who gets credit. Cathy doesn’t just say this, she actually believes it and understands that if we can unite people behind that kind of leadership that we can take Georgia to greater heights than we ever believed possible.

I stand before you today, not as a Republican supporting a Democrat, but rather as a Georgian supporting a Georgian. There is only one call that could have returned me to politics and that is the call of my friend, your neighbor and the right leader for this time in our state’s history.

Cathy Cox. She can be Georgia’s next great governor.—Dan Ponder

(4-22-05, The (Bainbridge) Post-Searchlight.)

Cheney (read White House) Enters Fray on Judicial Nominees. - This is not a smart move at a good time. It might backfire.

The White House intervened in Congress's bitterly partisan debate over federal judges yesterday, as Vice President Cheney vowed to break a tie vote if necessary to change Senate rules and ban filibusters of judicial nominees.

Until now, President Bush has avoided being drawn into the fracas by signaling it was up to Senate GOP leaders to find the votes needed to change the rule despite vehement Democratic opposition.

"Last week, I met with the president and was encouraged when he told me he would not become involved in Republican efforts to break the Senate rules," [Senate minority leader Harry] Reid said in a statement. "Now it appears he was not being honest, and that the White House is encouraging this raw abuse of power." Reid said his exchange with Bush took place at a regularly scheduled breakfast with congressional leaders.

(4-23-05, The Washington Post.)

The Connecticut legislature & its new law. - A Civil Debate Over Civil Union.

A New York Times editorial:

A Civil Debate Over Civil Union

One of the amazing things about Connecticut's approval of a law guaranteeing the rights of gay couples was the almost placid way the political process worked. This is a pioneering law - the first enacting civil union voluntarily, without court pressure - yet it was adopted with a minimum of political fireworks. There are healthy lessons in this for the rest of the nation as this vital human right progresses.

Connecticut's legislators were obviously influenced by shifting public opinion in favor of taking the historic step, but even more by the gatherings across the state where gay couples invited politicians and neighbors into their homes to experience their domestic lives firsthand. This grass-roots lobbying by gay and lesbian couples proved that their humanity was not to be denied, even if the word "marriage" was denied to them as the final compromise was passed by large, bipartisan margins and was enthusiastically signed by Gov. Jodi Rell, a Republican.

The law firmly extends to gay couples the same rights and protections guaranteed to married heterosexuals, including tax and insurance benefits, family leave, hospital visits and more. Its passage was undoubtedly eased by an amendment that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. But there's cause for optimism that this obstacle may be removed, considering the state's progressive path since the day, 40 years ago, when the courts finally struck down a puritanical law that criminalized birth control.

In the past 15 years, Connecticut has protected gays and lesbians under hate-crime, employment and housing laws, and allowed unmarried couples to raise adopted children. Just as civil union was the next logical step, so may the term marriage be finally extended someday.

Other states are heading in a different direction. Fourteen have banned gay marriage in the last year, with Kansas going further and outlawing civil union. But Connecticut's new law and the bolstering of gay unions in Vermont, Massachusetts and California provide a response to the tendency of civil libertarians to presume that lawmaking is transitory and less reliable than a court decision. Critical as the courts are, there's nothing more stirring than the sight of a legislature, representing the will of the people, passing laws to protect the rights of a vulnerable minority group.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Fulton County Sheriff Myron Freeman. This is getting embarrassing even to the Other Georgia.

• "If people feel you're being honest with them and you're in control and know what you're doing, that's all they need." (Myron Freeman does not appear to be doing any of the foregoing.)

• He has avoided most interviews, choosing instead to address the media through his underlings. (Not good Sheriff.)

• He insisted that deputies performed in an "exemplary" fashion the day a judge, courtroom reporter and one of their own were gunned down. (Exemplary?)

• He has adopted the passive voice when accepting blame for the incident, acknowledging only that "mistakes were made." (Spare us Sheriff.)

• Even the task force Freeman appointed to look at courthouse procedures after the March 11 incident has earned him criticism, stacked as it is with campaign donors, officials with no law enforcement experience, and even Atlanta's police chief, who's under fire for his own department's response to the courthouse rampage. (Great move Sheriff.)

• "My experience tells me the best response is an open response. I have never found evasion to be an effective tactic." (Sheriff Freeman's experience -- or lack thereof -- must tell him otherwise.)

• In Fulton County, the unseating an office-holder such as Freeman is an uphill battle. Signatures from well over 100,000 registered voters would be needed. (Sorry 'bout that folks.)

•"He's trying to run for cover, and he has no place to hide." (You got that right.)

If you folks in the metro need some assistance in the wake of the March 11 killing spree that began in the Fulton County courthouse, let us here in the Other Georgia know. We will look around among our ranks, and can't imagine things could be any worse than they are now.

In looking around, don't ask us to send the former second-in-command at the Georgia State Patrol. You've already got him (can you believe it?).

And we are not making light of your ongoing troubles. Rather here's to hoping somebody, at some level, will step up to the plate and take control or offer some feasible solution. This is getting embarrassing to the Empire State of the South.

(Quotes above from 4-20-05, Creative Loafing.)

Greenspan Says He Expects Tax Increases. - And President Bush, as head of the borrow & spend party, thought there was such a thing as free lunch.

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said yesterday, for the first time explicitly, that he expects tax increases to be part of any eventual agreement to reduce the federal budget deficit.

Greenspan, appearing before the Senate Budget Committee, also acknowledged that his support for tax cuts in early 2001 unintentionally led to policies that helped swing the federal budget from surplus to deficits. In pointed comments, Greenspan addressed recent Democratic critics who have sought to blame him for the return to deficits.

The deficit hit a record $412 billion last year and is projected to expand dramatically as the huge baby boom generation starts retiring and collecting Social Security and Medicare benefits.

"The federal budget deficit is on an unsustainable path, in which large deficits result in rising interest rates and ever-growing interest payments that augment deficits in future years," Greenspan said in his prepared testimony yesterday.

Greenspan has frequently said he would prefer the deficit be shrunk as much as possible through spending cuts -- including reductions in Social Security and Medicare benefits -- before taxes are increased. He said yesterday that he believes raising taxes restrains economic growth and that there is "no way you can raise tax rates enough" to cover future spending commitments.

Republican congressional leaders have ruled out tax increases to shrink the deficit anytime soon. On the contrary, they are pushing to extend President Bush's expiring tax cut provisions and to pass new tax breaks for energy companies.

(4-22-05, The Washington Post.)

Frist Draws Criticism From Some Church Leaders.

I did a 4-15-05 post captioned "Frist Set to Use Religious Stage on Judicial Issue. - A strategy fraught with danger" about Frist joining some prominent Christian conservatives in a telecast portraying Democrats as "against people of faith" for blocking President Bush's nominees.

This post concluded with the following observation:

The price of poker has just gone up my friends. Dr. Frist is getting into the high stakes stuff that is fraught with danger, and could backfire big time.

Today we read in the New York Times:

As the Senate battle over judicial confirmations became increasingly entwined with religious themes, officials of several major Protestant denominations on Thursday accused the Senate Republican leader, Bill Frist, of violating the principles of his own Presbyterian church and urged him to drop out of a Sunday telecast that depicts Democrats as "against people of faith."

Dr. Frist's participation has rekindled a debate over the role of religion in public life that may be complicating his efforts to overcome the Democrats' use of the filibuster, a parliamentary tactic used by Congressional minorities, to block President Bush's judicial nominees.

Dr. Frist has threatened to change the Senate rules to eliminate judicial filibusters, and in response Democrats have threatened a virtual shutdown of the Senate. A confrontation had been expected as early as next week, but it now appears that the showdown may be delayed.

Religious groups, including the National Council of Churches and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, plan to conduct a conference call with journalists on Friday to criticize Senator Frist's participation in the telecast. The program is sponsored by Christian conservative organizations that want to build support for Dr. Frist's filibuster proposal.

Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, a top official of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., in which Dr. Frist is an active member [says] "One of the hallmarks of our denomination is that we are an ecumenical church. . . . Elected officials should not be portraying public policies as being for or against people of faith."

A recent survey conducted for NBC News and The Wall Street Journal found that 50 percent of those polled believed that the Senate should retain the filibusters for judicial nominations, while 40 percent were against and 10 percent undecided.

The criticism of the telecast underscores the delicate task facing Dr. Frist, who is laying the groundwork for a possible presidential campaign in 2008, as he courts the evangelical Protestant groups and other religious traditionalists that formed the bedrock of President Bush's winning coalition. With his patrician bearing and background in the relatively liberal Presbyterian Church, Dr. Frist, a Harvard-trained transplant surgeon, does not fit in as naturally with Christian conservatives as President Bush.

"To say that some group of Christians has a monopoly on the ear of God is especially an outrage to Presbyterians," [says Dr. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches and a former Democratic congressman].

Mr. Kirkpatrick said Dr. Frist's participation in the telecast undermined "the historical commitment in our nation and our church to an understanding of the First Amendment that elected officials should not be portraying public policies as being for or against people of faith."

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and organizer of the telecast, said those who were offended did not have to watch the telecast.

"There are millions of other Americans who see a connection between the filibuster and judicial activism," Mr. Perkins said. "And when we talk about judicial activism, we are talking about issues that people of faith care about deeply."

(4-22-05, The New York Times.)

Bush Backs His U.N. Nominee, but Powell Warns of Volatility.

President Bush on Thursday issued a strong new defense of John R. Bolton, his nominee as ambassador to the United Nations. But associates of Colin L. Powell, the former secretary of state, said he had expressed reservations about Mr. Bolton in conversations with at least two wavering Republican senators.

The associates said Mr. Powell, in private telephone conversations, had made clear his concerns about Mr. Bolton on several fronts, including his harsh treatment of subordinates.

The associates said Mr. Powell had also praised Mr. Bolton's performance on some matters during his tenure as under secretary of state, but they said Mr. Powell had stopped well short of the endorsements offered by Mr. Bush and by Mr. Powell's own successor, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

The accounts of Mr. Powell's private messages about Mr. Bolton suggested a new gulf between the former secretary of state and Mr. Bush.

(4-22-05, The New York Times.)

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Let the fun begin. Ralph Reed subpoenaed in probe.

Organizations headed by two of the best-known figures in conservative political circles, Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist, have been subpoenaed by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee in its long-running probe of GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

(4-21-05, Roll Call.)

Santorum reads nuke polls, applies the brakes.

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), a leading advocate of the “nuclear option” to end the Democrats’ filibuster of judicial nominees, is privately arguing for a delay in the face of adverse internal party polls.

Details of the polling numbers remain under wraps, but Santorum and other Senate sources concede that, while a majority of Americans oppose the filibuster, the figures show that most also accept the Democratic message that Republicans are trying to destroy the tradition of debate in the Senate.

The Republicans are keeping the “nuclear” poll numbers secret, whereas they have often in the past been keen to release internal survey results that favor the party.

(4-21-05, The Hill.)

Hey Sally, are my U.S. Chamber of Commerce dues current? Fixing to mail the check you say? Don't!!

A crackdown on corporate crime should go only so far, or so the U.S. Chamber of Commerce seems to think.

The group is challenging the Justice Department's efforts to secure long prison terms for five individuals convicted of conspiracy and fraud in the Enron scandal, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The Chamber argues that unless the rules for corporate conduct are better defined, the "increasingly aggressive prosecutions of white-collar crime will inflict incalculable economic and intangible harm on businesses, their employees and their shareholders." It did so through an amicus brief filed in the so-called Nigerian barge case, in which four former Merrill Lynch officials and a former Enron vice president were convicted last fall.

Adding to the swell of corporate resistance to the Sarbanes Oxley rules aimed at stopping accounting fraud, the Chamber's stance represents a feeling in the business community that the government has overreacted to what happened with Enron, WorldCom, and the cascade of corporate malfeasance that has become public in the last few years, observers tell the Journal.

[Overreacted my foot!!]

(The Wall Street Journal online and the Wall Street Journal.)

GOP Offers Probe Of DeLay's Actions. Democrats Unsatisfied by Rules. - Democrats are correct in insisting that the rules go back the way they were.

House Republicans yesterday offered to open an investigation into overseas travel and other activities by Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), as part of an effort to resolve a three-month impasse with the Democrats that has kept the ethics committee from functioning.

With questions mounting about DeLay's past dealings with lobbyists, ethics committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) said he would name Rep. Melissa Hart (R-Pa.), a lawyer who sits on the committee, to head a subcommittee to "review various allegations concerning travel and other actions by Mr. DeLay." Hastings said it would be up to Hart's panel to decide whether to bring in an outside counsel.

But Democrats said the concessions outlined by Hastings did not address their chief objections to rule changes that the Republicans pushed through in January, most notably a new provision that would cause a complaint to be dismissed -- rather than lingering in limbo -- if the chairman and ranking minority party member cannot agree on whether to take up the case.

(4-21-05, The Washington Post.)

Also you may want to see the 4-21-05 The Hill (Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.), ranking member of the ethics committee, said that Hastings’s offer was meaningless in light of the new rules and called on Republicans to take his proposal to reinstate the old rules in “good faith and move to the floor.”)

Bad Economic Timing for Washington. - Disconnect between pocketbook concerns of ordinary Americans and the preoccupations of politicians.

The timing of the markets' malaise is particularly bad for President Bush, "who now finds himself with another issue to explain as he struggles to win over public opinion -- and the votes he needs in Congress -- for his proposal to add investment accounts to Social Security," the New York Times reports. While the stock-market decline could prove temporary, it occurs just as the White House "is preparing to begin discussing the politically painful benefits cuts that would be part of any legislation to put the retirement system on sound footing, and the decline could make it that much harder for Mr. Bush to convince workers that the sweetener he has offered them, a chance to divert part of their payroll taxes to stocks and bonds, is a winning proposition."

Mr. Bush isn't alone. Congress, too, risks being seen as out of touch with Americans by focusing on the death of Terri Schiavo, the ethics of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and the fate of the Senate filibuster at a time when inflation, interest rates and gas prices are rising while stock values plunge, the Washington Post says. "The disconnect between pocketbook concerns of ordinary Americans and the preoccupations of their politicians has helped send President Bush's approval ratings on the economy down, while breeding discontent with Congress," the Post says. "The problem has yet to grow into a political wave that could sweep significant numbers of lawmakers from power next year, but both parties face risks if they fail to pivot their attention to economic issues."

(4-21-04, The Wall Street Journal online.)

Some more from the 4-21-05 Washington Post article quoted above:

Inflation and interest rates are rising, stock values have plunged, a tank of gas induces sticker shock, and for nearly a year, wages have failed to keep up with the cost of living.

Few economists would say the nation is at risk of slipping back into recession, but most believe the United States is back in a "soft patch."

An average gallon of unleaded gasoline cost $2.22 yesterday, 27 cents higher than election week.

Perhaps most important, wages are not keeping up with prices.

"People feel vulnerable and besieged," said Lawrence Mishel, president of the labor-oriented Economic Policy Institute, "and they don't hear anybody talking about it."

Yet the only economic bills signed into law this year have tilted against the little guy: Legislation that restricts class-action lawsuits, and a major rewrite of the nation's bankruptcy laws, signed yesterday, that will make it harder for debt-ridden Americans to wipe out their obligations.

The Washington area has been insulated from some of the current economic problems.

Beyond the Beltway, the real curiosity is why the economy has not become a more significant political issue this spring.

If gas prices stay high and the market remains sluggish, the economy could mushroom into a dominant issue in next year's midterm elections.

Democrats have been slow to seize on the economy, focusing on Social Security plan, attacking House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) and a Senate showdown over filibustering judicial nominations.

Democratic strategist Geoffrey Garin said Democrats should be working harder to make the case that Republicans are ignoring pocketbook issues while they pursue changes in the judiciary or try to protect DeLay. "The developing story line is about an arrogant Republican majority that's lost touch with what's important," he said. "For Democrats to convey that point, they have to invest a lot of time and energy."

The above should become part of our message and a politician's stump speech. Did anyone think of what Mr. Clinton would say?

Pope May Color Debate in U.S. Over 'Life' Issues Like Abortion.

Yesterday we wrote: [T]his appointment will have political ramifications in 2006 and 2008 as this conservative -- ultraconservative is probably more accurate -- pope seeks to keep various social issues front and center in public discussion.

Unfortunately, the New York Times agrees. Today it writes:

The election of an unstintingly conservative pope could inject a powerful new force into the intense conflicts in American politics over abortion and other social issues, which put many Catholic elected officials at odds with their church.

Pope Benedict XVI ascends to power at a tumultuous time for his church in American politics: Catholic voters, long overwhelmingly Democratic, have become a critical swing vote. Republicans have become increasingly successful at winning the support of more traditional Catholics by appealing to what President Bush calls the "culture of life" issues, including abortion, euthanasia and research on embryonic stem cells. Mr. Bush carried 56 percent of the white Catholic vote in 2004, up from 51 percent in 2000 - a formidable part of his conservative coalition.

At the same time, some American bishops have become more assertive in urging their congregations to vote in accord with Catholic teachings on those issues - and in moving to chastise Catholic officials who disagree, in a few cases by threatening to deny them Communion. The bishops acted with the support and encouragement of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the new pope, who at the time headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

This standoff has pitted church leaders against some of the leading Democrats in the country, and came to a boil last year around the presidential candidacy of Senator John Kerry. He is a Catholic who supports abortion rights, and argued that he could not impose "my article of faith" on others who did not share it.

Analysts on the right and the left say it is impossible to predict a papacy, and on Wednesday Benedict XVI was clearly seeking a softer, more inclusive tone than some had expected. But they say he shows all the indications of wanting to preserve a bright line around orthodoxy, around what is an acceptable position for a Catholic and what is not.

"I hate to pre-judge, but based on the record I would say Ratzinger is a very serious Catholic and he's going to say things like, 'Beware of falsehood in advertising,' " said Michael Novak, an expert on the Vatican at the American Enterprise Institute. "If you say you're a Catholic, be a Catholic."
Senator Rick Santorum, the No. 3 Republican in the Senate and a conservative Catholic, said: "If you're an active Catholic in America, you know the name Cardinal Ratzinger. He's known as very much in line with the doctrine of the church and a strong enforcer of that doctrine."

But, Mr. Santorum added, "the question is how much emphasis will he put on it" as pope, noting that such matters are often left to local bishops.

Many Catholic Democrats are still angry over the treatment by some bishops of Mr. Kerry and some other prominent Democrats last year. A generation of Democrats still traces its political approach to religion back to John F. Kennedy, the first Roman Catholic president of the United States, who declared during the 1960 campaign, "I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the church does not speak for me."

But John Green, a specialist in religion and politics at the University of Akron, noted that the social and values-related issues that roil American politics today were simply not on the agenda in 1960.

Mario M. Cuomo, the former governor of New York, says that in the current climate, Catholic Democrats cannot shrink from a debate over values, even if it means debating their bishops.

"You say to the bishops, look, I respect you, I want to stay in the club, I try to live by your rules, but let's not be selective." He noted that church teaching also includes opposition to the death penalty and the war in Iraq, as well as a strong agenda of social justice for the poor, and he asserts that Catholic Republicans ought to be judged by those standards.

Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and prominent Catholic, agreed: "American bishops always have been involved in politics and been very selective. If you are a Republican who is for the death penalty, that is O.K., but if you are a Democrat for choice, that is not O.K."

Conservatives counter that such Democrats cannot have it both ways: claiming to be good Catholics and being staunch supporters of abortion rights. They say the "life" issues - led by abortion - occupy a central place in church teaching.

Professor Green said the new pope was unlikely to disappoint those conservative American Catholics. "The new pope is very much likely to continue the policies of the late pope," he said. "This developing alliance of religious traditionalists will continue, with the blessing of the Catholic hierarchy. Also, I think we'll see the Catholic hierarchy continue to be very visible and active on political issues, with the 'life' issues and the marriage issue front and center."

Professor Green said the new pope was unlikely to disappoint those conservative American Catholics. "The new pope is very much likely to continue the policies of the late pope," he said. "This developing alliance of religious traditionalists will continue, with the blessing of the Catholic hierarchy. Also, I think we'll see the Catholic hierarchy continue to be very visible and active on political issues, with the 'life' issues and the marriage issue front and center."

For now, though, liberal Catholics say they are hoping for the best.

"I will give him the benefit of the doubt," said Terry McAuliffe, a Catholic who is the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and was a sharp critic of the treatment of Mr. Kerry last year. "He was the enforcer before. He's not the enforcer now. Now he has to be the unifier around the world, and it's a different role."

But the Rev. Richard McBrien, a liberal theologian at Notre Dame, said in an interview conducted by e-mail that he wondered how much the new pope understood the more liberal strain of American Catholicism represented by leaders like Mr. Kerry or Mr. Cuomo. "I doubt if he understands it as well as he should, but then, whom does he speak with who might enlighten him, without giving a conservative spin to the explanation?" Father McBrien asked.

Sen. Jeffords Will Not Seek Reelection.

Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont, an independent who triggered one of the most dramatic upheavals in U.S. Senate history when he quit the GOP four years ago, announced Wednesday he would retire at the end of his term next year, citing his and his wife's health.

"In order to best represent my state of Vermont, my own conscience and principles that I have stood for my whole life, I will leave the Republican Party and become an independent," said Jeffords on May 24, 2001.

(4-20-05, The Washington Post.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Hometown paper about Cathy Cox: Those who know her best know that her campaign won’t be about the same old partisan politics & big money.

Off and running

By Sam Griffin, Jr.
Editor and Publisher
The (Bainbridge) Post-Searchlight
April 20, 2005

It’s official. Cathy Cox is off and running. Those who know her best know that her campaign won’t be about the same old partisan politics and big money. It won’t be about feminism or social issues—other than justice, dignity and opportunity for all Georgians. It will be about qualities, talents and skills—character, integrity, ability, leadership, respect for ordinary Georgians, innovative ideas, courage, responsibility, hard work and the best choice for making South Georgia an integral part of the state’s growth and economy. Goodbye, Other Georgia. Hello, Cathy.

Bill Shipp writes: "Georgia has the least influential congressional delegation in its modern history."

Yesterday's post entitled "Georgia's share of federal pork this year embarrassingly low. - Rep. Kingston, a member of the Appropriations Committee, is in a ticklish position," noted that Rep. Jack Kingston defended the clout and influence of the majority-Republican delegation's ability to bring home federal dollars.

We know not to expect anything but the straight talk from the Dean.

In one of his columns this week he writes:

"Georgia has the least influential congressional delegation in its modern history. Georgia ranks 49th among the states in per-capita federal funding of local projects. It once ranked near the top."

(4-20-05, The Athens Observer.)

Elevation of Benedict XVI Isn't Universally Welcomed. - Political ramificatons?

This is a political blog. Why the post about the new pope? Because this appointment will have political ramifications in 2006 and 2008 as this conservative -- ultraconservative is probably more accurate -- pope seeks to keep various social issues front and center in public discussion.

In electing Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to serve as the 265th pope, the college of cardinals seems to have placed the fortification of doctrine over the appeal to straying or potential Catholics, opting to solidify unity within the church rather than address the world without.

The election of the white-haired, German-born theologian, in the fourth ballot of a conclave attended by 115 cardinal-electors from 52 countries in the Vatican's Sistine Chapel, was the fastest since the choice of Pius XII in 1939, the Financial Times notes. The unusually brief conclave seemed to suggest that the newly named Benedict XVI was a popular choice among the cardinals who elected the man who shared -- if at times went beyond -- John Paul II's conservative theology and seemed ready to take over the job after serving beside him for more than two decades, the New York Times notes. But his popularity beyond the Vatican isn't universal. The applause for the new pope in St. Peter's Square, "while genuine and sustained among many, tapered off decisively in large pockets, which some assembled there said reflected their reservations about his doctrinal rigidity and whether, under Benedict XVI, an already polarized church will now find less to bind it together," the Times reports.

Some of those who know the 78-year-old cleric tell the Times that Benedict knows he may have a short papacy and that he intends to move quickly to put his own stamp on the church and to reverse its decline in the secular West. He is already known for speaking out against what he has called "cafeteria Catholics," who disregard, for example, the ban on artificial birth control. But the choice of Benedict to lead the fight against secularism and "moral relativism" carries risks, The Wall Street Journal says: "While Pope John Paul II's personal warmth smoothed the edges of traditionalist messages -- no birth control, no marriage for priests, no ordaining of women -- the former Cardinal Ratzinger will be pushing the same philosophy without the same deep wellspring of charisma." On the same note, Newsweek contributing editor and practicing Catholic Melinda Henneberger says that while she was overcome with emotion and burst into tears the first time she saw John Paul, as Benedict stepped onto the loggia last night, "I only wanted to cry. The joke already making the rounds in Rome tonight was that while John Paul's first words at his installation were, 'Be not afraid,' the first from Benedict will be, 'Be afraid. Be very afraid.' "

Benedict's election drew mixed reactions across Latin America, Africa and the rest of the developing world, which have often been cited as the most important regions for expanding a church that has weakened in Europe. While political and church leaders offered congratulations, many people expressed disappointment that the new pontiff didn't come from the Third World, the Washington Post reports. The reaction of Europeans reflected generational and social divisions: "Some older and more traditional Catholics hailed the decision, while some younger and more progressive church members expressed concern that Benedict XVI would stall movement toward modernizing reforms in the church," the Post says. And the Paris-based Liberation notes that the "panzer cardinal" is best known for being more vigorous than John Paul in opposing homosexuality, a wider role for women in the church, and the entry of Turkey in the European Union – one of the touchiest East-West issues.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Benedict has already been a subject of dispute for decades among American Catholics, championed by traditionalists and decried by modernizers, the Post observes. But the Times says that despite his wartime membership in the Hitler Youth movement, Benedict "won strong praise from Jewish leaders yesterday for his role in helping Pope John Paul II mend fences between Catholics and Jews." And this morning, addressing the cardinals at the end of the first Mass he celebrated as pope, Benedict pledged to work to unify all Christians, reach out to other religions and continue implementing reforms from the Second Vatican Council.

(4-20-05, The Wall Street Journal online.)