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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.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

This is, after all, the first federal election in the nation since the Democratic takeover of Congress in November 2006.

From the AJC's Political Insider:

[P]olitical strategists are obsessed with . . . whether Iraq can trounce immigration. Or vice-versa.

Within the next seven weeks, Georgia could supply the answer.

The two issues that have whipped and split the nation will converge on conservative east Georgia, where 10 candidates are engaged in a special election to fill the vacancy created by the death of U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-Augusta).

The immigration issue is already stirring the pot.

[T]here was talk of [former state senator Jim] Whitehead taking the June 19 contest without a run-off. Mathematically improbable to begin with, that goal was rendered politically impossible two weeks ago.

That’s when U.S. senators in Washington unveiled their bipartisan proposal for immigration reform.

Whitehead, who has made illegal immigration his signature issue, quickly condemned the bill. But that’s not his problem.

Suddenly, running as the establishment Republican candidate, while still packed with financial benefits, doesn’t have all the shine that it had two months ago.

Which brings us to James Marlow of Lincolnton, one of three Democratic candidates in the race. Contrary to many expectations, Marlow has been able to consolidate most Democrats around his candidacy by focusing on one issue: Iraq.

Even key Republicans say they expect a significant anti-Iraq vote out of Athens to hand Marlow the second run-off spot. Despite the fact that the 10th District lists heavily Republican, Marlow hopes a strong showing could persuade Democrats in Washington make a four-week investment in a two-man contest.

Maybe Pres. Bush's decision to visit Georgia to push the need for comprehensive immigration reform should not come as a surprise.

We probably should not be surprised that Pres. Bush is beginning his push for the need for immigration reform here in Georgia. After all, although Hispanics are the fastest growing segment of the population -- accounting for 13% of the U.S. population -- and now live in nearly every corner of the country, the greatest growth has been in Georgia and North Carolina.

Nor should the site of his visit surprise us -- the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Brunswick. This Federal Law Enforcement Training Center facility trains agents who protect the nation's borders and who deal with illegal immigrants (other than the one in Brunswick, two others do the same thing, one in Artesia, N.M. and a third in Charleston, S.C.).

Although our Congressman Rep. Jack Kingston won't accompany the President to Brunswick, he said last week about the President and the legislation: "I'm glad that he is moving immigration along. I think it's important legislation and I appreciate his leadership on it."

Kingston, as did Sen. Johnny Isakson, said he had another commitment and would not attend. Only Sen. Saxby Chambliss will accompany the President to Brunswick.

Both Isakson and Chambliss participated with a bipartisan group that shaped a compromise on the immigration bill being considered in the U.S. Senate.

(See The Brunswick News, The Georgia Times-Union, Newsweek and The Hill.)

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Another poll on immigration: Let Them Stay, But Get Tough

A 5-25-07 post had the results of a New York Times/CBS News poll.

TIME has just published another poll. TIME notes:

A TIME poll conducted last week suggests broad support for a policy makeover. Of those surveyed, 82% said they believe the government is not doing enough to keep illegal immigrants out of the country, and a large majority (75%) would deny them government services such as health care and food stamps. Half (51%) said children who are here illegally shouldn't be allowed to attend public schools. But only 1 in 4 would support making it a felony to be in the U.S. illegally . . . . Rather than expel illegal immigrants from the country, more than three-quarters of those polled (78%) favored allowing citizenship for those who are already here, if they have a job, demonstrate proficiency in English and pay their taxes.

The complicated mess we have with illegal immigration and how to solve the problem -- More on the 1986 legislation.

A 5-25-07 post noted:

If you grant legal status to those here illegally without first securing the border, millions more will flood into our country illegally. That's exactly what happened with the flawed immigration law that was passed in 1986, and our country has been paying the price ever since.

TIME said this about the 1986 legislation:

[T]he failed amnesty of 1986 [is] widely viewed as the genesis of the current crisis. The moment newly legalized farmworkers realized they had better options, they left for the cities instead of staying in low-paying agriculture jobs. Their exodus from the fields opened the door to an even larger wave of illegal immigration.

And another article in TIME gives us these details about the legislation:

The immigration overhaul in 1986 was supposed to have fixed the root problem of an uncontrolled influx by making it illegal for U.S. employers to hire undocumented workers and offering an amnesty to illegal immigrants who had been here for five years at that point. Instead, the best estimates suggest that since then, the number of illegal immigrants has more than tripled.

The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act made it illegal for employers to knowingly hire undocumented workers and imposed penalties of up to $11,000 for each violation. But lawbreakers are rarely punished. In 2005 the government issued just three notices of intent to fine companies for employing illegal workers, down from 178 in 2000.

It's easy to understand why the idea of an amnesty [sparks] such a negative reaction. The country tried one with the 1986 law. Nearly 3 million people took advantage of it, and the amnesty was followed by an explosion in illegal immigration.

Bush Ignored Spy Agencies’ Prewar Warnings of Iraq Perils

From The Washington Post:

Months before the invasion of Iraq, U.S. intelligence agencies predicted that it would be likely to spark violent sectarian divides and provide al-Qaeda with new opportunities in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a report released yesterday by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Analysts warned that war in Iraq also could provoke Iran to assert its regional influence and "probably would result in a surge of political Islam and increased funding for terrorist groups" in the Muslim world.

The intelligence assessments, made in January 2003 and widely circulated within the Bush administration before the war, said that establishing democracy in Iraq would be "a long, difficult and probably turbulent challenge." The assessments noted that Iraqi political culture was "largely bereft of the social underpinnings" to support democratic development.

Also see an article about this in The New York Times.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama did not help their candidacies by their votes on refusing to fund our troops.

The Senate passed the Iraq and Afghanistan funding bill last night by a vote of 80 to 14; 37 Democrats supported the bill, while 10 opposed it.

Among the 14 senators who voted no were Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

In the House even Rep. John Murtha, chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense, voted in favor of funding our troops.

While antiwar groups had warned lawmakers who supported the spending bill that they could become election targets, I think time will show that Senators Clinton and Obama have hurt their candidacies by their votes. Being opposed to the war is one thing; voting against funding our men and women in uniform is something entirely different.

Perhaps these two let former Sen. John Edwards intimidate them into a vote that will be portrayed as a vote against our troops. They should not have.

Since former Gov. Roy Barnes is in the news today . . . .

Lest we forget, Gov. Roy Barnes made this possible.
("A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step." "The first step is the hardest.")
The above is taken from the Coffee County Democratic Committee Web site.

Statement from Senators Chambliss and Isakson on the immigration bill.

Excerpts from a letter from Senators Chambliss and Isakson published in the AJC:

The United States Senate is debating the most critical domestic issue facing our nation: illegal immigration.

We are seeking to ensure that any reform Congress enacts will truly secure our borders first before any reform of our temporary worker system takes place. If you grant legal status to those here illegally without first securing the border, millions more will flood into our country illegally. That's exactly what happened with the flawed immigration law that was passed in 1986, and our country has been paying the price ever since.

Last year, a Republican-led Senate easily passed a bill to grant legal status to illegal immigrants without securing our nation's borders. We voted against that bill because it would have guaranteed a repeat of 1986, when Congress granted amnesty to 3 million illegal immigrants but failed to secure the border.

We demanded to have a seat at the table in drafting this year's immigration reform legislation to ensure that the new Democratic-controlled Congress wouldn't repeat last year's bill or the failed 1986 Act. We could have chosen to sit on the sidelines and simply complain about the other party, but instead we have fought hard in a difficult political environment to ensure that the principles of our constituents in Georgia are included.

Immigration Bill Provisions Gain Wide Support in Poll

From The New York Times:

As opponents from the right and left challenge an immigration bill before Congress, there is broad support among Americans — Democrats, Republicans and independents alike — for the major provisions in the legislation, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Taking a pragmatic view on a divisive issue, a large majority of Americans want to change the immigration laws to allow illegal immigrants to gain legal status and to create a new guest worker program to meet future labor demands, the poll found.

At the same time, Americans have mixed feelings about whether the recent wave of immigration has been beneficial to the country, the survey found, and they are sharply divided over how open the United States should be to future immigrants.

Half of Americans say they are ready to transform the process for selecting new immigrants as proposed in the bill, giving priority to job skills and education levels over family ties to the United States, which have been the foundation of the immigration system for four decades.

Two-thirds of those polled said illegal immigrants who had a good employment history and no criminal record should gain legal status as the bill proposes, which is by paying at least $5,000 in fines and fees and receiving a renewable four-year visa.

A large majority, 70 percent of respondents, said they believed that illegal immigrants weaken the American economy because they use public services but do not pay corresponding taxes.

Economists have found that many undocumented workers have Social Security and other taxes deducted from their paychecks, and have contributed as much as $7 billion to the Social Security Administration while claiming no benefits because of their illegal status. But Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative group, has reported that low-skilled illegal immigrant families cause an overall fiscal drain.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

New Mexico pollster says about Gov. Bill Richardson: "He’s hard to pigeonhole as being definitely anti-immigration or pro-immigration."

From The New York Times:

Mr. Richardson initially said he would support the immigration compromise announced earlier this week. But on Wednesday, he said that after reading it in detail, he had decided to oppose it, saying the measure placed too great a burden on immigrants — tearing apart families that wanted to settle in the United States, creating a permanent tier of second-class immigrant workers and financing a border fence that Mr. Richardson had long opposed.

Mr. Richardson said he did not want to be pigeonholed as the immigration candidate. . . .

He is the first major Democrat to call explicitly for defeat of the bill in its current form . . . .

Mr. Richardson said he wanted his candidacy to be identified with other issues — an immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq, a national health care program — rather than immigration.

Brian Sanderoff, the head of a New Mexico polling firm, said Mr. Richardson had handled the issue adroitly in New Mexico, presenting himself as both tough and compassionate. . . .

“This is typical Bill Richardson,” he said. “Bill Richardson tends to take a middle of the road empathetic position with an act of toughness with it. That’s Bill. He’s hard to pigeonhole as being definitely anti-immigration or pro-immigration. He’s going to take a middle stance where he’ll seem to have positions on both sides of the fence.”

I am still studying the immigration bill before forming an opinion. But I do think it is encouraging that at least the Senate is trying to do something about this matter on a bipartisan basis. If something cannot be done in a bipartisanship manner, nothing will be done.

That said, I cannot say that I find Gov. Richardson's reasons for being opposed to the bill to be all that compelling. As noted in the above article, Gov. Richardson risks identifying his candidacy with the efforts in Congress to ease strictures against immigrants who are in this country illegally, exposing himself to the strong anti-immigration currents that have been unleashed by this battle.

The Senate legislation is premised on four central tenets: (1) tightening border controls and punishing the employers of illegal immigrants; (2) granting legal status to an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants already in the country; (3) establishing a guest-worker program to give would-be illegal immigrants a legitimate route into the country; and (4) shifting the emphasis of future legal migration away from family reunification and into favoring immigrants with work skills and educations.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Tom Crawford updates us on the Perdue vs. Speaker Richardson feud & writes: "This is a party that looks more and more like a dysfunctional family."

Tom Crawford of Capitol Impact writes:

Richardson escalated the battle at the GOP convention when he told delegates that he was, in effect, going to take control of the state budget next year. Richardson said he will issue an order to all state agencies that they submit “zero-based” budgets directly to the House of Representatives when the Legislature begins work on the budget. Richardson’s speech, which he made after Perdue had already left the convention center, was a direct challenge to Perdue’s constitutional authority because department heads report to the governor and the governor rolls all of their spending plans into a consolidated state budget that he submits to the Legislature.

Richardson has basically declared that when it comes to setting the budget for state government, he will supersede the governor. That might not sit well with Perdue, who will doubtless instruct agency heads not to send a zero-based budget to the Legislature. Richardson was asked what he would do in that instance. “They’ll get a zero-based budget,” he said coldly. “We’ll do it for them.” Richardson’s comments will set off more battles with Perdue if the governor insists on retaining control of the budget - and Perdue isn’t about to give up one of the most important functions of his office.

Democrats Find Ethics Overhaul Elusive in U.S. House of Representatives

From The New York Times:

House Democratic leaders pushing a promised lobbying overhaul are facing resistance from balky lawmakers and fending off accusations that a prominent member is flouting new ethics rules.

The Democratic leaders were forced to scrap a promise to double the current one-year lobbying ban after lawmakers leave office. Now, they are struggling to pass legislation requiring lobbyists to disclose the campaign contributions they “bundle” — collect and deliver — to lawmakers. Failing to deliver on both measures would endanger similar provisions already passed by the Senate.

Other House rules changes this year appear to have done little to alter business as usual on Capitol Hill. House Democrats voted along party lines on Tuesday to block the censure of one of their most powerful members, Representative John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania. He was accused of violating a new ethics rule that prohibits lawmakers from swapping pork for votes.

Still to come is a long-overdue report by a House committee considering the creation of an independent watchdog to monitor compliance with ethics rules. Democrats say the House is unlikely to endorse the idea, which the Senate has already rejected.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Pres. Bush's former online chief: "Sometimes I wonder if it will take losing the White House for the Republicans to take the Internet more seriously."

From today's The Washington Post article entitled "Online, GOP Is Playing Catch-Up -- Democrats Have Big Edge on Web":

One reason for the disparity between the parties, political insiders say, is that the top Republican candidates are not exciting voters the way the Democratic front-runners are.

But an underlying cause may be the nature of the Republican Party and its traditional discipline -- the antithesis of the often chaotic, bottom-up, user-generated atmosphere of the Internet.

"We've always been a party of staying on message," All said. "It's the Rush Limbaugh model. What Tony Snow says in the White House filters down to talk radio, which makes its way to the blogs."

Peter Leyden, director of the New Politics Institute, a San Francisco-based think tank that in recent months has been advising Democratic members of Congress and their staffs on how to take full advantage of the Web, argues that the culture of Democrats is a much better fit in the Internet world.

"What was once seen as a liability for Democrats and progressives in the past -- they couldn't get 20 people to agree to the same thing, they could never finish anything, they couldn't stay on message -- is now an asset," Leyden said. "All this talking and discussing and fighting energizes everyone, involves everyone, and gets people totally into it."

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Bill Shipp: Thoughtfulness lacking as state grows. The elephant in the room that no one wants to acknowledge, is that Atlanta is already too big.

Bill Shipp writes:

Georgia is the nation's sixth fastest-growing state on a percentage basis and the fourth fastest-growing on a numeric basis. The Peach State population is spiraling upward at an annual rate of nearly 15 percent a year. Close to 40 counties - mostly in north Georgia - exceed the 15 percent growth rate.

More than 1 million people have moved into metro Atlanta since 2000. The pro-growth lobby would be happy to see another million or so new residents jam into metro Atlanta in the next two years.

To keep the river of people running, however, the boundless-growth enthusiasts must find an additional source for water. The water hunt - known innocuously in statehouse circles as interbasin piping - may become the No. 1 issue in next year's General Assembly. Pro-growth lobbyists plan to support bills that would facilitate the transfer of water from the so-called Other Georgia to booming metro Atlanta and north Georgia.

First, when water is taken away from one region to quench the thirst of another, the loser is deprived of economic potential. So the question arises: Why should the less-developed hinterlands give up their chance at prosperity so the greedy Atlanta developers can make another fast buck?

Second, the elephant in the room that no one wants to acknowledge, is that Atlanta is already too big. The "growth lobby" - the chambers of commerce, the Georgia Power Co. and other centers of wealth and expansion - views any discussion of slowing growth as treason.

Never mind that Atlanta already is splitting at the seams. Traffic is constantly snarled, not just on the expressways but on surface streets and neighborhood byways. The air is so polluted that it is making people sick. The influx of new people has put an impossible strain on the schools, health care and public safety. Crime is rampant. Metro Atlanta's jails are overflowing.

Just how are we going to accommodate more growth and still maintain a city that works and produces a quality of life worth living? Perhaps the money guys will wake up shortly and realize they could reap just as much profit by slowing growth and working smarter to make Atlanta livable again - and expanding growth to other areas.

Thanks Mr. Shipp. On our Coffee County Democratic Committee Web site we note:

"Let's Get Both Georgia's on the Move . . . ."


"Douglas, Coffee County, the Capital of the Other Georgia."

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Dick Yarbrough on Speaker Richardson: "When you live by the sword, you die by the sword."

From The Athens Banner-Herald:

You live by the sword, you die by the sword. In my not-so-humble opinion, House Speaker Glenn Richardson, R-Hiram, got badly gored during the recent budget fight in the Georgia General Assembly. He had it coming. He might be King Kong in the House of Representatives, but to a lot of people he comes across as hot-headed and arrogant.

In 2006, at a dinner to recognize the importance of an "independent judiciary," Richardson told the assembled guests that legislators had the power to punish judges with budget cuts if they were unhappy with a court's decision, adding, "Don't make me mad when we're in session."

So much for an independent judiciary. A past president of the group sponsoring the event sent a letter to judges who had attended the dinner apologizing for subjecting them "to such an offensive and inappropriate speech."

Richardson told one Georgia newspaper he thought shutting the public out of economic development decisions wasn't a bad thing, and if voters didn't like the decisions political leaders made, then voters could turn those politicians out of office in the next election. A bill that would have taken economic development matters behind closed doors never saw the light of day in the 2007 session, so we citizens didn't get the chance to test his theory.

Richardson hasn't made many friends on St. Simons Island either, by insisting on his right to build a house on accreted land - which up until now has been an environmental no-no. He has vowed to fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court any decision to stop him. When concerned residents sent the speaker an e-mail asking that he not build on accreted property, pointing out that other beachfront properties were available and that his efforts would invite a lot of media scrutiny, Richardson shot back, "I seldom bow to pressure or threats. More often than not, if I feel that I am correct, and if someone issues a veiled threat to me or my family, I dig in for the long haul." Oh, please. Not the John Wayne thing again.

Now, he's had his head handed to him by Gov. Sonny Perdue and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle over the state budget. John Wayne now is Wayne Newton.

What happened was that the House passed its version of the 2007 supplemental budget bill, which contained more pork than a five-pound bag of sausage. A few hours later, Cagle sauntered over to the speaker's office and told Richardson the Senate was going to gut the House budget of all the local goodies.

Oops! The House then claimed they had been planning for a $142 million tax cut all along. Then another shock: Perdue said he would veto the tax cut because the state's current economic condition wouldn't allow it. His spokesperson, Dan McLagan, said the House was acting like a bunch of kindergartners. (I might be confused on this: It could be that McLagan vetoed the bill and Perdue said all the ugly stuff. I can never remember which one is the governor.)

After having won the battle, the governor "un-vetoed" the budget bill, which sounds like something that only could happen in Georgia politics.

Cagle said the governor had exercised "strong leadership." Richardson said Perdue was showing his "backside," which is a nice way of saying his you-know-what. He later apologized, but old habits are hard to break.

Perdue still is mad at the House, probably because the brouhaha required him to stay late at the office for a change. Cagle came out of the debacle all smiles because he sandbagged his main rival for governor in 2010, and the current governor took the heat. And Richardson?

Well, he was cruising along like a Ferrari on Interstate 95, running the House of Representatives with an iron fist, planning to be governor and then one day live on accreted land at beautiful St. Simons Island.

Now, he is trying to figure how he went from the political penthouse to the outhouse so quickly.

He ought not to be surprised. When you live by the sword, you die by the sword.

As friends and critics sort through the wreckage of Mr. Wolfowitz’s World Bank presidency, they wonder if it was doomed from the outset.

From The New York Times:

[A]s friends and critics sort through the wreckage of Mr. Wolfowitz’s bank career, they wonder if it was doomed from the outset. Supporters say he arrived at the bank . . . from a four-year stint at the Pentagon, where he was an early champion of going to war with Iraq and left bearing its stigma.

[At the World Bank] Mr. Wolfowitz repeated the mistakes he had made at the Pentagon: adopting a single-minded position on certain matters, refusing to entertain alternative views, marginalizing dissenters.

“Wolfowitz unsettled people from the outset,” said Manish Bapna, executive director of the Bank Information Center, an independent watchdog group. “His style was seen as an ad hoc subjective approach to punishing enemies and rewarding friends.”

At the Pentagon, Mr. Wolfowitz began advocating going to war with Iraq just a few days after Sept. 11, 2001, and continued pressing over the next year to oust Saddam Hussein.

His time at the Pentagon was characterized by infighting, especially with the Central Intelligence Agency, which he thought underestimated Iraq as a threat to the United States. He clashed with Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, and others who warned — correctly, it turned out — that the United States would need more forces in Iraq. His vision of democracy in the Arab world also ran aground in Baghdad.

Georgia GOP: Do as we say in our 2002 platform guide “Declaration of a New Georgia”; Not as we do when we control and run the Legislature.

From the AJC's Political Insider:

A particular person was passing out copies of the 2002 “Declaration of a New Georgia” on Saturday [at the state Republican convention]. This was the platform that Republican candidates, including Sonny Perdue, embraced during their campaigns of 2002.

One section of the document was devoted to a condemnation of “billions [spent] on pork barrel programs” included in the mid-year budget “for partisan political purposes.”

Reporters were directed to a particular line item: “$250,000 to construct a fishing area in Burke County.”

Thank goodness we don’t do anything like that anymore.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

House Speaker Richardson, can you help me here with my message to Rudy Giuliani?

I am not a prude nor a Pollyanna, but nonetheless try to keep a halfway clean blog. Once in response to a comment that frequently used the "f" word to a 9-24-04 post, I resisted the temptation to delete the comment but wrote:

This is neither the U.S. Senate floor [you remember Vice President Cheney's words to Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy in 2004; I thought you did] nor a males only pool hall.

Allowing comments to be posted on a blog such as this presumes those posting comments will appreciate the rights of others -- including myself -- to be able to read comments without being subjected to lewd language and inappropriate comments.

This notwithstanding, sometimes a remark evokes a response that does not use words as refined as House Speaker Glenn Richardson's inappropriate comment that referred to Gov. Perdue's "backside."

Tonight I read in the AJC's Political Insider something Giuliani said while in Atlanta earlier today:

His most inflammatory statement yet came when he drew the difference between Republicans and Democrats.

“Republicans are much more willing to be on offense against terrorism,” Giuliani said.

While I respect America's Mayor for what he did post 9-11, my reaction to such trash talk: Rudy Giuliani can kiss my ass, the son of a bitch.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Here's to hoping to see you Thursday evening at the Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner

I will be on the road tomorrow, and thus wanted to say today that I hope to see you Thursday evening at the Georgia World Congress Center.

DPG Chair Jane Kidd has stated:

[T]he Jefferson-Jackson dinner is the DPG's principal fundraising event each year. Our goals for the party this year include a new commitment to create a strong and viable county party in all 159 Georgia counties, and our pledge to run a strong Democrat for every seat - from local offices to U.S. Senate - in 2008. To follow through on these commitments, to bring about a new day for Georgia Democrats, your generous financial support is crucial. I hope that you'll reserve your tickets - or even a table - today.

You can still purchase a ticket at this link.

Jim Butler update on candidacy for U.S. Senate

Thanks to my friend Tom Crawford for letting me know that he posted the following in Capitol Impact on April 19:

Butler's out

Columbus trial lawyer Jim Butler has been often mentioned as a possible Democratic opponent for Republican U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, but Butler says he will not get in the race and instead will focus on supporting a presidential candidate. "I am not going to run in 2008," Butler said in a recent email. "I plan to devote my energies to the Democratic candidate and my law practice."

James Marlow: "I'm proud to be a Democrat."

James Marlow writes in The Athens Banner-Herald:

Unlike my opponent, Jim Whitehead, I believe that the war in Iraq is a critical issue for the people of the 10th District, and my top priority as your congressman will be working to bring our involvement there to an honorable end as quickly as possible.

Sadly, Whitehead seems to be a part of the angry, negative partisan politics that has failed this state and this nation over the last several years, both at the state Capitol in Atlanta and the U.S. Capitol in Washington. With so many critical issues facing us today, the voters of the 10th District deserve a reasoned debate on the issues, not petty name-calling, false charges and angry diatribes. I'm proud to be a Democrat, but I am a common-sense one who will always put the interests of the people in the 10th District and the nation ahead of partisanship.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Apparently it is now definite: Senate Minority Leader Robert Brown to leave Legislature to run for mayor of Macon.

The AJC's Political Insider reports this as if it is official. Senate Minority Leader Robert Brown will certainly be missed in the Senate.

He has been a very effective party leader. He knows when to hold 'em, he knows when to fold 'em, he knows when to walk away and he knows when to run. And, as we discovered this past legislative session, he knows that sometimes silence can be golden and it is best that nothing be said.

A challenger to Sen. Chambliss -- A date comes and goes . . . .

I got three comments to my Bill Shipp post yesterday saying that "[i]n this reddest of the red states . . . Chambliss seems totally secure," and that "[i]n describing American "success" in Iraq, Chambliss is virtually thumbing his nose and daring the opposition party to recruit a genuine challenger."

One comment hinted that I provide more of my own commentary on this and other issues. Generally what I post is in and of itself a commentary of my feelings about an issue. But in this particular case, I will be specific.

In a 4-1-07 post I quoted Bill Shipp's prediction that "Congressman Jim Marshall, D-Macon, will not run for the Senate next year (90 percent)," and then gave the following commentary:

Some disagree with the Dean on this call primarily because they see Rep. Marshall's seat becoming riskier, not safer, over the next few years. This is because the next census will probably really mess him up, sending him north of Macon, and cutting out the southern portion of the 8th Congressional District. This notwithstanding, I agree with the Dean on this call except that I give the likelihood of Rep. Marshall not challenging Sen. Chambliss 100%.

Calling things as I see them, and although many in our party don't want to even think about such, I see the prospects for Sen. Chambliss' reelection in 2008 as being anywhere from great to excellent.

A 12-9-06 post reports:

High-profile Columbus trial lawyer Jim Butler confirms that he is interested in challenging Georgia senior Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Moultrie, for re-election in 2008. Butler, a Democrat, says he will make up his mind by April 1, 2007.

That day has come and gone. Mr. Butler has not yet ruled out the run, but I do not think it is likely.

Michelle Nunn? Don't expect it; although it is within the realm of the possible, it is just not likely.

One prospect -- James Marlow if he doesn't win the 10th Congressional District seat.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Edwards campaigns to make Memorial Day an antiwar statement -- This is risky and could backfire.

From The Washington Post:

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards is calling on his supporters to turn this year's Memorial Day into a day of antiwar activism, saying that the best way to honor the troops is to demand an end to the Iraq war.

Even though former Sen. John Edwards has made his opposition to the war in Iraq a central part of his campaign, this move is risky. Because the risks may outweigh the rewards, if I were Edwards I would not have approved this message.

Shipp: "Chambliss' fearlessness serves as a dramatic reminder of how weak and impotent the once all-powerful Democrats have become in Georgia."

Bill Shipp writes:

Just back from a Senate Intelligence Committee fact-finding trip in Iraq, Chambliss declared last week: "Every time I go over (to Iraq) the improvements in the conditions are truly amazing. It is very encouraging for me to see the progress."

Georgia's senior senator went on to praise President Bush's surge strategy to quell the Iraq insurgency and express overall optimism that the United States is doing well in Iraq.

Chambliss is a savvy politician who understands his constituents. So he must feel safe in continuing to heap unrestrained praise on the Bush plan for Iraq.

To be sure, Georgia is one of the few states in which Bush's popularity has not fallen through the floor. The Peach State has maintained a strong military presence in the Middle East since the outset of the war in that region. Many Georgians perceive a failure to support Bush's policies as a failure to support our troops. In parts of the country, the Bush-troops connection has all but vanished.

In this reddest of the red states . . . Chambliss seems totally secure. He is expected to have no primary opposition next year. Among Democrats, only DeKalb CEO Vernon Jones has announced he will challenge the one-term senator.

Hardly anyone gives Jones much chance of victory, but his anticipated candidacy has chilled the ambitions of several white Democrats. Understandably, they think they would have little chance of winning the nomination against a well-known African American in a primary dominated by black voters.

Chambliss' fearlessness serves as a dramatic reminder of how weak and impotent the once all-powerful Democrats have become in Georgia. In describing American "success" in Iraq, Chambliss is virtually thumbing his nose and daring the opposition party to recruit a genuine challenger.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Romney's Mormon Question

From TIME:

Romney supporters are offering Mormonism 101, emphasizing hard work, clean living and shared family values, to address the concerns of the 29% of Americans who say they would not vote for an LDS member for President.

[The founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) taught] that the Garden of Eden was located in Jackson County, Mo. . . .

Mormons reject the unified Trinity and teach that God has a body of flesh and blood. Though Mormons revere Christ as Saviour and certainly call themselves Christians, the church is rooted in a rebuke to traditional Christianity. Joseph Smith presented himself as a prophet whom God had instructed to restore his true church, since "all their creeds were an abomination in his sight." He described how an angel named Moroni provided him with golden tablets that told the story (written in what Smith called "reformed Egyptian" hieroglyphics, never seen before) of an ancient civilization of Israelites sent by God to America. The tablets included lessons Jesus taught during a visit to America after his Resurrection. Smith was able to read and translate the tablets with the help of special transparent stones he used as spectacles. He published them as the Book of Mormon in 1830.

Twelve years later, Smith explained to a Chicago newspaper that "ignorant translators, careless transcribers or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors" in the Bible, which he revised according to God's revelations. Mormons were subject to persecutions, and in 1844, as he was running for President, Smith was murdered by an angry mob. His successor, Brigham Young, led followers to Utah, the church proceeded to grow rapidly, and Mormon leaders were identified by the church as God's prophets on earth.

At all but the top level, the church is sustained by Mormon men volunteering as lay leaders. . . . Women cannot serve in priestly roles, nor could African Americans until a new revelation brought a change of policy in 1978. . . . When [Romney] married Ann, a Mormon convert, in 1969 in the temple in Salt Lake City, her family could not attend the ceremony since only Mormons are allowed inside. A separate ceremony was held for "gentiles," as non-Mormons are called.

[In] 2001 the Vatican ruled Mormon baptisms invalid, and even the more liberal Presbyterians and United Methodists require that Mormons looking to convert be rebaptized. Southern Baptists have called Utah "a stronghold of Satan," and there are many bookshelves' worth of anti-Mormon literature in circulation. The church's aggressive missionary work is a particular challenge to other professing churches, which believe that converts to Mormonism are not truly saved.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Former House Speaker Terry Coleman named as deputy commissioner of agriculture.

Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irwin on Wednesday announced that former Georgia House Speaker Terry Coleman has been appointed as the new deputy commissioner of agriculture. The following is a 2-08-05 post I did on Rep. Coleman:

In a 1-24-05 post entitled "'It just won't be the same without you Larry.' -- Larry Walker, private citizen, great Georgian & great Democrat," we paid tribute to the loser of the tense battle between Rep. Terry Coleman and former Rep. Walker to succeed Tom Murphy as House speaker after Murphy was defeated in Nov. 2002.

Today we pay tribute to the victor, former speaker of the House Rep. Terry Coleman of Eastman.

During their epic battle Bill Shipp wrote:

"Coleman and Walker have been waiting in the wings for years to become speaker. Each once believed that Murphy might gracefully retire and anoint one or the other as his preferred successor. It didn't happen that way. After more than 40 years as a member of the House, Murphy was defeated in the Nov. 5 [2002] election.

"As a result of Murphy's abrupt downfall, the House is on the verge of chaos. Coleman and Walker, former business associates and close pals, are locked in a bitter struggle that is being conducted mostly out of public view. . . .

"Both Coleman and Walker were ardent supporters of Gov. Roy Barnes. The outgoing governor could never have gained approval of the new Georgia flag without the open and enthusiastic support of Walker and Coleman."

After emerging the victor, and despite Gov. Perdue's doing his best to block Coleman from becoming speaker of the House, Coleman assumed the role of the dominant figure in the record-long 2003 session of the legislature.

He cast the deciding vote on a new state flag -- a vote that earned him a position as the ace of spades in an "enemies" deck of cards issued by the flaggers.

More importantly, as Bill Shipp has written, "Coleman maneuvered the ship of state through the shoals of a budget disaster."

During Coleman's tenure and leadership in the state House, Georgia thrived. Georgia's higher education system flourished. Economic development and jobs creation blossomed as never before, partly because Terry Coleman helped create a pro-business climate.

Whenever possible during his tenure as Speaker, Coleman sought consensus -- and he ran a much more democratic House than autocratic Murphy ever dreamed of.

Jim Wooten, associate editorial page editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, recently paid homage to Rep. Coleman in one of Mr. Wooten's finer pieces. His column follows:

Coleman still great resource

For more than a quarter century, two Georgia legislators labored in the shadow of the man who was the nation's longest-serving speaker of the House, waiting their turn.

Two years ago, one of them, state Rep. Larry Walker of Perry, saw the wait come to naught. The job he wanted as successor to House Speaker Tom Murphy, went to his long-patient colleague, Terry Coleman.

Walker, an able and thoughtful legislator, did not stand for re-election. On Monday, the reign of the man who defeated him will end as well.

A certain sadness comes with events as they have unfolded, the sadness that came too in watching Republicans of vision, intelligence and skill, such as former state Rep. Bob Irvin of Atlanta or state Sen. Jim Tysinger of DeKalb County, and lots of others, who waited their entire careers for opportunities that never came.

Walker and Speaker Coleman had their rewards, of course, that Republicans never did. Perks and power. Nice offices, fawning flatterers and fobs. But ultimately, for those of substance and vision, government is an instrument of change, an instrument with the capacity to contribute larger than, and beyond, this mortal life. Only small men and women pursue public office for small things.

My first real memory of Coleman came years ago, at a chance encounter at a regional planning agency in Dodge County. As we talked, I heard a practical dreamer brimming with passion and willing to embrace grand ideas, as he demonstrated in an opinion article last month supporting development of research and technology initiatives along Ga. 316 between Atlanta and Athens.

Like all legislators in positions of power, and certainly during his dozen years as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Coleman tried to send one of everything the state makes or does to Eastman and Dodge County. But rural Georgia is still an area that, in the spirit of the New Deal, can be uplifted by intelligent and attentive public investment, something the suburban-dominated Republican majority needs to bear in mind.

Coleman's pork, and the businesses his influence brought to his district, such as a contractor who processes Medicaid claims, are ventures that can be performed as well in rural Georgia as in the Atlanta area. In those instances, as well as with state jobs, every opportunity should be taken to push them to other parts of the state.

He was never afraid to push ideas out, even when they were not readily attractive. He popularized in rural Georgia the concept of prisons as businesses providing employment to job-starved communities. An awful lot of children are able to stay on family land because the supplemental income of prison employment makes it possible, and an awful lot have access to technical and college educations to prepare themselves for better jobs that might come. His contribution to that is not inconsequential.

As of Monday [January 10, 2005, when the General Assembly convened], his brief two-year stint as speaker of the Georgia House will end. In defeat, he has been enormously gracious, even offering to vacate the speaker's office within days of the November elections.

Coleman's experience could be invaluable on issues like tax reform, how to make the Legislature more effective, how programs work, the relationship between the university system and elected officials, and in general ways to streamline state government. He's now a free man, free of the politics, obligations and responsibilities that drove his career.

Nobody in Georgia is more knowledgeable about the budget and about what taxpayers are getting for the money we're spending.

In some respects, he's a prisoner of that experience. But he's also a liberated man in possession of a state treasure. If the opportunity presents itself, and it should, Gov. Sonny Perdue and the new Republican majority should find a way to channel that knowledge and experience into further service to the people of Georgia.

(1-9-05 ajc.) Thanks Rep. Coleman, for all you have done, continue to do, and will do in the years to come as a great Georgian and a great Democrat.

Gov. Bill Richardson has a "Job Interview" ad on YouTube. It is great.

James has brought my attention to an ad by my man Gov. Bill Richardson on YouTube. It doesn't last but a minute; watch it, you'll like it.

Click on this link.

Bush Told War Is Harming The GOP

From The Washington Post:

House Republican moderates, in a remarkably blunt White House meeting, warned President Bush this week that his pursuit of the war in Iraq is risking the future of the Republican Party and that he cannot count on GOP support for many more months.

[Reps. Thomas M. Davis III (Va.)], a former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, also presented Bush dismal polling figures to dramatize just how perilous the party's position is, participants said. Davis would not disclose details, saying the exchange was private. Others warned Bush that his personal credibility on the war is all but gone.

Davis stressed that Republicans will remain united against the Democratic bill in the House today. But the search for an exit is almost inevitable. "The key for everybody is to try to find a way to declare victory and get out of there," he said.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The AJC's James Salzer pens a play-by-play keeper of what will be statehouse lore for years to come.

James Salzer has done an excellent job providing a play-by-play chronicle of this year's battle over the budget in the Legislature in an AJC article. As he so accurately states, what happened this year will likely be part of statehouse lore for years to come. You don't need to read what follows now -- no doubt you remember it at the present -- but it is here if you need it in the future (and in case you haven't noticed, the link I provide to his AJC article will not be any good in a couple of weeks or so). James Salzer writes:

Budget brawl of '07 ends
Governor decides against special session

Homeowners won't be getting a property tax break, but the state's health care program for children of the working poor will get the money it needs to stay afloat, Gov. Sonny Perdue announced Tuesday.

Perdue decided that trying to hold a special session to redo the midyear budget would be futile because an agreement between the House, Senate and his office wasn't anywhere in sight. So he undid his April veto of the $700 million budget, which runs through June 30, but killed the $142 million tax break for homeowners that House members had insisted on.

In doing so, he put a stop — at least temporarily — to the unusually public battle that has been raging in the Republican majority at the Capitol for seven weeks.

Since late March, Republican leaders have fought over conservative principles, pork-barrel spending, tax cuts and vetoes, trash-talking enough to leave the clear impression that the statehouse crowd is a badly dysfunctional family.

When one lobbyist was accused of smacking another lobbyist over the head with a beer bottle at a party on the night the 2007 session ended, it was used by some lawmakers and columnists as a metaphor for much of what went wrong this year.

Exactly how Perdue wound up in front of TV cameras Tuesday explaining his decision to veto the tax cut will likely be part of statehouse lore for years to come.

The spark for the political firestorm came March 20. The House had just passed the midyear budget when Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, the Senate's president, asked to speak with House Speaker Glenn Richardson (R-Hiram).

The House passed the budget 171-1 that sunny afternoon, in a rare display of virtual unanimity. But Cagle told Richardson the Senate wouldn't go along with the kind of local projects the House had added.

The fight was on.

Lawmakers broke several times during the first two months of the 2007 session, waiting for word from Congress about new funding to keep PeachCare alive. The program was running out of money. New enrollments were shut off in March because the state couldn't afford to sign up more children. If Washington didn't come through, lawmakers needed to add $81 million for PeachCare into the spending plan that covers expenses through the rest of the fiscal year, which ends June 30.

When it became apparent that help wasn't on the way — and with the 40-day session winding down — the House Appropriations Committee passed a midyear budget. The spending plan included the money PeachCare needed, but it also had funds for local museums, tourism projects, an animal hospital and library equipment requested by legislative leaders.

The budget passed the House at 3:11 p.m. on March 20. Within hours, Cagle had made it clear that the Senate had other ideas. House leaders expressed shock, saying Cagle hadn't said a word to them about his position until that day.

Cagle told reporters the midyear budget should only be used for emergencies. House leaders thought their colleagues in the Senate were accusing them of being big spenders, but they figured Cagle and the Senate would eventually give in.

"We all thought it was a short-term position," said House Majority Leader Jerry Keen (R-St. Simons Island).

The squabble may have been inevitable because of the personalities involved. Richardson and Cagle both have talked of running for governor in 2010. Richardson is quick-tempered, while Cagle comes across as Mr. Cool. Both men have shown a stubborn streak.

While Cagle had riled up the House, Richardson's leadership team angered Perdue by announcing it wouldn't consider his bill to eliminate income taxes for upper-income retirees.

House members, meanwhile, complained that Perdue was largely absent from discussions until the final week or so of the session.

With only a few days left in the session, and budget negotiations stalled, House leaders decided to propose a $142 million tax cut and dare the Senate to reject it. Instead, Cagle accepted the deal.

Richardson and Cagle announced the breakthrough at a late-night news conference, both touting the tax cut.

Perdue was not pleased. With revenue collections dicey, the state needed money in reserves more than a tax rebate that would mean less than $100 to many homeowners. He also noted that the budget deal left out money for adult literacy programs, prosecutors and agencies that needed funding to get through the end of the fiscal year.

Perdue threatened for a week to veto the budget, but House members wouldn't budge. So on the eve of the last day of the session, the governor killed the $700 million spending plan. He held on to the veto documents, though, knowing that the House wouldn't be able to vote to override his decision until he officially transmitted it.

That didn't stop the House. The next morning members voted 163-5 to override the veto, but the Senate, which had never really been sold on the idea of the tax cut, didn't go along.

The governor's spokesman referred to the House as a bunch of sixth-graders; Richardson accused Perdue of showing "his backside" and acting childish.

The veto meant lawmakers would have to return to Atlanta for a special session. Richardson vowed that the House would just override the veto again. The stalemate continued for two weeks.

Richardson broke the ice when he apologized to the governor Monday for some of the comments he made after the session ended. But he didn't back off from the tax cut and Perdue decided a special session would be futile.

"There was obviously no spirit of compromise with the House leadership," Perdue said Tuesday. "They simply wanted to talk about override [of his veto]. Leaders, in my opinion, don't act in such a way."

House leaders said they did the right thing. "The House will not compromise when it comes to defending the taxpayers of Georgia," said Clelia Davis, spokeswoman for Richardson.

Cagle praised the governor. "I've never seen a tax cut I didn't like, including this one. But under the financial circumstances that exist, it was difficult for the governor to agree to it," Cagle said. "Now it's time to move on, and not start the political posturing."

Moving forward may not be so easy. Perdue still has yet to sign the $20.2 billion budget lawmakers passed for fiscal 2008, which begins July 1.

State revenue collections were down 1.9 percent in April, the second consecutive bad month in a slowing economy.

Perdue warned that cuts might have to be made. "I will take corrective action to make sure we meet our '08 budget," the governor said.

Some local projects favored by House leaders will likely be cut. Even without a tight budget, some kind of payback is typical after such a brutal public fight.

If that happens, one House member said, "any chance he has of passing anything meaningful through the House again is gone."


• March 20: The House passes a $700 million midyear budget that fleshes out spending for the current year. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle says he'll strip $58 million in House "pork" projects. As punishment, the House pulls the budget bill back like a dollar on a string but hands it over a week later.

• March 26: Majority Leader Jerry Keen (R-St. Simons) says the governor's proposed tax break for retirees will have to wait until next year when the House rolls out its reform package.

• March 28: The Senate approves a stripped-down version of the midyear budget.

• April 10: In a late-night meeting, House and Senate negotiators agree to a budget compromise that includes a $142 million tax rebate that promises an average $100 per homeowner. In North Georgia, for instance, Towns County residents would get about $23 each. The governor later condemns the rebate.

• April 19: After telegraphing his punch days in advance, Gov. Sonny Perdue vetoes the midyear budget on the next-to-the-last day of the legislative session and promises an immediate rematch.

• April 20: On the day of adjournment, the House easily overrides the governor's veto, but the Senate refuses to go along.

• April 21: Minutes after the session ends at midnight, House Speaker Glenn Richardson declares that the governor "showed his backside" with his veto. He promises another override effort in any special session.

• April 22-May 6: The governor and House speaker give each other the silent treatment. The lieutenant governor acts as mediator.

• May 7: Richardson apologizes for suggesting that Perdue had mooned voters. But he won't back off his threat of an override, urging Perdue to withraw his budget bill veto and avoid the special session.

• May 9: At noon, the governor rescinds his budget bill veto but uses his line-item veto to erase the property tax rebate. Perdue condemns as obstructionists his fellow Republicans in the House: "Leaders, in my opinion, don't act in such a way." Says a spokeswoman for Richardson, the House speaker: "The House will not compromise when it comes to defending the taxpayers of Georgia."

The line has been clearly and unmistakenly drawn in the sand. It's Perdue & Cagle vs. Richardson.

According to the AJC, Lt. Gov. Cagle had the following comment about Gov. Perdue's decision to not call a special session and his line-item veto of the tax rebate:

"Leadership is about stepping forward with solutions in situations where compromise seems beyond reach," said Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who has sided with Perdue during the budget fight, praised the governor's decision.

"The Governor exercised strong character and courageous leadership today, and I am proud to be on his team."

And on 5-6-07, the Political Insider noted the following in a fascinating post entitled "The constitutional confrontation behind the current teapot tempest:"

On Friday [May 4, 2007], Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle had a conference call with his Republican senators. He passed on a message from the governor. Any bill sponsored by a House member would need a senator to vouch for it before the governor would sign it, the lieutenant governor said.

In other words, Perdue has designated the Senate the gatekeeper of the Legislature.

We could be witnessing the most significant confrontation over power in state government since Gov. Lester Maddox allowed the Legislature its independence. The House is engaging in a fight for “institutional equality with the governor,” in the words of Charles Bullock, the political scientist at the University of Georgia.

“You could call this another step in a march that began in 1966 and 1967,” said Bullock. “If you’re looking for influence, you have to take it away from the governor. Even four years ago, he had all of it.”

To get his way on tax policy next year, Richardson must beat back a now-hostile governor and a Senate that won’t want to become a mere third wheel when it comes to who rules Georgia.

Win or lose, that means a messy fight in an election year, and a legislative session that could become even more fractious and unproductive.

Georgia wins all around: Gov. Perdue decides no special session, but to line-item veto the property tax rebate.

From the AJC Political Insider:

Citing the futility of working with Republican House leaders in a special session, Gov. Sonny Perdue on Tuesday withdrew his veto of a $700 million mid-year budget bill, but said he would give a line-item veto to the $142 million property tax rebate it contained. That money, he said, would go into reserves instead.

Perdue blamed the unwillingness of Republican House leaders to drop their desire to override his veto, and engage in discussions of a compromise, if the General Assembly were to gather again. “I began to see the futility of a special session,” the governor said. “Leaders, in my opinion, don’t act in such a way.”

I cannot think of a better solution of this dilemna for the Governor than what he has done.

As I have been noting, I had wanted the Governor to line-item veto the $142 million tax rebate rather than the whole midyear budget, but I did not know he would come to see this line-item veto of the tax rebate as a safe way to cut his own losses, benefit needy Georgia children, and in the process leave House Speaker Glenn Richardson as the ultimate loser.

Not thinking he would do this, I preferred to have a special session in the hope of getting some of the needed funding in the vetoed midyear budget restored. As I wrote in a 4-22-07 post:

As I noted in an April 11 post, the $142 million property tax rebate for Georgia homeowners was technically an appropriation, and as such, the governor had the power of the line-item veto.

That post goes on to say that if this rebate is included in the midyear budget -- which of course it was -- I hoped the governor would veto it.

It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if the governor had done this rather than vetoing the whole budget bill. The midyear budget would not have been perfect by a long shot, but what should the governor have expected when he had had so little input and involvement during the current legislative session, unlike past sessions.

Since, in addition to the $142 million tax rebate, the midyear spending plan also included more than $160 million for school districts, $81 million to keep the children's health insurance program PeachCare afloat, and $8.5 million in much-needed funding for the State's public defender system, the funding for these projects is now restored.

Former Gov. Roy Barnes writes: "Nature needs a voice -- for Georgia's sake."

Former Gov. Roy Barnes writes in the AJC:

Georgia has some of the most breathtaking natural resources in the United States, especially along her coastline.

One can only marvel at how development has not spoiled our coast compared to Florida and South Carolina. It is then with concern that I have witnessed the gradual removal of those on the Board of Natural Resources who generally are considered to represent the interests of preserving natural resources as opposed to developing them.

I will tell you from a lifetime of experience in politics, [Sally] Bethea's non-confirmation was not the result of a serious advice-and-consent role of the state Senate, but rather the work of lobbyists who did not wish to answer some of the tough questions she posed about the safeguarding of our natural resources.

With the departure of Bethea, and fellow Board of Natural Resources members Ralph Callaway, Sara Clark and Jim Butler, there is no voice that speaks only for the environment.

This deprives the board of the tough questions and contrary arguments to those who are seeking to use rather than preserve what God has entrusted to us. The board should have all points of view represented and the exclusion of these fine members is a travesty. I only hope Gov. Sonny Perdue will appoint and the state Senate will confirm a balanced Board of Natural Resources so that generations who come after us will treasure and enjoy the natural beauty with which we have been entrusted for safekeeping.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The headline reads "Speaker regrets reference to Perdue's 'backside'", but the devil is in the details.

From the AJC:

Speaker Glenn Richardson (R-Hiram) apologized to Gov. Sonny Perdue today for saying the governor showed his "backside" last month when he called for a special legislative session just moments after the House adjourned.

Richardson's office confirmed the apology in a statement issued to reporters this afternoon.

"The speaker went to see the governor today to apologize for his words a few weeks ago and to discuss the best way to resolve our differences regarding the [2007] supplemental budget without a special session," Richardson's office said in the statement today. "It was a good meeting, and we look forward to working with both the governor and the Senate to do what is best for the state of Georgia."

As noted in bold, the Speaker might be apologizing for his strong language, but he is not backing off a bit from his position that he wants to resolve the budget standoff without a special session.

State revenue report may affect proposed $142 million tax cut

From the AJC:

The state's monthly report of tax collections isn't typically a must-read document, but this week's revenue release will go a long way toward determining whether Georgians get a property tax cut.

If the numbers for April aren't good, Gov. Sonny Perdue may reduce his estimate of how much money the government has to spend. That could wipe out the $142 million the House wants to give back to homeowners and help decide the outcome of the upcoming special session.

Legislators generally can't approve a budget that spends more than the revenue estimate the governor sets. If the April numbers show revenue growth has slowed or stopped, the state might not have the money for the $142 million tax cut.

Gov. Roy Barnes weighs in on the need for a special session. -- I say it's been put into play, and Gov. Perdue needs to finish what he started.

From The Marietta Daily Journal:

There is no need for a special session of the General Assembly to deal with the vetoed midyear budget, says former Gov. Roy Barnes . . . speaking from the perspective of two decades in the General Assembly followed by four years in the governor's office.

Regardless of how the matter of a special session is getting more complicated and involved, I think we need to see this thing through.

As an easy solution seems no where in sight, I wonder if Gov. Perdue doesn't wish in hindsight that he had just vetoed the property tax rebate rather than the whole midyear budget.

As noted in a 4-22-07 post:

[T]he $142 million property tax rebate for Georgia homeowners was technically an appropriation, and as such, the governor had the power of the line-item veto.

It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if the governor had done this rather than vetoing the whole budget bill. The midyear budget would not have been perfect by a long shot, but what should the governor have expected when he had had so little input and involvement during the current legislative session, unlike past sessions.

[I]f the governor had just line-item vetoed the $142 million rebate rather than the whole budget bill . . . I think the governor would have delivered the budget to the House prior to adjournment, and even if the House had voted to override the veto, I think it is possible that the lieutenant governor would have allowed a vote on whether to sustain the veto, and in such case, the veto may well have stuck.

If Perdue had done the line-item veto, and it stuck because the Senate did not vote to override the veto, we definitely would not be having or needing a special session. But Perdue -- ignoring the adage that pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered -- bet the house largely because the budget bill gave Georgia homeowners a $142 million tax rebate instead of the $142 million tax break he wanted and campaigned on for upper-income retirees.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Only six months ago Georgia GOP thought itself a giddy exception to the directionless GOP in Washington.

In discussing the Republican debacle at the state Capitol that many consider to be an ego-driven temper tantrum being played out among a governor, a lieutenant governor and a House speaker, the AJC's Political Insider quotes one of the work horses out in the field:

“We wanted it. We got it. Now we don’t know what to do with it,” said Dave Barbee, former chairman of the Richmond County GOP. The troops, he said, are disappointed and demoralized.

To get his way on tax policy next year, Richardson must beat back a now-hostile governor and a Senate that won’t want to become a mere third wheel when it comes to who rules Georgia.

Win or lose, that means a messy fight in an election year, and a legislative session that could become even more fractious and unproductive.

That worries GOP staff sergeants like Barbee, who pull the levers on the Republican grassroots machinery in Georgia. With little in Washington to stir confidence in the ‘08 elections, a meltdown in Atlanta would only add to the difficulty of moving enthusiastic voters to the polls.

Bill Shipp: Democrats too quiet about the cause of this year's General Assembly session being a disaster.

At the recent Democratic Party of Georgia meeting in Macon Rep. Calvin Smyre made the following observation with regard to the GOP's role in the just-adjourned disastrous legislative session:

"In politics, when you see a good fight, get out of the way."

And Jim Wooten recently observed:

If Republicans were dedicated to giving voters reason to throw them out of office, they succeed marvelously in this year’s legislative session.

There were no winners — except, perhaps, Democrats who as the minority party are achieving something that has eluded them for the past decade or more. That remarkable achievement is either the imposed or the self-regulated silencing of the fringe rhetoric that made the Georgia party indistinguishable from its national leadership.

To their credit, they’ve largely kept their mouths shut when they should, appeared reasonable when necessary, and have generally avoided missteps.

Who won this year? Nobody, except perhaps the not-seen and not-heard Democrats.

A recent statewide poll released by Matt Towery of Georgia InsiderAdvantage as reported by the AJC's Political Insider noted:

“All [voters] know is that everything they’re reading and hearing is negative,” Towery said. “If things were to stay as they are, Republican senators and representatives would be in severe danger of being defeated in primaries.”

Bill Shipp thinks we were too quiet. This week he writes:

By now, just about everyone in Georgia has heard about the disaster that was this year's General Assembly session. The lawmakers did little of note but hurl insults at each other. In a near record-long session, they failed to complete their most basic task: enacting a simple supplemental budget for the remainder of the 2007 fiscal year. They'll have to return to Atlanta for a special session to finish their only mandated job.

Not a murmur of criticism was heard from the Democratic establishment, leaders of the loyal opposition.

The lowlight of the sordid session might have come when House Speaker Glenn Richardson, R-Hiram, gathered the Capitol press corps to tell them Gov. Sonny Perdue had shown his "backside" by vetoing the legislature's supplemental budget bill. No Democrat lawmaker even harrumphed at such doings.

In between, the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee repeatedly issued summary dismissals of serious ethics complaints against Republican legislative leaders, generating charges of cronyism and cover-up.

The most powerful law enforcement officer in the state, the Democratic attorney general, remained on the sidelines, causing one observer to wonder, "What does Thurbert do all day?"

While our Republican-controlled legislature and Republican governor turned state government into the political equivalent of professional wrestling, some Georgia pundits smiled. "Not to worry," they said. "This can't go on. The people won't stand for it. Democrats will return to power."

Some analysts drew accurate parallels between this year's local shenanigans and the ethics scandals and legislative gridlock that tarred congressional Republicans before the 2006 rout, which cost them majorities in the House and Senate. Like this year's Republican General Assembly, last year's Republican Congress was so dysfunctional it could not pass annual appropriations bills, much less deal with pressing national issues like the Iraq war, illegal immigration, jobs and health care.

In the 2006 election, voters sent a message. Democrats won the Congress. Don't expect a similar coup in Georgia. The legislature is not Congress. And the loyal opposition Democrats have gone AWOL.

No matter how boorish and corrupt they become, Georgia Republicans will be defeated only if they have someone to lose to - and right now, they have no real opposition. Democrats made nary a sound about the GOP's self-inflicted wounds, and did absolutely nothing to advance their own alternative agenda.

House Minority Leader DuBose Porter, D-Dublin, who already is trying to put together a 2010 campaign for governor, was missing in action for most of the session. He passed up a golden opportunity to advance an alternative vision of where he and fellow Democrats would take the state. Porter's only real visibility came when he helped Richardson muster the votes to override Perdue's budget veto and when he worked with the Republican leadership to pass a private cities bill that is a payoff to big developers who also are big campaign donors.

Senate Minority Leader Robert Brown, D-Macon, is a talented politician, but he had no stomach for joining the Capitol fight. He is preparing a campaign for mayor of Macon.

While the Democratic legislative leadership dropped the ball, the Democrats' three statewide constitutional officers huddled quietly together like shipwreck survivors in a life raft. Attorney General Baker could have pounced on ethics issues raised by Republican leaders' conduct, but he stayed silent. Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin and Labor

Commissioner Michael Thurmond could have spoken up on any number of issues during the session, but they too chose invisibility.

Even the state Democratic Party - once the bane and, in a sense, the public conscience of the GOP - appears to have closed up shop. Reporters who cover Georgia politics used to think of the Democratic Party office as a fount of information about alleged misdeeds of Republicans, on policy as well as ethics. That source has dried up. Democratic Chairwoman Jane Kidd, in office for only a couple of months, joined the silent chorus during the legislative session, making not a peep about GOP-generated chaos at the Capitol.

Before Georgia Democrats get excited about opportunities offered by recent Republican travails, they ought to take stock of their own base and leadership. Being the opposition means opposing - and that means calling out the majority Republicans and presenting a vision for where the Democrats would take the state. If Democrats fail to fulfill the opposition mission, they might as well get used to being locked out. Georgians will stick with the big-mouth, do-nothing devils they know rather than go with the meek and timid, do-nothing devils they don't.

Friday, May 04, 2007

U.S. and Syria Discuss Iraq in Rare Meeting

From The New York Times:

Ms. Rice’s decision to meet with the Syrian foreign minister and seek out the Iranian seemed to confirm a significant, if unstated, change in approach for the Bush White House to handling relations in the Middle East, analysts throughout the region said. Washington is asking for help, even from foes it has spurned in the past. Under pressure from its Arab allies, the Bush administration has slowly edged away from its position that talking can only be a reward for what it considers good behavior.

The United States, which considers Syria a state sponsor of terrorism, has struggled to isolate Syria as a strategy to change it. The White House in April sharply criticized the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, for visiting Syria’s capital, Damascus, and meeting with President Bashar al-Assad, even going so far as calling the trip “bad behavior,” in the words of Vice President Dick Cheney.

“This is a marked improvement in the administration’s ostrich policy approach, and a tacit admission of how wrong it was last month in criticizing the speaker of the House and Congressional colleagues, including myself, for going to Damascus,” Representative Tom Lantos, Democrat of California, said in a statement. “As a lifelong internationalist, Secretary Rice knows better than most the great value of face-to-face discussion, even those with whom we strongly disagree.”

“Sometimes it appears people in diplomacy use talk as a reward or punishment,” said the Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, in an interview after his own 30-minute meeting with Ms. Rice. “That seems to me very childish. We are frustrated when people don’t talk together.”

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The biggest hammer in the Governor's arsenal.

In a post earlier this week the AJC's Political Insider reminded us of the leverage the Governor possesses in the upcoming special special:

Gov. Sonny Perdue has 40 days after the last session, or until May 30, to wield the biggest hammer in his arsenal — the $20 billion budget for 2008, which begins July 1. With a line item veto, he can single out specific legislators for special attention, by threatening to sink specific projects in their districts.

And then yesterday the duo penned a safe prediction:

[N]othing but lemonade and cookies will be served at the Sine Die party.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

I assume it goes with the territory -- Companies Shift More Donations To Democrats

From the Wall Street Journal:

For the new Democratic bosses in the House, power has quickly translated into money, as many big companies have shifted more of their campaign contributions to the new congressional majority, and away from longtime Republican allies.

The top four House leaders -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, Majority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland and their main lieutenants -- raised a combined $2.24 million in the first quarter of 2007, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission. That was more than three times as much as the $697,694 they raised in the first quarter of 2005, the comparable period in the previous two-year election cycle.

With 19 months to go until the 2008 election, Democratic committee chairmen have also seen their campaign coffers swell. For Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel of New York, contributions surged to $761,000 in the first quarter of 2007 from $57,000 two years earlier. Sharp increases were also reported for Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell -- $376,000, up from $112,000; Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank of Massachusetts -- $217,000, up from $39,000; and House Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton -- $227,000, up from $57,000.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

“This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.”

As reported in a 3-26-07 post, the 25% of grocery chain customers who do their shopping on Sunday will have to wait for Sunday alcohol sales.

With both parents usually working, and Saturday devoted to softball, soccer or whatever with the kids, Sunday has become the day to fill the kitchen cupboard for many Georgians.

And how long must they wait? At least beyond next year; since next year is an election year, this issue is dead for the 2008 legislative session.

With the issue dead for now, this is as good a time as any to recall the speech on distilled spirits delivered by the Mississippi legislator Noah S. “Soggy” Sweat in 1952 as reported by the AJC's Political Insider on January 25, 2007:

“You have asked me how I feel about whiskey. All right, here is how I feel about whiskey.

“If when you say whiskey you mean the devil’s brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, and despair, and shame and helplessness, and hopelessness, then certainly I am against it.


“If when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman’s step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life’s great tragedies, and heartaches, and sorrows; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitiful aged and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it.

“This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.”