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Cracker Squire


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

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

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Max Cleland - Considering a run after all?

A July 17 post entitled "Max Cleland for lieutenant governor?" had Bill Shipp writing:

"Several Democrats are encouraging former Sen. Cleland to go for the office in next year's election.

"If Max says yes, the Georgia contest for lieutenant governor could turn into one of the nation's most closely watched second-tier elections."

But then an August 8 post reported:

"Despite some balloons floated by others, Max Cleland told ajc's Political Insider that he definitely will not seek the office of lieutenant governor next year. Wouldn't it have been fun though?"

This weekend I received my August 15 - September 15 issue of James Magazine, and guess what. It notes:

"Insiders say [Max Cleland] has ruled out a run for lieutenant governor, but James thinks otherwise . . ."

That's all its says, and now you know what I know.

Cathy Cox Comments on Perdue's Plan for School Closings on Monday & Tuesday.

From 11 Alive:

Democratic candidate for governor Cathy Cox released the following statement about Sonny Perdue’s surprise announcement at 4 p.m. on a Friday afternoon that schools would be closed across the state on Monday and Tuesday. Perdue’s announcement was made after schools closed and most children, teachers, and administrators had gone home.

“Clearly, the Governor didn't consider the impact of this stunt on working Georgians. He must not realize how much Georgia families will have to spend for last-minute child care alternatives for their children on Monday and Tuesday. What was he thinking?”

“Parents, teachers and principals across Georgia just had their lives thrown into chaos. With no warning or offer of assistance, Perdue is forcing parents to find childcare or take days off work. Schools are scrambling to get the word out about Perdue’s stunt late on a Friday afternoon because he didn’t show steady leadership.”

“We needed calm, level-headed, common sense in the Governor’s office but it was nowhere to be seen today. Sonny Perdue is just plain out of touch.”

The Gulf Will Rise Again.

The Gulf Will Rise Again

By John Grisham

ON Aug. 17, 1969, Hurricane Camille roared onto the Gulf Coast with winds of more than 200 miles an hour, only the second Category 5 storm to hit the mainland United States. It killed 143 people in Mississippi, and 201 more in flooding in central Virginia.

Over the years, Hurricane Camille's legend grew, and it was not uncommon when I was a child and student in Mississippi to hear horrific tales from coast residents who had survived it. I myself was sleeping in a Boy Scout pup tent 200 miles inland when the storm swept through. Our losses were minimal - the tents, sleeping bags, some food - but over time I managed to spice up the adventure and add a little danger to it.

For almost 40 years, it was a well-established belief that the Gulf Coast had taken nature's mightiest blow, picked itself up, learned some lessons and survived rather well. There could simply never be another storm like Hurricane Camille.

After walking the flattened streets of Biloxi, though, I suspect that Hurricane Camille will soon be downgraded to an April shower. The devastation from Hurricane Katrina, a storm surge 80 miles wide and close to 30 feet high, is incomprehensible. North from the beach for a half a mile, virtually every house has been reduced to kindling and debris. At least 100,000 people in Jackson County - poor, middle-class, wealthy - are homeless.

I search for a friend's home, a grand old place with a long wide porch where we'd sit and gaze at the ocean, and find nothing but rubble. Mary Mahoney's, the venerable French restaurant and my favorite place to eat on the coast, is standing, but gutted. It's built of stone and survived many storms but had seen nothing like Hurricane Katrina.

Even without Hurricane Rita chewing its way across the region, the notion of starting again is nearly impossible to grasp. Some areas will have no electricity for months. The schools, churches, libraries and offices lucky enough to be standing can't open for weeks. Those not standing will be scooped up in the rubble, then rebuilt. But where, and at what cost?

So much has disappeared - highways, streets, bridges, treatment plants, docks, ports. The next seafood harvest is years away, and the shrimpers have lost their boats. The bustling casino business - 14,000 jobs and $500,000 a day in tax revenues - will be closed for months and may take years to recover. Lawyer friends of mine lost not only their homes and offices, but their records and their courthouses.

At least half of the homes and businesses destroyed were not insured against flood losses. For decades, developers, builders, real estate and insurance agents have been telling people: "Don't worry, Camille didn't touch this area. It'll never flood." This advice was not ill intentioned; it simply reflected what most people believed. Now, those who listened to it and built anyway are facing bankruptcy.

As dark as these days are, though, there is hope. It doesn't come from handouts or legislation, and it certainly doesn't come from speeches promising rosy days ahead. Folks dependent on donated groceries are completely unmoved by campaign-style predictions of a glorious future. It's much too early for such talk.

Hope here comes from the people and their remarkable belief that, if we all stick together, we'll survive. The residents of the Gulf Coast have an enormous pride in their ability to take a punch, even a knockout blow, and stagger gamely back into the center of the ring. Their parents survived Camille, and Betsy and Frederic, and they are determined to get the best of this latest legend.

Those who've lost everything have nothing to give but their courage and sweat, and there is an abundance of both along the coast these days. At a school in the small town of De Lisle, the superintendent, who's living in the parking lot, gives a quick tour of the gymnasium, which is now a makeshift food dispensary where everything is free and volunteers hurriedly unpack supplies. Two nearby schools have vanished, so in three weeks she plans to open doors to any student who can get to her school.

Temporary trailers have been ordered and she hopes they're on the way. Ninety-five percent of her teachers are homeless but nonetheless eager to return to the classrooms.

Though she is uncertain where she'll find the money to pay the teachers, rent the trailers and buy gas for the buses, she and her staff are excited about reopening. It's important for her students to touch and feel something normal. She's lost her home, but her primary concern is for the children. "Could you send us some books?" she asks me. Choking back tears, my wife and I say, "Yes, we certainly could."

Normalcy is the key, and the people cling to anything that's familiar - the school, a church, a routine, but especially to one another. Flying low in a Black Hawk over the devastated beach towns, the National Guard general who is our host says, "What this place needs is a good football game." And he's right. It's Friday, and a few lucky schools are gearing up for the big games, all of which have been rescheduled out of town. Signs of normal life are slowly emerging.

The task of rebuilding is monumental and disheartening to the outsider. But to the battle-scarred survivors of the Gulf Coast, today is better than yesterday, and tomorrow something good will happen.

When William Faulkner accepted the Nobel Prize in 1950, he said, in part: "I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion, sacrifice and endurance."

Today, Faulkner would find in his native state a resilient spirit that is amazing to behold. The people here will sacrifice and give and give until one day this storm will be behind them, and they will look back, like their parents and grandparents, and quietly say, "We prevailed."

John Grisham is the author, most recently, of "The Broker."

From The New York Times.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

President Struggles to Regain His Pre-Hurricane Swagger.

The Washington Post reports:

President Bush flew here ahead of Hurricane Rita on Friday to show command of a federal disaster response effort that even supporters acknowledge he fumbled three weeks ago.

The president said he wanted to see the emergency response system from the ground floor at U.S. Northern Command headquarters. "I need to understand how it works better," he told reporters before leaving Washington. But Bush was also embarking on a broader, and possibly more important, mission: restoring strength and confidence in his presidency.

A president who roamed across the national and world stages with an unshakable self-assurance that comforted Republicans and confounded critics since 2001 suddenly finds himself struggling to reclaim his swagger.

Bush's standing with the public -- and within the Republican Party -- has been battered by a failed Social Security campaign, violence in Iraq, and most recently Hurricane Katrina. His approval ratings, 42 percent in the most recent Washington Post-ABC poll, have never been lower.

A president who normally thrives on tough talk and self-assurance finds himself at what aides privately describe as a low point in office, one that is changing the psychic and political aura of the White House, as well as its distinctive political approach.

In small, sometimes subtle but unmistakable ways, the president and top aides sound less certain, more conciliatory and willing to do something they avoided in the first term: admit mistakes. After bulling through crisis after crisis with a "bring 'em on" brashness, a more solemn Bush now has twice taken responsibility for the much-criticized response to Hurricane Katrina.

Aides who never betrayed self-doubt now talk in private of failures selling the American people on the Iraq war, the president's Social Security plan and his response to Hurricane Katrina. The president who once told the United Nations it would drift into irrelevancy if it did not back the invasion of Iraq last week praised the world body and said the world works better "when we act together." A White House team that operated on its terms since 2000 is reaching to outside experts for answers like never before.

"I think they are showing a greater willingness to look for new suggestions, new ideas, new approaches than at any time in the presidency," said former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). "I think they realize the larger system has failed: They are not where they want to be on Iraq; the first week after Katrina was an absolute failure."

David Gergen, who has advised Republican and Democratic presidents going back to the 1970s, said that "there is no question [Bush and his advisers] changed their tone. . . . That is a chastened White House talking."

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Katrina's Cost May Test GOP Harmony; Some Want Bush To Give Details on How U.S. Will Pay.

The Washington Post reports:

Congressional Republicans from across the ideological spectrum yesterday rejected the White House's open-wallet approach to rebuilding the Gulf Coast, a sign that the lockstep GOP discipline that George W. Bush has enjoyed for most of his presidency is eroding on Capitol Hill.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Clinton Levels Sharp Criticism at the President's Relief Effort.

The New York Times reports:

Former President Bill Clinton, asked by President Bush to help raise money for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, offered harsh criticism of the administration's disaster-relief effort on Sunday, saying "you can't have an emergency plan that works if it only affects middle-class people up."

"This is a matter of public policy," he said. "And whether it's race-based or not, if you give your tax cuts to the rich and hope everything works out all right, and poverty goes up and it disproportionately affects black and brown people, that's a consequence of the action made. That's what they did in the 80's; that's what they've done in this decade. In the middle, we had a different policy."

Warning that public confidence in the nation's election system is flagging, Carter-Baker panel will call for photo IDs, trails & impartial oversight.

The Washington Post reports:

Warning that public confidence in the nation's election system is flagging, a commission headed by former president Jimmy Carter and former secretary of state James A. Baker III today will call for significant changes in how Americans vote, including photo IDs for all voters, verifiable paper trails for electronic voting machines and impartial administration of elections.

The report concludes that, despite changes required under the Help America Vote Act of 2002, far more must be done to restore integrity to an election system that suffers from sloppy management, treats voters differently not only from state to state but also within states, and that too often frustrates rather than encourages voters' efforts to participate in what is considered a basic American right.

The New York Times reports:

[The panel is proposing] that Congress require the political parties to hold four regional presidential primaries in election years rather than allowing states to hold primaries whenever they wish.

[In this connection, i]n presidential election years, after the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primaries, the other states should hold regional primaries and caucuses at monthly intervals in March, April, May and June, with the order rotated.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Some Democratic Party leaders think they stand a good chance of returning the office of state school superintendent to their fold if . . . .

This week Bill Shipp writes:

Eleven years later: Some Democratic Party leaders think they stand a good chance of returning the office of state school superintendent to their fold - if they can find a suitable high-profile candidate.

A Republican has led the state Education Department since 1994, when Linda Schrenko shocked the Georgia political landscape to become the first woman elected statewide. She ran on a platform of significantly improving Georgia's SAT scores.

This year, Georgia is tied with South Carolina for the lowest in SAT scores. Schrenko is awaiting trial on charges of stealing more than $600,000 in federal education funds.

Her successor as superintendent, Kathy Cox, is best known for flirting with putting intelligent design into the state's science curriculum. She is about to propose a single high school diploma program (to replace the present three options) that expert observers believe will "dumb down" Georgia's already unchallenging high school curriculum.

Kathy Cox also stood by in silence while Perdue whacked nearly $1 billion from the state education budget and junked nearly all the education reforms instituted by his predecessor, Gov. Roy Barnes.

State Rep. Kathy (yes, another Kathy) Ashe, D-Atlanta, has been rumored as a possible candidate against school chief Cox. However, Ashe's big-city connections are seen as a major liability to her candidacy. At least one creative Democrat has suggested that Barnes might restore his political career by running for school superintendent. Barnes has shown no interest.

P.S.: Kathy Cox's greatest political asset may be her name. Voters confuse the reticent and sometimes tentative GOP Superintendent Kathy Cox with Democratic Secretary of State Cathy Cox, a well-known candidate for governor with a high approval rating.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

This Year, Bush Takes a Different Tone With the U.N. - A gentler and kinder Bush?

The Washington Post reports that the President's speech to the General Assembly on Wednesday avoided the confrontational style he has used in years past.

House Favors Expanding Hate Crime Law to Protect Gays.

The Washington Post reports:

Sex offenders who prey on children would be subject to stringent monitoring requirements and face new mandatory penalties under a bill, passed by the House, that was expanded to include protections for gay men and lesbians under federal hate crime law.

Under current law, the federal government assists local and state authorities prosecuting limited types of crimes based on the victim's race, religion or ethnic background.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Bill Shipp: A refugee is a person seeking refuge.

Bill Shipp writes:

The right word: A refugee is a person seeking refuge. That person may be female or male, white or nonwhite, old, young or middle-age. Refugee is not a racist or racial word. It is a word of desperation.

In the midst of last week's Katrina-created chaos, Jesse Jackson, self-anointed black leader, decided to lecture victims and their caregivers on English usage. "It is racist to call American citizens refugees," Jackson asserted.

Not wanting to be excluded from the latest politically correct trend, several writers and professors chimed in. They said Jackson was right. Refugee was a bad word.

Of the major-league arbiters of English, only New York Times language columnist William Safire dared go against the flow. He said "refugee" carried no racial connotation.

While hundreds of corpses floated in the floodwaters of New Orleans and thousands of, yes, refugees streamed out of the city probably never to return, Jesse Jackson spoke on semantics.

Jackson seems never to have heard of World War II, and the millions of displaced persons - DPs, they were called at the time - left homeless and hungry in Europe first by the Nazis and then by the Soviets.

Too bad he had never heard how the United States welcomed many of those refugees to its shores and gave them a better life - under the aegis of the Eisenhower Refugee Relief Act. Today, we know scores of Americans who are "refugee" survivors and proud of it.

Bill Shipp's reaction to Cathy Cox's move with respect to EMILY's List funds.

Bill Shipp writes:

The stigma of EMILY: Secretary of State Cathy Cox's decision to refuse to accept contributions from the liberal Democratic-oriented EMILY's List probably cost her governor's campaign a bundle. Her brain trust says she had no choice.

Otherwise, with EMILY's List cash on her disclosure report, Cox would have faced a barrage of charges that she is a national, pro-choice Democrat who wants to be governor. Says a spokesman for Cox: "Turning down this money makes it much harder for (her adversaries) to distort this small-town girl from Bainbridge into some wild-eyed character. Cathy's agenda isn't to change the abortion laws or anything else like that. It's to get in office, take on the good-old-boy politics and make our government work for all Georgians. Taking this money would have become a distraction that our opponents would use to deflect from their own shortcomings and records of good-old-boy insider politics. We won't let that happen."

White House works on several fronts to move beyond the improvisation of the first days of the crisis.

The Washington Post reports:

President Bush yesterday said he takes personal responsibility for the federal government's stumbling response to Hurricane Katrina, as his White House worked on several fronts to move beyond the improvisation of the first days of the crisis and set a long-term course on a problem that aides now believe will shadow the balance of Bush's second term.

Bush already has dispatched his top strategist, Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, and other aides to assemble ideas from agencies, conservative think tanks, GOP lawmakers and state officials to guide the rebuilding of New Orleans and relocation of flood victims. The idea, aides said, is twofold: provide a quick federal response that comports with Bush's governing philosophy, and prevent Katrina from swamping his second-term ambitions on Social Security, taxes and Middle East democracy-building.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

In a recent InsiderAdvantage/Majority Opinion poll, Georgians were asked their opinion of some prominent political figures.

Sonny Perdue
Favorable - 59 percent
Unfavorable - 24 percent
No Opinion - 17 percent

Cathy Cox
Favorable - 53 percent
Unfavorable - 15 percent
No Opinion - 32 percent

Mark Taylor
Favorable - 35 percent
Unfavorable - 19 percent
No Opinion - 46 percent

Ralph Reed
Favorable - 16 percent
Unfavorable - 19 percent
No Opinion - 65 percent

When it rains it pours - Hurricane may end up costing La. a House seat.

The Hill reports:

The mass evacuation of coastal Louisiana triggered by Hurricane Katrina will likely cost the state one of its House seats, according to election officials.

Even before the devastating storm ripped through the Gulf Coast, Louisiana officials said their representation in Congress was in doubt.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Katrina Pushes Issues of Race and Poverty at Bush.

The Washington Post reports:

Hurricane Katrina has thrust the twin issues of race and poverty at President Bush, who faces steep challenges in dealing with both because of a domestic agenda that envisions deep cuts in long-standing anti-poverty programs and relationships with many black leaders frayed by years of mutual suspicion.

In the storm's aftermath, the White House has been scrambling to quell perceptions that race was a factor in the slow federal response to Katrina and that its policies have contributed to the festering poverty propelled into public view by the disaster.

Whatever approach the administration takes as it moves forward, any Katrina-inspired increase in federal outlays to alleviate poverty would represent a sharp turn for an administration that has moved to reshape government by reducing outlays for social programs by encouraging individual ownership of -- and responsibility for -- everything from housing to health care and retirement accounts. Meanwhile, White House budget makers have projected deep cuts in traditional poverty programs, including food stamps and public housing.

But the calamity spawned by New Orleans has placed Bush under new pressure. A poll last week by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that two-thirds of African Americans believe the government's response to the storm would have been faster if most of the victims had been white. Also, 71 percent of blacks agree that the disaster revealed that racial inequality remains a major problem in the country -- a sentiment shared by 32 percent of whites.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The price of poker has just gone up. - Cathy Cox to refuse EMILY's List funds.

When Cathy Cox announced her candidacy in late December, Rick Dent of the Mark Taylor camp reported that Cox was courting financial support from EMILY's List, one of the nation's largest PAC's that seeks to elect pro-choice Democratic women candidates.

Dent called EMILY's List "a very liberal special interest group."

Then a couple of months or so ago reports surfaced that EMILY's List will have major say-so in Cox's campaign. Cox's campaign crew vehemently denied such influence.

Today Bill Shipp reported on The Georgia Gang that Cox's campaign would take no funds from EMILY'S List.

This action is gutsy, real gutsy, and it puts my prior comments contained in a December 28, 2004 into a different context. There I wrote:

On a second topic, I especially question why Mr. Dent would want to go after EMILY's list -- a very large and respected grassroots political network that has been around for almost 20 years -- so early and in the press which, of course, is a medium of communication for both sexes.

Women activists in our Party already know the PAC well. Was Mr. Dent hoping to sway them by his comments?

And any hay made with men by such a description "as a very liberal special interest group" might easily be more than offset by alienating some of the female members of our party faithful.

As noted above, Cox acknowledged that she has spoken with EMILY's List but said she has received no endorsement. Was she being defensive with the "but" part. Maybe, but she shouldn't have been.

Will Cathy make EMILY's List recommended candidates list? Does a cat have climbing gear? Will it help her or hurt her? The former, no question about it, and she would seek and get the endorsement of this group even if she had Taylor's bankroll already lined up.

Katrina Darkens the Outlook for Incumbents. Public Dismay Could Shape 2006 Elections.

The Washington Post reports in an article worth your while:

Hurricane Katrina has the potential to foment change in Washington like the terrorist strikes did four years ago, altering the government's priorities for the foreseeable future and darkening the mood of an electorate that was already anxious before the storm hit shore, according to lawmakers, pollsters and strategists from both parties.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Charles Dickens: “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” He could have been talking about us.

Dick Yarbrough writes:

To quote Charles Dickens: “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” He could have been talking about us. We have certainly been through the worst of times. If there is anything worse than the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, I’ll pass, thank you.

Here we are at the fourth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and all those bad memories, and now Mother Nature deals us a blow unlike anything we have ever experienced. Death and destruction on a scale that is unimaginable. Homes and businesses totally wiped out. An entire city gone. A friend of mine showed me a note from an acquaintance of his in Louisiana, who says the state’s Supreme Court was underwater, along with all of its legal documents. Think of the complications that will present.

We have made the worst of times even worse with all the finger-pointing and second-guessing over the government’s response to the aftermath of Katrina. Yes, the federal government was slow to respond, and, yes, the president dithered at his ranch too long. Neither the mayor of New Orleans nor the governor of Louisiana have exactly covered themselves in glory, either. Where is Rudy Giuliani when you need him?

Shame on the black politicians who have played the race cards. I am particularly embarrassed that my old friend, Rep. David Scott, of Georgia’s 13th District, joined with our Ambassador to Outer Space Cynthia McKinney and charged that if those had been white faces staring back at us on television, we would have responded quicker. “Prove me wrong,” he says.

No, Rep. Scott, you prove it correct. That is a serious charge you make and it smacks of racism of the worst type. I never thought I would see you pander like that. Leave the race-baiting to McKinney. It’s her only talent.

We made the worst of times even worse here in Georgia when we allowed the news media to panic us into thinking there would be no more gas available. (If the potential gas shortage slowed anybody down to anywhere near normal speeds on the interstate highways over the past couple of weeks, I missed it.) Some service stations took the advantage of the rumors to raise prices to as much as $6 a gallon. Gov. Sonny Perdue has promised to take names and kick fannies. I would suggest stringing them up by their toenails.

Then, there are the best of times. Money is pouring into relief efforts from every source imaginable: churches, civic clubs, businesses, actors, athletes, entertainers and plain old everyday citizens. Now, miracle of miracles, even some foreign governments are offering their help. Volunteers are going to Louisiana and Mississippi to give assistance. In Georgia, people have greeted evacuees with open arms, taking them into our hospitals, our nursing homes, our schools and our residences. Even the government seems to have gotten its act together and is beginning to make some headway in getting order re-established.

Groups are vowing to go to the hardest hit places and help rebuild. My own church has committed to going to Mississippi and helping build new churches. I hope to be a part of that effort. I should be a great asset. After all, I was elected Latrine Digger First Class in Honduras. I am a rare and vanishing breed.

President Bush has said that the recovery is going to take years. That is a little scary, because I know of our short attention span. The temptation will be to inure ourselves to the stories and the pictures of the devastation, and to begin to complain about the inconvenience it has caused us. Please don’t let that happen. Remember, there is no time limit on doing good deeds.

My friend and mentor, the late Jasper Dorsey, said the only reason that we are on this earth—the only reason—is to leave this world better than we found it. Hurricane Katrina has given us the perfect opportunity to do that. Together, we can make the worst of times, the best of times. Charles Dickens thanks you. I do, too.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

If Mr. Bush goes back to his politics as usual, he'll be thwarted at every turn. Katrina will have destroyed a city and a presidency.

Osama and Katrina

By Thomas L. Friedman
The New York Times

On the day after 9/11, I was in Jerusalem and was interviewed by Israeli TV. The reporter asked me, "Do you think the Bush administration is up to responding to this attack?" As best I can recall, I answered: "Absolutely. One thing I can assure you about these guys is that they know how to pull the trigger."

It was just a gut reaction that George Bush and Dick Cheney were the right guys to deal with Osama. I was not alone in that feeling, and as a result, Mr. Bush got a mandate, almost a blank check, to rule from 9/11 that he never really earned at the polls. Unfortunately, he used that mandate not simply to confront the terrorists but to take a radically uncompassionate conservative agenda - on taxes, stem cells, the environment and foreign treaties - that was going nowhere before 9/11, and drive it into a post-9/11 world. In that sense, 9/11 distorted our politics and society.

Well, if 9/11 is one bookend of the Bush administration, Katrina may be the other. If 9/11 put the wind at President Bush's back, Katrina's put the wind in his face. If the Bush-Cheney team seemed to be the right guys to deal with Osama, they seem exactly the wrong guys to deal with Katrina - and all the rot and misplaced priorities it's exposed here at home.

These are people so much better at inflicting pain than feeling it, so much better at taking things apart than putting them together, so much better at defending "intelligent design" as a theology than practicing it as a policy.

For instance, it's unavoidably obvious that we need a real policy of energy conservation. But President Bush can barely choke out the word "conservation." And can you imagine Mr. Cheney, who has already denounced conservation as a "personal virtue" irrelevant to national policy, now leading such a campaign or confronting oil companies for price gouging?

And then there are the president's standard lines: "It's not the government's money; it's your money," and, "One of the last things that we need to do to this economy is to take money out of your pocket and fuel government." Maybe Mr. Bush will now also tell us: "It's not the government's hurricane - it's your hurricane."

An administration whose tax policy has been dominated by the toweringly selfish Grover Norquist - who has been quoted as saying: "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub" - doesn't have the instincts for this moment. Mr. Norquist is the only person about whom I would say this: I hope he owns property around the New Orleans levee that was never properly finished because of a lack of tax dollars. I hope his basement got flooded. And I hope that he was busy drowning government in his bathtub when the levee broke and that he had to wait for a U.S. Army helicopter to get out of town.

The Bush team has engaged in a tax giveaway since 9/11 that has had one underlying assumption: There will never be another rainy day. Just spend money. You knew that sooner or later there would be a rainy day, but Karl Rove has assumed it wouldn't happen on Mr. Bush's watch - that someone else would have to clean it up. Well, it did happen on his watch.

Besides ripping away the roofs of New Orleans, Katrina ripped away the argument that we can cut taxes, properly educate our kids, compete with India and China, succeed in Iraq, keep improving the U.S. infrastructure, and take care of a catastrophic emergency - without putting ourselves totally into the debt of Beijing.

So many of the things the Bush team has ignored or distorted under the guise of fighting Osama were exposed by Katrina: its refusal to impose a gasoline tax after 9/11, which would have begun to shift our economy much sooner to more fuel-efficient cars, helped raise money for a rainy day and eased our dependence on the world's worst regimes for energy; its refusal to develop some form of national health care to cover the 40 million uninsured; and its insistence on cutting more taxes, even when that has contributed to incomplete levees and too small an Army to deal with Katrina, Osama and Saddam at the same time.

As my Democratic entrepreneur friend Joel Hyatt once remarked, the Bush team's philosophy since 9/11 has been: "We're at war. Let's party."

Well, the party is over. If Mr. Bush learns the lessons of Katrina, he has a chance to replace his 9/11 mandate with something new and relevant. If that happens, Katrina will have destroyed New Orleans, but helped to restore America. If Mr. Bush goes back to his politics as usual, he'll be thwarted at every turn. Katrina will have destroyed a city and a presidency.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

What I object to is being told that all Democrats must embrace these things as the party's core values . . . .

On August 21, 2005, I did a post entitled "Democrats struggle with cultural divide. Study: Party fails to project moral values." Just yesterday a comment was made to this post that is set forth below since otherwise you would probably miss it given the lapse in time:

I consider myself to be an "old school" Democrat. I believe in unions, Social Security, the New Deal legacy and racial equality. For the past 25 years, I have watched the tremendous harm done by deregulation and tax cuts. We have seen organized labor weaken and a loss of opportunities for lower income Americans. While Bush and the Republicans are losing credibility over Iraq and the handling of the economy, I question if there is any real hope of reversing 25 years of "trickle down" economics as long as Democrats fail to connect with mainstream Middle American values. Democrats need to do so if there is any hope of building a solid Democratic majority that can effectively govern.

Supporting organized labor is a mainstream Democratic belief. Social Security and Medicare are mainstream. A social safety net which everyone must recognize in the aftermath of Katrina as quite important is mainstream. Civil rights is mainstream and some may disagree but even some affirmative action programs are in my view, mainstream, although I do not like to see rigid racial quotas for hiring and colleges admissions. I do recognize that African Americans were oppressed and denied educational opportunities. We should all be concerned when any segment of the population lags behind in education and economic opportunities.

What is not mainstream in my view is how some socially liberal Democratic activists have attempted to define absolute abortion rights, gay marriage or civil unions with the equivalent benefits of marrriage and gun control as the core values of the Democratic Party. Most of these social liberal activists are far more passionate about defending late term abortion or advocating gay marriage than pushing for an increase in the minimum wage or expanding access to health care. The social liberal activist have produced an environment within the Democratic Party that is so self destructive and politically correct it is almost impossible to develop strong leadership and even communicate with mainstream America. That is the kind of liberalism that I object to - not traditional New Deal liberalism which is still very much in the mainstream. In fact, it is the social liberal activists which have moved us away from our traditions of representing the common person.

I have no problem with anyone's belief in favor of abortion rights, gay marriage or gun control. What I object to is being told that all Democrats must embrace these things as the party's core values - something that is equivalent to a suicide pact for the party and a free pass for big business Republicans to rule America for at least another generation.


Thursday, September 01, 2005

Can America marshal the resources to fight battles in Iraq and rebuild the Gulf Coast? A political storm is brewing.

War on the Mississippi
Can America marshal the resources to fight battles in Iraq and rebuild the Gulf Coast? A political storm is brewing.

By Howard Fineman

For years the Pentagon’s standing readiness plans required the country to be able to fight two major wars simultaneously. But no one anticipated what we face now: a war in Mesopotamia and another along the Mississippi.

We have journalist Malcolm Gladwell to thank for the idea that every social phenomenon has a dramatic “tipping point.” It doesn’t always work that way. And yet Hurricane Katrina is just such a moment. We are a big, strong country—and New Orleans will, somehow, survive—but you do get the sense, as President Bush finally arrived here after a monthlong vacation, that a political hurricane is gathering force, and it’s going to hit the capital any day.

As we approach the fourth anniversary of 9/11, Americans are facing a different anguish from a different, but no less iconic city. New Yorkers, on behalf of the rest of us, absorbed Al Qaeda’s attack and came back stronger than ever. We begin the fifth year of a “war against terror” that has brought some gains, but has cost 2,000 lives and half a trillion dollars—and there is no end in sight.

And now: the Storm and the Flood, which have inundated the Gulf Coast in deadly water. This is, literally, an invasion of the homeland, and it will require a warlike response from a nation and a military already stretched thin. National Guard officials insist that they have enough men and women on hand to do the job, but common sense tells you that they could use the others stationed abroad. The U.S. Navy is dispatching supply ships to the region, but battling the waters that cover the region will require many more resources.

Andy Jackson won the Battle of New Orleans. Will George Bush? His poll numbers already at near-record low levels, he will have to oversee the rescue of the gulf in the midst of a changing climate in Washington. The public’s sense of where America is headed—the “right direction/wrong track” numbers—are dismal. Gas prices are high and unsettling. Congressional Democrats, reluctant since 9/11 to take on a “war president,” finally have decided to do so. And Republicans, knowing that they’ll be facing the voters a year from now, are beginning to seek ways to distance themselves from him.

This president doesn’t need Karl Rove to explain the political importance of disaster relief. It’s something Bush responds to naturally, and he knows the risks of seeming to be an insensitive, to-the-manner-born president. When hurricanes hit Florida before the last election, he and his brother, Jeb, were on the case, Big Time. Now three Red States are hit, hard, and the challenge is likely to be much greater.

Meanwhile, he will have to preside over yet another 9/11 anniversary, this one coming at a time when most Americans have decided that the war in Iraq shouldn’t have been fought and that it hasn’t made us safer at home. Bush will face calls not only for the release of more oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, but for a wholesale consideration of his energy and environmental policies.

And just after Labor Day, hearings will start in the Judiciary Committee on the nomination of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. Expect the Democrats to drop their caution and go after him with all they’ve got. They’re coming to the conclusion that they have nothing to lose, and they are being pushed in that combative direction by a grass-roots base furious at the congressional party for not having taken a tougher line against the president months if not years ago.

But now they sense blood in the rising water.

Shipp: Is the improvement of education a dead issue in Georgia?

This week Bill Shipp writes in part:

Education improvement has gone out of style as a political issue, right at a time when it really hurts.

Just a few years back, upgrading education was the No. 1 plank in nearly every governor's platform. An enlightened business community formed committees of chief executives to recommend increases in the quality of learning and create a better-educated workforce. Magnet schools, junior colleges and adult literacy classes sprang up across the state. "Education reform" was on every public agenda, from the White House to the statehouse.

Then the lights went out in the schoolhouse. The 9/11 terrorists might be partly to be blame. Until 9/11, President Bush had made improving schools a national priority. He seemed destined to be an accomplished domestic-issues president.

On a single morning early in his first term, Bush's "No Child Left Behind" program turned into just another unfunded, back-burner mandate. The president had wars to fight. Besides, educators despised the accountability aspects of NCLB.

A year later, Georgians elected a governor who promised to scrap his predecessor's school reform. Business leaders' enthusiasm waned. Thanks to computers and the Internet, big corporations could hire cheaper and better-trained laborers in Shanghai, China or New Delhi, India than in, say, Hahira or Crawfordville. So why sweat trying to develop smarter workers in the Peach State?

In the past three years, Georgia has fallen nearly $1 billion short of its commitment to public schools. Also, the University System of Georgia has been stripped of more than $700 million.

Gov. Sonny Perdue is making speeches at church-sited Republican rallies promising to use lottery money for programs other than HOPE scholarships and prekindergarten classes. As usual, Perdue has been short on details, but it's not hard to guess where the advocate of "faith-based" programs plans to put more state dollars from gambling.

House Majority Leader Jerry Keen, R-St. Simons, is pushing a regressive sales tax increase to replace property taxes as a means of financing public schools. Some heavily taxed businesses are pleased, though Georgia enjoys some of the lowest property taxes in the nation. Also, sales taxes are an unstable source of revenue, at best.

The University of Georgia reports a record year for fundraising. A close inspection of the books reveals, however, that the lion's share of contributions came from the athletics department's additional assessments for ballgame tickets - and a nationally ranked football team. Donations for knowledge enrichment lagged.

Public opinion pollsters report that "education improvement" remains a top concern of Georgia voters, though no one seems to know the precise meaning of that phrase. None of the experts can say for sure whether pollsters are getting disingenuous responses or heartfelt answers.

If the latter is true, Georgia might need a different sort of leadership.