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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, December 30, 2007

Second post of the day on former Sen. Sam Nunn

The AJC's Political Insider reports that the Insider had a lengthy sit-down with Sam Nunn this afternoon on the topic of this effort to put together a kind of truth-telling squad that would force the current crop of presidential candidates, Republican and Democrats, to address some of the tougher issues of the day. The Political Insider reports:

Nunn still says his own candidacy for president as an independent remains unlikely, but he concedes what he’s doing could lead to someone — Michael Bloomberg, say — jumping into the contest. Also, in August, Nunn ruled out a vice presidential candidacy. He didn’t do that today.

Nunn: Partisan polarization is a major problem. We must begin to restore our standing, influence & credibility in the world. Jan. 7 meeting scheduled.

Today the AJC's Political Insider notes that:

Former U.S. senator Sam Nunn of Georgia has put himself at the center of a bipartisan effort to force both Republican and Democratic presidential candidates to spell out plans for a “government of national unity” that would put an end to Washington gridlock.

He and former Senate colleague David Boren of Oklahoma have put their names to a letter summoning a dozen middle-of-the-road members of both parties to a Jan. 7 meeting at the University of Oklahoma [that reads in part as follows:]

Our political system is, at the least, badly bent and many are concluding that it is broken at a time where America must lead boldly at home and abroad. Partisan polarization is preventing us from uniting to meet the challenges that we must face if we are to prevent further erosion of America’s power of leadership and example.

The next president of the United States will be faced with what has been described as a “gathering storm” both at home and abroad. Serious near term challenges include the lack of a national strategy to deal with our fiscal challenges, our educational challenges, our energy challenges, our environmental challenges, as well as the dangerous turbulence triggered by the current financial crisis.

In the national security arena, our nation must rebuild and reconfigure our military forces. We must develop a viable and sustainable approach to nuclear proliferation and terrorism and greatly strengthen our intelligence and diplomatic capabilities. Most importantly, we must begin to restore our standing, influence, and credibility in the world. Today, we are a house divided. We believe that the next president must be able to call for a unity of effort by choosing the best talent available - without regard to political party - to help lead our nation.

To say the obvious, the presidential debates thus far have produced little national discussion of these and other fundamental issues and plans to address them. If this pattern continues through this important national election, it will produce neither a national consensus for governing nor a president who can successfully tackle these threats to our nation’s future. We understand the rough and tumble part of the political process, but without a modicum of civility and respect in our debates, forming a bipartisan consensus on the major issues after the election will be virtually impossible.


The Washington Post discussed this development under a headline that reads: "Bipartisan Group Eyes Independent Bid -- First, Main Candidates Urged To Plan 'Unity' Government."

The Post article notes:

New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a potential independent candidate for president, has scheduled a meeting next week with a dozen leading Democrats and Republicans, who will join him in challenging the major-party contenders to spell out their plans for forming a "government of national unity" to end the gridlock in Washington.

Those who will be at the Jan. 7 session at the University of Oklahoma say that if the likely nominees of the two parties do not pledge to "go beyond tokenism" in building an administration that seeks national consensus, they will be prepared to back Bloomberg or someone else in a third-party campaign for president.

Conveners of the meeting include such prominent Democrats as former senators Sam Nunn (Ga.), Charles S. Robb (Va.) and David L. Boren (Okla.), and former presidential candidate Gary Hart. Republican organizers include Sen. Chuck Hagel (Neb.), former party chairman Bill Brock, former senator John Danforth (Mo.) and former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman.

Boren, who will host the meeting at the university, where he is president, said: "It is not a gathering to urge any one person to run for president or to say there necessarily ought to be an independent option. But if we don't see a refocusing of the campaign on a bipartisan approach, I would feel I would want to encourage an independent candidacy."

The list of acceptances suggests that the group could muster the financial and political firepower to make the threat of such a candidacy real. Others who have indicated that they plan to attend the one-day session include William S. Cohen, a former Republican senator from Maine and defense secretary in the Clinton administration; Alan Dixon, a former Democratic senator from Illinois; Bob Graham, a former Democratic senator from Florida; Jim Leach, a former Republican congressman from Iowa; Susan Eisenhower, a political consultant and granddaughter of former president Dwight D. Eisenhower; David Abshire, president of the Center for the Study of the Presidency; and Edward Perkins, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Time notes that this group includes "[w]ho’s who of [the] centrists" and that the announcement of the scheduled meeting is a "moderate shock to the body politic."

In a 12-5-07 post I introduced a series of 13 past posts from the Cracker Squire Archives on "Bring it on Sam Nunn, bring it on."

These posts can be reviewed by going to the Archives section to the left and scrolling down to December 2007.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Bush OKs Child Health Program

From Time:

President Bush on Saturday signed legislation that extends a popular children's health insurance program after twice vetoing attempts to expand it.

The extension of the State Children's Health Insurance Program is expected to provide states with enough money to cover those enrolled through March 2009. Bush and some Republican lawmakers say the program will still serve those that it should: children from families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford private insurance.

The joint federal-state program currently provides benefits to roughly 6 million people, mostly children. Democratic lawmakers plan to try again to expand enrollment.

Update on 12-16-07 post entitled "Arizona has become a laboratory for bills and policies to crack down on illegal immigration."

Fenced Out: A section of the fence along the U.S.-Mexico border

A 12-16-07 post noted:

Arizona businesses are firing Hispanic immigrants, moving operations to Mexico and freezing expansion plans ahead of a new law that cracks down on employers who hire undocumented workers [and that is set to take effect on Jan. 1].

Arizona's law, believed to be the strictest in the nation, is shaping up as a test of how employers will react when faced with real sanctions for hiring undocumented labor. It is being closely watched by businesses across the country. While proponents say the crackdown will save the state money on services for illegal immigrants, some businesspeople fear Arizona's economic growth may be at risk.

The law still faces a court challenge from the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and other business groups.

In one sense, the bill is having its desired impact: Employers are rushing to ensure they don't have undocumented workers.

Arizona has become a laboratory for bills and policies to crack down on illegal immigration. In 2004, it passed a proposal to prevent illegal immigrants from using state services, such as adult education and nonemergency health care. Earlier this month, a ballot initiative was introduced to deny U.S. citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants born in Arizona, which critics say is a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

According to Newsweek, a lawsuit filed in federal court by foes of the new law (immigrant rights activists and representatives of the construction, agriculture, hospitality and manufacturing industries, which employ large numbers of unskilled immigrant laborers) that questioned the law's constitutionality has been dismissed, and on December 21 the U.S. District Court in Phoenix cleared the way for the law to take effect on New Year's Day. Also, critics of the law received another blow recently when the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco refused to grant an injunction aimed at preventing the law from taking effect.

Arizona is particularly hard-hit by illegal immigration woes because its nearly 400-mile border with Mexico is the preferred gateway for most immigrants traveling north.

Gov. Janet Napolitano, a moderate Democrat, signed the law last July after Congress had failed to reform federal immigration policy. Napolitano says sanctioning employers who hire illegal immigrants is part of an overall strategy to fix a problem the feds have long ignored. "Without the federal government taking action, the states must move ahead," she told Newsweek. "If Arizona is a laboratory for democracy, then so be it."

This Newsweek article also notes:

It's proving to be a difficult time for Latinos in Arizona. It didn't help that Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon recently shocked the Latino community by appointing a panel to explore whether the Phoenix police should regularly check for immigration status. Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has arrested nearly 1,400 undocumented immigrants, with the blessing of County Attorney Andrew Thomas. Arpaio relies on state laws that outlaw human smuggling and federal laws that allow officers to check citizenship or residency status in the course of their duties, for instance a routine traffic stop. "We don't arrest randomly," says Lisa Allen, a spokeswoman for the sheriff's office. But immigrants fear they may be deported if they have even one traffic violation. And now the employer sanctions law looms.

In the near future, safe havens in other states may be hard to find. Arizona's law is viewed as a test case by other states, "trying to create order inside of chaos" caused by federal inaction, says Sheri Steisel, director of the immigration task force for the National Conference of State Legislatures. Steisel says state legislatures passed at least 244 laws related to immigrants and immigration in 2007, a three-fold increase over 2006. Although Arizona's new law imposes the toughest sanctions on employers, 19 other states passed measures related to employment of undocumented immigrants. Oklahoma now makes it a felony to harbor, transport or shelter illegal immigrants and, like Arizona, requires employers to verify immigration status through online databases.

Friday, December 28, 2007

A couple of observations from Dr. Charles Bullock on Iowa and New Hampshire and the presidential selection process.

Dr. Charles Bullock writes in InsiderAdvantage Georgia:

Iowa’s 2000 population was 92.6 percent white while New Hampshire was even whiter – 95.1 percent.

In every instance those who turn out to select presidential nominees disproportionately come from the ranks of strong partisans. Given the longer time that the caucuses demand of participants, the threshold of party interest and commitment to a particular candidate is greater in Iowa and Nevada than in a primary state like Georgia. But in every instance those who select the delegates whose votes will determine partisan presidential nominees are committed partisans and thus not representative of the broader electorate. A potential problem is that a party’s staunchest supporters rally to the flag of a contender who proves unable to broaden the appeal so as to attract enough Independents and weak partisans to win in November.

The "cowardly act" -- We will have to wait for the facts, but my first reaction is that blaming Musharraf is a mistake.

David Ignatius writes in The Washington Post:

In the immediate aftermath of Bhutto's killing, many people feel an instinctive anger at her political rival, President Pervez Musharraf. We will have to wait for the facts, but my first reaction is that blaming Musharraf is a mistake. He has battled the same Muslim extremists who appear to have taken Bhutto's life. He has faced nine assassination attempts himself, by CNN's count. He angered Bhutto and her liberal supporters in part because he argued that Pakistani politics was still so violent and volatile that the army should impose emergency controls.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Health Care Expansions Hit Roadblocks

The New York Times reports that the governors of California, Illinois and Pennsylvania proposed sweeping plans to restructure health care this year, but none will finish 2007 having signed a bill.

Why is it that bar owners get sanctioned for someone using a fake ID, but we don't sanction employers for someone using a fake ID to get a job?

From The Washington Post:

In its announced clampdown on companies that hire illegal workers, the federal government has arrested nearly four times as many people in the past year as it did two years ago, but only a tiny fraction of those arrests involved criminal charges against those who hired the workers, according to a year-end tally prepared by the Department of Homeland Security.

Fewer than 100 owners, supervisors or hiring officials were arrested in fiscal 2007, compared with nearly 4,900 arrests that involved illegal workers, providers of fake documents and others, the figures show. Immigration experts say the data illustrate the Bush administration's limited success at delivering on its rhetoric about stopping illegal hiring by corporate employers.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), a former state prosecutor and member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee [said:] ". . . Why is it that hundreds of bar owners can be sanctioned in Missouri every year for letting somebody with a fake ID have a beer, but we can't manage to sanction hundreds of employers for letting people use fake identities to obtain a job?"

Democratic political consultants have advised the party's lawmakers -- who already are on the defensive about immigration policy -- that the Bush administration's failure to more aggressively target powerful corporations may be a vulnerability for Republican candidates who are seeking to make immigration a campaign issue.

Bush administration officials have promised to strike at the "magnet" of jobs luring illegal immigrants into the country, a goal supported by experts across the political spectrum. "The days of treating employers who violate these laws by giving them the equivalent of a corporate parking ticket -- those days are gone. It's now felonies, jail time, fines and forfeitures," Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said at a Nov. 6 news conference.

For decades, political opposition by the businesses that rely on such workers and by the communities where they are employed has helped water down the laws and other tools needed for a more sustained, less scattershot effort.

In a bluntly worded memo last week, a consortium known as Democracy Corps, organized by Democratic Party consultants Stan Greenberg, Al Quinlan and James Carville, warned Democratic incumbents, candidates in House and Senate battleground districts, and presidential hopefuls that they "ignore the [immigration] issue at their peril."

"If leaders do not show their own frustration with the problem, they will not be heard on this issue -- and many others," they wrote. "There is particular appeal for cracking down on unscrupulous corporations that exploit illegal and legal workers. Voters are eager to believe that companies' preferences for cheap labor are a source of the problem."

The Bush administration has said it is trying to improve its Internet-based E-Verify program, through which less than 1 percent of U.S. employers now voluntarily check new hires' Social Security numbers. It is also fighting major business, farm and labor groups in federal court to use Social Security data generated when suspect numbers are submitted to the government as a sweeping nationwide enforcement tool.

A federal judge blocked the program from going forward in October, but the government is appealing. The administration is also attempting to modify its plan to mail "no-match" letters to 140,000 employers to meet conditions set by the judge.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Georgia may gain seat in House

From the Chattanooga Times Free Press:

Georgia is projected to pick up one U.S. House seat after the 2010 census, continuing a trend that has seen it gain seats in each of the past two population counts, according to Polidata, a Virginia-based demographics and political analysis firm.

One of the fastest population-growing states in the country, Georgia will be one of eight states, mostly in the South and West, to gain seats, at the expense of the Midwest and Northeast, according to the projection. Georgia currently has 13 House seats.

Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia, said the Peach State could even gain two seats if its population grows a little faster in the second half of the decade. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that Georgia's population has risen 14.4 percent to 9.4 million from 2000 to 2006, far outpacing 6.4percent population growth of the United States overall.

Demographers attribute those migration patterns to an increase in Hispanics and the growth of economic hotbeds in places such as Atlanta and Las Vegas.

State legislatures are charged with the task of drawing congressional districts, making the process a political affair. For Georgia, which has been trending more Republican over the past few years, this likely will produce an advantage for the GOP.

Dr. Bullock, who studies redistricting, said Republicans likely will have majorities in the state House and Senate, and probably a Republican governor, too, in 2011, when the districts will be redrawn. As a result, the state's 14th congressional district will probably be drawn on the east side of Atlanta in the "very much Republican suburbs."

He said state Republicans can be expected to draw the districts so that nine lean Republican and five lean Democratic. The current delegation is seven Republicans and six Democrats.

Vulnerable Democrats such as Rep. Jim Marshall, D-Ga., who represents Macon and rural Middle Georgia, could find their prospects of staying in office even slimmer, Dr. Bullock said. Rep. Marshall won his 2006 re-election bid by just 2 percent.

Martin Matheny, a spokesman for the Georgia Democratic Party, said the state may see the effects of voter discontent with Republicans and, in particular, President Bush, giving Democratic candidates a boost.

"We have to do everything we can to make sure we have control of at least one chamber and hopefully the governor, as well," he said. We've seen in the past that the Republicans will play with (redistricting) lines to help their guys as much as possible."

Ben Fry, executive director of the Georgia Republican Party, countered that Democrats have been guilty of "butchering" the state into partisan districts.

The parties have battled in court over gerrymandering, most recently last year, when Democrats mounted an unsuccessful legal challenge to the Republicans' redrawing of the lines in 2005, which was in response to the Democrats' redistricting in 2001.

"We're interested in compact, continuous districts that keep communities intact," Mr. Fry said. "We're going to compete well in any map that's drawn."

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Brief History of Christmas (and Merry Christmas to all of my readers)

John Steeele Gordon writes in The Wall Street Journal:

Christmas famously "comes but once a year." In fact, however, it comes twice. The Christmas of the Nativity, the manger and Christ child, the wise men and the star of Bethlehem, "Silent Night" and "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" is one holiday. The Christmas of parties, Santa Claus, evergreens, presents, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Jingle Bells" is quite another.

But because both celebrations fall on Dec. 25, the two are constantly confused. Religious Christians condemn taking "the Christ out of Christmas," while First Amendment absolutists see a threat to the separation of church and state in every poinsettia on public property and school dramatization of "A Christmas Carol."

A little history can clear things up.

The Christmas of parties and presents is far older than the Nativity. Most ancient cultures celebrated the winter solstice, when the sun reaches its lowest point and begins to climb once more in the sky. In ancient Rome, this festival was called the Saturnalia and ran from Dec. 17 to Dec. 24. During that week, no work was done, and the time was spent in parties, games, gift giving and decorating the houses with evergreens. (Sound familiar?) It was, needless to say, a very popular holiday.

In its earliest days, Christianity did not celebrate the Nativity at all. Only two of the four Gospels even mention it. Instead, the Church calendar was centered on Easter, still by far the most important day in the Christian year. The Last Supper was a Seder, celebrating Passover, which falls on the day of the full moon in the first month of spring in the Hebrew calendar. So in A.D. 325, the Council of Nicea decided that Easter should fall on the Sunday following the first full moon of spring. That's why Easter and its associated days, such as Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, are "moveable feasts," moving about the calendar at the whim of the moon.

It is a mark of how late Christmas came to the Christian calendar that it is not a moveable feast, but a fixed one, determined by the solar calendar established by Julius Caesar and still in use today (although slightly tweaked in the 16th century).

By the time of the Council of Nicea, the Christian Church was making converts by the thousands and, in hopes of still more converts, in 354 Pope Liberius decided to add the Nativity to the church calendar. He also decided to celebrate it on Dec. 25. It was, frankly, a marketing ploy with a little political savvy thrown in.

History does not tell us exactly when in the year Christ was born, but according to the Gospel of St. Luke, "shepherds were abiding in the field and keeping watch over their flocks by night." This would imply a date in the spring or summer when the flocks were up in the hills and needed to be guarded. In winter they were kept safely in corrals.

So Dec. 25 must have been chosen for other reasons. It is hard to escape the idea that by making Christmas fall immediately after the Saturnalia, the Pope invited converts to still enjoy the fun and games of the ancient holiday and just call it Christmas. Also, Dec. 25 was the day of the sun god, Sol Invictus, associated with the emperor. By using that date, the church tied itself to the imperial system.

By the high Middle Ages, Christmas was a rowdy, bawdy time, often inside the church as well as outside it. In France, many parishes celebrated the Feast of the Ass, supposedly honoring the donkey that had brought Mary to Bethlehem. Donkeys were brought into the church and the mass ended with priests and parishioners alike making donkey noises. In the so-called Feast of Fools, the lower clergy would elect a "bishop of fools" to temporarily run the diocese and make fun of church ceremonial and discipline. With this sort of thing going on inside the church to celebrate the Nativity, one can easily imagine the drunken and sexual revelries going on outside it to celebrate what was in all but name the Saturnalia.

With the Reformation, Protestants tried to rid the church of practices unknown in its earliest days and get back to Christian roots. Most Protestant sects abolished priestly celibacy (and often the priesthood itself), the cult of the Virgin Mary, relics, confession and . . . Christmas.

In the English-speaking world, Christmas was abolished in Scotland in 1563 and in England after the Puritans took power in the 1640s. It returned with the Restoration in 1660, but the celebrations never regained their medieval and Elizabethan abandon.

There was still no Christmas in Puritan New England, where Dec. 25 was just another working day. In the South, where the Church of England predominated, Christmas was celebrated as in England. In the middle colonies, matters were mixed. In polyglot New York, the Dutch Reformed Church did not celebrate Christmas. The Anglicans and Catholics did.

It was New York and its early 19th century literary establishment that created the modern American form of the old Saturnalia. It was a much more family -- and especially child -- centered holiday than the community-wide celebrations of earlier times.

St. Nicolas is the patron saint of New York (the first church built in the city was named for him), and Washington Irving wrote in his "Diedrich Knickerbocker's History of New York" how Sinterklaes, soon anglicized to Santa Claus, rode through the sky in a horse and wagon and went down chimneys to deliver presents to children.

The writer George Pintard added the idea that only good children got presents, and a book dating to 1821 changed the horse and wagon to reindeer and sleigh. Clement Clarke Moore in 1823 made the number of reindeer eight and gave them their names. Moore's famous poem, "A Visit from St. Nicholas," is entirely secular. It is about "visions of sugar plums" with nary a wise man or a Christ child in sight. In 1828, the American Ambassador Joel Roberts Poinsett, brought the poinsettia back from Mexico. It became associated with Christmas because that's the time of year when it blooms.

In the 1840s, Dickens wrote "A Christmas Carol," which does not even mention the religious holiday (the word church appears in the story just twice, in passing, the word Nativity never). Prince Albert introduced the German custom of the Christmas tree to the English-speaking world.

In the 1860s, the great American cartoonist Thomas Nast set the modern image of Santa Claus as a jolly, bearded fat man in a fur-trimmed cap. (The color red became standard only in the 20th century, thanks to Coca-Cola ads showing Santa Claus that way.)

Merchants began to emphasize Christmas, decorating stores and pushing the idea of Christmas presents for reasons having nothing whatever to do with religion, except, perhaps, the worship of mammon.

With the increased mobility provided by railroads and increasing immigration from Europe, people who celebrated Christmas began settling near those who did not. It was not long before the children of the latter began putting pressure on their parents to celebrate Christmas as well. "The O'Reilly kids down the street are getting presents, why aren't we?!" is not an argument parents have much defense against.

By the middle of the 19th century, most Protestant churches were, once again, celebrating Christmas as a religious holiday. The reason, again, had more to do with marketing than theology: They were afraid of losing congregants to other Christmas-celebrating denominations.

In 1870, President Ulysses S. Grant signed into law a bill making the secular Christmas a civil holiday because its celebration had become universal in this country. It is now celebrated in countries all over the world, including many where Christians are few, such as Japan.

So for those worried about the First Amendment, there's a very easy way to distinguish between the two Christmases. If it isn't mentioned in the Gospels of Luke and Mark, then it is not part of the Christian holiday. Or we could just change the name of the secular holiday back to what it was 2000 years ago.

Merry Saturnalia, everyone!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Congress Passes Annual Fix To Alternative Minimum Tax

From The Wall Street Journal:

Year-end legislation to protect millions of middle-class taxpayers from the alternative minimum tax cleared Congress but not before Democrats had to give up their hope of covering the cost with offsetting tax increases or loophole closings.

Congress has approved annual fixes to the AMT since 2001 even as costs have grown to near $50 billion with an estimated 23 million taxpayers now affected. Democrats had hoped to break with past practice and find an AMT patch that didn't add to the deficit. But Senate Republicans proved too strong, and as resistance collapsed, the House voted 352-64 to again approve a fix with no offsetting rise in taxes.

Spending Bills Still Stuffed With Earmarks -- Democrats Had Vowed To Curtail Pet Projects

From The Washington Post:

The $555 billion annual "omnibus" spending bill approved by Congress this week and the $459 billion defense bill passed last month collectively contain more than 11,000 earmarks, despite Democrats' vow to use their first year in the majority to slash the number of such pet projects.

The House required lawmakers for the first time to sign their names on their earmarks, identify the beneficiaries and locations, and certify that neither they nor their immediate families have a financial stake in the spending. But Democrats' good intentions came undone in the Senate, which did not trim earmarks as severely and tinkered with the language of the rules, limiting disclosure only to the authors' names . . . .

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Tom Crawford knocks the ball right out of the ballpark -- Holes in the Road

Tom Crawford has authored one very insightful column. I think he is probably onto something, and I have myself suspected a certain amount of exaggeration with ulterior motives and for ulterior reasons almost from day one. But Tom is the first I have seen venture into putting this thought into print. Good job Tom! This week Tom Crawford writes:

“Gena [Abraham] and I talk at least once a day for 45 minutes,” [chairman of the State Transportation Board Mike] Evans said. “Over the past couple of weeks, it’s been a daily diet of bad news.” Abraham, a civil engineer who was formerly the director of the Georgia Building Authority, officially became the DOT commissioner on Dec. 1. In her first weeks on the job, she says she quickly discovered a government bureaucracy that was in need of a drastic overhaul.

We’d been waiting for someone who could come along and fix these problems,” Evans said. “We’ve got the right leader at the helm.” So far, officials say, there’s been no indication that the DOT situation resulted from ethical malfeasance or financial misdeeds. The problem is rooted in a bureaucratic process that has long been in need of an overhaul, they contend.

“It’s a 50-year-old system that’s worn out and antiquated,” Evans said. “The folks at DOT are the most dedicated people in state government. It’s not been the people, it’s been the process. It’s organizational breakdown and we’ve got to bring the organizational processes into the 21st century.”

There’s no question that an agency as large and tradition-bound as DOT could benefit from an organizational shakeup. If it saves some of our taxpayer dollars, so much the better. But it may be that the departmental problems are being exaggerated a little for the benefit of people who have their own agendas.

By emphasizing the need to fix administrative problems at DOT, Abraham is giving political cover to a governor and legislators who don’t want to face up to the fact that a tax increase may be needed to upgrade Georgia’s inadequate transportation infrastructure. For the next couple of years, any requests from outside groups for funds to build new highways or get a commuter rail system underway can be shunted aside with the excuse that DOT has to be fixed before we can even consider such things as a new transportation tax.

That would enable Gov. Sonny Perdue to avoid having to make any big transportation decisions before 2010, when he will be stepping down as governor and can hand the problem off to whomever is elected to succeed him. Likewise, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who would like to be the person succeeding Perdue as governor, won’t have to do something messy like preside over a Senate that votes on a major tax increase for highways.

If that means you’re the one who’s stuck in yet another traffic jam on I-285 or Georgia 316 in the meantime - well, you’re just going to have to wait a while longer.

And of course other ulterior reasons for any exaggeration would be to justify the appointment itself, among other things.

From the Cracker Squire Archives -- The Dean writes about Speaker Murphy, a legend in his own time.

A 12-8-04 post is a Bill Shipp classic -- a real keeper -- about the late Speaker Murphy, a legend in his own time:

In the autumn of 2002, a slightly bent, bespectacled and balding old man went from door to door in his West Georgia community asking people to vote for him for state representative.

"They didn’t know who I was. They just wanted to know if I was Republican or Democrat,” he later said. “When I said Democrat, they slammed the door.” On Election Day, a Republican defeated him in a newly configured House district populated by strangers who had never heard of Tom Murphy.

So ended the political career of House Speaker Thomas Bailey Murphy, easily one of the most important figures of 20th century Georgia.

Last week, Murphy was back in the news briefly. The Bremen lawyer was admitted to Emory Hospital, apparently suffering further complications from a debilitating stroke some months earlier.

The news item about 80-year-old Murphy brought back a thousand memories, a few of them funny. Throughout much of Murphy’s long career in the House, your humble commentator thought the Haralson County legislator was — well, there’s no other way to put this — just awful.

Murphy wore a Stetson-style hat with a brim as big as a tabletop and a pair of worn-out zip-up cowboy boots that must have predated Buffalo Bill. Murphy kept in his mouth an unlit fat cigar. He spoke in the manner of a perpetually angry backwoods lawyer. A lifelong Democrat, he despised most Republicans with a passion that most of us reserve for venomous snakes and football rivals. To many of us, Murphy was a caricature of a Southern yellow-dog political boss.

Murphy served as Gov. Lester Maddox’s irascible House floor leader and spoke for Maddox on several nutty propositions.

Later, Murphy was in a constant state of conflict with Jimmy Carter or Zell Miller over everything from gasoline taxes to governmental reorganization. Murphy fought nonstop with much of the then-aggressive political press.

When he saw he was losing a public relations battle with the newspapers, the speaker would take the well of the House to orate sorrowfully on how he was misunderstood and mistreated. Before his speech ended, he would often burst into tears.

In the press gallery, and a couple of reporters, including this one, would nearly fall down laughing at what we saw as an Irish ham’s overacting. Seated with us in the press box, columnist Celestine Sibley would immediately leap to Murphy’s defense, scolding us “ignorant, arrogant a----” for ridiculing the put-upon speaker. That was years ago.

As Murphy’s reign as speaker and lawmaker neared an end, most of us came to realize that, even with all his hardscrabble idiosyncrasies and intolerances, Murphy was a powerful force for advancement.

He also has been a steadfast believer that government was meant to protect those who cannot fend for themselves.

Space is too limited to review in depth Murphy’s 28 years as speaker. Just leave it at this: Because of Murphy, Georgia thrived. Georgia’s higher education system flourished because Murphy wanted it to. Economic development and jobs creation blossomed as never before, partly because Murphy helped create a go-go business climate. Atlanta received untold state aid because Murphy believed helping the capital enhanced the entire state.

At the same time, he served as a brake and monitor on six governors. He was a restraining influence on the worst instincts of many of his fellow legislators. Murphy never quite broke the bad Southern white male habit of speaking condescendingly to women and black lawmakers. Yet he protected and broadened the rights of both groups. In fact, he may have been the stoutest defender of women’s rights ever to hold a position of power in Georgia.

“Everybody knows that I am a fiscal conservative,” he said repeatedly. “But when it comes to old folks, little children and the mentally ill, I am a bleeding-heart liberal, and I don’t care who knows it. There are still folks we have to look after, and I have always tried to do that.”

In today’s new political order, fiscal conservatism is a joke. State and federal budgets are drowning in pork-barrel projects and profligate waste, even as the leadership calls for belt tightening on government aid for impoverished children and the aged sick.

To say Murphy never engaged in pork-barrel politics would be untrue. Still, he was a piker compared to today’s big-spending self-described “conservatives.”

As a new generation of legislative leaders takes its place, some of these neophyte commanders might profit from a detailed review of Murphy’s era. Sure, at times, his tenure was loaded with wrongheaded partisanship. More often, however, Murphy’s policies and positions helped elevate Georgia into a pacesetting Southern state.

When The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer’s Richard Hyatt wrote his 1999 biography, “Mr. Speaker,” Murphy told him, “I just want to be remembered as a man who didn’t steal and told the truth.”

Murphy ought to be remembered for much more than that. Dedicated Democrat though he was, he serves as an example for all those, regardless of party, who aspire to succeed him. Before his final exit, he should be recognized for his valuable contributions. The Capitol lawn is dotted with imposing statues of much lesser men.

A Reporter Remembers Tom Murphy

Dick Pettys writes in InsiderAdvantage Georgia:

My usual sources had blinders on. They didn’t really think it was possible for Tom Murphy, powerful Speaker of the Georgia House, to lose that election back in 2002, even though he’d had a close call just two years before and refused to let his friends change the district through reapportionment to make it better for him. (That would have meant harming a friend in an adjacent district.) Still, they expected him to pull it out, as he had for decades, although not with ease; after all, the district was trending Republican.

They said he was pulling out all the stops this time; running an up-to-date campaign. So one day in the fall I decided to go out and see for myself, and caught up with the towering figure in Georgia politics at a community center in Dallas.

He looked different away from the Capitol, far from the constant stream of supplicants, the security, the palace guard. And absent the usual trappings of his office, he looked a little older, a little worn by the grind of nearly 30 years in office and, perhaps, even a little vulnerable. It was a side of Murphy, then 78, I had never noticed before.

It was only a modest campaign event, and it chiefly brought out older people Murphy had known for years in his west Georgia district. It was clear they loved him and he loved them, but he seemed to be missing a key ingredient: the newer, younger people who’d moved into the district and didn’t know who Tom Murphy was, despite the radio commercials Zell Miller had cut for him that said: “This district can’t afford to lose the likes of Tom Murphy.”

He and I talked some that evening for a story I was preparing, and I watched him tease some of the ladies - the old smoothie! - as he posed with them for digital photos that a supporter printed out for them on the spot. The matrons giggled like schoolgirls when he told them he planned to put some of their pictures on his web site. This from a man who liked to boast he had never used a computer!

Life changes and you’ve got to adapt. Murphy knew that better than anyone. As conditions changed in his own House, he shrewdly shifted to accommodate them - a device that served him well until his own party became too fractured and too small to cope with much more of that dynamic.

I first observed that technique in action back in the 70s when a lawmaker who’d been a pain in Murphy’s side - much to the delight of reporters, who found his rebelliousness colorful - all of a sudden quit talking to the press. After being rebuffed by him for comment several times, I finally said, “You’ve been muzzled!”

He replied: “Yeah, and it was the sweetest little muzzle I’ve ever walked into in my life.”

The rebel had been brought into the inner circle as part of the elite - and, to many, the mysterious - “Green Door Committee,” the group that wrote the budget for the House.

Capturing the enemy by making him part of the team was a technique Murphy used time and again as the House became more diverse through reapportionment, and as the Democratic membership started sliding to GOP electoral gains.

In 2002, there was no more change left in Tom Murphy, it seems, and yet the man I talked with on that fall evening seemed more comfortable with himself than I had ever seen him at the Capitol. I had one of those souvenir photos made with the Speaker that night, and I like that photo of him better than most I have seen during the recent coverage of his death, where he’s been caught with a scowl or a frown. Murphy wears his trademark Stetson and the maroon sport coat he loved. And he’s smiling. I’m reproducing it at the bottom of this column.

Everybody’s got a Murphy story, and I hope those who were part of the “fraternity” will soon weigh-in. By “fraternity,” I mean that brotherhood of people brave enough to put their names on a ballot and let voters judge them every two or four years. They understood Murphy best, those folks like Larry Walker, Terry Coleman, Zell Miller, Bill Lee, Matt Towery, Tom Buck and so many, many others.

I hope some of them will tell you what it was like to be part of the House “family.” Murphy wasn’t just “Mr. Speaker,” he also was the ultimate father figure to many in the chamber. There weren’t many he didn’t refer to as “son,” and there weren’t many who didn’t try to please him - not because they felt they had to do so, but because they wanted to do so. He scolded them like an angry father when he had to, but he also took the heat for them when that was necessary to do.

At the height of his power, watching Murphy make an appearance on the third-floor corridor was an event in itself. Wearing his hat like a crown and his overcoat over his shoulders like a cape, he would sweep out of his office with a crowd of followers, headed for lunch, and return the same way.

Ego? I don't think so. He was applying the theatrical skills any good courtroom lawyer possesses, but just on a different stage. The grand entrances and exits with an entourage simply added to the mystique and, thus, the power of Tom Murphy, much as the gruff and sometimes brusque exterior concealed an old Irishman’s soft heart for the weak and the downtrodden.

He and I didn’t always have an easy relationship, but I think it improved toward the final years of his career. Maybe it was because I got a little wiser and, despite the smug and cynical attitude reporters tend to develop, gained a deeper appreciation for a man who endured the Great Depression, went to war when his country called in World War II, and returned to raise a family and try to give something back to the wider community.

Anyway, here is that picture - one of perhaps 10,000 taken of him posing with people over the years. But one I value.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Kennedy's Catholicism barely caused a ripple in the South.

Bill Shipp reports:

Romney's battle over Mormonism is said to be as crucial to saving his campaign as JFK's "great Catholic speech" was to preserving Kennedy's victory. If you believe that, you must believe revisionist history. In fact, Kennedy's Catholicism barely caused a ripple in the South. Kennedy - under the guidance of Democratic wizard Griffin Bell - carried Georgia in the 1960 election by a greater margin than any other state except Rhode Island. Ty Ty Baptists lined up right alongside Savannah Catholics for JFK. . . . It was the last time - nearly 50 years ago - that a Democratic presidential candidate would swallow the state as easily as an oyster. The 1930s era of widespread and virulent anti-Catholicism had all but disappeared.

USS Georgia submarine refitted to carry cruise missiles rather than nuclear weapons.

The Georgia Times-Union reports that after more than two years of renovations, the USS Georgia has arrived at its new home in its namesake state. The submarine arrived at Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base on Saturday with little fanfare. The Georgia is the fourth Ohio-class submarine to be stripped of its nuclear weapons and refitted with a full complement of 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

I enjoy Howard Fineman's columns in Newsweek. He has a lot of insight. This week he writes:

[Immigration] is now the top concern among likely GOP voters in Iowa and No. 2 in New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Democratic strategists enjoy the "pander-rama." They think the general election can be won in the Southwest, where the ranks of Hispanic voters are swelling. They also think the angry tone of the GOP debate will turn off suburbanites, who think of themselves as tolerant and who like the cheap labor.

But Democrats need to be careful what they wish for. As the economy weakens, the immigration issue could hurt them.

Hillary's Achilles' heel: the perception that she lacks likability and warmth

From Newsweek:

Hillary pollster Mark Penn [commenting on the resignation of Hillary's New Hampshire campaign chairman, Bill Shaheen, for dredging up Obama's admitted past drug use:] "It's dangerous for her," says the Democratic strategist. "She has high negatives. She cuts someone else up; she cuts herself down."

There isn't any argument over Hillary's Achilles' heel: the perception that she lacks likability and warmth.

Even if he loses in Iowa's bigger cities, Edwards can still win by wrapping up smaller, far-flung precincts.

From Newsweek:

For months, Edwards has been rounding up support in the state's rural precincts where the front runners have paid less attention. While Obama and Clinton have drawn crowds in the thousands in places like Des Moines and Ames, Edwards has been winning over people in tiny towns like Sac City (population: 2,189). That's important, the strategists say, because under Iowa's arcane caucus rules, a precinct where 25 people show up to vote gets the same number of delegates as a place that packs in 2,500. In other words, even if he loses to Obama and Clinton in the state's bigger cities, he can still win by wrapping up smaller, far-flung precincts that other candidates have ignored. "The bulk of our support is in small and medium counties," says Jennifer O'Malley, Edwards's Iowa state director.

More Blacks Lean Toward Obama -- Shift in Allegiance From Clinton Could Tighten Primaries in South

From The Wall Street Journal:

Barack Obama's rising poll numbers among white voters in Iowa and New Hampshire are having an unexpected ripple effect: Some black voters are switching their allegiance from Hillary Clinton and lining up behind him too. That could mean a further tightening of the Democratic presidential race, especially in southern states where blacks make up as many as half of Democratic primary voters.

Arizona has become a laboratory for bills and policies to crack down on illegal immigration.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Arizona businesses are firing Hispanic immigrants, moving operations to Mexico and freezing expansion plans ahead of a new law that cracks down on employers who hire undocumented workers [and that is set to take effect on Jan. 1].

Arizona's law, believed to be the strictest in the nation, is shaping up as a test of how employers will react when faced with real sanctions for hiring undocumented labor. It is being closely watched by businesses across the country. While proponents say the crackdown will save the state money on services for illegal immigrants, some businesspeople fear Arizona's economic growth may be at risk.

Under the law, people will be encouraged to contact a county sheriff's or county attorney's office to report businesses they suspect of employing an illegal immigrant. After the sheriff investigates, the county attorney can then seek to suspend and ultimately revoke the business license of an employer who knowingly hires an illegal immigrant. The measure would also require all Arizona businesses to use E-Verify, a federal online database, to confirm that new hires have valid Social Security numbers and are eligible for employment.

The law still faces a court challenge from the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and other business groups.

In one sense, the bill is having its desired impact: Employers are rushing to ensure they don't have undocumented workers.

Arizona has become a laboratory for bills and policies to crack down on illegal immigration. In 2004, it passed a proposal to prevent illegal immigrants from using state services, such as adult education and nonemergency health care. Earlier this month, a ballot initiative was introduced to deny U.S. citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants born in Arizona, which critics say is a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Supporters of such measures say the point is to deny people who broke U.S. law the benefit of government services. Opponents contend prejudice is the real motive. "This is about resistance to the browning of the state of Arizona," said Democratic state Rep. Pete Rios.

Friday, December 14, 2007

This is really big news: Rollins to serve as Huckabee’s national chairman

From The Hill:

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee scored a major victory Thursday when he secured the support of prominent GOP insider Ed Rollins, who will serve as national chairman of Huckabee’s campaign.

The fact that he would throw his support behind Huckabee lends the former governor some Republican institutional credibility, especially as he appears to be surging in the early states.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

With feds stuck, states take on immigration

From Stateline.org:

Oklahoma lawmakers signed off on a sweeping anti-illegal immigration law in 2007, responding to the 56,000 foreign-born residents who have come to the Sooner State since 2000 for jobs in meat-packing, construction and service industries. The new measure, which took effect Nov. 1, punishes employers who hire undocumented workers, gives police more tools to start deporting them and denies them state identification and benefits.

“Illegal aliens will not come to Oklahoma if there are no jobs. They will not stay if they don’t have welfare benefits. They will not want to come if they know they can be detained until they are deported,” said state Rep. Randy Terrill (R), the Oklahoma law’s chief proponent.

Several of the states to pass wide-reaching measures to deter illegal immigration – including Arizona, Colorado, Georgia and Oklahoma – are new destination states that saw their immigrant population grow by at least a third since 2000.

[S]tates are exploring ways to get involved with what remains primarily a responsibility of the federal government.

State powers to deal with immigration are severely limited by federal laws and court rulings.

While employers are supposed to ask job applicants for a Social Security card or proof they are eligible to work in the United States, a 1986 federal law prohibits states from imposing criminal or civil penalties on employers who hire illegal workers. The one punishment states can mete out is revoking or suspending an employer’s business license. But the question remains how broad that power is.

Six states – Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Oklahoma and Virginia – passed measures since 2005 to curb the public benefits illegal immigrants can receive, but the federal government keeps their options limited.

Under a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision, states must provide free K-12 education to children. “At the least, those who elect to enter our territory by stealth and in violation of our law should be prepared to bear the consequences, including, but not limited to, deportation. But the children of those illegal entrants are not comparably situated,” the five-justice majority reasoned in Plyler v. Doe, which threw out a Texas law that tried to cut off funds for illegal immigrant students.

Federal rules also require free emergency medical care for the poor, regardless of immigration status. Pregnant women and their young children can get healthy food and nutritional information from the nationwide Women, Infant and Children (WIC) program, even if they’re illegal immigrants.

On the other hand, the federal government bars illegal immigrants from non-emergency medical care through Medicaid, which is paid for by both state and federal governments. In fact, since 2006, the federal government requires states to verify the legal residency of all Medicaid recipients.

Illegal immigrants can’t get welfare benefits from Social Security or the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which states administer. And Food Stamps, another federal program administered by states, is open only to poor people who are legal residents.

The situation is more complicated for families in which the parents are illegally here but their children, born on American soil, are U.S. citizens. In such mixed families, poor kids can enroll in Medicaid but their parents can’t.

Federal restrictions, including the Plyler decision, doomed the most famous state effort [California] to cut off public benefits for illegal immigrants.

Only seven states – Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington – allow illegal immigrants to get driver’s licenses, but that number is scheduled to drop to six in February, when Oregon halts the practice.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Huckabee Immigration Plan Emphasizes Security

From The New York Times:

Mike Huckabee, the Republican presidential candidate, released a plan for tougher immigration enforcement and border security yesterday, pledging to complete a border fence between the United States and Mexico by July 2010 and ruling out a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants unless they returned first to their country of origin.

Mr. Huckabee has taken heat in recent weeks from his rivals for the Republican nomination, especially after his impassioned defense at a Nov. 28 debate of merit scholarships to children of illegal immigrants while he was governor of Arkansas. In that debate, he responded to attacks on his immigration record by saying, “We’re a better country than to punish children for what their parents did.”

In the proposal he released yesterday, Mr. Huckabee . . . said immigrants who failed to register within 120 days and then leave the country would be deported and barred from re-entry for 10 years.

In addition to completing the fence and installing an “interlocking” camera surveillance system on the Mexican border, he said he would increase the number of Border Patrol agents. Employers who hire illegal immigrants would also be subject to penalties under his proposal.

What a bizarre way to run the gov't: Bush to get unfettered money for Iraq war in exchange for new spending on popular domestic programs.

The New York Times reports that Congressional leaders plan to provide President Bush with unfettered money for the Iraq war in exchange for new spending on popular domestic programs such as health care, education, home heating programs and other initiatives.

The emerging proposal is similar to the way the White House and Democrats settled their initial showdown this year over Iraq spending, with Democrats’ dropping their demand for a withdrawal timeline in exchange for added spending at home.

See also The Washington Post story.

Friday, December 07, 2007

House leaders reject Senate's Alternative Minimum Tax fix

From The Hill:

Despite the Senate’s overwhelming vote to pass an Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) patch without offsets, House leadership officials Friday indicated they will continue to press the upper chamber to pass a measure that is paid for.

What tact; what political persuasion; what leadership -- The Czar: If you don’t do what I’m telling you to do, I will have your board seat in January.

We all knew about the fierce political infighting that went on regarding the selection of the new Department of Transportation commissioner.

Gov. Perdue and Lt. Gov. Casey House Speaker Glenn Richardson -- who supported Gena Abraham -- prevailed by one-vote margin over House Speaker Richardson -- who was supported Vance Smith (R - Pine Mountain), chairman of the House Transportation Committee.

Today the AJC's Political Insider reports that Ariel Hart — the AJC transportation writer — had a conversation with one of the two vulnerable board members — DOT board chairman Mike Evans.

According to Hart, Evans said the speaker had personally warned him to vote his way: “He said if you don’t do what I’m telling you to do I will have your board seat in January,” the DOT commissioner said.

The Wall Street Journal: "Ethanol Craze Cools As Doubts Multiply" -- The Tifton Gazette: "Ethanol plant is announced in Ashburn"

From The Wall Street Journal:

Little over a year ago, ethanol was winning the hearts and wallets of both Main Street and Wall Street, with promises of greater U.S. energy independence, fewer greenhouse gases and help for the farm economy. Today, the corn-based biofuel is under siege.

In the span of one growing season, ethanol has gone from panacea to pariah in the eyes of some. The critics, which include industries hurt when the price of corn rises, blame ethanol for pushing up food prices, question its environmental bona fides and dispute how much it really helps reduce the need for oil.

The fortunes of many U.S. farmers, farm towns and ethanol companies are tied to corn-based ethanol, of which America is the largest producer. Ethanol is also a cornerstone of President Bush's push to reduce dependence on foreign oil. But the once-booming business has gone in the dumps, with profits squeezed, plans for new plants shelved in certain cases, and stock prices hovering near 52-week lows.

From The Tifton Gazette:

Construction of a corn ethanol facility in Turner County is scheduled to begin next summer. The plant, expected to employ 50 people, is expected to produce 50 million gallons of ethanol a year.

The cooperative of 236 farmers, some of whom are from Tift County, formed a year ago, conducted feasibility studies and visited other ethanol plants. Within the next six months, the group will complete zoning and EPD requires and conduct an equity drive to sell stock. Site improvements that include land, buildings, equipment, rail, water, sewer and gas total $90 million.

From The Albany Herald:

[In attendance for the announcement of the corn ethanol facility was] Jill Stuckey, Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority’s Director of Alternative Fuels, [who] has worked closely with about 60 of the state’s alternative fuel ventures, including C2 Biofuels and Range Fuels, cellulosic ethanol facility that will make ethanol from timber scraps, and Alterra Bioenergy near Plains, where biodiesel will be made from oilseeds, including peanuts.

While the technology to make large quantities of fuel from wood pulp or other organic matter is developing, it’s been proven in the corn ethanol refineries that dot the Midwest, Stuckey said.

“Today, it’s corn ethanol, because that’s what we know how to do,” Stuckey said. “Tomorrow, with folks like Range Fuels and C2 Biofuels, it’s going to be cellulosic.”

Since we are into Cracker Squire Archives, how about one on the GOP mover and shaker, Gov. Mike Huckabee

I've been saying for a long time that Mike Huckabee could be man to watch in GOP presidential nomination race. The following is from a 9-1-07 post that is partly entitled "Former Arkansas GOP Gov. Mike Huckabee and Keith Richards":

You will enjoy this article in The Washington Post about Mike Huckabee who was named by TIME as one of the nation's five best governors in 2005. He raised his national profile by losing over 100 pounds through diet and exercise, and has been in the news lately by coming in second in the Iowa Straw Poll on August 11.

You will enjoy even more this video on his pardoning Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones. Click on this link.

And to bring us up to date, see a new Time article entitled "Why They Love Huckabee."

And Tom Baxter writes in the Southern Political Reporter that in the latest good news for a campaign on a roll, former Huckabee has moved into the lead in a poll of registered South Carolina Republican voters.

Senate Backs Freeze on Alternative Minimum Tax Without Cost Offsets -- A Bitter Retreat for Senate Democrats on Pay-Go Budget Rules

From The New York Times:

Trying to find a way out of a sticky tax problem, the Senate on Thursday voted overwhelmingly to prevent the alternative minimum tax from hitting millions of middle-class Americans without replacing the $50 billion that would be lost.

The move represented a bitter retreat for Senate Democrats who, in taking over Congress this year, pledged to pay for new tax cuts or programs rather than add to the federal deficit. But with Republicans refusing to go along, most Democrats joined them in endorsing a temporary fix of the alternative minimum tax without corresponding offsets rather than be held responsible for a surprise tax burden falling on 19 million taxpayers.

See also The Washington Post.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A series of 13 past posts from the Cracker Squire Archives on "Bring it on Sam Nunn, bring it on."

In a 12-3-07 post I noted that I had previously done a post on former Sen. Sam Nunn and the slight possibility that he might run for President, and began the post with the lead-in "Bring it on Sam Nunn, bring it on."

The post noted in part:

Wouldn't it be great it the AJC did an editorial calling on Sen. Nunn to make the run. There is more than a slight possiblity that such an editorial from the state's largest newspaper might get some legs and get things moving on the national level.

Today's Wall Street Journal has a front-page article with the headline "Obama's Gains Show Volatility Of Iowa Contest." The article notes that about six in 10 Iowa voters say they could switch allegiances before caucus night. Not only is this amazing, it is crazy.

Just yesterday I did another post entitled "American voters still haven't figured out whom they want to win." And it is not just that many don't know who they want to win; many just don't have a candidate.

Wouldn't it be great if Nunn would step up to the plate. Unlike the run Ross Perot made because Ross Perot was Ross Perot, this could quickly become a draft movement by Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike urging Mr. Nunn to run.

Back in August of this year the Rome News-Tribune endorsed Sam Nunn for president of the United States, thus probably becoming the first daily in the nation to commit to anybody. Now it is time for this action to be followed by other Georgia dailies.

I am going to contact those I know and urge the AJC to give this idea some thought. I urge you to do likewise. Either after or before getting this, we can go to Macon, Augusta, Columbus, Albany, Athens, Valdosta, Savannah, Marietta (which came close today), etc.

In the meanwhile, I am going to post a couple of prior posts on this topic. Sam Nunn is truly a great stateman, and we Georgians are fortunate to have him as one of our own.

A friend sent me an e-mail on the above post, noting: "I wish your hope would come true. I shudder at this whole pack of presidential candidates." Maybe it will.

My anticipated "couple of prior posts" ended up consisting of 13 posts, and they appear below in order.

From the Cracker Squire Archives on "Bring it on Sam Nunn, bring it on." -- Part I (Bill Shipp)

From the center:

In an 8-20-04 post I quoted Bill Shipp from his May 12, 2004 column:

Question. What could Sen. John F. Kerry do to have any chance of winning Georgia in the November election?

Answer. Not much. But he might try flattening his broad New England ''a,'' avoid being photographed ever again with Ted Kennedy, shush his wife or select Sam Nunn as his running mate.

And in a 11-14-04 post I quoted the Dean who noted:

"Georgia's last great Democratic senator, Sam Nunn, [was] a quietly cautious lawmaker who knew how to make good things happen in Washington for his nation and state."

From the Cracker Squire Archives on "Bring it on Sam Nunn, bring it on." -- Part II (Dick Yarbrough)

And from the right:

In a 12-14-04 post I quoted from a column Dick Yarbrough had written in June 2004 entitled "A salute to some live Democrats."

He began his column by noting that "[a] member of the Loyal Opposition -- meaning those who don't agree with anything I say, which includes about half of the inhabited Earth -- confided to a friend that 'the only Democrats Dick Yarbrough likes are dead Democrats.' Not true. There are a lot of live Democrats I like."

On the topic at hand, Mr. Yarbrough writes:

Sam Nunn is my favorite Democrat of all time. He is smart as a whip and was a pleasure to work with. We have had some great senators from Georgia, but none better than Sam Nunn.

From the Cracker Squire Archives on "Bring it on Sam Nunn, bring it on." -- Part III (Jim Wooten)

And from even further to the right:

A 11-12-04 post quoted Jim Wooten in his regular AJC column:

Today Jim Wooten tells it like it is: "Nobody appears saner or more qualified for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008 than Sam Nunn."

Thanks Mr. Wooten. Perhaps the nationals will pick up on your wisdom.

From the Cracker Squire Archives on "Bring it on Sam Nunn, bring it on." -- Part IV (Larry Walker)

I did a 3-23-05 post entitled "Larry Walker & I have a great candidate to be the Democratic nominee for president in '08. -- Whatever Happened to Sam Nunn?"

Part of the post was an article Larry Walker had written in the Feb. 15 to March 15 issue of James Magazine. It provided:

He came into my very modest law office in Perry in, what, 1966? It was his first campaign for governor — the unsuccessful one. After exchanging pleasantries, Jimmy Carter asked about “another young lawyer in Perry,” whom I concluded was Sam Nunn. He was called “Little Sam” back then to distinguish him from his much- respected father, Sam Nunn Sr.

So I took Jimmy Carter to the real estate records room in the Houston County Courthouse and introduced him to title-checking lawyer Sam Nunn. I introduced a future U.S. president to a future U.S. senator — how improbable! And how their lives would be intertwined for the next 30 years or so.

Sam doesn’t come home as much as he used to, but he was in Perry recently to speak on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Perry’s Chamber of Commerce. As I have done so many times in the past, I had the honor of introducing Sam Nunn to his home folks who know him so well. There was much I could have said, but I kept the tradition of ‘the more important the speaker, the shorter the introduction,” and was very brief.

Sam Nunn “Little Sam” stood and talked. With the same familiarity that I would discuss Georgia football or the state legislative budget process, he spoke of his efforts at working for a safer world through the Nuclear Threat Initiative, which he co-chairs with Ted Turner, and about the proliferation of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and of our feeble attempts at curtailment. All of his good work in this area might eventually lead to a Nobel Peace Prize.

I was taken by a powerful memory as he spoke. In my mind it was 1956, and Perry’s boys basketball team had not lost a single regular- season game, but it was trailing the undefeated Valley Point high school team at halftime in the state championship. Perry’s legendary coach, Eric Staples, said only one thing to his boys at halftime: “We’ve had a good year. This team is just better than we are.” “Little Sam” led the charge in the second half as Perry won the state championship, 81-52. Sam Nunn scored 27 points. You see, “Little Sam” didn’t believe any one was better than he was, nor does he now. Nor do I. In my book, Sam Nunn is the best.

In my law office every day, I see a framed and inscribed political poster that reads, “Elect Sam Nunn, U.S. Senate.” It’s one of the original 1972 posters and has Sam’s picture on it. But with those horn-rimmed glasses, he looks more like Buddy Holly than Sam Nunn. And I always say to visitors who comment on the poster, “It looks like Buddy Holly, doesn’t it?” I’ve come to think of it as my Buddy Holly political poster. Buddy Holly, cut down in his prime and before he accomplished what he could have.

Sam Nunn. A great U.S. senator in the Richard Russell mold. That’s a mighty big mold, but I believe Sam Nunn could’ve done more. I understand the dilemma he faced of getting the Democratic nomination in 1992 and then being able to win the election. Too conservative for the nomination, and if he did what he would’ve needed to do to get it, he would have been seen as too liberal to be elected. But I believe he could’ve been elected rather than Bill Clinton. Wouldn’t things have been different if he had? Different for the national Democratic Party, the country and the world. Who better to deal with the Russians after the wall came down, and who better to deal with Kim Jong-il of North Korea, Hu Jintao of China and all the world’s dictators and miscreants?

My recent and short introduction of Sen. Nunn contained these words: “He could have been president and he should have been president.” It’s not too late, but like the Perry-Valley Point game, “Little Sam’ had better take over and do so soon if we are going to pull this one out. Otherwise, they will say, “He would’ve made a great president, and by the way, whatever happened to Sam Nunn?”

Larry Walker served 32 years in the Georgia House of Representatives, 16 of those as majority leader. He is a successful businessman, attorney and writer.

From the Cracker Squire Archives on "Bring it on Sam Nunn, bring it on." -- Part V (Sid Cottingham)

In a 5-20-05 post I noted some comments that I had made during the previous summer:

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

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

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

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

From the Cracker Squire Archives on "Bring it on Sam Nunn, bring it on." -- Part VI (Bill Shipp again)

My 12-17-06 post consisted of the following column by Bill Shipp:

Where is Sam Nunn now that we really need him?

Look no further than Georgia for an example of what happens to Democrats if blacks think they have lost their stake in the elections game. Republican Sonny Perdue wiped out Democratic gubernatorial challenger Mark Taylor in the Nov. 7 election because black voters stayed home. Taylor might not have won in any case, but a strong black turnout would have made the race close. Taylor took the black voted for granted, courted the white male vote and lost the election in a landslide.

A similar scenario could occur nationally unless Democrats embrace a towering candidate who can rise above the politics of race - a candidate who can select a ticket capable of pleasing all segments of citizens instead of satisfying a handful of bosses determined to control the Democratic nomination even if they lose the election.

At the moment it's hard to imagine such a candidate except perhaps former Sen. Sam Nunn. We tried to phone Nunn for his reaction, but his office said he was not available. We also tried to phone Nunn six years ago and again four years ago. He didn't take our calls then either, and look what happened.

From the Cracker Squire Archives on "Bring it on Sam Nunn, bring it on." -- Part VII (an Associated Press story)

My 1-7-07 post was entitled "Sam Nunn on Iraq: 'It was the worst strategic error I've seen in modern times by the United States,'" and the post contained the following AP article from the Macon Telegraph:

[Sam Nunn] hasn't ruled out another round in politics, although he says he has no inclination to run for office.

Nunn was widely viewed as the Senate's foremost authority on foreign and military affairs at the end of his 24-year career, in which he served as an influential chairman of the Armed Services Committee. He remains active in international affairs and is among a select group of former lawmakers who many current leaders look to for guidance.

He was asked but declined to serve on the Iraq Study Group led by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and former Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton.

Nunn has sharp words for the Bush Administration's planning of the Iraq war.

"We've lost a lot of prestige and credibility in the world," he said. "I definitely think we made a real mistake going to war without the consensus of other countries ... we can't occupy a country successfully without cooperation from neighbors and countries around the globe.

"I think we're paying a very severe price for that right now," he added. "It was the worst strategic error I've seen in modern times by the United States."

"Our friends in a lot of places in the world are alarmed by the deterioration of our position in the world," he said. "We can restore it ... but to lead we have to listen, and we have to be perceived as listening.

"I don't think it's intentional, but we've come across as basically very arrogant in the last several years."

Nunn said he believes voters sent Bush - and the world - an important signal by ousting the president's party from power in November's elections.

Back in Georgia, he's not optimistic Democrats will retake political power anytime soon, but he said his party still can win statewide races.

His daughter, Michelle, could be one of them.

"She would have a real shot if she wanted to run," Nunn said of his daughter, who directs a national nonprofit group based in Atlanta and considered running for the Senate in 2004. "I think one of these days she may toss her hat in."

From the Cracker Squire Archives on "Bring it on Sam Nunn, bring it on." -- Part VIII (Larry Walker again)

In a 7-26-07 post I wrote:

Today Matt Towery reports in InsiderAdvantage Georgia that Nunn has been approached by several individuals about his interest as a candidate in a third-party effort in 'o8 as an independent.

Mr. Towery also writes:

Of equal or greater importance is the additional report, confirmed by sources, that Nunn has been approached "by one of the frontunners in the Democratic race for president" for "preliminary discussions" concerning a potential vice presidential role in the event of the candidate's eventual nomination.

Following Towery's article is a column written by my friend Larry Walker, former House majority leader (and the subject of a 1-24-05 post entitled "'It just won't be the same without you Larry.' -- Larry Walker, private citizen, great Georgian & great Democrat."), in which Mr. Walker writes:

I’m a moderate, middle of the road American citizen, and politically, the national candidates pay no attention to me. The Democrats, who used to be the conservatives (at least in the South), are controlled by the wing nuts - left wing nuts. The Republicans, who used to be socially moderate and fiscally conservative, are apparently now neither. Nationally, their right wing drives the Republicans’ social agendas.

Democratic Presidential candidates have to be so liberal to win the primary that they have great difficulty in winning the general election. Republican candidates cater to the right lest they fail the abortion or immigration tests. Wise, thoughtful, visionary leaders, have little chance of success under the current two-party system of electing our President.

Be honest. It’s about a year and a half before we elect our next President, and you are already disillusioned with the candidates and the process.

As I put forth this subject of Nunn’s being interested in an independent candidacy involving the Presidency, can I say that he has confirmed interest? The answer is “no”. But, do I think he has interest? The answer is “yes”. Could it be done? Yes. Would it work? Definitely. Will it be done? Probably not.

From the Cracker Squire Archives on "Bring it on Sam Nunn, bring it on." -- Part IX (Newt Gingrich)

From a 8-06-07 post:

[A]bout these whispers of a third-party ticket that pairs New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg with former U.S. senator Sam Nunn of Georgia: Gingrich said he saw no way for it to succeed.

“It’s a little hard for me to imagine Nunn doing something as radical as running on a third-party ticket,” Gingrich said.

From the Cracker Squire Archives on "Bring it on Sam Nunn, bring it on." -- Part X (the Rome News-Tribune)

From a 8-19-07 post:

From the Rome News-Tribune:

THIS NEWSPAPER hereby endorses Sam Nunn for president of the United States, thus probably becoming the first daily in the nation to commit to anybody.

NOTED FOR HIS bipartisan approach, as well has his expertise in military/defense matters, he has constantly been speculated upon as a secretary of defense, secretary of state, vice presidential candidate and even presidential contender.

[I]t is apparently his irritation at the current Washington atmosphere of partisanship, rather than cooperative efforts to make the nation better, that have fueled his new, tentative interest.

That is an irritation this newspaper shares. Partisan government, no matter which party governs, has become noted for being all talk and no action — or claimed action with no results or follow-through.

Realistically, while Nunn would annihilate any opponent in a formal debate what is still more likely to catch the public eye in a presidential bid is a Ross Perot with pointer and quips. A candidate like Nunn would be a PBS-style personality in a Fox News era, a Shakespearean actor trying to gain applause from an audience of Paris Hiltons.

From the Cracker Squire Archives on "Bring it on Sam Nunn, bring it on." -- Part XI (Jim Galloway of the AJC)

From a 8-19-07 post entitled "Nunn: (1) On White House bid: "It's a possibility, not a probability;" (2) The only certainty is that he won't be anybody's candidate for V.P.":

Jim Galloway writes in the AJC:

[Since] Sam Nunn left the U.S. Senate more than 10 years ago, [he] . . . has watched what's happened to the country, and he's more than a bit ticked — at the "fiasco" in Iraq, a federal budget spinning out of control, the lack of an honest energy policy, and a presidential contest that, he says, seems designed to thwart serious discussion of the looming crises.

"My own thinking is, it may be a time for the country to say, 'Timeout. The two-party system has served us well, historically, but it's not serving us now.'"

Nunn said he's not likely to make up his mind [about a White House bid] until next year, probably after the early rush of presidential primaries have produced de facto nominees for both parties. He said the decision will depend largely on what he hears from the current candidates.

Political debate has been captured by the extreme wings of both parties, he said, ignoring solutions that can only be found in the middle.

"I do not see tough calls willing to be made by the body politic," he said.

Nunn singled out the debate over energy and global warming. Those most concerned with global warming won't consider nuclear energy as an alternative, he said. Those who advocate energy independence ignore the fact that there is "no analysis whatsoever that could lead you to believe we're going to be independent in this country on energy," Nunn said. "We'll have interdependence and security in energy, but people aren't talking about that."

But if Nunn does decide to enter the race, Iraq, terrorism and the increasingly strained state of the U.S. military will also have their place as major motivations.

Though he has said little publicly, his frustration over Iraq . . . can barely be contained. "A fiasco, which we've basically mishandled in all directions. We'll get over it, because we're a strong country, and we're indispensable in the sense that we're the [world] leader. But right now, it's going to take at least 10 years to rebuild U.S. credibility."

Nor has the Bush administration been able to create the necessary climate to make it easy for the world's Muslim population to isolate jihadist terrorists, Nunn said.

"We're in a race between cooperation and catastrophe. And to get cooperation you have to have a vision, and you have to listen. And we're not perceived as having a vision in this country, and we're not perceived as listening."

The question is whether the American center — or what's left of it — shares his frustration.

From the Cracker Squire Archives on "Bring it on Sam Nunn, bring it on." -- Part XII (the AJC's Political Insider)

The AJC's Political Insider notes that the article by Jim Galloway that is the subject of the Part XI post was based on an hour-long interview with Nunn, and by necessity much was left out -- mostly Nunn’s extended comments on foreign and defense policy. This post by the Political Insider has some good audio as well as written discussion of Sam Nunn's various positions.

From the Cracker Squire Archives on "Bring it on Sam Nunn, bring it on." -- Part XIII (The Marietta Daily Journal)

A 12-2-07 post entitled "Nunn: If I run, it would be as an Independent. Our process gives every incentive for candidates to avoid the fundamental issues & hard questions," is as follows:

Bring it on Sam, bring it on. Today The Marietta Daily Journal reports:

Former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) told a large Marietta crowd this week that a presidential run is "possible, but not probable" - but those on hand for that speech came away with little doubt that were he decide to run, that he would have collected the votes of a great majority of his listeners.

Nunn, having represented Georgia for a quarter century on Capitol Hill, said any such candidacy would be fueled by his frustration with the political process.

"I don't think the two-party system is serving us as well as it has in the past," [he said].

There has been very little media coverage or debate time given to the five or six most important issues facing the country, he complained.

"So when someone is finally elected, he or she is not going to have a consensus on how to move our country forward in a direction to solve these fundamental problems," he said. "You've got energy, the environment, the fact that unless we have entitlement reform, they're going to eat up all of our budget when the Baby Boomers start retiring right around the corner. We've got to come up with a sustainable consensus over how to fight terrorism over the long period, which is something we don't have right now. And we've also got the threat of rogue states acquiring nuclear and biological weapons. And let's not forget the infectious disease threat, which is a key part of the nation's security. Those are all major issues."

Nunn said if he were to run, it would be as an independent.

"There are others talking about running as an independent," he said. "There are a number of former officials who are as concerned as I am about the direction the country is headed in. It's not a criticism of the candidates themselves, per se, but a criticism of a process that gives every incentive for candidates in the race to avoid what I call the fundamental issues and the hard questions.

Chinese assembly-line workers earn an average of slightly more than $1 an hour .

From The Wall Street Journal:

WUHU, China -- In this city on the Yangtze River, more than 25,000 blue-uniformed workers are busy churning out cars for Chery Automobile Co. As they motor through double shifts using the latest imported technology, they're also helping to change the dynamics of the global auto industry.

Barely a decade after it was founded, state-owned Chery has emerged as China's largest independent vehicle maker -- and one that is determined to compete against the world's automobile giants.

In July, the company signed a landmark deal with Chrysler LLC to sell a series of small cars made by Chery under the American auto maker's Dodge brand. Chrysler has said it plans to start selling the cars in Latin America and other developing markets next year and aims to have them on the market in the U.S. and Western Europe by 2009.

The pact marks the first time that one of Detroit's Big Three has outsourced the production of entire vehicles to a Chinese company. The deal also sends a warning to high-cost workers in the U.S. and Europe that even more of their jobs could be at risk.

Junior engineers at Chery earn about $6,000 a year, and many sleep in bunk beds four to a room in company dormitories. Some don't have driver's licenses and, like most Chinese people, didn't grow up riding around in a family car. Few workers can afford to buy the automobiles they make.

Assembly-line workers earn an average of slightly more than $1 an hour -- far less than their counterparts in Europe or North America but, in Anhui, a sought-after wage.

Chery can "offer low-cost platforms with speed," says Tom LaSorda, president and vice chairman of Chrysler, which has said it will eliminate 25,000 jobs in North America.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Yet another Idaho Statesman story reports additional persons coming forward to describe sexual encounters with Sen. Wide Stance

The Idaho Statesman reports that four gay men, willing to put their names in print, have come forward since news of U.S. Sen. Larry Craig's guilty plea. They say they had sex with Craig or that he made a sexual advance or that he paid them unusual attention.

They are telling their stories now because they are offended by Craig's denials, including his famous statement, "I am not gay, I never have been gay."

The paper reports that Craig's denials began in June 1982 when CBS broke news of a scandal alleging gay sex between congressmen and underage pages. The following day, before any public allegation that he was involved, then-Rep. Craig issued a denial. Craig married a year later and adopted the three children of his wife, Suzanne. In 1990, the Idaho Statesman asked Craig about an allegation that he was gay made by an opponent in his first Senate race. "Why don't you ask my wife?" Craig replied.

A couple of months ago I was watching a talking heads show and a guest observed that the Democrats making noise about and criticizing Craig could backfire. Another guest jumped in to correct the speaker, noting that the Democrats weren't saying a thing; rather they were sitting back enjoying watching the Republicans squirm as they were doing everything they could to get Craig to go ahead and leave Washington and the spotlight.
This latest story in the Idaho Statesman is about as bad as it has been to date, and rather than wishing it had not been published, I suspect the GOP is loving it, hoping it does what the GOP so far has been unsuccessful in doing.

See also a story in The Washington Post.

Monday, December 03, 2007

A short series from the Cracker Squire Archives -- Where is Sam Nunn now that we really need him?

Yesterday I did a short post on former Sen. Sam Nunn and the slight possibility that he might run for President, and began the post with the lead-in "Bring it on Sam, bring it on."

As Georgia's Dean of Georgia Politics and Journalism Bill Shipp wrote almost a year ago, "Where is Sam Nunn now that we really need him?"

Wouldn't it be great it the AJC did an editorial calling on Sen. Nunn to make the run. There is more than a slight possiblity that such an editorial from the state's largest newspaper might get some legs and get things moving on the national level.

Today's Wall Street Journal has a front-page article with the headline "Obama's Gains Show Volatility Of Iowa Contest." The article notes that about six in 10 Iowa voters say they could switch allegiances before caucus night. Not only is this amazing, it is crazy.

Just yesterday I did another post entitled "American voters still haven't figured out whom they want to win." And it is not just that many don't know who they want to win; many just don't have a candidate.

Wouldn't it be great if Nunn would step up to the plate. Unlike the run Ross Perot made because Ross Perot was Ross Perot, this could quickly become a draft movement by Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike urging Mr. Nunn to run.

Back in August of this year the Rome News-Tribune endorsed Sam Nunn for president of the United States, thus probably becoming the first daily in the nation to commit to anybody. Now it is time for this action to be followed by other Georgia dailies.

I am going to contact those I know and urge the AJC to give this idea some thought. I urge you to do likewise. Either after or before getting this, we can go to Macon, Augusta, Columbus, Albany, Athens, Valdosta, Savannah, Marietta (which came close today), etc.

In the meanwhile, I am going to post a couple of prior posts on this topic. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did writing them. Sam Nunn is truly a great stateman, and we Georgians are fortunate to have him as one of our own.