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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.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Obama's mama didn't raise no fool -- After Campaign Push, Obama Cultivates Military

From The New York Times:

Pentagon officials say they have been relieved that Mr. Obama has so far proceeded slowly on two campaign promises: to pull all combat troops out of Iraq within 16 months and to allow gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military.

Mr. Obama’s aides have signaled that they will avoid an early conflagration involving the military and will wait for months before moving to repeal the 16-year-old “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that requires gay men and lesbians in the services to keep their sexual orientation secret.

“It’s moving prudently,” said Denis McDonough, a top foreign policy aide to Mr. Obama. “I think we’ve seen what happens when you address important policy issues imprudently. It’s not in our interest and it’s not the style of this president.” (Mr. Clinton’s push in 1993 to have gay men and lesbians serve openly created a storm at the Pentagon; “don’t ask, don’t tell” was the compromise.)

To educate himself and to establish credentials, he reached out during the campaign, as candidates traditionally do, to retired generals, among them President George W. Bush’s first secretary of state, Colin L. Powell, who endorsed him.

But Mr. Obama also embraced a group of younger officers, all veterans of Iraq or Afghanistan, who provided him with on-the-ground accounts of those two wars and helped build his military fluency.

Military officials say that a big step in Mr. Obama’s campaign to build their trust was his retention not only of Mr. Bush’s defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, but also his appointment of three other military men to top positions. Gen. James L. Jones, a retired Marine commandant, is Mr. Obama’s national security adviser; Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, the retired Army chief of staff, is secretary of veterans affairs; and Dennis C. Blair, a retired admiral, is director of national intelligence.

Pentagon officials also point to early gestures by Mr. Obama that have been symbolic but important to them. Anyone in the military could tell that Mr. Obama took the time to practice the first, crisp salute that he executed on Jan. 20. That evening the new president spoke by video feed to American troops in Afghanistan at the Commander-in-Chief Ball; the weekend before, he laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery and visited wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Praise the Lord! This rule has resulted in far more injustice than justice. -- U.S. Supreme Court Justices Step Closer to Repeal of Evidence Ruling

If we as attorneys prevail in what is known as a suppression hearing to get the court to suppress evidence, that is, rule it inadmissible, a guilty defendant will usually walk.

From The New York Times:

In 1983, a young lawyer in the Reagan White House was hard at work on what he called in a memorandum “the campaign to amend or abolish the exclusionary rule” — the principle that evidence obtained by police misconduct cannot be used against a defendant.

The Reagan administration’s attacks on the exclusionary rule — a barrage of speeches, opinion articles, litigation and proposed legislation — never gained much traction. But now that young lawyer, John G. Roberts Jr., is chief justice of the United States.

This month, Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the majority in Herring v. United States, a 5-to-4 decision, took a big step toward the goal he had discussed a quarter-century before. Taking aim at one of the towering legacies of the Warren Court, its landmark 1961 decision applying the exclusionary rule to the states, the chief justice’s majority opinion established for the first time that unlawful police conduct should not require the suppression of evidence if all that was involved was isolated carelessness. That was a significant step in itself. More important yet, it suggested that the exclusionary rule itself might be at risk.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

At DOT, Change Is on the Way

Tom Crawford of Capitol Impact writes:

Political science professors for years have been teaching their students that Georgia’s affairs are managed by the traditional three branches of government: the executive, the legislative and the judicial. That is not the whole story, however, because our state also has a fourth branch of government: the Department of Transportation.

The DOT is a political fiefdom run by the State Transportation Board, whose members are elected by legislators. Transportation Board members are empowered to pick a commissioner, usually a career highway engineer, to run the agency that spends billions of dollars a year on roads and bridges.

The constitutional structure of the DOT is supposed to provide the department with some independence from the governor’s office, but that ceased to be the case nearly 20 years ago. Zell Miller, Roy Barnes and Sonny Perdue used varying amounts of political muscle to persuade the Transportation Board to appoint their personal choices as DOT commissioner.

In addition to that erosion of autonomy, the DOT has some perplexing management problems these days. The department finished the last fiscal year with a budget deficit of $456 million, a shortfall that department officials are still struggling to explain. Transportation officials have basically made commitments to pave a lot of highways without the money to pay for them.

The biggest issue facing the department is that it does not do a very good job of carrying out its basic responsibility: transporting people from point A to point B. In the metro Atlanta area that is now home to half the state’s population, the highways are just as crowded as ever and the commuting times for Georgia workers remain among the highest in the nation. The mess has gotten so bad that the metro area’s business leaders are demanding that the General Assembly do something before we choke to death on our own congestion.

The accumulation of problems could finally force legislators to make some far-reaching changes during this session. Picking up on an idea floated by House Majority Leader Jerry Keen and others, lawmakers could be ready to shift the decision-making responsibilities from the Transportation Board to another entity whose members would be appointed equally by the governor, lieutenant governor, and speaker of the House.

It would be a momentous change because legislators would be giving up one of the few perks of power that is part of their job, the ability to name members of the Transportation Board. Are they ready to do that? Maybe so.

“I have to believe that there will be few objections to giving up the ‘privilege’ of electing DOT Board members,” a legislator confided. “I say this because it is a far different time from years ago and the reign of King Gillis. Legislators realize the transportation system is broken and that their constituents want it fixed, and fixed yesterday.

“The past few DOT board elections have not been pretty as you well know. Everyone came out losers in the long run. I was put under so much pressure by everyone from a U.S. Senator to a client to vote for a particular person that I got to a point that I did not want to even answer the phone.”

The lawmaker concluded: “Bottom line: the days of the Wool Hat Boys and Mr. Gillis are gone. And we have ourselves one heck of a mess. Let’s make the system work better.”

If legislators move ahead with this change, they will effectively move the transportation department back under the executive branch of government. Perhaps that will enable whoever sits in the governor’s office to bring some focus and consistency to the department’s activities.

It will not, however, solve the real problem that underlies the state’s transportation woes: we don’t have enough money under the current tax structure to build the highways and transit systems necessary to move our growing population.

DOT Commissioner Gena Evans laid out the situation succinctly to a legislative committee last week: “We have continuing transportation needs and yet we continue to under-invest. We have $2.4 billion worth of projects on the books that we can’t possibly fund.”

Roads cost money. The General Assembly is controlled by leaders opposed to the idea of significant tax increases. Until you can resolve that conflict, all the bureaucratic restructurings in the world won’t make a bit of difference.

With little notice and no public hearings, it is fixing to start raining money in Washington.

From The New York Times:

The stimulus bill working its way through Congress is not just a package of spending increases and tax cuts intended to jolt the nation out of recession. For Democrats, it is also a tool for rewriting the social contract with the poor, the uninsured and the unemployed, in ways they have long yearned to do.

With little notice and no public hearings, House Democrats would create a temporary new entitlement allowing workers getting unemployment checks to qualify for Medicaid, the health program for low-income people. Spouses and children could also receive benefits, no matter how much money the family had.

In addition, the stimulus package would offer a hefty subsidy to help laid-off workers retain the same health plans they had from their former employers.

“It’s raining money,” said Representative Michael C. Burgess, Republican of Texas.

Most of the aid is billed as temporary. But Republicans fear that states would get hooked on it, just as they might grow accustomed to a big increase in federal aid to education, also included in the bill.

Democrats said the current economic crisis did not allow time for public hearings on the legislation.

The legislation would allow states to provide Medicaid to an entirely new group: those who are receiving unemployment insurance benefits, their spouses and children under 19.

Medicaid is normally for low-income people, and for decades it has been financed jointly by the federal government and the states, with the federal share averaging 57 percent of costs.

The economic stimulus bill prevents states from enforcing a means test, saying, “No income or resources test shall be applied with respect to any category of individuals” who become eligible for Medicaid because they are receiving unemployment benefits. The federal government would pay 100 percent of the costs for people enrolled under this option through December 2010.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Newspapers Left Battered and Bruised

From The Washington Post:

A $250 million loan that the New York Times took last week trained a fresh spotlight on the woes in newspaperland. The devastation to the industry is apparent in the steep declines in market capitalization of major newspaper publishers in the past year. Worst hit was E.W. Scripps, operator of community newspapers and TV stations, which lost 98 percent of its value. Lee Enterprises, publisher of daily and weekly papers, was next with a 97 percent decline. McClatchy, the nation's third-largest newspaper company, lost 93 percent of its market cap.

Where Will Detainees From Guantánamo Go?

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed

From The New York Times:

Is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed coming to a prison near you?

One day after President Obama ordered that the military detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, be shuttered, lawmakers in Washington wrestled with the implications of bringing dozens of the 245 remaining inmates onto American soil.

Republican lawmakers, who oppose Mr. Obama’s plan, found a talking point with political appeal. They said closing Guantánamo could allow dangerous terrorists to get off on legal technicalities and be released into quiet neighborhoods across the United States. If the detainees were convicted, the Republicans continued, American prisons housing terrorism suspects could become magnets for attacks.

Meanwhile, none of the Democrats who on Thursday hailed the closing of the detention camp were stepping forward to offer prisons in their districts or states to receive the prisoners.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Please President Obama, don't give any of my TARP money to the Italian company Fiat -- Part III

From The Wall Street Journal:

In Washington, concern over the alliance appears to be mounting because the U.S. government has loaned Chrysler $4 billion while Fiat would get its initial ownership stake without putting up any cash. Under the pact, Fiat has the option of raising its stake to 55% for as little as $25 million.

On Thursday, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) urged President Barack Obama to require Chrysler to repay the loans immediately if Fiat takes a controlling stake in the Auburn Hills, Mich., company.

"As a potential partnership between Chrysler and Fiat moves forward, I am asking you to address the potentiality of foreign control and require the immediate payback of the loans already dispersed should such a scenario present itself," Sen. Menendez said in a letter to the president. "I am sure you would agree that the responsible action is to ensure that American taxpayers are not financing foreign auto makers."

Friday -- Words from Obama, words from his books, speeches, and interviews.

This week Wordsmith.org is featuring words from Obama, words from his books, speeches, and interviews.

Unlike most politicians, who hire ghostwriters, Obama writes his own books. He's a gifted writer. Reading his words you can see his thought process. He's not one who sees the globe in black and white. He has lived outside the US and has been exposed to other cultures. He realizes that just because someone has a different set of beliefs, just because someone looks different, doesn't mean he's wrong -- sometimes there can be two ways to do something and both can be right.

sui generis

(soo-ee JEN-uhr-is)

adjective: Of its own kind; unique.

From Latin sui (of its own) + generis (kind).

"Time: What's the best piece of advice that you've gotten from someone about being President?"
Obama: Well, precisely because it's sui generis, the only people that really know are the collection of ex-Presidents we have."
The Interview; Time (New York); Dec 29, 2008.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Plan to Eliminate Prison Faces Hurdles

Closing Guantanamo and transferring cases out of Guantanamo will prove to be a mistake, politically and otherwise.

From The Washington Post:

The Obama administration faces a host of legal, logistical and diplomatic challenges in its plan to close the military prison here, and if the effort stumbles, it could bring steep political costs.

Thursday -- Words from Obama, words from his books, speeches, and interviews.

This week Wordsmith.org is featuring words from Obama, words from his books, speeches, and interviews.

Unlike most politicians, who hire ghostwriters, Obama writes his own books. He's a gifted writer. Reading his words you can see his thought process. He's not one who sees the globe in black and white. He has lived outside the US and has been exposed to other cultures. He realizes that just because someone has a different set of beliefs, just because someone looks different, doesn't mean he's wrong -- sometimes there can be two ways to do something and both can be right.



verb tr. To put aside or treat as nonexistent, especially by an authoritative act.

From Latin abrogatus (repealed), past participle of abrogare (to repeal a law), from ab- (away from) + rogare (to ask, propose a law). Ultimately from the Indo-European reg- (to move in a straight line, to lead or rule) that is also the source of regent, regime, direct, rectangle, erect, rectum, alert, source, and surge.

"I am proud to be sponsoring this amendment with the senior senator from West Virginia [Robert Byrd]. He's absolutely right that Congress has abrogated its oversight responsibilities."
Remarks of Senator Barack Obama on the Military Commission Legislation; Sep 28, 2006.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

With Fiat to get 35% of Chrysler for no cash & option to get 55%, please Obama, don't give any of my TARP money to this Italian co. -- Part II

This thing, from the viewpoint of the American taxpayer, continues to defy credibility.

In a 1-20-09 post I wrote:

Bob Nardelli was bad at Home Depot. He has lost it completely at Chrysler in the structure of this deal and thinking it is going to fly in Washington.

This things keeps getting worse as the details emerge.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Chrysler LLC has found an international partner in Fiat SpA but the auto maker isn't out of the woods, mainly because the deal is contingent on Chrysler getting $3 billion in additional government loans . . . .

Chrysler could face tough questions about why taxpayers should put more money into the company when neither its majority owner, Cerberus, nor its new partner, Fiat, are doing the same.

Giving more loans to Chrysler is "somewhat troubling for all of us as U.S. taxpayers, but for Chrysler itself, it may be the best outcome," Sen Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) said Tuesday in a phone interview. He said he is concerned that by investing more money in Chrysler, the government is enabling Cerberus, which is privately held, to be in a better position to offload its stake in the troubled auto maker.

It's an interesting set of questions for American taxpayers, who in essence could have $8.5 billion into Chrysler and the finance company when it is all said and done," Sen. Corker said

My President Obama at the Neighborhood Ball

The first stop of the evening for the President and First Lady was the Neighborhood Ball, where they danced to Beyonce, left. Their appearance put to rest the speculation over what Michelle Obama would be wearing: an ivory silk chiffon gown, embellished with organza and Swarovski crystal rhinestones and silver thread embroidery designed especially for her by New York designer Jason Wu.

From The New York Times.

Wednesday -- Words from Obama, words from his books, speeches, and interviews.

This week Wordsmith.org is featuring words from Obama, words from his books, speeches, and interviews.

Unlike most politicians, who hire ghostwriters, Obama writes his own books. He's a gifted writer. Reading his words you can see his thought process. He's not one who sees the globe in black and white. He has lived outside the US and has been exposed to other cultures. He realizes that just because someone has a different set of beliefs, just because someone looks different, doesn't mean he's wrong -- sometimes there can be two ways to do something and both can be right.



1. Natural to a particular people or place; always present in a particular area.
2. Confined to a geographic region.

From Greek endmos (native), from en- (in) + demos (people).

"Some of the worst actors on the international stage can also take advantage of the collective exhaustion and outrage that people feel with official corruption, as we've seen with Islamic extremists who promise purification, but deliver totalitarianism. Endemic corruption opens the door to this kind of movement, and in its wake comes a new set of distortions and betrayals of public trust."
Barack Obama; An Honest Government, A Hopeful Future; Speech at the University of Nairobi, Kenya; Aug 28, 2006.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tuesday -- Words from Obama, words from his books, speeches, and interviews.

This week Wordsmith.org is featuring words from Obama, words from his books, speeches, and interviews.

Unlike most politicians, who hire ghostwriters, Obama writes his own books. He's a gifted writer. Reading his words you can see his thought process. He's not one who sees the globe in black and white. He has lived outside the US and has been exposed to other cultures. He realizes that just because someone has a different set of beliefs, just because someone looks different, doesn't mean he's wrong -- sometimes there can be two ways to do something and both can be right.



adjective: Combining different forms of belief or practice.

From Latin syncretismus, Greek synkretismos (union), from synkretizein (to unite in the manner of the Cretan cities), from syn (together) + Kret-, Kres (Cretan).

"Traditionally, Indonesians practiced a tolerant, almost syncretic brand of faith, infused with the Buddhist, Hindu, and animist traditions of earlier periods."
Barack Obama; The Audacity of Hope; Crown Publishers; 2006.

Deficits Restrict Obama as His Promises Come Due

From The Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Obama has an opportunity granted almost none of his predecessors. Because of the economic crisis, he is meeting an unusual array of promises almost immediately, including heavy investments in energy and other priorities.

But the unprecedented largess granted through the $825 billion economic-stimulus bill may bind his hands later. The growing deficit will make it difficult, if not impossible, to fulfill spending promises that total hundreds of billions of dollars.

And it could stir political tensions with congressional Republicans and voters nervous about a binge of deficit spending.

This burst of spending so early in his presidency could also hobble Mr. Obama politically in the years to come as the country's soaring budget deficit demands cutbacks in social programs and even potential tax increases.

With this year's budget deficit expected at $1.2 trillion, not counting the stimulus spending, the next administration must also wrestle with skyrocketing costs to simply service the national debt. Interest payments on the national debt came in at more than $412 billion last year, or over 9% of the total budget.

With Fiat to get 35% of Chrysler for no cash injection & option to get 55%, please Obama, don't give any of my TARP money to this Italian company.

Bob Nardelli was bad at Home Depot. He has lost it completely at Chrysler in the structure of this deal and thinking it is going to fly in Washington.

From The Wall Street Journal:

In an attempt to revive two of the world's storied auto makers, Italy's Fiat SpA and Chrysler LLC are poised to announce a partnership as soon as today in which Fiat could take control of the U.S. company's operations, people familiar with the matter said.

Under terms of a pact that is being hammered out, Fiat is likely to take a 35% stake in Chrysler by the middle of this year. It would have the option of increasing that to as much as 55%, these people said.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Yes! He did it. Thanks Mr. President. -- Bush commutes sentences of former US border agents

From the AJC:

In his final acts of clemency, President George W. Bush on Monday commuted the [more than 10-year] prison sentences of two former U.S. Border Patrol agents whose convictions for shooting a Mexican drug dealer ignited fierce debate about illegal immigration.

Rancor over their convictions, sentencing and firings has simmered ever since the shooting occurred in 2005.

Nearly the entire bipartisan congressional delegation from Texas and other lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle pleaded with Bush to grant them clemency.

Monday -- Words from Obama, words from his books, speeches, and interviews.

This week Wordsmith.org is featuring words from Obama, words from his books, speeches, and interviews.

Unlike most politicians, who hire ghostwriters, Obama writes his own books. He's a gifted writer. Reading his words you can see his thought process. He's not one who sees the globe in black and white. He has lived outside the US and has been exposed to other cultures. He realizes that just because someone has a different set of beliefs, just because someone looks different, doesn't mean he's wrong -- sometimes there can be two ways to do something and both can be right.



verb intr.: To be united; to work or hold together.

From Latin cohaerere, from co- (together) + haerere (to stick).

"I learned to slip back and forth between my black and white worlds, understanding that each possessed its own language and customs and structures of meaning, convinced that with a bit of translation on my part the two worlds would eventually cohere."
Barack Obama; Dreams From My Father; Times Books; 1995.

From the Cracker Squire Archives: In "I Have a Dream," our native son let the thousands assembled & facing the Lincoln Mem. know that he was from Ga.

From a 1-15-07 post containing excerpts from "I Have a Dream" as delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on August 28 1963:

"[G]o back to Georgia . . . knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed."

"I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood."

"I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

"[L]et freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! . . . When we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Sunday, January 18, 2009

In the presence of hostility, when asked what I think about him, I diffuse the situation by saying, hey, I like the guy - J. Wooten to retire for sure

In a 4-4-07 post I reported that the AJC's conservative political columnist and editorial board member Jim Wooten was taking an AJC early retirement buyout offer. Well, he changed his mind and stayed on another year.

On Friday the AJC announced:

For more than 20 years, one of the most well-read columns on our opinion pages has been written by Jim Wooten, our conservative columnist. After a long and distinguished career, Jim will be leaving the editorial board, effective June 30.

Fortunately, Jim will continue to contribute to the AJC. Beginning July 1, he will write his “Thinking Right” column once a week, and he will continue his blog on ajc.com.

Despite our different political feelings and philosophy, I like and respect Jim Wooten. He is a great Georgian and a great American patriot. My first post discussing Jim was on 9-10-04 and read partly as follows:

[In the past] I have encountered some hostility toward Mr. Wooten. When asked how I “feel” about him, I diffuse the situation by saying, hey, I like the guy. He can’t help it if his perspective has changed over the years; his problem is that he has just forgotten where he came from.

Mr. Wooten is from Eastman, Dodge County, a pleasant City in the heart of South Georgia where I had the pleasure of spending a summer years ago as Youth Campaign Manager for the successful U.S. Congressional race of Bill Stuckey -- yep, that one, Stephanie’s father, and that summer Stephanie was a newborn, and yes, I may have changed her diapers a time or two.

I have heard that if you stay in Washington too long, you change. Maybe the same thing happens Jim if you live in Atlanta too long.

For those of you who use Mr. Wooten's name in vain when writing about him on the web, know this. We might differ in our politics, but I know him to be a man who does not mind saying how he feels and what is on his mind. I respect and appreciate this about anyone. His political feelings and philosophy, although different from my own, are sincere.

And in one area I grant him complete latitude -- military service. He has been there and done that -- including serving his country in Vietnam -- and you will never find me questioning his convictions or character. I respect his right to write about such, including the service of others.

Rep. Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus) has emerged as a key link between the Gold Dome and the Obama White House. -- He is most definitely a go-to person.

James Salzer writes in the AJC:

Lawmakers in Georgia aren’t counting on federal stimulus funds to save the state from its dire economic situation. But that doesn’t mean they’re not hoping.

Rep. Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus), who was in Washington last week to meet with President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team, has emerged as a key link between the Gold Dome and the White House. Officially, he was there in his role as president of a national organization of black lawmakers. Unofficially, he was there on behalf of his home state.

“Philosophically, I don’t believe the federal government ought to be bailing out states,” Smyre said. “But, I do believe, if we have an economic stimulus package, Georgia ought to take advantage of the opportunity.”


In a 12-5-06 post the Cracker Squire wrote the following about Rep. Calvin Smyre who he is proud to be able to call his friend:

InsiderAdvantage Georgia reports that:

State Rep. Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus, has been elected president of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL) . . . .

Founded in 1977, NBCSL is a nonpartisan organization with more than six hundred members in 44 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. As president, Representative Smyre will lead the organization’s efforts to identify and research important public policy issues as well as craft model state legislation to address these issues.

Smyre was first elected to the Georgia House in 1972 at age 26. He’s now served in the Legislature for 32 years. He was floor leader for former Gov. Joe Frank Harris and has chaired the University System of Georgia Committee and the House Rules Committee. He is a former chairman of the Democratic Party of Georgia.

In a 3-19-05 post partially entitled "[O]ne of my favorite Georgia Democrats, Rep. Calvin Smyre. -- Georgia Democrats appreciate all you do for us Rep. Smyre," I wrote:

As noted in the caption, Rep. Calvin Smyre is one of my favorite Georgia Democrats. As noted above, he is currently serving as Chair of the House Democratic Caucus.

He has previously served as Chairman of the Democratic Party of Georgia, and now serves as Chair Emeritus.

He is a go-to person, whether it is legislation that has hit a snag or someone with difficult situation or problem needing resolving.

In a 12-27-04 post I wrote the following about Rep. Smyre:

In my recent write up of the state Executive Committee meeting in Atlanta, I noted that Rep. Calvin Smyre hit a grand slam talking about our Party and our future. I stressed how impressed I was with his firm grasp of and understanding the big picture, and knowing what we must do to prevail in 2006 and 2008.

I also noted that if Rep. Smyre says something, our Party "can take it to the bank."

Well, one thing I did not include in my write up of the meeting was a comment Rep. Smyre made about the relationship of the Democratic Party of Georgia and the NDC.

When he was saying that it was time for us as a state Party to make our views known to the DNC, and if we do and still we are ignored, the Democratic Party of Georgia can at least "go down in dignity."

And in a 12-20-04 post, I wrote the following about Rep. Smyre:

Rep. Calvin Smyre echoed much of what Mr. [Bert] Lance had said, but was more forceful, firing up those in attendance in the process. He is fed up with the DNC ignoring the South, and reviewed how completely writing off the South will continue to portend disaster for us landing a Democrat in the White House and its trickle down effect.

He reviewed some data similar to that posted in a 12-19-04 post that noted that the South includes 13 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. Together they cast 168 electoral college votes, more than three-fifths of the 270 required for election.

Rep. Smyre thinks it is time to quit being nice and sugar-coating our feelings about the national Party.

He seems close to the point of thinking Georgia Party officials should go public, letting the powers that be know how sick and tired of the DNC we all are.

The former Party Chair is an eloquent spokesman who can rattle off statistics backing up his position. I hope we do go public, and the sooner the better. And if we do, there is not a better spokesman for the Party than Rep. Smyre.

And lastly, in a 11-22-04 post I wrote that

my favorite low profile political trio – Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond, Attorney General Thurbert Baker and former state Democratic Party Chairman Calvin Smyre – remain most vigilant in rebuilding our state's white-black Democratic coalition as we all work together in reviving the crumbled Democratic power and putting back together again our Humpty-Dumpty Democratic Party of Georgia following our November 2002 whipping.

The next time you run into Rep. Smyre, thank him for all he does and has done for our party. Rep. Smyre, we 'preciate you.

Tight budget cuts deep; DOT, schools & hospitals heavily affected -- Buckle your seat belts for a long, contentious legislative session.

James Salzer writes in the AJC:

Gov. Sonny Perdue has proposed a budget that would likely lead to higher property taxes, as well as a loss of state facilities in small-town Georgia, fewer school nurses and the elimination of hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs.

One of the few positives lawmakers saw in Perdue’s budget plan for fiscal year 2010, which begins July 1, was his proposal to borrow $1.2 billion for construction and infrastructure projects. Perdue claims it would create 20,000 jobs. Lawmakers will probably push to borrow even more.

Banks used to lend money to people. Now it’s the other way around. -- Obama should deliver bank presidents a come-to-Jesus message.

Tom Friedman writes in The New York Times:

I was walking by a TV the other day and CNN was on, airing a hearing of what seemed to be a banking committee in Congress debating whether to release more bailout money. CNN didn’t identify the lawmaker who was speaking. He had a bit of a Southern drawl. But I burst out laughing when he said something like: “I remember a time when banks lent money to people. Now it’s the other way around.

Yes, kids, those were the days — when banks lent money to the people not the people to the banks!

Many commentators have suggestions for Barack Obama on what should be his first meeting at the White House. Here is mine: Mr. Obama and his economic team should convene the 300 leading bank presidents in the East Room and the president should say to each one of them something like this:

“Ladies and gentlemen, this crisis started with you, the bankers, engaging in reckless practices, and it will only end when we clean up your mess and start afresh. The banking system is the heart of our economy. It pumps blood to our industrial muscles, and right now it’s not pumping. We all know that in the past six months you’ve gone from one extreme to another. You’ve gone from lending money to anyone who could fog up a knife to now treating all potential borrowers, no matter how healthy, as bankrupt until proven innocent. And, therefore, you’re either not lending to them or lending under such onerous terms that the economy can’t get any liftoff. No amount of stimulus will work without a healthy banking system.

“So here’s what we’re going to do: we’re going to unclog the arteries. My banking experts have analyzed each of your balance sheets. You will tell us if we’re right. Those of you who are insolvent, we will nationalize and shut down. We will auction off your viable assets and will hold the toxic ones in a government reconstruction fund and sell them later when the market rebounds. Those of you who are weak will be merged. And those of you who are strong will receive added capital for your balance sheets, after you write down all your remaining toxic waste. I am not going to continue rewarding the losers and dimwits amongst you with handouts.”

Without this sort of come-to-Jesus strategy, we’re going to continue to just limp along. We’ll never quite confront the real problem because we don’t want to take the upfront pain. Therefore, the market will never clear — meaning start-ups in need of capital will be choked in their cribs and profit-making firms won’t be able to grow as they should.

“Right now,” said David Smick, author of “The World Is Curved,” “the bankers are sitting on mountains of cash, including our bailout money, because they know their true balance sheets are a disaster — far worse than publicly stated.” The situation will likely worsen as delinquent consumer and auto loans are piled atop bad mortgages. “Obama needs to inject some truth serum into the banking discussion. No one trusts the banks, and even the bankers don’t trust each other.” Bringing clarity to bank balance sheets, said Smick, “is the first step to fixing America’s bank lending problem.”

Only after we bring full transparency to the bank balance sheets will we see private capital buying into banks again at scale. But have no illusions. There are still real balance sheet problems that have to be surmounted. This is not just a psychological crisis.

“I wish people would stop saying that this is a crisis of confidence,” said Steven Eisman, a portfolio manager and banking expert at FrontPoint Partners. “The loss of confidence is just a symptom of bad credit and over-leverage. The banks are not lending because they know their balance sheets are loaded with future losses and they don’t have enough capital. The TARP gave them preferred equity, which is nothing more than a bridge loan. We need the government to force the banks to write down all their bad assets now and then recapitalize themselves, preferably with private capital. Those banks that cannot raise sufficient capital should be seized and their deposits sold off.”

For too long the government has been taking the banks at their own words, which is one reason we keep getting surprised with demands for more bailout cash. The Treasury needs to be doing its own brutal, burn-down analysis of every major bank’s balance sheet — and then acting accordingly.

In recent years, “whenever other countries — Russia, Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea or Mexico — got themselves into an economic crisis, we lectured them about how they had to adopt ‘shock therapy,’ ” said Moisés Naím, editor of Foreign Policy magazine. “But now that we are the ones in crisis and in need of shock therapy, everyone is preaching gradualism.”

A stimulus package that does not also unclog the arteries of our banking system will never stimulate sufficiently. Mr. Obama should take the pain early, blame it all on George Bush and then reap the benefits down the road. Postpone the pain, postpone the recovery.

This week I predict the axing of one head and possibly (& probably rightfully) two.

The talk has not yet begun, but I think this week we could witness the firing of Merrill Lynch head John Thain (and for sure his hopes of succeeding Lewis are out the window) and possibly, although not as certain, that of Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis.

I sure do hate what the troubles of Wachovia and Bank of America are doing to the Queen City, Charlotte, North Carolina.

Roy Barnes in 2010?

The AJC's Political Insider notes:

With a string of addresses that resemble a stump speech, former Gov. Roy Barnes has persuaded many that he is seriously considering a re-entry into politics.

God Bless America! -- CNN video of US Airways Flight 1549 landing in the Hudson River

(From the AJC's Political Insider)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Rescue of Banks Hints at Nationalization

From The New York Times:

Last fall, as Federal Reserve and Treasury Department officials rode to the rescue of one financial institution after another, they took great pains to avoid doing anything that smacked of nationalizing banks.

They may no longer have that luxury.

“We are down a path that this country has not seen since Andrew Jackson shut down the Second National Bank of the United States,” said Gerard Cassidy, a banking analyst at RBC Capital Markets. “We are going to go back to a time when the government controlled the banking system.”

The approximately $120 billion aid package on Thursday for Bank of America — including injections of capital and absorbed losses — as well as a $300 billion package in November for Citigroup both represented displays of financial gymnastics aimed at providing capital without appearing to take commanding equity stakes.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

David Ignatius on transition from President Bush to President-elect Obama

David Ignatius writes in The Washington Post:

We have been living for eight years with the paradox of "conservative optimists" running our nation's foreign policy. That's what sticks in the mind in this last week of the Bush presidency. This administration has fused a dark, conservative view about the need for military power with a rosy conception about the perfectibility of humankind. The result has been a kind of armed do-gooderism -- and a foreign policy that has frightened and angered the rest of the world.

With the inauguration of Barack Obama, the moment has arrived for what I want to call the "progressive pessimists." This new worldview would marry the liberal desire to make life better with a realist's appreciation of the limits of political and military power. This is a gloomier progressivism than President John F. Kennedy's 1961 admonition to "pay any price, bear any burden." We've tried that.

The patron saint of progressive pessimism is George Orwell, who was at once a passionate social democrat and a political reactionary. He was as suspicious of the do-gooder impulse of the left as he was of the imperialist jingoism of the right. In his famous novels "1984" and "Animal Farm," Orwell conveyed his deep skepticism about the utopian impulse and the way it could be manipulated by authoritarian leaders. He was torn all his life between a progressive's passion for the downtrodden and a pessimist's recognition of how this humanitarian impulse could be misused.

Bush's great mistakes have been those of an optimist who believed in social engineering on a global scale. He rolled into Iraq convinced that this traditional tribal society could be remade in a Western image of progress. When he talked of democracy in Iraq, Afghanistan and other Muslim countries, there was a sense of inevitability -- that democracy and freedom are immutable historical forces rather than the product of frail and imperfect human decisions.

What was missing from Bush, oddly, was the conservative's abiding skepticism of big ideas and grand designs. He talked often of President Lincoln but seemed not to recognize how deeply pessimistic Lincoln was, and how desperately he hoped to escape a civil war. It is impossible to imagine Lincoln saying "bring it on," or even thinking it.

If the sunny, ever-hopeful Bush needed to read anything from American history, it was the passage in the Federalist Papers where James Madison cautioned against optimism: "If men were angels, no government would be necessary."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Questions for Mrs. Clinton

From The New York Times:

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, President-elect Barack Obama’s nominee for secretary of state, appears today before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Op-Ed page [of The New York Times] asked 10 experts to pose the questions they would like to hear Senator Clinton answer.

1. United States policy has failed with respect to Israeli-Palestinian peace. The reluctance of any American president to act as an honest broker in the process, rather than as a strong, unquestioning friend of Israel, has contributed to this failure. How do you propose to bring success to the peace process?

2. There is clearly an imbalance of influence and power between the State Department and the Defense Department. An enormous shift of foreign policy influence has also occurred, since the era of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, from the State Department to the National Security Council staff and its head, the national security adviser. How do you propose to bring some of that influence back to the State Department?

— LAWRENCE B. WILKERSON, chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2002 to 2005

1. Does it benefit American security to have more liberal democracies in the world? If so, what steps would you take to advance this trend?

2. Do you believe that NATO enlargement has contributed to American security and moved former Soviet states toward greater democracy and regional cooperation?

— MIKHEIL SAAKASHVILI, the president of Georgia

1. Some say “war on terror” is a misnomer that has led our policy astray. They argue that terrorism is a tactic, not an ideology or a cause, and that a war against it is bound to be ill focused and inconclusive. Do you think we should drop the term “war on terror,” and describe our policy more precisely as a war to defeat Al Qaeda and violent Islamic extremism?

2. In the Middle East, we see a paradox: Countries with pro-American governments like Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia have populations with high levels of anti-American sentiment. Meanwhile in Iran, whose government is hostile to the United States, public opinion of America is more favorable. How do you explain this, and what can we learn from it? Should the United States disentangle itself from autocratic regimes in Saudi Arabia and Egypt?

3. One of the most damaging legacies of the Iraq war is that it has given idealism and internationalism a bad name. How will you persuade the American people, and the world, that the United States can be a force for democracy and freedom?

— MICHAEL SANDEL, a professor of government at Harvard

1. Tibet may prove to be the most divisive issue between China and the West. There is a real possibility that China and the Obama administration will have friction or even a temporary diplomatic clash over Tibet. How will you treat this possibility? If Barack Obama is inclined to meet with the Dalai Lama, what will be your attitude? Might you or other senior members in the State Department meet with the Dalai Lama or other leaders of the Tibetan exile government?

2. Will you criticize strongly and frequently the status of human rights, religious freedom and public welfare in China? If so, how do you plan to deal with the angry reactions of the Chinese government — and of the Chinese people themselves? Do you think there is any truth to the argument that China is an “authoritarian success”?

— SHI YINHONG, a professor of international relations and the director of the Center for American Studies at Renmin University in Beijing

1. In 1913, Woodrow Wilson appointed William Jennings Bryan secretary of state for solely domestic political reasons. He needed but distrusted him, and thus relied on other advisers to conduct diplomacy. Have you read up on Wilson’s relationship with Bryan, and will it be relevant to your own situation?

2. In the past, you have taken different positions on Iraq. As secretary of state, which of these foreign policy positions are you likely to adopt? Will you be the hawk who voted to authorize the war, or the war critic who referred to reports of progress in Iraq as requiring a “willing suspension of disbelief?”

3. You speak about the 1990s, President Bill Clinton’s era, as a time of peace and prosperity. Yet the ‘90s witnessed a steady trail of anti-American terrorism that emboldened Al Qaeda’s leaders. In the Clinton era, terrorism was generally viewed as a law enforcement problem. Did we really do so well in handling terrorism in the 1990s?

4. Do you think that you have sufficient knowledge of foreign cultures and languages to prepare you to lead America’s relations with the rest of the world?

— FOUAD AJAMI, a professor of Middle East studies at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University and an adjunct research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford

1. The gross human-rights violations and mass displacement of citizens in Darfur has rightly drawn world attention. How would you help end this conflict, which in its governance and environmental challenges reflects similar situations throughout Africa?

2. One key way for Africa to mitigate global warming’s effects is to conserve forests, especially in the Congo Basin. How will the United States support protection of forests as part of its response to climate change?

3. African leadership is seeking closer ties with the East, especially China, which is willing to do business without conditions like respect for human rights. How will the United States address Africans’ willingness to sacrifice some of the most important principles of democracy and good governance?

— WANGARI MAATHAI, 2004 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, founder of the Green Belt Movement and goodwill ambassador for the Congo Basin Forest Ecosystem

1. The chances of peace between Israel and Gaza seem more remote than ever. Many of the Palestinians in Gaza are impoverished refugees and the overcrowded Gaza Strip has few resources. The two-state solution offers little hope for these people; that is one reason Gaza has historically tended to support radical Palestinian parties like Hamas. How will you make the two-state solution popular among the people of Gaza?

2. Which is worse for the United States, an Iran with nuclear weapons or a military confrontation between the United States and Iran?

3. The Atlantic was the center of world politics in the 20th century. The rise of Asia means that the Pacific is likely to play that role in the 21st, and developing countries in many parts of the world are likely to enjoy rising influence and power. But European countries are still grossly overrepresented on the Security Council and enjoy disproportionate influence in the Group of 8, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. How will you alter American foreign policy, reform international institutions and reconfigure the State Department to adjust to new realities — without damaging relations with our European friends and allies?

— WALTER RUSSELL MEAD, the author of “God and Gold: Britain, America and the Making of the Modern World” and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations

1. During the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations there were clear signs of American solidarity with democratic dissidents in Cuba, both on and off the island. Will the Obama administration maintain its support for these groups and people? Broadcasts by Radio Martí, for example, are trustworthy sources of information for the Cuban people. Will President Obama support these broadcasts?

2. It is possible that after Fidel Castro’s death, the government of Raúl Castro will try to move toward the Chinese model of capitalism within single-party rule. Would the Obama administration go along with this type of transition or would it insist on the establishment of a liberal democracy where human rights and civil liberties would be respected?

— CARLOS A. MONTANER, the author of “Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution”

1. Imagine we see broad demands for truly democratic presidential and parliamentary elections in Russia. Should the United States join in these calls for new elections, despite their destabilizing potential? What should the American reaction be if the opposite scenario takes place, with Vladimir Putin returning as president in a new “election” and further tightening the authoritarian screws? How would we maintain a functional relationship with Moscow without condoning the further strangulation of democracy in Russia?

— CATHY YOUNG, a contributing editor at Reason magazine and the author of “Growing Up in Moscow: Memories of a Soviet Girlhood”

1. What concrete steps will you take to rebuild America’s diplomatic strength? What can be done immediately and what can be done over the next three to four years?

2. Foreign policy is not the exclusive purview of the State Department. What role should the State Department play in foreign policy and how will you integrate and coordinate the department’s objectives and activities with those of the Defense, Homeland Security and Treasury Departments, the Central Intelligence Agency and other agencies operating overseas?

3. Negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear program, Iran’s nuclear program and Arab-Israeli peace are at a standstill. How will you revitalize these negotiations and what are your immediate priorities in these areas?

— LEE HAMILTON, vice chairman of the 9/11 commission and president and director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Sunday, January 11, 2009

I love it (I hope Barnes does also) -- Handel is making phone calls to GOP activists around the state, assuring them that she is running for governor.

From the AJC's Political Insider:

Secretary of State Karen Handel has been making phone calls to Republican activists around the state, assuring them that she is, indeed, running for governor.

The first-term secretary of state has yet to collect a dime for the 2010 contest — while her two GOP rivals, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and state Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, have already raised more than $1 million each.

Handel’s entry into the race has two implications that could very well be connected. First, all three suburban candidates must presume that an 18-month slog will result in a run-off between two of them. The prospect will thrill Democrats.

A Handel campaign for governor also guarantees that, in Georgia, the GOP debate over gender and politics won’t end with Sarah Palin.

Jan. 22 vote -- "In Calif. some state representatives have interpreters because they can't speak English. That’s not the vision I have for Nashville."

From The New York Times:

Nashville, like most cities in the country, allows government officials to communicate in any language they choose . . . .

On Jan. 22, city residents will vote on the proposal [to make Nashville the largest city in the United States to prohibit the government from using languages other than English, with exceptions allowed for issues of health and safety] . . . .

“I happened to see a state legislature meeting in California where several of the state representatives had interpreters at their desk because they couldn’t speak English,” Mr. Crafton [, the person behind the proposal, said. “That’s not the vision I have for Nashville.”

Thirty states, including Tennessee, and at least 19 cities have declared English the official language, according to Rob Toonkel, a spokesman for the U.S. English Foundation, which advocates such policies. But most of the cities are small, places like Hazelton, Pa., and Culpeper, Va.

In Nashville, which has a population of about 600,000, two factors have been driving interest in Mr. Crafton’s proposal: the booming immigrant population and the faltering economy.

Friday, January 09, 2009

I love it -- Porn industry seeks $5 billion federal bailout

From the AJC:

[A]dult-entertainment moguls Larry Flynt and Joe Francis said Wednesday that they are asking Washington for a $5 billion federal bailout, claiming that the porn business is suffering from the soft economy.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Obama to look at overhauling Social Security & Medicare -- What a great & courageous way to spend some of his political capital.

From The New York Times:

President-elect Barack Obama said Wednesday that overhauling Social Security and Medicare would be “a central part” of his administration’s efforts to contain federal spending, signaling for the first time that he would wade into the thorny politics of entitlement programs.

Should he follow through with a serious effort to cut back the rates of growth of the two programs, he would be opening up a potentially risky battle that neither party has shown much stomach for. The programs have proved almost sacrosanct in political terms, even as they threaten to grow so large as to be unsustainable in the long run. President Bush failed in his effort to overhaul Social Security, and Medicare only grew larger during his administration with the addition of prescription drug coverage for retirees.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

General Growth Properties Switches Its Bankruptcy Counsel -- All politics is local

The Wall Street Journal reports that debt-laden mall owner General Growth Properties Inc. has changed bankruptcy counsel, parting with Sidley Austin LLP to hire Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP.

General Growth, which owns and manages more than 200 U.S. malls, is struggling to restructure or postpone payment on $27 billion in debt as large installments of it come due in the coming months. The Chicago company hasn't filed for bankruptcy protection but has warned that it might need to do so if it can't sell assets or win agreement on deadline extensions with its lenders.

The Journal reports that General Growth is the second-largest U.S. mall owner by number of properties, after Simon Property Group Inc., and that among General Growth's prominent holdings are Ala Moana Center in Honolulu, Water Tower Place in Chicago and Faneuil Hall in Boston.

What the Journal doesn't report are a couple of other holdings of General Growth Properties, such as Perimeter Mall and Cumberland Mall. Just as all politics is local, in this recession all bad news has been and will continue to be local also.

Hold the ladder steady (and tell that to me one more time, slower this time) -- Obama Eyes $310 Billion Tax Cut

From The Wall Street Journal:

President-elect Barack Obama and congressional Democrats are crafting a plan to offer as much as $310 billion of tax cuts to individuals and businesses, a move aimed at attracting Republican support for an economic-stimulus package and prodding companies to create jobs.

The size of the proposed tax cuts -- which would account for about 40% of a stimulus package that could reach $775 billion over two years -- is greater than many on both sides of the aisle in Congress had anticipated, and may make it easier to win over Republicans who have stressed that any initiative should rely relatively heavily on tax cuts rather than spending.

Democratic leaders and Obama aides now acknowledge that congressional Democrats' initial goal of passing the recovery package before Mr. Obama's Jan. 20 inauguration is unrealistic. Instead, they are hoping for passage before Feb. 13, the first recess of the new Congress.

Richardson Withdraws as Commerce Nominee - I sure hate this for my man Richardson, but I feel certain he knows what & why he is doing what he is doing

From The Wall Street Journal:

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson withdrew his nomination as President-elect Barack Obama's commerce secretary Sunday, citing a federal grand-jury investigation into a "pay to play" scheme in his home state, Obama transition officials said.

Just days ago, Republican Senate aides said they didn't believe the investigation of CDR Financial Products would be a major impediment to Mr. Richardson's confirmation. But the probe appears to be heating up. Mr. Richardson hired a personal lawyer last month and in mid-December, the grand jury began taking testimony from a slew of witnesses.

Here's to wishing him the best.

Ouch!! Tom Rich delivers some of the most unkindest cuts of all about our Commander in Chief No. 43.

His column in The New York Times.

A New Chapter: Europe Is Ready to Work With Obama -- I still hope Obama will not follow through on his promise to close the Guantánamo prison.

From The New York Times:

After rebuffing the Bush administration on a number of fronts, European governments are signaling that they may be more willing to engage with the incoming Obama administration on a variety of stalled issues, including taking in prisoners from the Guantánamo Bay detention center and strengthening sanctions against Iran.

But it may not be all honeymoon: European diplomats say they will push President-elect Barack Obama to soothe Russian anger over plans to establish missile defense bases in Europe. And American officials say that the Obama administration is certain to press countries to fulfill, or even increase, pledges for personnel and equipment for the NATO mission in Afghanistan, long a point of tension among allies.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Egypt is the crucial, if reluctant, intermediary between Israel and Hamas, which is no great friend of this moderate secular state.

From The New York Times:

Egypt has long been a leader of the Arab world, expected to be the one to stand up to Israel. In the wars of 1948-49, 1967 and 1973, it shed copious blood to try to defeat Israel in the name of Arab nationalism and a Palestinian state. But the former Egyptian president, Anwar el-Sadat, saw it in the country’s national interest for a peace agreement with Israel and was assassinated for that view by Islamic radicals. Those arrested afterward included Ayman al-Zawahri, who later became Osama bin Laden’s deputy.

Mr. Sadat’s successor, Mr. Mubarak, has successfully negotiated the complicated issues of regional security, solidifying a relationship with Washington, maintaining cool but correct ties with Israel and sharply suppressing Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism.

Traditionally, Israel warns Cairo secretly before taking important military action in Gaza. So the pictures of Mr. Mubarak smiling and shaking hands with Ms. Livni have fueled popular speculation that Egypt was aware of the impending attack and even approved it, to deal a blow to Hamas.

The charge of complicity is made loudly by Iranian allies like Hamas and Hezbollah, and slightly less loudly by Syria. They accuse Egypt of bearing part of the responsibility for the Palestinian deaths because of its refusal to open up its border with Gaza.

Those demanding that Egypt open the Gaza border do not understand the dangers, said [an Egyptian citizen]. “If we opened it, we’d be the Iraq of the Palestinians,” he said. “There will be terrorism in the Sinai, and that’s our country.”

I don't know how Obama will work it out, but I hope we keep the SOB Ali al-Marri detained until hell freezes over.

From The New York Times:

Just a month after President-elect Barack Obama takes office, he must tell the Supreme Court where he stands on one of the most aggressive legal claims made by the Bush administration — that the president may order the military to seize legal residents of the United States and hold them indefinitely without charging them with a crime.

The new administration’s brief, which is due Feb. 20, has the potential to hearten or infuriate Mr. Obama’s supporters, many of whom are looking to him for stark disavowals of the Bush administration’s legal positions on the detention and interrogation of so-called enemy combatants held at Navy facilities on the American mainland or at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

During the campaign, Mr. Obama made broad statements criticizing the Bush administration’s assertions of executive power. But now he must address a specific case, that of Ali al-Marri, a Qatari student who was arrested in Peoria, Ill., in December 2001. The Bush administration says Mr. Marri is a sleeper agent for Al Qaeda, and it is holding him without charges at the Navy brig in Charleston, S.C. He is the only person currently held as an enemy combatant on the mainland, but the legal principles established in his case are likely to affect the roughly 250 prisoners at Guantánamo.

Intelligence officials say he is exceptionally dangerous, making deportation problematic.

Although he was in the United States legally, he was not an American citizen. In addition, a 2001 Congressional authorization to use military force arguably gave the president the authority that Mr. Obama has said is not conferred by the Constitution alone.

There is precedent for reversing course between campaign and courthouse. When Bill Clinton was running for president in 1992, he was vehement in his opposition to the first Bush administration’s policy of intercepting Haitian refugees at sea and returning them without asylum hearings. [I very much resented candidate Clinton taking this position, and was so happy to see him later reverse course.]

By the time he took office, though, Mr. Clinton had changed his mind, instructing the Justice Department to defend the policy in the Supreme Court, which upheld it in 1993.

In 1993, Mr. Clinton said that practical reality trumped legal theory. In the Marri case, too, the practical alternatives to military detention may strike the Obama administration as unpalatable.

One possibility is to deport Mr. Marri to Qatar, but Bush administration officials say that would be an enormous mistake.

“Al-Marri must be detained,” Jeffrey N. Rapp, a defense intelligence official wrote in a court filing in 2004, “to prevent him from aiding Al Qaeda in its efforts to attack the United States, its armed forces, other governmental personnel, or citizens.”

The more serious accusations recounted in Mr. Rapp’s statement are attributed partly to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who is believed to be the chief architect of the Sept. 11 attacks and who was captured in early 2003. The Central Intelligence Agency has said Mr. Mohammed was subjected to waterboarding, and information obtained from him may therefore not be admissible in court.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Damn right tighten up on those abusing system at Grady. One person receiving discounted care has a $750,000 house. Some hide that they have insurance.

From the AJC:

Some of those people receiving free care [at Grady Memorial Hospital] have been abusing the system, and others have the finances to pay at least part of their bill, said Grady CEO Michael Young.

“We want to make sure that people who can afford to pay something will pay something,” Young said. “If they don’t have the means, they don’t have to pay.”

The plan is expected to be discussed Monday by the Grady board of directors, though officials said no final vote is expected.

Grady has already started screening people’s finances more carefully to spot those abusing the system, he said. Grady sent notices to 1,400 people this month telling them that they no longer qualify for the discount they had been receiving.

One person receiving discounted care was found to have a $750,000 house, he said. Some students have been receiving free care by only submitting their county address, when they should be the responsibility of their parents, he said. Other people hide the fact that they have insurance.

Young said he believes there are probably thousands of people abusing the Grady system by qualifying for free or discounted care they don’t deserve.

The most controversial proposal centers on prospective changes in the eligibility to receive a special “Grady card,” which allows people discounted, or even free, medical care.

Currently, Grady provides discounts for 250,000 people. Many of these people live in Fulton and DeKalb counties, which give Grady a combined total of up to $100 million a year to subsidize health care.

(1) Blagojevich sought someone who would accept his offer & whose standing could help him; & (2) Obama comes thru, diffusing the expected race chatter

From The New York Times:

Since his arrest on corruption charges on Dec. 9, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois wavered several times on whether to appoint a new senator to fill the seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama, people with knowledge of his thinking said Wednesday.

But once it became clear that state lawmakers would not call a special election, Mr. Blagojevich had an emissary make a call on Dec. 24 to Danny K. Davis, a Democratic representative and longtime African-American leader.

Mr. Blagojevich, a Democrat who had already been accused of trying to sell the seat, had a difficult calculus to meet: someone who would accept his offer under the circumstances and someone, political experts say, whose standing might somehow help spare his own future, political or otherwise.

Mr. Davis said Wednesday that he turned down the governor’s offer to take the seat. But he suggested that the governor might want to consider Roland W. Burris, a former attorney general and the first African-American elected to statewide office in Illinois. Four days later, Mr. Blagojevich presented Mr. Burris (who was not told about the earlier invitation to Mr. Davis) as the next senator from Illinois, saying he was required to make an appointment.

Political leaders here, nearly all of whom have been critical, suggested that the governor very likely had other motivations. Some said he wanted to cause political trouble for his critics, forcing Senate leaders either to accept his appointee or to be seen as rejecting a respected African-American leader, while others said that he was trying to garner favor among blacks, and perhaps even members of an eventual jury pool.

Several black lawmakers . . . said Mr. Obama’s opposition to the appointment would do little to ease such concerns among their black constituents, who remain concerned that the Senate has no black members.