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Cracker Squire


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

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

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

More U.S. states are raising their minimum wages.

According to U.S. Today, more U.S. states are raising their minimum wages, pushing hourly rates above $7 in some and shrinking the role of the federal minimum wage, which hasn't gone up in eight years.

Eleven states have raised their rates since January 2004, and Wisconsin will become the 12th on Wednesday.

In all, 17 states and the District of Columbia — covering 45% of the U.S. population — have set minimums above the federal rate of $5.15.

(5-31-05, The Wall Street Journal Online.)

Bush's Political Capital Spent, Voices in Both Parties Suggest. - "The term I hear most often is 'tin ear.' "

Two days after winning reelection last fall, President Bush declared that he had earned plenty of "political capital, and now I intend to spend it." Six months later, according to Republicans and Democrats alike, his bank account has been significantly drained.

In the past week alone, the Republican-led House defied his veto threat and passed legislation promoting stem cell research; Senate Democrats blocked confirmation, at least temporarily, of his choice for U.N. ambassador; and a rump group of GOP senators abandoned the president in his battle to win floor votes for all of his judicial nominees.

The series of setbacks on the domestic front could signal that the president has weakened leverage over his party, a situation that could embolden the opposition, according to analysts and politicians from both sides.

Through more than four years in the White House, the signature of Bush's leadership has been that he does not panic in the face of bad poll numbers. Yet many Republicans on Capitol Hill and in the lobbyist corridor of K Street worry about a season of drift and complain that the White House has not listened to their concerns. In recent meetings, House Republicans have discussed putting more pressure on the White House to move beyond Social Security and talk up different issues, such as health care and tax reform, according to Republican officials who asked not to be named to avoid angering Bush's team.

"There is a growing sense of frustration with the president and the White House, quite frankly," said an influential Republican member of Congress. "The term I hear most often is 'tin ear,' " especially when it comes to pushing Social Security so aggressively at a time when the public is worried more about jobs and gasoline prices. "We could not have a worse message at a worse time."

Bush has had a hard time persuading Congress to go along with his agenda, in part because surveys show that much of the public has soured on him and his priorities.

Such weakness has unleashed the first mutterings of those dreaded second-term words, "lame duck," however premature it might be with 3 1/2 years left in his tenure.

"He's not a lame duck yet, but there are rumblings," said Robert Dallek, a presidential historian. Dallek said Bush's recent travails remind him of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who overreached in his second term by trying to pack the Supreme Court, a move that backfired. "Second terms are treacherous, and presidents enter into a minefield where they really must shepherd their credibility and political capital," he said.

Bush started off his second term with a string of important victories, pushing through measures to make it harder to file class-action lawsuits against big corporations and to wipe out debts by filing for personal bankruptcy. Congress passed its first budget resolution in years, largely along the lines of Bush's proposals, and gave him nearly everything he asked for in an $82 billion supplemental appropriations bill to pay for war costs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

(5-31-05, The Washington Post.)

Heeding the Past As She Looks To the Future. Centrist Strategy Shapes Hillary Clinton's Politics.

[T]he recent record makes it clear that Hillary Clinton has staked her future on precisely the same brand of centrist political strategy that her husband fashioned a decade ago -- using many of the same advisers and relying on familiar tactics.

The strategy, confidants say, has three elements. On social issues, it is to reassure moderate and conservative voters with such positions as her support of the death penalty, and to find rhetorical formulations on abortion and other issues -- on which her position is more liberal -- that she is nonetheless in sympathy with traditional values. On national security, it is to ensure that she has no votes or wavering statements that would give the GOP an opening to argue that she is not in favor of a full victory in Iraq. In her political positioning generally, it is to find occasions to prominently work across party lines -- to argue that she stands for pragmatism over the partisanship that many centrist voters especially dislike about Washington.

This is the same political map -- updated for the new circumstance of a post-Sept. 11, 2001, world -- that her husband used from 1995 on to navigate conflicts with the GOP in the budget battles of 1995 and 1996, and the impeachment drama of 1998 and 1999.

(5-31-05, The Washington Post; this article includes material adapted from a new history of the Clinton presidency, "The Survivor: Bill Clinton in the White House.")

Monday, May 30, 2005

The political pendulum is always swinging -- The gun lobby.

A House bill sponsored by the gun lobby was approved last week by the Judiciary Committee. The legislation bars injured citizens and communities from suing gun manufacturers and dealers for damages.

Why does the firearms industry want this legislation? To scuttle a dozen court cases and allow a repetition of the $2.5 million settlement won by families victimized in the Washington-area sniper shootings.

Since the gun lobby probably picked up more supporters in last year's elections, chances are pretty good that the Senate will go along with this legislation.

The pigs get fat and the hogs get slaughtered. Regardless of your opinion on such things as gun registration, safety locks and restoring the ban on semi-automatic weapons that expired last year, it is hard for me to understand how the gun manufacturers were responsible for the Washington-area sniper shootings.

(For a contrary viewpoint, see 5-30-05 editorial in The New York Times.)

Sunday, May 29, 2005

The Death Spiral of the Volunteer Army.

A 5-29-05 New York Times editorial:

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld likes to talk about transforming America's military. But the main transformation he may leave behind is a catastrophic falloff in recruitment for the country's vital ground fighting forces: the Army and the Marine Corps. The recruitment chain that has given the United States highly qualified, highly skilled and highly motivated ground forces for the three decades since the government abandoned the draft has started to break down.

This is astonishing, even allowing for the administration's failure to prepare Americans honestly for how long and difficult the occupation of Iraq would be. There are over 60 million American men and women between 18 and 35, the age group sought by Army recruiters. Getting the 80,000 or so new volunteers the Army needs to enlist each year ought not to be such a daunting challenge. There are obvious attractions to joining the world's most powerful, prestigious and best-equipped ground fighting forces, and in so doing qualifying for valuable benefits like college tuition aid.

But Army recruitment is now regularly falling short of the necessary targets. Recruiters are having even more trouble persuading people to sign up for Army National Guard and Reserve units. The Marine Corps has been missing its much smaller monthly quotas as well. Unless there is a sharp change later this year, both forces will soon start feeling the pinch as too few trainees are processed to meet both forces' operational needs.

Why this is happening is no mystery. Two years of hearing about too few troops on the ground, inadequate armor, extended tours of duty and accelerated rotations back into combat have taken their toll, discouraging potential enlistees and their parents. The citizen-soldiers of the Guard and Reserves have suddenly become full-time warriors. Nor has it helped that when abuse scandals have erupted, the Pentagon has seemed quicker to punish lower-ranking soldiers than top commanders and policy makers. This negative cycle now threatens to feed on itself. Fewer recruits will mean more stress on those now in uniform and more grim reports reaching hometowns across America.

The results can now be seen at every Army and Marine recruiting office. (The Air Force and Navy, which have not been subjected to the same stresses and dangers as the ground forces, are meeting their recruiting quotas.) Missed quotas have translated into intense pressure to lower standards and recruit people who should not be in uniform. Earlier this month the Army required all of its recruiters to go through a one-day review of basic recruiting ethics.

Things might have been different if Mr. Rumsfeld had heeded the judgment of Gen. Eric Shinseki, then the Army chief of staff, in the months before the United States invaded Iraq and planned for a substantially larger occupation force. A larger force might have kept the insurgency smaller and more manageable. It would have been better able to defend itself without resorting to the kind of indiscriminate firepower that kills civilians, destroys homes and inflames Iraqi opinion. Individual combat brigades would not have been under such constant operational stress. But Mr. Rumsfeld rejected General Shinseki's sound advice. The Pentagon now says it gives field commanders as many troops as they ask for. But those commanders are aware of Mr. Rumsfeld's doctrinaire commitment to holding down troop numbers and of the diminished career prospects that could result from challenging him.

The Pentagon now hopes that next month's high school graduations will help it catch up to its recruiting goals. Besides crossing its fingers, the military should open more combat roles to women, end its senseless discrimination against gays and reach out to immigrants with promises of citizenship after completion of service. There should be no thought of reinstating the draft, which would be militarily foolish and politically explosive. But expanding the potential recruiting pool can be only a partial answer. Young people and their parents are reacting rationally to a regrettable and unnecessary transformation in how the United States government treats its ground troops. That is what needs to be changed.

Senate Setbacks Test Frist's Influence.

For someone with the lofty title of Senate majority leader, Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) has had a terrible week. Last Monday, a curious mix of 14 senators took control of the judicial filibuster issue and crafted a compromise that left Frist grumbling from the outside. On Thursday, he stood glumly on the Senate floor as his party failed to pick up the half-dozen Democrats it needed to end debate on John R. Bolton's nomination to be U.N. ambassador.

The four-day stretch was so dismal that a Los Angeles Times editorial headlined "The Frist Problem" suggested he quit his post if he really wants to run for president in 2008, as many expect.

The British-based Economist magazine, commenting on the judicial filibuster compromise, wrote: "There are three big losers from the peace deal: Bill Frist, the White House and the religious right. Mr. Frist is a much diminished leader."

(5-20-05, The Washington Post)

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Just Put It On His Tab. Congress goes on a spending spree as the deficit grows.

Homeland security isn't Washington's only bloated budget. After the president warned that he'd nix any highway bill with a price tag over $284 billion, a bipartisan Senate last week did him $11 billion better. Conservatives gasped at what the Club for Growth called a "fiscal monstrosity" --even the more modest House version includes 4,000 pet projects, like $4 million for footbridges across a Louisiana canal--and insisted that Bush finally brandish his carving knife. "If Bush can't hold the line on the transportation bill," asks Stuart Butler of the Heritage Foundation, "how can he look at people and say we need to massively change Medicare?"

Indeed, whether Bush stands firm on road spending is largely a symbolic matter. But fiscal hawks point to the highway bill as another sign of Washington's return to the bad old days of free spending and win-win deal making, warning that such behavior will most likely take a huge toll as a swelling deficit and mounting national debt threaten to scare off foreign investors, goose interest rates, and send the economy into a tailspin.

(5-30-05 issue, U.S. News & World Report.)

Reform? What reform?

Former Sen. Chuck Robb is making the rounds as he finishes up as cochair of the White House's Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction. You'll recall that the group's March report called Washington's assessment of Iraq WMD "dead wrong" on almost everything. As he tells it, though, it looks like the commission's reforms aren't moving forward very fast. His anecdotal evidence comes from a recent talk with some senior-level staffers at the CIA. Robb says he asked how many agreed with the criticisms in the commission's 695-page report. Robb said virtually every hand went up. He then asked how many of them work in departments that are taking action to address those problems. "One hand went up," Robb said.

(5-27-05, U.S. News & World Report.)

Microsoft Cuts Ties to Ralph Reed as Lobbyist.

The Microsoft Corporation . . . severed ties with Ralph Reed . . . a month after liberals, upset that Microsoft had withdrawn its support for a gay rights bill [in Washington,] urged the company to stop using Mr. Reed as a political consultant. The bill died by a single vote in the State Senate on April 21, and the company has since said it will support such legislation in the future.

[A company spokeswoman said, "It would not be appropriate to have a consultant on retainer that is seeking elective office at the same time."

(5-28-05, The Associated Press.)

As we pause to remember . . . .

Winston Churchill’s famous quotation, “Never have so many owed so much to so few,” referred to the performance and sacrifice of the pilots of the Royal Air Force in the air war that came to be known as the Battle of Britain. It was not a melodramatic overstatement, for had the tireless, courageous and outnumbered Hurricane and Spitfire pilots not persuaded Hitler’s Luftwaffe that continued air assaults would mean continued unacceptable losses, a Nazi invasion of England would surely have ensued.

Churchill’s observation of his countrymen’s debt to those who died in the Battle of Britain is equally applicable to all of those from every country and in every war who have died defending the lives and freedom of others—families, friends, future generations, fellow countrymen, strangers and foreigners they never met, will never meet.

From the gathering on the green at Lexington to those in every armored vehicle, aircraft, vessel or on foot patrol today in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, Americans are part of that few to whom so many owe so very much—their lives, their liberty and the luxury of living in a land where people can live, worship, work, pursue their dreams, choose their leaders and speak their minds freely and without fear. The debt is unfathomable; the “many” immeasurable; but the “few” are finite and identifiable. They should be remembered, individually and collectively. Their names are found on crosses and stars of David in military cemeteries, on gravestones and markers in family plots, on bronze plaques in churches and public buildings, on monuments in parks, in worn packets of yellowed letters, inscribed on old Bibles, on crumbling pages of newsprint, in histories and anecdotes; their faces are seen in dusty frames on pianos, on courthouse walls, in boxes and envelopes of fading snapshots, on statues and monuments; and both are found indelible imprinted in the hearts of mothers, fathers, grandparents, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, husbands, wives, sweethearts, teachers, students, friends, former playmates and generations who came later and live because they died.

It is a monumental debt that we owe, not to be forgotten. Remember them today. Speak their names. See their faces. Hear their voices. Read their letters. Hug those they knew. Remember what they did. Let them live on in our hearts.

By Sam Griffin
The (Bainbridge) Post-Searchlight
May 27, 2005

Those who work towards a satisfying compromise should not always have their conviction to principle questioned.

Victory for the center

By Joan Vennochi
The Boston Globe
May 27, 2005

A lot of people cheered when the far left and the far right expressed outrage over the recent announcement of compromise in Washington.

A bipartisan group of senators came together to avert a showdown over judicial nominations. The solution may not be perfect. But by breaking through routinely poisonous rhetoric and daily, dreary deadlock, the public saw enticing possibility: Something might actually happen in Washington — rather than not happen. Amazingly, Senate Republicans and Democrats were working together to achieve a positive result.

The potential for compromise infuriated the right, and the left, too.

That is because both extremes reject the idea that they must give up something to achieve something worthwhile. With that rejection, they refuse to acknowledge that the language of moderation is the language most Americans long to hear.

After the November election, Washington was paralyzed anew by political extremes. The right, counting on Republican control of the House and Senate, wants its agenda fulfilled to the letter. The left expects minority party leaders to block whatever the right desires. These endless, mind-numbing battles are presented to voters as an honest day’s labor. But voters are working people who know better. Accomplishing nothing on the job while fighting with colleagues does not put anyone in the real world on the road to success.

Politicians should stand for something, other than simply getting elected. But there also has to be room in politics, somewhere between unbending principle and opportunistic pandering. There has to be some place, and that place is Congress, where a satisfying compromise can be reached to achieve a greater good. And those who work towards it should not always have their conviction to principle questioned.

Political conviction can be defined in different ways and maybe it needs to be redefined in the context of today’s political realities. There is commitment to pure principle, no matter what the political cost. But there can also be commitment to honest compromise; and commitment to standing up to the extremes of one’s own political party. A politician who takes heat, draws lines, says to the ideological right or left, ‘‘no, that goes too far,’’ is showing courage and conviction, too.

It is dangerous to predict what happens next in Washington. It is unlikely we will see Democrats and Republicans holding hands and singing ‘‘Kumbayah’’ anytime soon; indeed, the sniping has already begun again over John Bolton’s nomination to the UN. But maybe the Senate compromise broke a logjam beyond the matter of judicial nominees.

Maybe there can be movement and resolution on such hot button issues as stem cell research and even Social Security reform. Maybe the compromise could influence the way the next presidential election is conducted.

For that to happen, the voters in the middle have to speak up and press the issue with their elected representatives: Is Congress going to spend the months ahead making sure nothing happens if it doesn’t satisfy the extremists? Or is it going to move forward on issues that matter a great deal?

Recent polls show Americans hold Congress in very low regard. That may explain why some in Congress, specifically those who want to keep their jobs, are more willing to work together. But it will take courage and persistence, in the face of extremists on both sides, who are ready to punish those who dare defy them.

The right is furious, for example, with Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, for finding a way, with other Senate moderates, to reach this compromise on judges. It is doing its best to goad Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist into hardliner reaction, by describing what McCain did to Frist as emasculation. The right is also chortling that McCain lost conservative support he will need for any future presidential run.

That is a real concern for a politician like McCain and shows the weakness in the presidential primary system for both parties. If independent-minded people of courage and conviction can’t win primaries because the ideological right or left has a lock on the primary system, then the system should be changed. The future lies in the middle, where the votes are, and smart politicians from both parties know it. It explains why McCain is walking away from the right and Democrats like Senator Hillary Clinton of New York are walking away from the left.

Maybe the new conviction test for politicians should be: Are you behind what is best for the broadest spectrum of Americans, rather than the narrowest? In doing so, are you angering the far right as well as the far left?

If so, cheers to you.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Rubin: Social Security ranks 3rd behind deficit reduction & Medicare reform as the most important economic policy issue facing the country.

Former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, the steward of President Clinton’s economic policy, told the House Democratic Caucus yesterday that it needs to continue to “hold firm” in its opposition to President Bush’s effort to reform Social Security and advised the Democrats not to introduce their own plan, according to aides and lawmakers in the meeting.

Rubin, who has gained huge stature in the party for presiding over the national finances during the Clinton boom years, counseled congressional Democrats against engaging Republicans on specifics. He urged them instead to cast the debate in terms of principles, with opposition to deficit spending as their guiding conviction.

“Putting out a Democrat plan on Social Security would be a horrible mistake because right now it’s the president’s principles against our principles,” Rubin said, according to a Democratic leadership aide.

Rubin said that Social Security ranks third behind deficit reduction and Medicare reform as the most important economic policy issue facing the country. He also warned his fellow Democrats that they would need to work in a bipartisan manner with Republicans to address Medicare’s deep problems.

Last week, after months during which Democrats have made headway criticizing Bush’s proposal to create private accounts but have not put forward an alternative, Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla) broke ranks with his colleagues by introducing the first Democratic proposal on the long-term solvency of Social Security. Wexler, who earned the ire of Democratic strategists, did not attend yesterday’s caucus.

[In addition to] no more deficit spending and no to the president’s Social Security plan, Rubin also told the Democrats that they have reason to be optimistic about the future but there are challenges that they must meet, including healthcare, energy, education and the nation’s yawning fiscal deficits.

(5-26-05, The Hill.)

The Head Hawk installs switch to silence defiant speakers in Ga. House of Representatives.

If common courtesy and a sense of decorum won't keep Georgia House members in order, perhaps cutting off the main microphone will. At least that's what House Speaker Glenn Richardson hopes.

Richardson, R-Hiram, told Morris News Service this week that he ordered a "kill switch" installed for the chamber's main podium as a result of a March 12 incident that created chaos in the House.

State Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan, D-Austell, refused to relinquish the microphone as she was protesting a bill requiring voters to present a photo identification card, a Republican initiative decried by many House Democrats.

When Richardson told Morgan her time had expired, she continued for another 90 seconds, loudly singing a Civil Rights-era hymn while Richardson angrily banged his gavel from his podium behind her.

[S]ome Democrats moved quickly to condemn Richardson's actions, arguing the kill switch is another example of Republicans trying to cut off debate.

"For this administration to go so far as to put in a silencer is pretty outrageous," said state Rep. Tom Bordeaux, D-Savannah.

(5-27-05, The Athens Banner-Herald.)

American public life moves in cycles. I’m wondering if we haven’t just witnessed a turning point in politics. - The big picture.

Food Fight in the Big Tent - Are voters starting to turn against conservative Republicanism?

By Howard Fineman
May 25, 2005

I’m wondering if we haven’t just witnessed a turning point in politics. Years from now, when we look back on the “Gang of 14” deal, will we see it as the moment when the tide of conservative Republicanism crested?

American public life moves in cycles. A generation ago, Lyndon Johnson trounced Barry Goldwater. But Goldwater’s 1964 crusade unleashed energy and ideas that inspired the New Right-Republican movement, which eventually reached its zenith in George W. Bush. He unified the libertarian, religious and corporate cadres of conservatism under his GOP banner.

Is the wheel turning again with another bold Texan in power? Hard to know, of course, and the Democrats won’t rise in some mere hydraulic fashion. They need to find vision, ideas and charismatic leaders, and none of them seem to be in great supply. But the line of products—call them “Bush Right”—suddenly is looking like what marketers call a “mature brand.” There are signs of age, strain and overreach, internally and externally.

A generation ago, voters turned against the Democrats for the excesses of their welfare-state, big-government thinking. Washington wasn’t the answer to everything.

But, voters may conclude, the Bible isn't either. They could turn against the GOP if they think the party is sacrificing the American tradition of pragmatism and respect for scientific progress—on, say, stem-cell research—in favor of religious fundamentalism, however sincere. Take a look at some of the key supporters of stem-cell research: Nancy Reagan, to name one—not to mention corporate executives who don’t want to see research money and energy drift away to other countries. Two religions are in collision, one of them secular and scientific, the other Biblical.

All That Glitters Is Not Gold

The external pressures on the GOP were mounting before the “Gang of 14” deal set off a food fight in the Big Tent.

To the extent the American economy is doing well, the president isn’t getting credit. Gasoline prices are one reason; the listless stock market (in which 60 million Americans are directly invested) is another. Bush pushed his entire pile of second-term chips to the middle of the Texas Hold ‘Em table when he bet on Social Security reform. He’s down to his undershirt on that one.

Then there's the health-care system, which is an incomprehensible and expensive mess. Voters may agree with the president that trial lawyers are one reason why, but Americans have a sense that the trouble is deeper than that, and the greed more endemic. Federal spending has run wild under GOP control of Congress—and voters (many of them Republicans) may be about to conclude that Republican leaders are using the war on terror as a cover story for profligacy.

Looking abroad, voters haven’t quite lost patience with the war in Iraq. But they have lost hope that it will lead to a sunny upland of peace and security, and their skepticism could turn into a “bring them home” crusade.

Voters remain supportive of the president’s overall handing of the war on terror, but the rest of the Bush poll numbers must make for dismal reading at the White House: down on the economy, down on Social Security, down on the handling of the war in Iraq. He’s still in fat city compared with Republican-run Congress, which is posting the same kind of ratings the Democrats did when Newt Gingrich let his uprising back in 1994.

But it is the internal fissures that signal an aging and vulnerable political cycle.

Let He Who Is Without Sin ...

Inside the Big Tent, the “Gang of 14” deal pitted libertarians against the religionists, with Bush —who rose to power by taming both—caught in the middle. Faith-based conservatives felt betrayed by the bipartisan deal and with good reason: they were betrayed.

But most of the GOP members of the Gang don’t feel guilty about it—they are (privately) delighted. Many other Republican senators, who stayed away from the filibuster-judges deal for various reasons, were relieved that rules of the Senate were saved and that religious conservatives were, in essence, told to shove it.

Bush and Karl Rove had hoped to change the rules before the big clash over the Supreme Court, clearing the way for the president to put forward a jurist considered solid by the religious right on their cluster of crucial issues: abortion, euthanasia, stem-cell research, cloning and gay marriage. If I know Bush, he will go ahead and do so anyway. If he does, I bet that the Democrats in the Gang of 14 will declare the existence of the kind of “extraordinary circumstance” that will free them from their vow not to use the filibuster. And then the GOP moderates will have to declare themselves—and the war within the Republican Party will be on, big time.

Moderates will once again be asked—as they almost were this time—to vote to change the Senate rules. This is something they didn’t want to do, and, I bet, will never want to do. Here’s why. (Bear with me while I wade into some arcane Senate parliamentary detail; it matters.)

The moderate-traditionalists’ concern wasn’t solely or even primarily about diluting the 60-vote supermajority needed to end a filibuster. It was the way Sen. Bill Frist was proposing to do so. By long tradition, it takes a two-thirds vote—67 senators—to alter a so-called standing rule in the Senate, such as the one about filibusters. Frist was proposing it by mere majority vote.

That notion—that you could change long-standing rules by a mere majority vote—was viewed by Senate traditionalists, old and young, as more than unacceptable. It was outrageous to the likes of Republican Sen. John Warner, an old-fashioned Virginia Cavalier who thinks of the Senate as a Platonic redoubt of republicanism of the most ancient sense. He was the key to this deal. Something else about him: a hunt-country patrician of the old school, Warner never has been a fan of (or a favorite of) Rev. Jerry Falwell and Dr. Pat Robertson, Virginia’s pulpit-based powers. He’s not their man.

Sen. George Allen is. Within hours of the deal, Allen had a hot-linked ad all over the Web, seeking to harvest the anger of religious conservatives. He ran the GOP’s senatorial campaign committee not so long ago—and, more important, is seriously thinking of making a run for the GOP nomination in 2008.

The First Primary of '08

In fact, the race for the 2008 GOP nomination has begun, and it could well be a bloodletting.

Bush was able to lock up the nomination early in 2000; even then it wasn’t easy. But this time around there is no obvious successor to Bush, and the most visible candidate right now—Sen. John McCain—is with the president on Iraq, but very little else. He didn’t formally launch his candidacy this week, but that press conference of the Gang of 14 may as well have been it.

McCain is picking up where he left off after his centrist campaign was crushed by the Bush-connected religious right in South Carolina in 2000. McCain insists that it isn’t personal and, in one sense, he is correct. He’s not anti-Bush; he just wants to end what he sees as the faith-based right’s death-grip on the soul and sinews of the GOP.

But so far McCain is, well, just McCain. It remains to be seen if he represents a new GOP movement or just his old renegade self.

There could be other candidates in the race of the McCain stripe, among them Rudy Giuliani or even Condi Rice. But most contenders will seek the support of religious conservatives: Allen, Senate GOP Leader Frist (whom McCain outmaneuvered this week), Sen. Rick Santorum, maybe even Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Far from fearing the role of religious conservatives, they welcome them—and see the crusade for adherence to traditional biblical values as the saving grace of the party and the American family.

It’s the most wide-open Republican race in many years. Is that a good sign for the long-term health of the GOP? I’ll let you know in November—of 2008.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Obama and CBC split on cloture.

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) broke ranks with the rest of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) this week by endorsing the bipartisan deal on judicial nominees aimed at averting the so-called “nuclear option.”

Some political observers see Obama’s decision as a move to the center, to the right of where the CBC has traditionally stood.

(5-26-05, The Hill.)

Small companies struggling to survive B&W closing in Bibb County.

As the former Brown & Williamson Tobacco plant reduces its work force, companies that do business with the tobacco giant, now R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, are struggling to survive.

Some companies have had to completely refocus, others are searching for new work to fill the void, nearly all have had to reduce their staff.

In October 2003, B&W announced that as part of its merger with RJR, it would close its plant here - putting the jobs of 2,100 people in jeopardy. About 1,300 people still work at the plant, while some have been transferred to a Reynolds' plant in Winston-Salem, N.C., some retired, and some have been let go. The plant is due to shut down by mid-2006.

(5-26-05, The Macon Telegraph.)

The jobs with Brown & Williamson were highly sought after ones that many employees commuted long distances to fill.

BRAC - Threat to Base Sends Senator Thune on Maneuvers.

Senator John Thune has long been a darling of the White House, handpicked by President Bush as a rising Republican star. But just months after winning election by telling voters that his ties to Mr. Bush would help save their military base, Mr. Thune is facing a new reality.

At home in South Dakota, he is feeling the heat from his constituents, who are furious over the Pentagon's plans to close Ellsworth Air Force Base, the state's second-largest employer. But in the Senate there are only so many options available to a freshman - even if that freshman is Mr. Thune, who became a Republican celebrity by unseating the Democratic leader, Tom Daschle, last November.

One of those options is sending subtle messages to the White House that the base-closing recommendations are more important than party loyalty, which is exactly what Mr. Thune is doing.

"I'm undecided on Bolton," Mr. Thune said, "and I guess that's where I would leave it."

Just what President Bush can do for Mr. Thune is unclear. As Mr. Thune said, "Their general posture has been, throughout this entire process, that these are military decisions based on military value." But people "in the hinterlands," he said, do not really believe that.

During the race, Mr. Daschle argued that, as minority leader of the Senate, he would have a seat on the base closing commission and could help spare Ellsworth, as he did 10 years ago when Bill Clinton was president. Mr. Thune countered that as a Republican, he would have the president's ear.

(5-26-05, The Washington Post.)

GOP Tilting Balance Of Power to the Right. - This is lengthy but a must read.

From the 5-26-05 Washington Post:

As Democrats tell it, this week's compromise on judges was about much more than the federal courts. If President Bush and congressional allies had prevailed, they say, the balance of power would have been forever altered.

Yet, amid the partisan rhetoric, a little-noticed fact about modern politics has been lost: Republicans have already changed how the business of government gets done, in ways both profound and lasting.

The campaign to prevent the Senate filibuster of the president's judicial nominations was simply the latest and most public example of similar transformations in Congress and the executive branch stretching back a decade. The common theme is to consolidate influence in a small circle of Republicans and to marginalize dissenting voices that would try to impede a conservative agenda.

House Republicans, for instance, discarded the seniority system and limited the independence and prerogatives of committee chairmen. The result is a chamber effectively run by a handful of GOP leaders. At the White House, Bush has tightened the reins on Cabinet members, centralizing the most important decisions among a tight group of West Wing loyalists. With the strong encouragement of Vice President Cheney, he has also moved to expand the amount of executive branch information that can be legally shielded from Congress, the courts and the public.

Now, the White House and Congress are setting their sights on how to make the judiciary more deferential to the conservative cause -- as illustrated by the filibuster debate and recent threats by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) and others to more vigorously oversee the courts.

"I think we have used the legislative and executive branch as well as anybody to achieve our policy aims," said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.). "It is a remarkable governing instrument."

The transformation started in the House in the 1990s and intensified with Bush's 2000 election. The result has been a stronger president working with a compliant and streamlined Congress to push the country, and the courts, in a more conservative direction, according to historians, government scholars, and current and former federal officials.

Some of the changes, such as a more powerful executive branch, less powerful rank-and-file members of Congress and more pro-Republican courts, are likely to outlast the current president and GOP majority, they say. The Republican bid to ban the filibustering of judges made it easier for Bush to appoint conservatives to the Supreme Court and holds open the threat of future attempts to erode the most powerful tool available to the minority party in Congress.

"Every president grabs for more power. What's different it seems to me is the acquiescence of Congress," said former representative Mickey Edwards (R-Okla.), a government scholar at the Aspen Institute.

When Republicans won control of the House in 1994, conservatives turned an institution run by Democrats and veteran chairmen into a top-down organization that looked in some ways like the flow chart of a Fortune 500 business. The idea was to put power in the hands of a few leaders and place conservative loyalists in the most important lower-level jobs to move legislation as quickly as possible through Congress, according to current and former lawmakers.

Those who cross party leaders often pay a price, usually by losing positions of influence. Most recently, Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.) lost the chairmanship of the Veterans Affairs Committee after clashing with party leaders over spending and other issues. At the same time, loyalists are rewarded. The result, writes American University's James A. Thurber in a forthcoming book on Congress and the presidency, is less powerful representatives facing increased pressure to carry out their leadership's wishes.

The GOP unity has led to speedy passage this year of legislation to make it harder for consumers to file for bankruptcy and a budget plan that makes way for more tax cuts and oil drilling in Alaska wilderness.

With control over the House Rules Committee, which determines which bills make it the floor, how they will be debated and whether they can be amended, Republicans have made it much harder for Democrats to offer alternatives -- for example, a smaller tax cut than one Republicans advocate. Democrats also are increasingly shut out of the final negotiations on legislation between the House and the Senate before bills are sent to Bush for his signature.

Also moving in this direction is the Senate, where Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) seized control of selecting committee members after the 2004 elections increased his majority to 55 seats.

"Anybody with a brain knew once Republicans got their hand on the wheels . . . there was going to be punishment" because they felt silenced and slighted when Democrats were in control, said former senator Alan K. Simpson (R-Wyo.). "It's unfortunate."

Bush created a top-down system in the White House much like the one his colleagues have in Congress. He has constructed what many scholars said amounts to a virtual oligarchy with Cheney, Karl Rove, Andrew H. Card Jr., Joshua Bolton, himself and only a few others setting policy, while he looks to Congress and the agencies mostly to promote and institute his policies.

President Bill Clinton oversaw a transition of government away from strong agencies, which historically provided a greater variety of opinions in policymaking. "On the surface it looks like Bush is doing this better than Clinton, but there is much more going on," said Paul C. Light, an expert on the executive branch.

Light said Bush has essentially turned most of the agencies into political arms of the White House. "It's not just weakening agencies but strengthening political control of the agencies," he said.

Major policies such as Social Security are produced in the White House, while Cabinet heads and their staffs are tethered. After the 2004 election, the White House began requiring Cabinet members to spend as long as four hours a week working in an office near the West Wing.

"The fact they hold close their Cabinet members is a plus -- it makes for less freelancing," said Rich Bond, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Bush has demanded similar loyalty from GOP lawmakers -- and received it. Republicans have voted with the president, on average, about nine out of 10 times. Critics and some scholars charge that the Congress now seldom performs its constitutional duty of providing oversight of the executive branch through tough investigations and hearings.

This has coincided with a dramatic increase in overall government secrecy. In 1995, the government created about 3.6 million secrets. In 2004, there more than 15.5 million, according to the government's Information Security Oversight Office. The White House attributes the rise in information the public cannot see to the security threats in a post-Sept. 11, 2001, world.

But experts on government secrecy say it goes beyond protecting sensitive security documents, to creating new classes of information kept private and denying researchers access to documents from past presidents.

"We have never had this kind of control over information," said Allan J. Lichtman, a professor of history at American University. "It means policy is being made by a small clique without much public scrutiny."

Now, the Republicans, with the support of the White House, are looking to reshape the courts in their image. The Senate's bipartisan compromise on judges will cost the president a few of his nominees to the appeals court but will require him to secure only 50 votes for future picks for the Supreme Court and other openings. If Democrats filibuster, Bush and Republican senators can move again to pull the trigger on the "nuclear option" and, if successful, prevent the minority party from ever again using the filibuster on judges. "I will not hesitate to use it if necessary," Frist said this week.

Judiciary Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) has been assigned by GOP leaders to look for new ways to provide oversight of the federal courts and tougher discipline for judges. In a recent interview he said some judges have "deliberately decided to be in the face of the president and Congress." Senate Republicans are weighing legislation to limit court authority, as well.

"I think they are looking for an influence quotient," Bond said.

But Washington traditionalists -- veteran Republicans among them -- warn that the new breed of GOP leaders is trampling time-honored procedures designed to ensure that multiple voices have influence on the most important matters in government.

"I would remind my friends that you may one day be in the minority and you won't want to be [run] roughshod over," said former minority leader Robert H. Michel (R-Ill.), who served in the House for 38 years, 14 as leader.

For those who can, we owe it to Anne Bartoletti to help one of the hardest working & most productive Dem. organizations in Ga. - The N. Fulton Dems.

From personal knowledge and involvement in party affairs I can attest that the North Fulton Democrats are making history, and we need to be a part of it! They are:

• Sharing resources with Democratic candidates, local Democratic Committees and progressive voters;

• Developing strategies that will strengthen Democratic causes in Georgia; and

• Working with the Georgia Democratic Party to deliver training across Georgia to help build a state-wide, grassroots network of Democrats.

Now they need our help. How can we help?

By buying a ticket to an evening with Congressman John Lewis, a living part of Civil Rights history. Congressman Lewis will touch your heart and your mind. He will make you proud to be a Democrat, and most of all, he'll make you think, and he'll call you to action.

The North Fulton County Democrats need our support.

The event will be Saturday, June 25, 2005, at 6:30 p.m. at the DoubleTree Hotel (formerly the Holiday Inn) located at 1075 Holcomb Bridge RoadRoswell, GA 30076. Cocktails begin at 6:30, with Dinner starting at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $100 for Adults, and $50 for students.

To purchase tickets online with a credit card, please use the PayPal service at www.northfultondemocrats.org.

To reserve your tickets by phone, please call 404-303-9142, ext. 2, and mail your check made out to the North Fulton Democrats to 595 Glenforest Rd NE, Atlanta, GA, 30328.

Rep. Lewis marched at Selma with Martin Luther King, Jr., and remains one of the keepers of the flame for Dr. King. He is giving his time and energies to make this important event a success; let's not let him down. Take a minute now to sign up and order your ticket(s).

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

As long as the Massachusetts senator is thinking about another presidential run, the candor gap remains on the table, because he puts it there.

My Yankee friends tells it like it again about Just For Kerry:

The caveat emperor

By Joan Vennochi
The Boston Globe
May 24, 2005

At this point it comes as no surprise. John Kerry is releasing all his military records -- but then again, he isn't.

During an interview yesterday with Globe editorial writers and columnists, the former Democratic presidential nominee was asked if had signed Form SF 180, authorizing the Department of Defense to grant access to all his military records.

''I have signed it," Kerry said. Then, he added that his staff was ''still going through it" and ''very, very shortly, you will have a chance to see it."

The devil is usually in the details. With Kerry, it's also in the dodges and digressions. After the interview, Kerry's communications director, David Wade, was asked to clarify when Kerry signed SF 180 and when public access would be granted. Kerry drifted over to join the conversation, immediately raising the confusion level. He did not answer the question of when he signed the form or when the entire record will be made public.

Several e-mails later, Wade conveyed the following information: On Friday, May 20, Kerry obtained a copy of Form 180 and signed it. ''The next step is to send it to the Navy, which will happen in the next few days. The Navy will then send out the records," e-mailed Wade. Kerry first said he would sign Form 180 when pressed by Tim Russert during a Jan. 30 appearance on ''Meet the Press."

Six months after Kerry's loss to George W. Bush, it feels somewhat gratuitous to point out how hard it can be to get a clear, straight answer from Kerry on this and other matters. But as long as the Massachusetts senator is thinking about another presidential run, the candor gap remains on the table, because he puts it there.

On one hand, he seems to have concluded that Democrats have a ''branding" problem, much like a company selling razor blades. The Democratic Party, said Kerry, needs ''a new brand. That's the challenge." For 25 years, he said, Democrats did not fight negative branding by their opponents. As a result, he said, Democrats are now labelled as ''tax, spend, weak, things like that."

Later, Kerry said, ''Let me be crystal clear. We do not have to reformulate or redefine the Democratic Party. I'm tired of hearing that the Democratic Party doesn't stand for anything." The party, he said, stands for healthcare for every single American; public education that works and gets the necessary resources, with strict accountability; foreign policy that demonstrates both strength and respect for multinationalism; a tax structure that is fair; protecting the environment, and energy independence.

However, Republicans successfully directed the 2004 contest to other issues, including the war on terror, gay marriage, and abortion. Kerry now stands as close to Bush as he can on those issues.

On Iraq, Kerry basically endorsed the outcome of the Bush Doctrine, saying: ''I do think we're making a kind of progress, slowly but surely."

Asked about gay marriage, he explained that he and George Bush hold the same position -- for civil unions. And he noted that he is supporting Pennsylvania Democrat Bob Casey Jr. -- ''what they call a prolife candidate" -- against incumbent Republican Senator Rick Santorum.

Kerry said that people don't want to ''go back to coat hangers and back alleys," or put ''moms in jail and doctors." Then he pointed out the alternatives that Democrats, following in the footsteps of New York Senator Hillary Clinton, now take pains to embrace -- adoption, prevention, and abstinence.

The twists and turns of the past campaign still elicit bursts of passionate analysis. He continues to attribute Bush's success to a combination of voter indifference to the truth and the Republicans' ability to leverage the ''fear factor."

Asked about the impact of religion, he said that he reread the New Testament since the election to make sure ''I didn't miss anything" and recalled that on the campaign trail ''I gave a very strong speech about values and how you measure these things." He believes he lost the ''soccer moms" and ''security moms" to the Osama bin Laden videotape, released the Friday before Election Day.

The campaign waged against him by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth arouses Kerry's greatest passion. ''What they said was untrue," he said. He considered, but decided against, filing suit against the group, which alleged that he did not deserve his Vietnam military honors.

Kerry insists ''The truth in its entirety will come out . . . the truth will come out."

Signing Form 180 is the first step. Releasing his entire military record to the public is the second.

It doesn't get any plainer than that.

In earlier times they kept rancor from spoiling their main mission of serving the nation's interest & preserving the Senate's dignity and integrity.

Excerpts from one of Bill Shipp's columns this week:

In 1964 Russell, in opposition to a public accommodations bill, led a filibuster that lasted from March 9 to June 19. The Senate ultimately passed the civil rights measure, handing Russell his worst setback in Washington.

However, the Georgian continued his role as a Senate giant and one of LBJ's close advisers. Russell's influence on military and agriculture matters remained unsurpassed.

Obviously, those were different times. Senate leaders of perhaps greater intellect possessed the ability to compartmentalize their partisan differences. In most cases, they kept rancor from spoiling their main mission of serving the nation's interest and preserving the Senate's dignity and integrity.

To many of us outsiders, fiddling with the Senate filibuster rule falls close to the "not urgent" category. This shaggy-dog, inside-the-Beltway issue was not the equivalent of a "nuclear option" or an "assassination," as each side has screeched.

Despite the temporary compromise, the damage has been done. The American people have lost another round. Our senators, Democrats and Republicans, spent time and energy on an arcane dispute that should have been settled off camera weeks ago by a leadership with more vision and less vitriol. It should be noted that neither the GOP Majority Leader Bill Frist nor the Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid fashioned the truce. Their far-out, uncompromising partisan backers apparently would have preferred to fight on.

In case our coddled representatives in Washington haven't noticed, our country is embroiled in imminent crises that transcend the wild desire for judges who will void pro-choice abortion laws - the apparent starting point for the current stupidity.

America's base of good jobs is vanishing. Several of our biggest corporations teeter on the edge of bankruptcy. Manufacturing is disappearing. Illegal immigration is out of control. Our health-care system is a disaster. The war in Iraq is not going well. A billion Muslims are rapidly being converted into blood enemies.

Our senators should be embarrassed. They have spent days fretting over the number of votes needed to close debate on hiring judges - and playing tit-for-tat in a complicated game that has little resonance beyond the biased babble of cable television and talk radio.

Roll Call Comments. - Back From the Brink.

We were surprised and delighted that, with the Senate teetering on the precipice of institutional breakdown, seven Senators from each party seized control of the chamber and pulled it back from the brink. The problem for the future lies with the other 86, who were prepared to allow partisanship to drive the Senate into chaos.

Michael Thurmond says he may run for lieutenant governor.

State Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond may make a bid for lieutenant governor, he told a group of editors and reporters Tuesday.

Thurmond stopped short of saying he will seek the job, but said people had encouraged him to consider it.

Thurmond, a Clarke County native, was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1986 and was elected labor commissioner in 1998.

(5-25-05, The Athens Banner-Herald.)

This really isn't news.

House Bucks Bush on Stem-Cell Bill. This House vote already puts Mr. Bush in a predicament.

The House passed a bill to expand federal financing for embryonic stem cell research, defying a veto threat from President Bush. The vote, 238 to 194 with 50 Republicans in favor, fell far short of the two-thirds majority required to overturn a presidential veto, setting up a possible showdown between Congress and Mr. Bush, who has never exercised his veto power.

The House vote already puts Mr. Bush in a predicament, the Los Angeles Times says. Social conservatives who are a core part of the Republican base object to the research because it destroys human embryos. But a veto might have wider repercussions at the polls. Many patient groups and scientists say that the research has the potential to cure diseases, and a recent poll found that 60% of Americans find it morally acceptable.

(5-25-05 Wall Street Journal Online; for 5-25-05 article on this, see New York Times.)

The compromise. - Howard Dean needs to go back to flying under the radar. This is not in his job description.

The fallout from the Senate compromise that averted a showdown over judicial filibusters fell most heavily on the Republican Party yesterday, signaling intraparty warfare that is likely to shape the battle for the party's 2008 presidential nomination and further strain the unity the GOP has enjoyed under President Bush.

The compromise forged by 14 Democratic and Republican senators represented a rare, if temporary, rebuff to religious and social conservatives.

Some Democrats privately fretted that others in their party had been too quick to claim victory, and even the party chairman, Howard Dean, questioned whether the compromise is good for Democrats. "We don't know if this is a victory in the long run or not," he said on CNN's "Inside Politics."

That could leave Democrats in a different posture a few months from now, depending on what happens when Bush is presented with a Supreme Court vacancy. But for now, the compromise struck on Monday night has done more to highlight the coming power struggle within the Republican Party.

(5-25-05, The Washington Post.)

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Reed campaign challenges claim in widely circulated e-mail.

Ralph Reed's campaign is denying reports circulated in an e-mail to Georgia news outlets that the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor is losing business at his political consulting firm and having to lay off employees.

The e-mail, which was sent by a rival's campaign consultant, suggested Reed was having business difficulties because of press coverage of his involvement with high-profile Washington power brokers to oppose a gambling casino in Texas and a statewide lottery in Alabama in campaigns surreptitiously funded by rival gambling interests.

Reed, former executive director of the national Christian Coalition who has strong ties to the Bush White House, has not been accused of wrong doing, but revelations about his activities have turned his first bid for elective office into a national race to watch.

In the race, still 14 months off, Reed faces state Sen. Casey Cagle for the GOP nomination for Georgia's second-highest office, now held by Democrat Mark Taylor. Taylor is seeking his party's nomination to challenge Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue for the governor's office.

The e-mail was sent by Joel McElhannon, Cagle's political consultant, who wrote in the e-mail that he didn't want the information to be attributed to him or to the Cagle campaign.

"We're hearing things. We thought we'd throw it out there," McElhannon said in an interview. "I'm relaying information shared with me by employees laid off from Century Strategies (Reed's Duluth-based firm)."

Lisa Baron, a spokeswoman for Reed, said the widely circulated e-mail was not true.

"Anyone who has run and operated a successful small business understands that you may staff up or staff down depending on certain projects, but the assertions in the e-mail that is being passed around to reporters in an effort to hurt Ralph Reed is not true," she said.

She said Reed's consulting firm has had between eight and 14 employees since its formation and now has nine. The number has changed within the last two weeks, she acknowledged, but she would not say by how many "out of respect for the privacy rights of our employees."

(5-24-05 article by Dick Pettys of the Associated Press.)

It's going to be an exciting 14 months between now and the primary.

Rough news for Laurens County. - East Dublin plant to lay off 159 workers.

Once Laurens County's largest employer by far, Victor Forstmann will be down to a little more than 100 workers come July 19. The county's last conventional textile plant announced that 159 of its 270 workers will be laid off.

The company that once employed more than 1,500 workers makes the fabric used in the green jackets given to winners of the Masters golf tournament, the red stripe on the pants of Marine dress uniforms, and the wool used in Major League Baseball caps.

A statement issued by the company said increased competition from China and other Asian markets was "a major factor" in the layoffs. It also noted that in January the World Trade Organization abolished quotas on textiles from developing countries.

The county's largest employer, Mohawk Carpet, is considered a textile industry by the Department of Labor, but Forstmann is the last clothing textile mill in the county. According to Department of Labor figures, nearly 7,400 textile jobs within a 45-mile radius of Dublin have been lost in the past five years.

(5-24-05, The Macon Telegraph.)

Congratulations to Cordele, Crisp County, for being selected by Owens Corning for new plant that will bring 100 jobs.

Owens Corning has announced that it selected a 150-acre site in Cordele as the proposed location of a new facility; this ended a multi-state search for the site of a new fiber glass insulation facility.

(5-24-05 The Cordele Dispatch.)

Perdue weighing need for partisan judicial races.

Gov. Sonny Perdue said Monday that he could see himself supporting a constitutional amendment to turn future Georgia judicial elections into partisan contests due to the increasingly political nature of such races.

"I don't support that at this time," Perdue, a Republican, said in an interview with Savannah Morning News. "But if we are not able to take partisanship out of races ... I think we should open it up."

In order to be placed on the ballot for voter approval, [a] resolution would need to pass the House and Senate in 2006 with the support of two-thirds of each chamber's lawmakers.

University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock noted it would be difficult for the GOP to pass the resolution without the support of several dozen conservative Democrats.

Such a showing of bipartisan unity would be highly unexpected in 2006, when both Republicans and Democrats will be fighting for control of the legislature and the governor's mansion, Bullock said.

(5-24-05 article by Brian Basinger of Morris News Service.)

Reaction of Dobson to Senatorial Centrists Carrying the Day.

Dr. James C. Dobson, founder of the Christian conservative group Focus on the Family, called the deal "a complete bailout and betrayal by a cabal of Republicans, adding: "We share the disappointment, outrage and sense of abandonment felt by millions of conservative Americans who helped put Republicans in power last November."

(5-24-05, The Wall Street Journal Online.)

If he doesn't like it, I love it.

After 100 Days at DNC, Dean Is No Longer Flying Under the Radar.

According to Roll Call, this past Sunday Howard Dean was on NBC’s “Meet the Press."

DeLay is back in spotlight to lead stem-cell bill fight.

Tom DeLay is back. After months fending off negative press, the embattled House majority leader will thrust himself back into the national debate today as a vocal opponent of a bill to expand federal funding for embryonic-stem-cell research.

Rep. DeLay (R-Texas) has kept a lower profile since March, when he orchestrated an emergency Sunday vote to reconnect a feeding tube to Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman at the center of a heated ethical and legal debate.

(5-24-05, The Hill.)

Supreme Court to Tackle Abortion Again After 5 Years.

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of a lower-court ruling that struck down a New Hampshire law requiring parental notification when minors have abortions. A federal appeals court called New Hampshire's law unconstitutional because it made no exceptions for health emergencies.

(5-23-05, The Wall Street Journal.)

This is a significant development at this particular time, especially given the high percentage of Americans who favor parental notification.

The Supreme Court accepting its first abortion case in five years was an unexpected development that despite the rather technical questions that the case presents is likely to add even more heat to the already superheated atmosphere surrounding the court and its immediate future.

For an article discussing the technical questions, see this 5-24-05 article in The New York Times.

The Center Holds. - Contains Some Advice Mr. Bush, who has long eschewed the steps he could take to deescalate tensions, ought now to heed.

There is no guarantee that the cease-fire in the judicial nominating wars negotiated by 14 U.S. senators and announced last night will stick. How could there be? But the agreement by seven Republicans and seven Democrats, with Virginia's John W. Warner (R) playing a leading role, nonetheless is a great achievement. It is a demonstration, in an era of increasingly bitter partisanship, of what can still be accomplished through negotiation and the proffer of a modicum of trust across the aisle. Interest groups on both sides railed against compromise and threatened its architects; Senate leaders of both parties and the president did more to obstruct a deal than to facilitate it. The 14 senators nonetheless managed to put principle above self-protection.

"The first question that most of the media are going to ask us: Who won and who lost?" said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), one of the 14. "The Senate won, and the country won."

The Senate had been poised today to vote on the "nuclear option," which would have eliminated the ability of the minority -- Democrats now; who knows in the future? -- to use the filibuster against judicial nominees. Instead, the Bipartisan Fourteen signed a memorandum of understanding that commits the Democrats to allow up-or-down votes on three of President Bush's most controversial judicial nominees; filibusters against two others will be permitted. The Democrats also pledged to refrain from future filibusters except under "extraordinary circumstances." The Republicans in return pledged to oppose the nuclear option.

The agreement couldn't foresee all contingencies, and it does not. But it de-escalates a crisis stoked by years of misbehavior on both sides. Republicans used procedural tricks to stall and block President Bill Clinton's well-qualified judicial nominees, and then they pronounced such tricks unacceptable once a Republican was in the White House. Democrats touted the virtues of prompt up-and-down votes until they fell into the minority. Democrats overused the filibuster, in defiance of tradition. Republicans were poised to do even more damage: Although the Senate requires that its rules be changed by a two-thirds vote, the nuclear option would have been a brute-force procedural trick by which a bare majority could change the rules to suit its purposes. This would have set a dangerous precedent, allowing any majority to trump long-standing rules in the pursuit of a transient end.

The deal is admittedly messy. Some nominees get votes, some still don't; the principle isn't terribly clear. It isn't specified what constitutes "extraordinary circumstances"; the members have to trust in one another's good faith. But the deal is far better than the alternative.

Even with the immediate crisis past, future cases will test the commitments these senators have made. For this reason, the last section of their memorandum warrants particular attention. The senators there offer Mr. Bush a suggestion that would smooth the way for future nominees. "We encourage the Executive branch of government to consult with members of the Senate, both Democratic and Republican, prior to submitting" nominees, they write. That's advice Mr. Bush, who has long eschewed the steps he could take to deescalate tensions, ought now to heed -- particularly coming from so many key members of his own party.

Now, for the record, here are the 14. The Republicans, in addition to Mr. Warner and Mr. McCain, are Sens. Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, Mike DeWine (Ohio), Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), and Lincoln D. Chafee (R.I.). The Democrats are Robert C. Byrd (W.Va.), Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.), Ben Nelson (Neb.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Daniel K. Inouye (Hawaii) and Ken Salazar (Colo.).

(5-24-05, The Washington Post.)

Panel on Base Closings Says the List Is Likely to Change.

The independent commission assessing the Pentagon's proposed list of domestic base closings will spare some installations but could add others that are not on the list now, the panel's chairman says.

The hurdle for changing the Pentagon's plan is high. The commission must show that the Defense Department "deviated substantially" from its guidelines to change or remove a site from the list. A simple majority of the nine-member panel can drop a site; seven members must approve adding a site for closing.

Commissions in four prior base-closing rounds changed about 15 percent of the Pentagon's recommendations. Mr. Principi, a former secretary of veterans affairs, said that it was too early to put a figure on what this panel might do, but that the Pentagon's list would not go unscathed.

"I expect there will be changes, and I think there'll be a few additions considered," he said. "The last thing this commission will be is a rubber stamp."

In testimony last Monday, Mr. Rumsfeld warned the panel against unraveling the interlinked decisions that Pentagon analysts made after two years of study and tests of some 1,000 different approaches. "I made a conscious decision not to add anything or take anything out or change anything," Mr. Rumsfeld said.

(5-23-05, The New York Times.)

Monday, May 23, 2005

A Georgia Democrat & Proud of It, Part III.

Do you remember the 4-27-05 post that read:

"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

When that didn't come about, the Coffee County Democrats ordered the bumper stickers I wanted and we had them available for the State Committee meeting this past Saturday.

What a hit they were!! I hope to soon be seeing these on cars all over Georgia spreading the message that indeed we are Democrats and proud of it!

To see the bumper sticker, go to CoffeeCountyDemocrats.com, and scroll down just a tad. If you are interested in ordering some for your local Democrats, contact our local chair Danita Knowles for details. Her e-mail is danitaknowles52@charter.net. For those without internet access, Danita's telephone numbers and our party's fax number are on the above-noted Web site.

Saturday she was selling them for $2 a piece; 3 for $5; and 50 for $75.

E-mail Danita and work something out. Oh how I would love to see the parking lot full of cars proclaiming the cause at the Richard B. Russell Dinner in August. Folks, things are shaping up for 2006. Let's let everyone know it.

P.S. The bumper stickers have a union label.

And what kind of other tribal enterprises other than gambling did he have in mind, one that sold tomahawks or miniture tepees?

Last Wednesday AJC's Political Insider writer Jim Galloway and Alan Judd wrote about a new round of allegations regarding Ralph Reed's involvement in yet another Indian casino -- this one in Mississippi.

The headline was "Tribe cash fed Ralph Reed's Alabama fight," and you can read the article by going to the 5-18-05 Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

And then on Friday the AJC had yet a second lengthy, detailed story that may -- along with Wednesday's article -- win them a Pulitzer. It was captioned "Reed: Indians gave money. But candidate insists casinos not the source."

The purpose of today's post is not to summarize or quote from the articles, but I can't resist quoting from the introduction to Friday's article.

It begins:

"Ralph Reed knew that Indian tribes were a source of the financing he arranged for anti-gambling campaigns in Alabama, but he was assured the cash came from tribal enterprises not related to casino gambling, his spokeswoman said."

And what kind of other tribal enterprises other than gambling did the former Chairman of the state GOP have in mind, one that sold tomahawks or miniture tepees.

Why have I waited? I have waited for the media to speculate on when might the next shoe drop.

Sunday on The Georgia Gang the significance of the Wednesday and Friday stories seems implicit when it was noted that Ralph Reed was on the hot seat and beginning to squirm a bit. It noted that Reed now admits he knew money to fight gambling interests came from Indians, but that he did not know the funds were from gambling interests.

The Dean noted that Ralph Reed no longer enjoys a lock on the lieutenant governor nomination, and that Reed has retained a high powered Washington D.C. lawyer to help him navigate these waters.

I am going to take it a bit further. I think these recent revelations open the door to the possibility that Ralph Reed will decide to call it quits, and come out with some statement to the effect that he tried to offer himself for public service, but is being met with the politics of personal destruction, etc. (something he knows a lot about when someone else is on the hot seat).

For me and my money's worth, I would like to see him stay in. As I have noted, his getting into this race is the best thing that can happen to the Democratic Party of Georgia.

Cathy Cox gets two standing ovations at Democratic Party of Georgia meeting in Atlanta this past Saturday.

Cathy Cox had to feel good about the May 21 meeting of the Democratic Party of Georgia in Atlanta.

When invited to say a few words by Chairman Bobby Kahn, Cathy headed for the podium amidst a simultaneous standing ovation.

Her message was forcefully delivered; several points she made:

• Democrats are ready to take back Georgia.

• Georgia had to see what they -- the Republicans -- were like to appreciate what we had.

• What the Republicans did was give corporations a billion dollar tax cut and pass legislation calling on secrecy rather than open government.

• We must energize our constituencies.

• Dollars bills don't cast a vote; corporations don't cast a vote. People do, and we must take our message to the good people in Georgia in order to win in 2006.

• Cathy also took us back to the year 1962 when Birmingham and Atlanta were similar cities, and each was at a crossroads. That historic year Georgia elected Carl Sanders, a progressive governor at the same time that Alabama elected George Wallace, and since then Atlanta went on to become an important international city, leaving Birmingham far behind. Similarly, in 2006, Georgians will have a chance to elect a progressive governor or re-elect one who will turn the clock back on all our state has achieved in the past 40 years.

• In 2006 Democrats must reach a lot of Georgians who don't call themselves Democrats or Republicans.• What Democrats stand for is mainstream Georgia, and the GOP administration has fumbled things badly.

• Democrats must demonstrate to Georgians that we share common values – and that many of their Republican leaders are out of touch with local values.

• We must recruit candidates for every race at every level of government. When we don't have a candidate in a race, the Republicans get to say who we are rather than us define ourselves. And we need to be doing and deciding this now, not next April.

• We need to follow the blueprint of Colorado that in 2004 turned blue and took back the state house and senate, not to mention the U.S. Senate race.

• Our goal must be to elect Democrats one by one, district by district, and race by race on issues that impact the lives of all Georgians.

Cathy left to a cheering group who again all stood simultaneously to give her a second standing ovation.

The only other constitutional officer at the Saturday meeting was Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin who reminded us that he once again has competition and needs our support in setting up events for him around the state.

I had a good chat with Rep. Billy Mitchell and was sorry that I missed seeing my good friend Stephanie Stuckey Benfield. These two are ones that should be thinking about running for a state office. They each have much to offer.

Other legislators present were Rep. Pedro Marin, Rep. Winfred Dukes, Sen. Robert Brown and Sen. Gloria Butler. Former Rep. Lee Howell of Spalding County, who is exploring another run, and former Sen. Mary Squires of Gwinnett County were also present.

Thomasville's Terrence Samuel wins DPG's Constituency Group Vice Chair. - "White males are a constituency group also."

On 12-27-04 I did a post in which I wrote:

It seems that in the past anytime Democrats met, the first order of business was to divide us into our Party's various caucuses as we identified ourselves. There was the black caucus, the Hispanic caucus, the lesbian and gay caucus, etc.

But what happens in the future when I try to bring one of my high school buddies back into our Party's fold? He will not be accustomed to going to Democratic meetings and having to be identified as being in one of several of our Party's constituencies?

In such a situation you know what this white male voter is going to immediately wonder -- where do I fit in? Where's the white guys' caucus?

For these and other reasons, we are into a very different mode now . . . . We are now in the process of rebuilding, and as such we are far less interested in black caucuses and white caucuses and Hispanic caucuses. We want Democratic caucuses.

And in this process of rebuilding, we are far less interested in liberal caucuses and conservative caucuses. Again, we want Democratic caucuses.

And along the same line, I will tell you that my buddy shares something in common with millions of farmers, factory workers, waitresses and just plain ole regular good people in Georgia and across our country. He ended up voting -- utterly against his own interest -- for Republican candidates. We are going to address and take care of this between now and 2006.

And since ours is the Party of hope and dreams, the Party of the People, the party of inclusion, we think there is room in our Party for beliefs that we share with most Americans, those who hold middle-of-the-road positions on abortion, guns, taxes and other issues.

Don't get tired of hearing that as a party we face the problem and challenge of bringing white males back within our party's fold. It is reality, and we are at war for them.

Given this quick background, you can imagine my favorable impression when -- during his campaign speech for Constituency Group Vice Chair -- Terrence Samuel said "[w]hite males are a constituency group also."

Terrence is black and is a resident of Thomasville. He has been active in party affairs for about a year and a half, and everyone was most impressed with him Saturday.

Terrence, congratulations, and let us know how we can help you carry out your important charge.

Luckily for the White House, the gruesome violence was overshadowed by the furor over Newsweek (& ditto on the the photos of Saddam Hussein).

Newsweek's flub and Bush's

By Joan Vennochi
The Boston Globe
May 19, 2005

Speaking of mistakes and deceptions:

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice dredged up that old Bush myth during her recent surprise visit to Iraq -- the one that suggests a link between the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the US invasion of Iraq and continuing military presence.

According to a statement of remarks released by the State Department, Rice said in Baghdad: ''You see, this war came to us, not the other way around. The United States of America, when it was attacked on Sept. 11, realized that we live in a world in which we cannot let threats gather, and that we lived in a world in which we had to have a different kind of Middle East if we were ever to have a permanent peace."

In Bagdhad, Rice also said: ''The absence of freedom in the Middle East, the freedom deficit, is what has produced the ideologies of hatred that led people to fly airplanes into a building on a fine September day. People don't want to be suicide bombers, people don't want to be suicide hijackers, but somehow the ideologies of hatred in this region have become so great that human beings have been willing to do that to other human beings . . . We got a malignancy that was growing, that came to haunt us on that fine September day."

The bipartisan commission which investigated the events leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks concluded there was ''no credible evidence" that Saddam Hussein's government collaborated with the terrorists who attacked the United States. No direct link has yet to be established between Saddam Hussein and, as Rice put it, the ''malignancy that was growing."

Fifteen of the 19 men who flew airplanes into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 were citizens of Saudi Arabia, but President Bush is still holding hands and sashaying down a Crawford, Texas, path with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah. The remaining four hijackers came from Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Lebanon.

In Baghdad, Rice also offered up the revised Bush administration script for justifying the Iraq invasion -- regime change. The new script ignores any mention of the original, key justification for war in Iraq, as presented to Congress and the American public: the alleged stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction by Hussein. The original justification is now accepted as a mistake of intelligence, at the very least.

On the day of Rice's visit, Iraqi officials announced the discovery of 46 bodies at sites in and near Baghdad, three suicide bombings, and three shootings, including one that killed a revered Shi'ite cleric. But luckily for the White House, the Rice visit and the gruesome violence were overshadowed by the furor over Newsweek magazine's retraction of an article that stated that American interrogators tried to rattle Muslim detainees by flushing a Koran down a toilet. The report is being blamed for inciting widespread protests and riots in the Muslim world.

Newsweek's bad mistake is very good news for the Bush administration. The commander-in-chief is playing editor-in-chief. Instead of answering questions about what is really happening in Iraq, the White House is asking what happened at Newsweek.

Newsweek published a mistake; get angry about that, if you like. But the Bush administration went to war over a mistake -- the alleged existence of WMD -- and a deception -- the never-proven link between Iraq and Sept. 11. So far, 1,623 American soldiers are dead and another 15,000 are wounded. Insurgents continue to slaughter Iraqis; nearly 500 have been killed since the April 28 announcement of a Shi'ite-dominated government.

There is still no obvious end game in Iraq, just the hope that somehow, over time, some version of democracy will win out over suicide bombers and religious fanatics. The course chosen by the Bush administration spawned anti-American sentiment around the world. And the Bush administration continues to deceive, as demonstrated by Rice's recent remarks.

In Baghdad, Rice said, ''Our children and our children's children will look back, and they will say, we are so grateful that there were Americans willing to sacrifice, so that the Middle East could be whole, and free and democratic and at peace. And that never again would we have to fight terrorists on our soil, in America."

Her expectation is pinned upon an administration's mistakes and deceit. The Bush legacy truly rests on whether the end, if it ever comes, justifies the means.

And on a related note, to hell with those who are condemning America for the Newsweek article and the Saddam Hussein photgraphs while they say nothing about the killing and maiming going in Iraq.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Many young lieutenants & captains, key leaders in combat, seek exit & are deciding against Army careers in light of the open-endedwar on terrorism.

According to the 5-22-05 Los Angeles Times:

More than three years after the Sept. 11 attacks spawned an era of unprecedented strain on the all-volunteer military, [and w]ith thousands of soldiers currently on their second combat deployment in Iraq or Afghanistan and some preparing for their third this fall, evidence is mounting that an exodus of young Army officers may be looming on the horizon.

It is especially troubling for Pentagon officials that the Army's pool of young captains, which forms the backbone of infantry and armored units deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, could be the hardest hit.

The officers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan just wrapped up a year of grueling counterinsurgency operations — a type of combat the U.S. largely avoided after its struggle in Vietnam and that many in the Pentagon believe is the new face of war. They were in Iraq during last spring's uprisings in Fallouja and Najaf, June's transfer of power to an interim Iraqi government and block-to-block fighting during the retaking of Fallouja in November.

These officers have, in most cases, more counterinsurgency experience than any of their superiors. And they are the people the Army most fears losing.

By the time they make captain, young officers are usually approaching the end of their four- or five-year commitment. Army spokesman Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty said the attrition rate for junior officers was not yet alarming, and the Army had several initiatives in place to help retain those deciding whether to make a career out of the military.

The Pentagon hopes that by next year, a significant troop reduction in Iraq will allow the Army to slow the pace of troop deployments, giving soldiers two years at home for every year in battle.

Yet Pentagon officials admit it is uncertain that this can happen by 2006."I still don't know if we can make it," said a senior Army officer at the Pentagon. "You tell me what Iraq is going to look like next year."

(1) OK, I said I would try not to write about Just For Kerry anymore, & I tried. (2) And some words of wisdom from my Yankee friend.

Excerpts and words of wisdom from my Yankee friend.

The gay marriage risk

By Joan Vennochi
The Boston Globe
May 17, 2005

You can say this much about Massachusetts liberals. The truest are not wafflers, and they are not afraid to stand up for something controversial.

Delegates to the Massachusetts Democratic Party convention voted overwhelmingly to endorse same-sex marriage in their platform. [This action] solidifies the stereotype that Republicans now revel in running against.

In many parts of the country, and in some parts of the Bay State as well, a Massachusetts liberal is now a reviled species. Nationally, Democrats are running from the left to the middle as fast as they can.

But Philip W. Johnston, the Massachusetts Democratic state party chairman, doesn't care. He said he proposed the platform resolution, and delegates backed it, because ''it's the right thing to do."

The controversy was fueled in Massachusetts, the first state to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. Debate over it remains the flashpoint of a dramatic cultural divide. No state has followed the Commonwealth's lead in legalizing same-sex marriage, and 14 states in the last nine months have voted to ban it.

The Bay State's senior senator, Edward M. Kennedy, endorsed the party's platform resolution. However, Kerry moved quickly to distance himself, saying in Baton Rouge, La., ''I think it's the wrong thing and I'm not sure it reflects the broad view of the Democratic Party in our state."

Of Kerry's position, Johnston said, ''I was disappointed."

You can take many lessons from the 2004 election. One lesson is that some voters vehemently oppose same-sex marriage. Another is that some voters shrink from a candidate who tries to be for and against controversial issues like abortion and gay marriage.

The liberal or conservative base sees black or white and votes accordingly; some voters in the middle respect a strong position, even if it runs counter to their own. That would lend support to Johnston's theory that is important to take a stand, even if it is controversial.

However, there is risk in this gay marriage resolution, in Massachusetts, too. Advocates argue same-sex marriage is a pressing civil rights issue. But is it really the most pressing issue in this state? Even people who support same-sex marriage may conclude that with this emphasis, the Democratic Party is losing its focus on economic issues that win elections. In that case, the party nomination could be worthless, especially if the nominee is viewed by the general electorate as a pawn of one special interest group.

For those who watch politics, it is an interesting laboratory test case of conviction versus expediency, of boldly pushing left rather than safely hugging the middle. In a party filled with equivocators on controversial social issues, the liberal Democrats who run the party here are taking a liberal position and sticking with it, without apology -- and without regard for those who call them out of touch and worse.

No one knows if it is a winning strategy, but at least it's not a waffling one.

Suburbs to soybeans: New 8th District stretches from metro Atlanta to South Georgia. Collins to let us know by June if he will run against Marshall.

At some point between now and the middle of 2006, voters from Covington to Colquitt County will discover they have at least one thing in common:
The 8th Congressional District candidates want their support.

A new congressional map, drawn up this year by a Republican-dominated Georgia General Assembly, puts much of the Macon metro area in a district that stretches from the outskirts of Atlanta's suburban sprawl to the farm flatlands near the Florida line.

At this early stage, when the ink is barely dry on the new map, it might not matter much to anyone but the political junkies.

The incumbent, Democrat Jim Marshall of Macon, has said he intends to seek re-election in the new district. And former congressman Mac Collins - a Butts County Republican who mounted an unsuccessful campaign last year for U.S. Senate -- has said he expects to announce in June whether he will seek the 8th District seat.

The District 8 representative will serve a diverse territory, from affluent Newton County - where suburbanites enjoy lunchtime jazz concerts on the town square, and the median household income is $45,180 - to Turner County, where one out of four people lives below the poverty line.

It includes counties like Bibb, with 2003 retail sales of more than $2 billion, and Colquitt, which topped the district's row-crop production that year with $65.4 million sales.

Professor Mike Digby, chair of the department of government and sociology at Georgia College & State University, said the hardest hit [with the redistricting map is Democrat] John Barrow of Athens. He is moved out of the 12th District that elected him and placed in the new 10th District now served by popular Republican incumbent Charlie Norwood of Augusta.

Marshall's prospects may be much better, Digby said. Although Marshall will see his district's black voting age population drop from 37 percent to about 30 percent - and black voters tend to vote Democratic - he still serves a population that is heavily weighted toward his Macon stronghold.

Taken together, the population of Bibb, Houston and Laurens counties makes up nearly half the district.

"The only three counties that are somewhat metropolitan are Newton, Butts and Jasper, and Jasper is quite small," Digby said. "Collins' home county of Butts (County) is only 3 percent of the population."

But Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia, said Marshall faces challenges in the new district. The new territory does lean a bit more Republican than the old 3rd District.

"(It) does make Jim Marshall's future less certain," Bullock said in an e-mail from South Korea, where he is teaching this month. Bullock said the loss of black voters puts the district at "the upper limit of what increasingly the GOP dominates" in Georgia.

He added, "(M)uch of the district is new and in those areas, Marshall lacks the advantages of incumbency. He has not run in those areas and has not provided casework service to those constituents."

(5-22-05, The Macon Telegraph.)

Atlanta airport likely to be undisputed No. 1.

The Atlanta airport is on track to be the undisputed world's busiest airport this year --- in terms of both people and planes.

In recent years, Hartsfield-Jackson International and Chicago's O'Hare both have laid claim to the title "world's busiest airport."

Atlanta averages 2,706 flights per day . . . .

(5-21-05, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.)

The Pentagon's figures on the economic payback of BRAC in Georgia.

The BRAC report [includes] a summary analysis of the expected savings
and justification for each recommendation.

The facility with the largest proposed annual savings is Fort McPherson. Proposed annual savings are $82.1 million with a one-time cost of $197.8 million. Net savings during the implementation period are estimated to be $111.4 million. The proposed payback time is two years. The net present value of the change over the next 20 years is a savings of $895.2 million.

The closure of the Naval Air Station in Atlanta has a smaller implementation cost of $43 million and yields annual savings of $66.1 million. This represents an immediate payback with net savings during implementation of $289.9 million and a net present value of $910.9 million in savings.

Fort Gilliam yields annual savings of $35.3 million with a one-time cost of $56.8 million. The net savings during implementation of the closure is $85.5 million. The net present value of the twenty-year savings is estimated at $421.5 million.

The weakest economic justification is for the closure of the Navy Supply Corp School in Athens. The one-time cost of implementing the closure is $23.8 million and annual savings are only $3.5 million. The implementation time period has a net cost of $13.6 million with a payback time of seven years.

(5-22,-05 article by Larry Peterson in The Savannah Morning News).

Friday, May 20, 2005

The stereotype of a prosperous, upwardly mobile Atlanta & a depressed, struggling So. Ga. should not be considered headed for the scrap heap.

Middle and South Georgia were obviously pleased with the outcome of the May 13 BRAC announcements with respect to Middle and South Georgia, and I assure you were disappointed with those affecting the metro.

When either Georgia suffers, Georgia suffers.

I personally do not understand the closure of Fort McPherson.

The reason you read that 85% of the initial Pentagon recommendations remain final is because the changing the list requires seven of nine votes from the BRAC commission. Thus it is unlikely that the list will see any major changes, although Fort McPherson could be within the 15% that the independent BRAC commission changes.

Our state's military bases have been important to all of Georgia and its economy for years, and by all of Georgia in this context I mean the metro and Middle and South Georgia.

Part of my stump speech last summer -- this one given in Warner Robins -- was as follows:

Because of Georgia’s political giants Sen. Richard Russell and Congressman Carl Vinson, Georgia received the lion’s share of military dollars spent in the United States not only before World War II but also after as our nation developed and built its Cold War defense establishment.

Presently Georgia’s 13 military bases and one Navy Supply Corps School contribute $15 billion a year to the state’s economy, about the size of the state’s entire budget. Our state is the sixth-largest state recipient of defense money – around $6 billion – with our military bases boosting local businesses and employing thousands of civilians.

But with this upcoming 2005 round of base closings – this being the fifth round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) – Georgia goes into the year 2005 much more vulnerable than in the past when it has been successful in avoiding a single base closure.

Unlike the prior rounds of base closures that occurred in 1988, 1991, 1993, 1995, next year Georgia will be without the protection and political clout of its powerful legislator and Chairman of the Armed Services Committee Sen. Sam Nunn, who in his 23 years in the Senate became the nation’s foremost authority on national defense.

The foregoing is noted in the context of an article this week by the Dean that implies that by having dodged a torpedo, South Georgia's ship has come in:

Has Georgia's world turned upside down?

Could be. . . .

Just a year ago, who would have dreamed Atlanta's Fort McPherson, one of the nation's best-known Army headquarters, would be headed for mothballs? Or that Pentagon budget-cutters would mercifully spare perpetually imperiled Moody Air Force Base at Valdosta and the Marine Corps Supply Depot at Albany?

The Pentagon's Georgia-related proposals help shine a new light on the old notion of Two Georgias. The stereotype of a prosperous, upwardly mobile Atlanta and a depressed, struggling South Georgia may be headed for the scrap heap.

Atlanta is beset with fresh economic and social problems, certain to be aggravated by the base closings. Yet parts of South Georgia, particularly on the coast, are thriving as never before. The prospective military moves will help them.

The Pentagon recommended adding personnel and expanding missions at bases all across south and middle Georgia. Fort Benning, Kings Bay and Robins Air Force Base were given renewed lives and larger payrolls.

For the Other Georgia, our ship has not come in. The BRAC announcements kept things at bay and then some in the particular areas affected, something for which we are very thankful.

For us everything remains to center on transportation, for as noted on this blog a couple of days ago, transportation to the Other Georgia means economic development.