Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Peace Be With You

Now let me suggest first that if we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective. No individual can live alone; no nation can live alone, and as long as we try, the more we are going to have war in this world. Now the judgment of God is upon us, and we must either learn to live together as brothers or we are all going to perish together as fools ~Martin Luther King's "A Christmas Sermon On Peace"

I believe I've stirred the pot enough this week. In the words of the immortal Charlie Gearhart, "peace be with you".

Your regular snarkmaster will return next week with the Top Ten Blog Stories of the Year.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Evolution Of How They See Us

"I'm not a journalist". It is the karmic shield Erick Erickson uses to defend his continued spew of rumor and innuendo. Rumor? Good enough if it matches the agenda. Verification? Why bother. Consequences? What's that.

And why should he bother? His methods seem to work in his favor.

Time to update the timeline:

February 2007 - Georgia Public Broadcasting's Susanne Capaluto states she would never quote a blogger.

June 2007 - Athens Banner Herald editor Jim Thompson declares mainstream's use of real names creates credibility

December 2007 - Athens Banner Herald's Blake Aued says "When y’all start doing your own reporting, rather than rely on rumors, press releases and the dreaded MSM, then you can call yourselves journalists"

July 2008 - Creative Loafing Editor Ken Edelstein questions how anyone can trust an anonymous blogger

April 2009 - Athens Banner Herald editor Jim Thompson says "In the end, then, whatever the media platform, what it means to be a journalist today is what it always has meant...It's not a matter of training...It's a matter of trust"

May 2009 - For the first time, the Atlanta Journal Constitution links to a non-professional non-political local blog - DecaturMetro

June 2009 - The AJC links without attribution to...TMZ

July 2009 - Jim Galloway comes to the stunning conclusion that Peach Pundit is not a journalistic outfit. Also, the first time "Erick Erickson does not consider himself a journalist" appears in print.

August 2009 - That stunning revelation does not prevent Galloway from linking to a Peach Pundit story about a "Draft Jane Kiddman" website. Despite the author's notoriety as a hyperbolic troublemaker and Jim's own recent discovery that Peach Pundit was not 'journalistic", the top political reporter in the state says the story should be "taken seriously".

December 2009 - With little possibility of verification, Erick publishes lurid details of an alleged affair involving the Lt. Governor of the state of Georgia. No sources. No evidence. Just what he's heard.

Less than two weeks later - Peach Pundit is called a must read by the Atlanta Journal Constitution and a local TV reporter. Blake Aued tells readers to go to Peach Pundit for coverage of the Capitol chaos.

A question for my journalist readers - are you proud we've reached this point?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Saturday Stupids

Ho Ho Ho

Friday, December 18, 2009

My Morning Wooten

We've got a whopper today.
Linking Ga. 400 north of Atlanta to I-675 on the south by tunneling, and making it a toll road, is a cracker-jack idea. It’s one of the top toll projects the state Department of Transportation is pitching to private investors and road-construction companies. But watch how quickly opponents will inject race, a staple of Atlanta policy-making. Already, it’s cast that way because the tunnel would go under old, established neighborhoods and then surface south of I-20 “where demographic data show the population is less wealthy and less white.” Ah, Atlanta. What might we have achieved had every public policy decision not devolved into race?
A cracker jack idea. I'm sure it is for those intent on shaving 15 minutes off their ride to the airport but don't give two damns about anything inside the perimeter unless they are chattering over a performance at Chastain or visiting Grady following another horrific wrapping of a too fast car around a tree by their precious teenager.

But that' not what really stands out is it? Jim's final question squats there like a three day dead frog ready to explode in a shower of rotten innards.

To find an answer let us time travel to 40 years ago.

It was a time when Atlanta's population was just creeping past one million, the current location of Gwinnett Place Mall was a cow pasture and the region was on the verge of creating a world class public transit system. Instead, due to fears of a "bad element" reaching their suburban enclaves, the counties of Gwinnett, Clayton and Jim's favorite, Cobb, opted to not join the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority. Today, instead of a robust adult public transportation system on par with other major cities, we are left with the equivalent of a lobotomized teenager drooling in the corner.

So, yes. Let's ponder that question deep and long. What might we have achieved had every public policy decision not devolved into race?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Into The Ethical Woods - The Final Word

If these things don't happen, I'll have egg on my face and I'll probably deserve it ~griftdrift, 12-7-009

On the day I wrote the Cagle story, my number of visitors nearly tripled. The following day, even though I did not write a word, I still received nearly double my normal visitors.

This is a conundrum.

Erick Erickson reported the story as fact, providing lurid details that I did not. Yet, he still receives information from insiders and is linked to by the major dailies who proclaim Peach Pundit as a "must read" .

This is also a conundrum.

We deal in a world of devils. Political operatives use us. Many of us use them right back. It is an elegant dance of give and take based on the belief that everyone can win. As long as everyone follows the appropriate steps, no one cares who leads, for everyone believes they lead.

To understand the nature of the dance, one has to understand the motivation of the dancers. Some wish to get their message published. Some wish to destroy their enemies. Some seek influence. Some seek prestige. Some seek cold hard cash.

All I have ever sought was the story. And this time I didn't get it.

It won't happen again.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Shocking Number

When I left the Georgia Department of Labor, the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund (the big pot of money from which unemployment claims are paid) was approaching $2 billion. Georgia's fund was consistently rated one of the best managed and its size even allowed Commissioner Michael Thurmond and the legislature to pass one of the largest tax cuts in Georgia history. For years, many employers did not pay one red cent of UI tax.

Today, the trust fund is $25 million.

That's million with an M instead of billion with a B. The DOL has paid out $1.6 billion in claims this year, forcing Commissioner Thurmond to request a loan from the Feds.

We may be numb to month after month of declining revenue numbers, but dropping the word billion for the word million - that should wake anyone up.

Predictions Surely To Be Wrong

My batting average is usually more Ted Simmons than Ted Williams, but I have been on a bit of a hot streak lately.

Predictions Surely To Be Wrong:

Larry O'Neal will be the next Speaker of the House - Despite the chirping of the bloggeratti, the status quo usually wins and O'Neal is as status quo as status quo can get.

Nathan Deal will drop out of the Governor race - Let's see, what happens when you combine no name recognition with anemic fundraising and a brewing ethics complaint? Oh yeah. You duck and cover as fast as you can. What this means for Tom Graves campaign in the 9th, no one knows.

And John Oxendine won't be far behind - Numbers stalled. And now this. He'll bow up and fight for a while but eventually all these ethics body blows will take the wind out of him.

Eric Johnson will survive for now - He always survives and he'll slip through the current crap storm relatively stain free. However, when the rubber hits the road or rather the grease hits the palm, Johnson won't have enough of the green Crisco to fry the bacon. Which leaves...

Karen Handel will be the Republican nominee - It's a good time to be a constitutional officer not named Oxendine. Handel isn't even in the same neighborhood as the current Republican mess. Welcome to the Democrat's worst nightmare. Because although they won't admit it in public, they all know their history. And history shows that all Madame Secretary has ever done is win.

#1 On My Top Ten Blog Stories Of The Year won't be hard to guess - Number 1 was pretty clear until about three weeks ago. Look for the list to start dribbling out of my brain over the next week.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Today the nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame were announced and once again the greatest cultural influence Canada has ever produced was ignored.

Until Rush is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, all else is travesty.

Politics returns shortly.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Into The Ethical Woods - The Challenge

Last night, a voice from on high, issued a challenge and placed an unexpected burden on me. It boiled down to "do better".

A moment of anger passed into the realization the voice (combined with the advice of another more personal voice) was right. It is not enough to admit your standards slipped - action is required.

You don't need me to provide you the latest update on the hijinks at the Gold Dome Delta Chi House. There are plenty of places to rock your jollies on the latest rumor and innuendo.

Instead, unless there is a breaking news where I am compelled to respond, I'll leave that mess to others. Instead, I'll focus my writing on the ethical issues new (and old) media face in this turbulent period.

First up will be the "temptation of easy traffic". Look for it soon.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Into The Ethical Woods - Griftdrift Edition

I've been bothered all day.

On the personal side, you may have noticed, I've been stepping further away from politics lately. A combination of shifting priorities and the sheer ugliness is driving me away from my favorite past time. It has been a quiet relinquishment - a slow break up.

But like a moth to the flame the Richardson story followed now by the possible Cagle story sucked me back in. What today has taught me is I do not like these stories. I wish I could rend the flesh of my prey the way my idol did back in the day, but I just don't have it in me. These are real people - not pieces on a political chess board as some would have. The universe has balance and I believe it does not take kindly to those who attempt to rise by climbing a pile of bodies.

As a writer, I've entered murky territory. In the past, I have prided myself that I've only published stories that I believed would stand up to scrutiny by the professional reporting class. Now, I find myself publishing a story no one on that side of the fence appears eager to touch (at least not yet). I know they've got it. I know they have everything I have and probably more.

Here's the fact which cannot be casually passed - even though I argue that a non-professional can report a story accurately and with relevance, there is a difference between a blog seen by a few hundred people daily and a media outlet that is seen by tens of thousands if not millions. I have the power to be an annoyance. They have the power to bring down a government. You have to respect this reality.

Dozens of times today, I've questioned if I should have published. My conclusion is although I may have dipped below my usual standards and certainly the standards of the professional class, there is fire beneath that smoke.

Bottom line - I stand by what I wrote.

To those in places of power who I know are regular readers, if you think I'm wrong, I'll be glad to hear it (off the record of course). You know how to reach me.

If you, my other readers, do not think this is correct or moral or professional, you have the same choices which have always been available - chastise me publicly, chastise me privately, continue reading but think less of me or stop reading all together. It is the risk I take every time I apply word to virtual paper and one which will not daunt me from facing the heat and light future stories may bring.

The Casey Cagle Rumors

In the past, I have chastised Erick Erickson for his predilection to rumor monger - particularly on matters involving Lt. Governor Casey Cagle. Today, I will not.

An alleged dalliance by Cagle has rumbled around the state for nine months, but Erick deserved previous vilification because there was little chance of confirmation of the story and I believed his motive was political. One of these reasons may remain true, the other likely will not.

Here's why.

On March 20, 2009, I received a tip from a trusted source that a rumor was circulating the Gold Dome about a staff member interrupting Lt. Governor Cagle while engaged in a certain activity with a female staffer. Knowing I had little possibility of confirming this story myself, I sent a note to a veteran political journalist. After some investigating, he replied "the rumor is afoot" but neither of us could get much further.

As the summer passed into fall, the rumor persisted but no one could get confirmation. Then more details leaked out. Still no one would go on record and no one could find the primary source. However, the fact that I heard additional details (including names) from multiple sources and these details never varied was all but verification.

Recently, another trusted source indicated that the local media finally had the story and for reasons unexplained spiked it at the last minute. However, this person clearly thought it was going to out. Probably this week.

So there it is. I won't go into further details (I believe the regular media will soon enough anyway) without additional confirmation. Erick and I have different standards and I believe our readers judge us accordingly.

However, no longer will there be chastisement on this particular issue - for I believe the story Erick tells is essentially true.

CORRECTION: Small change. I said intern when I meant staff. This was simply a case of mind working faster than keyboard. But it was already affecting discussions in the comment section and I regret the error.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Saturday Stupids

Come down to the Carp Circles reading room

Friday, December 04, 2009

My Morning Wooten

Barack Obama is a text-message president. His speeches have no particular foundation in anything that precedes or follows. In his West Point address, for example, he accused the former administration of denying or ignoring requests for more troops. “Commanders in Afghanistan repeatedly asked for support to deal with the re-emergence of the Taliban, but these reinforcements did not arrive,” he speechified. Responded former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: “Such a bald misstatement, at least as it pertains to the period I served as secretary of defense, deserves a response. I am not aware of a single request of that nature between 2001 and 2006.”
Is there no sense of outrage left on Marietta St? How about just plain honesty? Is the new policy that Jim Wooten gets to print anything he wants without accuracy or context? Does anyone even give a damn any more?

To understand why I am so furious watch the video. Not only was Shinsheki's request not granted but he was canned.

(And I understand his request was Iraq and not Afghanistan, but if you try to make that argument, understand that I will consider you just as dishonest in your reasoning as the revered Jim Wooten. Once upon a time we were told to not support a President in time of war was un-american. Things never change - except when they do)

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Who Benefits?

We know the ones who are trembling like possums in a room full of cats. But will anyone benefit from the Capitol cluster conflagration?

There's one who might.

From the Barrow Journal reporting on Karen Handel talk with county Republicans:
In 2003, Handel was elected chairman of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners... “At my first meeting, I faced a $100 million budget deficit, a proposed three mil tax increase and a democratic majority,” she said...Despite these obstacles, Handel avoided increasing taxes, balanced the budget and implemented stringent ethics laws. (emphasis mine)
The 2003 Fulton Chair race may now be the "Rosetta Stone" for the 2010 Republican Primary.

The Politics Of Rue

To make a proper roux, you need two things - lots of stirring and lots of heat. Much care must be given to this frantic combination lest you get burned by the spatter.

The slow simmer for Georgia Republicans began three weeks ago with the suicide attempt of Speaker Glenn Richardson. All seemed to reset as political types of all stripe gracefully uttered words of sympathy and understanding. Richardson emerged from the dark cloud and even began making public appearances. To the political junkies, the episode surely appeared odd but without much legs.

Then along came Susan.

The Speaker's ex-wife kept her silence for three years. Then, for reasons not fully explained, she clinically laid out to WAGA's Dale Russell her perspective of years of bullying, manipulation and infidelity. And she had a paper trail. The former Mrs. Richardson possessed text messages where the Speaker threatened to bring down johnny law on her head and emails detailing a torrid of an affair with a former employee of Atlanta Gas & Light.

We all hear rumors and tales of rutting and ruination from the gold dome. They blister out of those hallowed halls like a cold sore outbreak at the prom. They make great fodder for booze soaked conversations between insiders but as a wizened beat reporter once said, "it's there but we ain't never gonna nail it down".

The explosive nature of the Richardson affair with its witness willing to discuss the madness while showering the media with physical evidence has everyone wondering if a game change is afoot. Rumors of unique methods of adjusting certain pieces of apparel and of the one that lives over in that part of town and the one that is kept a couple of hundred miles out of town are now mentioned openly.

As the heat continues to rise, the ones watching the pot are stirring as fast as they can. And the ones who fear the boil and burn are frantically dodging and ducking the stick of the spit and spatter of the rue.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Strangest Day Ever?

12-1-09. Next time you think things can't get any weirder, remember that date.

Atlanta elected a new mayor and it wasn't even close to the top story. Not even locally. Why?

Republicans scurried behind close doors to determine the fate of politically wounded leader Glenn Richardson. Two news outlets reported his resignation was imminent. In typical Richardson manner, his people immediately fired back with a "nu uh". Yet, still this morning Republican insiders are saying it's going to happen. (And I ain't even going to get into that "other shoe about to drop" Erick mentioned)

President Obama gave a speech about sending more troops to Afghanistan which resulted in Democrats whining about a "war President" (when this is exactly what Obama told them over a year ago he would do) and Republicans plumbed new depths of cognitive dissonance by calling it isolationism. And you thought the partisanship in the Atlanta Mayor's race was screwy.

Speaking of affairs, the most famous man in the world has been caught not only in one affair, but now two (maybe three, maybe infinity) and even better than Richardson's ex, this one has tape! If you haven't heard the voice mail, let's just say it is devestating.


And Atlanta elected a mayor. Maybe. Maybe not.

It's like the entire world took a big huff of glue yesterday.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Day That Had To Come

Like all things in life, knew it had to come. Wish it didn't but it did. Watch the clip. That was Doak back in the day before it became about "the run". Open ended with "high school" stands on either end. My seats were in the north end zone. 1976 was his first year. 1977 was mine.

Dadgummit, Bobby. Can't say it without tears.

The Speaker And Those Emails

On the most recent episode of the Georgia Politics Podcast, I said, "we'll have a big emotional first day and the Speaker will be re-elected". Politics is fluid and I've never been shy to say I was wrong. The winds are whispering in my ear that I misread this one.

What I did not anticipate was Speaker Richardson's ex-wife providing a blistering tell-all interview to the media. An aside here. I do not blame Susan Richardson. She kept her silence for nearly three years and now a whisper campaign is being born that would cast her in the role of villain. In the politics of the personal, the best defense is a good offense.

But the salacious details of her revelation are not the smoking gun here. If that stack of emails Dale Russell now holds contains what we all think they contain, the Speaker is toast.

UPDATE: Erick is a rumormonger and there's only so far I trust him. But when it comes to knowing the state GOP, he usually isn't far off. He says the text messages (i.e. the ones where the Speaker allegedly threatened his then wife) are real.