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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.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Some words of wisdom from Tom Crawford about DOT's new Commissioner and the state of transportation in Georgia.

Tom Crawford writes below that "Governments can only raise money by levying taxes. The governor and the legislature are going to have to make some hard decisions in that area."

In past posts I have written that throughout the present and earlier administrations, even though we have needed to improve and go forward with ambitious transportation improvement plans, an increase in our state’s motor fuel tax -- one of the lowest motor fuel taxes in the nation and much of any increase which would be borne by non-Georgians -- has been on the untouchable list. As Mr. Crawford notes, the issue of where needed funds for transportation is going to come from sure does need addressing.

Tom Crawford writes:

It is not exactly what you would call a strong mandate. The State Transportation Board voted by only a seven to six margin last week to select Gena Lester Abraham as the next commissioner of the Department of Transportation (DOT), which means she will be the first woman ever to hold that important position.

Whether she will end up loving the job or hating it is another matter. Georgia is hopelessly behind on dealing with its traffic congestion and legislators tend to blame DOT for not working quickly enough to get highways built. Some lawmakers, like Speaker Glenn Richardson, are also very displeased that the Transportation Board members picked Abraham instead of state Representative Vance Smith, who badly wanted the appointment.

Abraham has the academic credentials (a doctorate in civil engineering) and the experience (she has been in charge of state government construction projects for several years) that would be essential for a position like DOT commissioner. Governor Sonny Perdue backed her because he and her other supporters feel she can bring about a cultural change in the enormous bureaucracy that has run the DOT for so many years.

She does present a contrast to past commissioners, who were either career engineers moving up the DOT ladder or political cronies of the governor. Abraham has never worked as a DOT employee and she isn’t limited by any allegiance to departmental traditions. While it was Perdue who lobbied the Transportation Board members to appoint her, she actually got her first job in state government when she was hired during the Roy Barnes administration to oversee the renovation work on the state capitol.

Obviously, Abraham can bring a new way of looking at things as she takes control of the massive department that has nearly 6,000 engineers and employees on its payroll. It probably wouldn’t hurt to look at DOT’s established procedures and see if there aren’t any better and faster ways for a highway to be designed, paid for, and built.

Will a shakeup in the DOT culture be enough to deal with the traffic congestion crisis that threatens, along with the water shortages, to choke the life out of the state’s economy? There are some people who contend that the only problem with DOT is that it operates inefficiently in carrying out its mission of building our roads and bridges. By naming someone with a new approach to running the department, like Abraham, they say that DOT can save all sorts of money that can be used to pay for additional new highways without anyone having to raise taxes.

That might not be enough. Even if you assume, for the sake of argument, that Abraham is such a skilled leader she can squeeze an additional 10 percent out of the department’s budget through better management, you’re talking about $200 million in extra funding at most (DOT spends about $2 billion a year). If she could save that much money in administrative costs, that would be great for the taxpayers. It would make barely a dent, however, in the funding shortfall that Georgia faces in the area of transportation infrastructure. To build enough highways to cope with current and projected traffic congestion, Georgia would need about $7 billion to $8 billion more than it figures to bring in under the existing tax structure over the next decade, according to transportation experts. Even if the state should decide that mass transit is a better alternative than building new highways, it would still cost billions of dollars to buy buses and install commuter rail facilities.

Abraham’s an intelligent person who knows the construction trade, but she’s no miracle worker. She can’t make billions of dollars suddenly materialize out of nowhere. If they really want to deal with Georgia’s traffic mess, our political leadership is going to have to give up the idea that we can solve all our problems if we just cut taxes some more. Highways cost money. Transit systems cost money. Governments can only raise money by levying taxes. The governor and the legislature are going to have to make some hard decisions in that area.

Traffic congestion is out of control - the evidence is there for anyone with the eyes to see it - and eventually we’re going to have to pay for some kind of solution. There’s no such thing as free asphalt. The greatest DOT commissioner in the world couldn’t escape that basic economic fact.

Health Sector Puts Its Money on Democrats

From The New York Times:

In a reversal from past election cycles, Democratic candidates for president are outpacing Republicans in donations from the health care industry, even as the leading Democrats in the field offer proposals that have caused deep anxiety in some of its sectors.

Hospitals, drug makers, doctors and insurers gave candidates in both parties more than $11 million in the first nine months of this year, according to an analysis of campaign finance records done for The New York Times by the Center for Responsive Politics, an independent group that tracks campaign finance.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York has amassed the most of any candidate, even as she calls for changes to the health care system that could pose serious financial challenges to private insurers, drug companies and other sectors.

People in the health care industry say the giving reflects a growing sense that the Democrats are in a strong position to win the White House next year. It also underscores the industry’s frantic effort to influence the candidates, as Democrats push their proposals to address what many polls show is a top concern among voters.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Virginia's Sen. James Webb is a Potential 2008 Running Mate

From The Washington Post:

[Sen. James] Webb's role in the debate over Iraq and Iran has helped raise his profile far beyond that of the typical Senate newcomer. Webb is the only freshman Democrat to regularly attend Iraq strategy sessions in Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid's office, and his proposal to extend home leaves for U.S. troops came closer to forcing a change in administration war policy than any other Democratic bill.

On Oct. 18, Webb was one of five Democrats to help Republicans block a $1 million earmark for a Woodstock museum in Upstate New York, putting him at odds with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), one of the sponsors of the funding and the Democratic presidential front-runner. Webb's official explanation was that the project already had plenty of private funding, which he viewed as the proper way to finance it, but it is hard to overlook that he was serving in Vietnam in 1969 at the time of the storied rock festival.

He also offered a sharp critique last month of a resolution urging that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps be designated as a terrorist organization, arguing that it would give President Bush an opening to seek war with Iran. Clinton supported that measure, and her vote has become a sore point on the campaign trail.

"Those who regret their vote five years ago to authorize military action in Iraq should think hard before supporting this approach -- because, in my view, it has the same potential to do harm where many are seeking to do good," Webb said.

Obama promises a forceful stand against Clinton in response to supporters asking: “What happened to the Obama we saw at the 2004 Dem. convention?”

From The New York Times:

Senator Barack Obama said he would start confronting Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton more directly and forcefully, saying Friday that she had not been candid in describing her views on critical policy issues, as he tries to address mounting alarm among supporters that his lack of assertiveness so far has allowed her to dominate the presidential race.

Mr. Obama’s vow to go on the offensive comes . . . after a long period in which his aides, donors and other supporters have battled — and in some cases shared — the perception that he has not exhibited the aggressiveness demanded by presidential politics.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

My goodness: Sen. Wide Stance to make constitutional argument

From The Washington Post:

Idaho Sen. Larry Craig will argue before an appeals court that Minnesota's disorderly conduct law is unconstitutional as it applies to his conviction in a bathroom sex sting, according to a new court filing.

This is the first time Craig's attorneys have raised that issue. However, an earlier friend-of-the-court filing by the American Civil Liberties Union argued that Craig's foot-tapping and hand gesture under a stall divider at the Minneapolis airport are protected by the First Amendment.

Craig has been trying to withdraw his August guilty plea disorderly conduct. A judge turned him down earlier this month, and now Craig is taking his request to the state Court of Appeals.

Craig was arrested in June by an undercover police officer who said the senator moved his foot next to the officer's foot and tapped it in a way that indicated he wanted sex. He was also accused of sending a signal by swiping his hand under the divider between the stalls. Craig said the officer misconstrued those motions.

Democrats plan a shorter workweek -- Frankly, I am surprised it lasted as long as it did.

From The New York Times:

Shortly after winning a majority last year, Democrats triumphantly declared that they would put Congress back to work, promising an “end to the two-day workweek.” And indeed, the House has clocked more time in Washington this year than in any other session since 1995, when Republicans, newly in control, sought to make a similar point.

But 10 months into the session, with their legislative agenda often in gridlock with the Bush administration and a big election year looming, the Democrats are now planning a lighter schedule when the 110th Congress begins its second year in mid-January.

The House majority leader, Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, told fellow Democrats this week that the House would not be in session next year on Fridays, except in June for work on appropriations bills.

Explaining that decision to reporters, Mr. Hoyer said, “I do intend to have more time for members to work in their districts and to be close to their families.”

[Representative Roy Blunt of Missouri, the Republican whip,] said he thought Democrats would regret this year’s schedule, which he said had distanced lawmakers from constituents [, and that] he and his colleagues would appreciate the Fridays out of session next year.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Bid to Overhaul a Farm Bill Yields Subtle Changes

From The New York Times:

Few Americans know as much about the farm bill as Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. So it was not trivial, with the bill up for renewal this year, when Mr. Harkin spoke forcefully about the need to overhaul federal farm subsidies.

But as the Agriculture Committee prepares to put the final touches on the farm bill on Wednesday, Mr. Harkin has come up mostly empty-handed. A near-final draft bill, unveiled on Tuesday, leaves the subsidy programs largely unchanged.

Mr. Harkin’s experience this year illustrates how . . . farm interests cut across party lines, splitting lawmakers not by politics but by geography and the particular crops or commodities in their home states.

On the Senate side, Mr. Harkin’s push for big change was blocked not only by Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the ranking Republican on the committee, but also by two powerful Democrats from major wheat-growing and cattle-ranching states, Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Senator Max Baucus of Montana.

The real constituency for President Bush’s speech on Cuba is the politically-powerful exile community in Miami.

From The Washington Post:

President Bush is planning to issue a stern warning Wednesday that the United States will not accept a political transition in Cuba in which power changes from one Castro brother to another, rather than to the Cuban people.

Phil Peters, an expert on Cuba at the non-partisan Lexington Institute, said he saw Mr. Bush’s speech as an attempt to reorient a policy that had fallen behind the times. American policy, he said, had been centered around the idea that the Communist government would fall once Mr. Castro left power, and that Mr. Castro, 81, would be forced out of power only by death. Instead, Mr. Peters said, Raúl Castro’s rise caught the administration off guard.

President Bush has remained largely silent, Mr. Peters said, while Raúl Castro consolidated his control over Cuban institutions by establishing his own relationships with world leaders, and opening unprecedented dialogue with the Cuban people about their visions for their own country. Meanwhile, all the doomsday scenarios predicted for Cuba once Fidel Castro left power — a violent uprising by dissidents and a huge exodus of Cuban refugees — never materialized.

“The administration realized they had missed the boat,” Mr. Peters said. “Succession has already happened. They can no longer have a policy that keeps them waiting for Castro to die when the rest of the world has moved on.”

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

"I think the Dems are on the wrong side of [illegal immigration], and if they continue down this path, they are going to lose a lot of seats."

From The Washington Post:

"This [illegal immigration] issue has real implications for the country. It captures all the American people's anger and frustration not only with immigration, but with the economy," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and an architect of the Democratic congressional victories of 2006. "It's self-evident. This is a big problem."

Republicans, sensing a major vulnerability, have been hammering Democrats, forcing Congress to face the question of illegal immigration on every bill they can find, from agriculture spending and housing assistance to the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).

House Democrats are so concerned that they have resumed talks on a new legislative push, even though the collapse of an immigration deal in the Senate this spring has left virtually no chance that a final bill can be passed in this Congress.

But even in the early stages of this renewed effort, negotiations have only underscored the party's problems. Some Democratic leaders want what they call a "mini bill," emphasizing border control, penalties on firms that employ illegal immigrants and stronger efforts to deny illegal immigrants government benefits. But Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-Ill.), the point man on the bill, said he will never accept a measure that does not include a pathway to citizenship for the 12 million undocumented workers in the country.

The issue has shifted since concerns about illegal immigrants triggered angry calls for border fences and deportation two years ago. Now, voter anger appears to revolve around the belief that illegal immigrants are unfairly consuming government benefits, a fear that stems more from economic uncertainty than culture clashes, Democratic and Republican pollsters say.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Shipp: Water crisis is a failure of state's leadership

Bill Shipp writes:

Of all the crises endured by our state over the past century, none was more predictable than running out of water.

Since Atlanta's boom began in the 1950s, experts have known - and said in writing - north Georgia's water supply was limited. They said action should be taken immediately to conserve water and extend the water supply. Development could not continue indefinitely without solving the onrushing water shortage.

Before the current drought ever started, the water-shortage train was on the track and headed full speed toward us. Unbridled development was simply more than two medium-sized multipurpose reservoirs and a couple of creek-sized rivers could take.

When Sonny Perdue was elected governor in 2002, Georgia leaders appeared serious about the need for a state water-supply plan. There was a plan in place to build reservoirs controlled by the state that would be set aside solely for drinking water reserves. They would not be subject to the water release mandates imposed on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The 2003 session of the General Assembly already had been deemed "the year of water," when leaders in government, business and the environmental community were going to cooperate to solve Georgia's coming water crisis.

Needless to say, once Perdue took office, that effort never happened.

When the crowd at the statehouse starts jumping up and down about the corps three months before we run out of water, it seems more like they're hunting for scapegoats than attempting to solve our water problem.

So here we sit, watching our available drinking water drain away and praying for rain. Even if God cooperates and we don't run out of water this time, remember this: There's no excuse for the predicament we're in now.

While Perdue wheeled and dealed in land speculation with political appointees, raised tens of millions in campaign contributions and took lots of overseas trips, nothing was done to ensure that our government would meet the basic obligation of supplying drinking water to its population. While our state legislators played politics and chased skirts, none of them pushed for a solution to our water crisis.

So don't buy any spin from our politicians about how they're taking action.

We're relying on God's grace and luck to save us now.

We also are witnessing a dress rehearsal for coming events - a bone-dry region that will wither unless we elect strong leaders ready and willing to show us the way out of the coming desert.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Ouch!! -- Some strong words by the House Minority Leader on recent DOT election.

From InsiderAdvantage Georgia authored by Dick Pettys:

House Democratic Leader DuBose Porter said this of the board's decision [of Gena Abraham as DOT Commissioner]:

"This was a rare chance to move transportation forward in Georgia. We know that Vance Smith was open to looking at mass transit and a multi-modal center in Atlanta, and seven of the 13 member decided to maintain the status quo, which is not good enough for a growing Georgia. Now, like in healthcare and education, transportation suffers and the state goes further backwards."

And then there were two . . .

From 8 Democrats on the initial House vote to 2 this time. From The Macon Telegraph:

Rep. Jim Marshall was one of only two House Democrats to vote against overriding President Bush's veto of a $35 billion spending increase for the State Children's Health Insurance Program on Thursday.

"We're trying to say to Marshall, don't take the Democratic base for granted," said Howie Klein, treasurer of Blue America, a group of politically active bloggers. "If he wants that Democratic vote in his district, then he's going to have to vote like a Democrat."

Lawmakers Shudder at Tax Increase To Fix AMT

The Washington Post reports that almost a year after vowing to protect millions of middle-income families from a special tax meant for millionaires -- the alternative minimum tax -- Democratic leaders are still struggling to find ways to raise the $50 billion needed to fix the problem that will cause a tax increase on 23 million American households this year.

As I noted in my 10-9-07 post entitled "Democratic Leadership Lets Us Down: Buyout Firms to Avoid a Carried-Interest Tax Hike -- Reid Passes Word Senate Won't Act," many Democratic lawmakers had been pushing to more than double the tax rate on the massive earnings of private-equity managers, who the Democrats say have been chronically undertaxed.

I read The Wall Street Journal everyday and am routinely involved in tax law matters. I have studied the proposed carried-interest tax hike proposal, and I was convinced that it was a fair (and just as importantly, justified) tax increase and would have gotten rid of the alternative minimum tax (or much of it), and this also would have been very fair.

It is the only fair way I know that is out there that could pay for the repeal of the alternative minimum tax, and letting the lobbyists win this round really represents a blown opportunity.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

McKinney news makes me think about Majette -- "I don't need anybody's blessing. I get my blessings from God, and I do what I'm led to do."

Reading yesterday and today in the AJC's Political Insider that Cynthia McKinney, who served five often provocative terms as a U.S. congresswoman, has registered to vote in California and thus is now a resident of California, made me wonder if this might have occurred a couple of years earlier if, after serving less than two years in the U.S. House, Denise Majette had not shocked her 4th Congressional District constituents and the state Democratic Party leadership in 2004 when she announced that God had told her to run for the United States Senate.

Georgia officers and officials learn to check legal status and trained to deport

From the AJC:

Driver's license bureaus and Georgia roads are becoming riskier places for illegal immigrants.

About two dozen driver's license investigators, state troopers and GBI agents have completed federal training to determine a suspect's legal status in the United States and, if necessary, start deportation proceedings.

Until now, the Cobb County Sheriff's Office has been the only police agency in Georgia to train with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Cobb began deporting inmates from its jail in July.

The new focus on fake documents is a result of Senate Bill 529, Georgia's crackdown on illegal immigration, and Gov. Sonny Perdue's "Secure ID" initiative.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Fleeing to U.S., Cubans’ First Stop Is Often Mexico

From The New York Times:

Cubans are migrating to the United States in the greatest numbers in over a decade, and for most of them the new way to get north is first to head west — to Mexico — in a convoluted route that avoids the United States Coast Guard.

[U]nlike Mexicans, Central Americans and others heading to the southwestern border of the United States, the Cubans do not have to sneak across. They just walk right up to United States authorities at the border, benefiting from lax Mexican enforcement and relying on Washington’s “wet foot, dry foot” policy, which gives them the ability to become permanent residents if they can reach United States soil.

Typically, the Cuban migrants are interviewed by agents who check their stories and whatever documentation they can produce, and listen closely for distinctive Cuban accents. Then, if no criminal records are found, the Cubans are generally allowed into the country. After a year, they gain permanent resident status.

Some Mexicans are even getting ideas from the Cubans. A trade is developing in Cuban identity documents, and some savvy Mexican migrants are now practicing Cuban accents and rehearsing dramatic stories they intend to tell United States Border Patrol agents about the horrors they have suffered in Havana.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The more things change the more they stay the same -- Reflecting back on the eve of the confirmation hearings of Michael Mukasey.

In January 2005, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, expressed relief that after John Ashcroft's four divisive years as attorney general, the nomination of Alberto Gonzales "appears to offer a different era."

(Quote from The Wall Street Journal. The title to this post is commentary on Ashcroft and Gonzales and not a prediction of how Mukasey will be.)

Friday, October 12, 2007

For Hillary this is big, real big . . .

Photo from AJC's Political Insider.

The Nobel is an acknowledgment that Gore was right about the greatest global threat we face.

From TIME:

This Prize, after all, is a recognition that Gore has done more than anyone else (excepting Mother Nature) to bring about a sea change in public opinion. An overwhelming majority of Americans — 90% of Democrats, 80% of independents, 60% of Republicans — now say they favor "immediate action" to confront the climate crisis. Gore helped make that happen, but he can't take too much satisfaction in it. As he [said] last spring, "Time is running out, and we still haven't done anything."

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Well I'll be a S.O.B.; this might be reversed on appeal: Effort to Curb Illegal Workers' Hiring Blocked

From The Washington Post:

A federal judge barred the Bush administration yesterday from launching a planned crackdown on U.S. companies that employ illegal immigrants, warning of its potentially "staggering" impact on law-abiding workers and companies.

In a firm rebuke of the White House, U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer of San Francisco granted a preliminary injunction against the president's plan to press employers to fire as many as 8.7 million workers with suspect Social Security numbers, starting this fall.

The case . . . called attention to the gulf between Washington rhetoric about the need to curtail illegal immigration and the economic reality that many U.S. employers rely on illegal labor, as well as to the government's inability for nearly three decades to develop adequate tools for identifying undocumented workers.

[The plaintiffs were] an unusual coalition that included the AFL-CIO, the American Civil Liberties Union and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce . . . .

The government . . . intended to warn employers for the first time that they must resolve questions about their employees' identities or fire them within 90 days. If they do not, employers could face "stiff penalties," including fines and even criminal prosecution, for violating a federal law that bars knowingly employing illegal workers, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said when he announced the plan Aug. 10.

The plaintiffs convinced the judge that the Social Security Administration database includes so many errors -- incorporated in the records of about 9.5 million people in 2003 alone -- that its use in firings would unfairly discriminate against tens of thousands of legal workers, including native-born and naturalized U.S. citizens, and cause major workforce disruptions that would burden companies.

Chertoff expressed disappointment with the decision and said the administration will continue to aggressively enforce immigration laws while considering an appeal, which plaintiffs' attorneys said could take at least nine months.

"Today's ruling is yet another reminder of why we need Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform," Chertoff said. "The American people have been loud and clear about their desire to see our nation's immigration laws enforced."

Illegal immigrants make up even greater portions of workers in specific industries, including 24 percent in farming, 17 percent in cleaning, 14 percent in construction and 12 percent in food preparation. But the government's record in developing tools to screen such workers is spotty, largely because of successful efforts by employers, labor unions and civil rights groups to water them down.

A government program to verify the validity of new hires' Social Security numbers, proposed in concept in 1981 and launched in 1996, remains voluntary and covers only about 23,000 of 8 million U.S. employers.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Yes -- Hawkinsville ordinance bans saggy pants.

From The Macon Telegraph:

Pull up those pants and buckle that belt. Droopy drawers have been banned in Hawkinsville, where the crime now is punishable by fines and community service.

The indecent exposure ordinance, passed unanimously by the city's Board of Commissioners last week, says that it is "unlawful for any person to appear in any public place or in view of the public wearing pants or shorts below the waist, which expose the skin or undergarments."

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Democratic Leadership Lets Us Down: Buyout Firms to Avoid a Carried-Interest Tax Hike -- Reid Passes Word Senate Won't Act.

From The Washington Post:

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) has told private-equity firms in recent weeks that a tax-hike proposal they have spent millions of dollars to defeat will not get through the Senate this year, according to executives and lobbyists.

Reid's assurance all but ends the year's highest-profile battle over a major tax increase. Democratic lawmakers, including some presidential candidates, had been pushing to more than double the tax rate on the massive earnings of private-equity managers, who the Democrats say have been chronically undertaxed.

Some lawmakers have touted the tax boost as a way to pay for such expensive measures as the repeal of the alternative minimum tax, which this year alone threatens to increase taxes on 23 million households. But lawmakers and lobbyists agree that if the tax is not raised this year, its chances are not strong in 2008, either; Congress tends to be leery of tax increases in election years.

The attack on the carried-interest measure -- along with a smaller provision that involves the taxation of publicly traded partnerships -- has been expensive and highly coordinated.

Monday, October 08, 2007

No documents, no problem for companies -- Little blowback for illegal worker hires

Today's AJC has an informative article on current and past enforcement of hiring illegal immigrants. It notes:

[In the 1990s] the government annually issued hundreds of noncriminal fines to businesses for employing illegal immigrants.

Now, fines for simply hiring illegal immigrants are rare.

[In 1992] the government delivered 1,461 notices of intent to fine to employers for violating immigration laws. By 2004, there were three.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Mark Your Calendars. Residents of Both Georgia's Welcome. Wiregrass Democrats -- Building the Democratic Party Across South Georgia

Building the Democratic Party Across South Georgia


Tiftarea Conference Center
Hwy. 82 behind Applebee’s, beside Courtyard Marriott
Tifton, Georgia

5 p.m. until 8 p.m.
Grassroots Reception & Celebration
Dress casual

DPG Chair Jane Kidd and U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall

Connecting and celebrating South Georgia Democrats.
Wiregrass is a tough, sturdy plant indigenous to South Georgia, a perfect description of us!

John R. Tibbetts

Danita Knowles

Mayor Franklin: "I developed a reputation for being able to bring people together, for being analytical . . . ."

Mayor Shirley Franklin is featured in a Newsweek Special Report about Women & Power.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld gave experience a bad name.

I run with a group on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and thus miss the evening news on NBC and ABC that I normally watch. On such days I used to catch the day's news on Headline News, but that ceased when to do so meant having to endure Glenn Beck and Nancy Grace. (I must be missing something here. My tastes and preferences are mainstream. How these two appeal to the masses -- if they appeal to the masses -- escapes me.)

Lately I have been watching Keith Olbermann, and Howard Fineman is often a guest on this show. And before starting to watch Olbermann, I have been reading Howard Fineman in Newsweek for several years. He is good, insightful, balanced and usually ahead of the curve.

In a Newsweek article discussing who Hillary might select to be her running mate, or no. 3 -- behind "Hill and Bill" as he puts it -- he reviews the credentials of one possibility, and notes:

A lawyer and former state attorney general, he is well-liked but has little foreign-policy experience. On the other hand, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld gave experience a bad name.

Isn't it the truth? And how unfortunate it is that two individuals with so much experience in Washington in so many capacities could have botched things up as badly as they have done.

It will take at least a generation to undo the harm and mess they have made, and whether we like it or not, America made the mess, and America is going to have to clean up the mess.

Friday, October 05, 2007

1st District Rep. Jack Kingston argues that SCHIP, parent of PeachCare, has strayed, and needs to be healed.

Rep. Jack Kingston writes in the AJC:

In Washington, one thing you can always count on is that all legislation is passed for "the children, the seniors, the poor, the family, the environment, mama and puppies."

Politicians are very altruistic with your money. That's why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), when lecturing Congress about the State Children's Health Insurance Program used the word "children" 44 times.

But while putting a face on a cause is good politics, it may not be good policy. Let's examine the new SCHIP legislation.

SCHIP was created and passed by a Republican Congress 10 years ago. Its purpose was to help working poor families obtain affordable health care. These are low-income individuals who could quit working and get better health care by qualifying for Medicaid. Obviously this is not in the public interest, so a state grant program was created.

But like most government programs, SCHIP strayed from its intended design and became a boon for politicians who aggressively enrolled everyone they could, regardless of age and income. Under the Pelosi Democrat version, this trend will accelerate and sets the stage for government-sponsored universal health care.

First of all, the program won't be limited to the working poor. Families with household income up to $83,000 will qualify. Such income doesn't make you rich but it certainly doesn't mean you are poor. The result is two million people will drop their private insurance in order to take advantage of the "free" federal coverage. Why not?

Secondly, the "children's" program won't be limited to kids. Under the expansion nearly 800,000 adults will qualify — even before all the kids are enrolled. And why limit it to Americans? The Pelosi Democrat bill throws out the citizenship test. Now to qualify, just show a valid Social Security number. After all, no one would lie about having a Social Security number. And by the way, Georgia now joins the top three states in having the fastest-growing illegal alien population in America.

What's the cost of all this? SCHIP goes from $25 billion to $60 billion. But don't worry, Washington knows best — we'll let the smokers pay for it. And smoking may even have a lower approval rating than Congress! Besides, it's just a jump of 61 cents a pack and up to $3 a cigar. But there's an accounting glitch; we're about 9 million smokers short the first five years. And after that, we'll need 22 million new smokers to pay for it. This is from a government that spends billions a year telling people not to smoke.

The president vetoed this sham Wednesday. Now we can go back to the table and draw up something that makes more sense. We need something that improves the existing program, corrects what's broken and strengthens what works; like the proposal offered by Congressman Nathan Deal (R-Ga.) to reauthorize and extend the program for an additional 18 months. This will give Congress time to craft a bill that will properly reauthorize this program. The bill also fully funds state SCHIP programs during that period.

His plan truly does what is best "for the children."

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

GOP Is Losing Grip -- Deficit Hawks Defect As Social Issues Prevail; 'The Party Left Me'

From The Wall Street Journal:

The Republican Party, known since the late 19th century as the party of business, is losing its lock on that title.

New evidence suggests a potentially historic shift in the Republican Party's identity -- what strategists call its "brand." The votes of many disgruntled fiscal conservatives and other lapsed Republicans are now up for grabs, which could alter U.S. politics in the 2008 elections and beyond.

Some business leaders are drifting away from the party because of the war in Iraq, the growing federal debt and a conservative social agenda they don't share. In manufacturing sectors such as the auto industry, some Republicans want direct government help with soaring health-care costs, which Republicans in Washington have been reluctant to provide. And some business people want more government action on global warming, arguing that a bolder plan is not only inevitable, but could spur new industries.

Already, economic conservatives who favor balanced federal budgets have become a much smaller part of the party's base. That's partly because other groups, especially social conservatives, have grown more dominant. But it's also the result of defections by other fiscal conservatives angered by the growth of government spending during the six years that Republicans controlled both the White House and Congress.

The most prominent sign of dissatisfaction has come from former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, long a pillar of Republican Party economic thinking. He blasted the party's fiscal record in a new book. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, he said: "The Republican Party, which ruled the House, the Senate and the presidency, I no longer recognize."

Some well-known business leaders have openly changed allegiances. Morgan Stanley Chairman and Chief Executive John Mack, formerly a big Bush backer, now supports Democratic front-runner Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York. John Canning Jr., chairman and chief executive of Madison Dearborn Partners, a large private-equity firm, now donates to Democrats after a lifetime as a Republican. Recently, he told one Democratic Party leader: "The Republican Party left me" -- a twist on a line Ronald Reagan and his followers used when they abandoned the Democratic Party decades ago to protest its '60s and '70s-era liberalism.

Concern for their fiscal reputation is reflected in the fights that President Bush and congressional Republicans now are picking with the new Democratic majority over annual appropriations and an expansion of a children's health program, in hopes of placating party conservatives.

For all the disillusionment among Republicans, the party retains strong support in many parts of the business community, in part because of fears about the taxing and regulating tendencies of Democrats.

For his part, Mr. Greenspan says he doubts he will vote for a Democrat for president next year, because the party is moving "in the wrong direction," becoming more populist and protectionist.

Overall, Democratic presidential candidates have raised more than $200 million this year, about 70% more than their Republican rivals.

The once-dominant "deficit hawks," who put balanced budgets ahead of tax cuts (think former Sen. Robert Dole, or Mr. Bush's father), are all but extinct. A quarter-century of infighting between those Republicans and others who seek lower taxes regardless of deficits has been decisively settled in the current Bush administration in favor of the tax cutters.

The result has been big tax cuts, and in the dozen years when the Congress was under Republican control, big spending increases as well.

One glue holding the party together is that social conservatives often share the goals of economic conservatives. Social conservatives supported the Bush tax cuts and wanted to make them permanent. But their priority, and what keeps them Republicans, is opposition to abortion, gay rights and the like.

Some intraparty tension is rooted in cultural differences. Social conservatives tend to be relatively lower-income, less educated, concentrated in the South and West, and newer to the party than many old-line Republicans of an economic or business bent. Each blames the other for the party's current state -- often employing pejoratives such as "Bible-thumpers" or "country-club Republicans."

In last fall's midterm elections, rebellious Republicans and Republican-leaning independents contributed to the Democrats' takeover of Congress and a raft of state and local offices. The Democratic Party had lured many newcomers through shifts of its own since the Reagan era. Particularly under President Clinton, the party became more centrist and fiscally conservative, espousing balanced budgets, targeted tax cuts and free trade. Party liberals and unionists never fully accepted those changes.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has lost some Republican Party support because of his socially liberal stands and his proposals on global warming and universal health care. But those stands have made him more popular generally in the state, while his party is less so.

Nationally, support for some Republican causes espoused by social conservatives and hawks has declined in the general population as Americans have grown more concerned about economic matters. Those were the conclusions last spring of the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, based on its latest surveys on Americans' political attitudes.

[T]he number of Americans who share some classic Democratic concerns has risen. Three-quarters of the population is worried about growing income inequality, Pew found, while two-thirds favor government-funded health care for all. Support for a government safety net for the poor is at its highest level since 1987, Pew said.

"More striking," Pew concluded, was the change in party identification since 2002. Five years ago, the population was evenly divided -- 43% for each party. This year, Democrats had a 50% to 35% advantage.