Thursday, December 05, 2013

The Legacy of 1980



From my column in this week's Creative Loafing,
Jason Carter knows the odds he faces as a Democrat candidate in a Republican stronghold. While the gubernatorial challenger has a fighting chance due to his family's legacy, it'll also be his greatest challenge in 2014. To win, Jason Carter will need to resurrect the hope of his grandfather's 1976 campaign and fight the demons from his crushing defeat four years later.
I was 12 years old in 1980. Too young to truly understand what occurred, but old enough to have the "moment" imprint on my memory. Many others around my age have similar experiences and in many of my Republican friends it has become a shibboleth - a shining light on the road to Damascus.


Honoring the past is worthwhile pursuit. In politics, becoming chained to it is dangerous. Jason Carter's recent appearance in Athens may indicate Republicans will have to rely on more than historical bromides to beat back the upstart.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

After The Scene Dies



Everyone wants to tell the story of Virginia. But there are two opinions which I believe sum up what happened last night in the Old Dominion. And both are stark warnings for Republicans.

First, well-respected University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato.
McAuliffe team beat the jinx with strong campaign + big financial edge + Cuccinelli's social issues. Oh, VA is bluish purple, too. 
I would add the lament of right wing pundits that if the shutdown didn't happen, we would have had five weeks of campaigning on Obamacare and its junk website. It might have made a difference, but elections are like ifs and ands and buts but with less chance of candy or nuts.

The key takeaway from Sabato's statement; big financial edge. Despite everyone, and I mean everyone, knowing McAuliffe is a slimier than the bottom of a pond experiencing an algae bloom, the money swung his way. Principles are fine but winning is better and money wins election.

Big picture analyses point to the Donkey in the room; Obamacare. Its relative absence as an issue in the early stages is credited for McAuliffe's victory. Its late appearance following the shutdown fallout is credited for Cucinelli's resurgence.

Both are right but Josh Barro points to a subtle nuance that should trouble every Republican currently littering social media with schadenfreude over website failures and cancellation notices.
Even in an election that the Republican candidate was deeming to be a "referendum on Obamacare," in a state where Obamacare is not popular, against a Democratic nominee whose key career accomplishment is unusual success at influence peddling, the Republican nominee lost.
Yes Barro ignores other factors but his point is salient; if scorched earth campaigning against Obamacare won't work in a state where the majority are somewhat against the program, where will it?

It is time for hard realities and hard decisions for Republicans everywhere (even in deep red states like Georgia).

Reality: you aren't going to repeal Obamacare. And it won't be because you never, ever win when it is put to an electoral test. It is because even you know the price of kicking 25 year olds and people with pre-existing conditions off their insurance is too high.

So it is decision time. Do you persist in another three years of self soothing primal screams and sniping at something you will never defeat? Or do you finally wake to a world where people elect pond scum because they can govern and decide that winning then the governing that follows winning are again appealing options.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Governor Deal Will Win Re-Election



From my column in Creative Loafing,
It is difficult to ignore the dichotomy of a man constantly dogged by claims of old-fashioned, back-room maneuvering completely reorganizing the political structure of the state's second largest county — one which is predominantly Democrat and African-American. And he was praised for his doing what was necessary.
You can read the entire piece here.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Try Walking To McDonalds Naked



Of all the silliness associated with the shutdown of the Federal government, the one that is driving me to drink is people confusing non-essential with unnecessary.

Some folks follow this line of reasoning: if all these federal workers are non-essential, it shows we can do without them and that is good enough reason to conclude the government is too big.

Let me use a simple analogy to explain the difference between essential and non-essential.

Food is essential. Without it you will die.

Clothing is non-essential. If you are naked as the day you were born, everything in your innards will function just fine.

But try walking to McDonald's without your non-essential clothes to get your essential Big Mac and see what happens.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Quote Of The Day - Southern Fried Edition



From Jim Stacy, host of WPBA's "Get Delicious" and Destination America's "Deep Fried Masters".
Nothing says America like a corn dog. Back in the ’50s you’d take your kid to the carnival, fill him up with sugar, put him on all these rides and make him sick. Then for dinner you hand him this piece of meat on a stick. “Here’s your dinner and a weapon.” That’s the America I know.
Just a sample of his interview in Esquire. Esquire!

I've been aware of Jim since the days of Grand Moff Tarkin and was fortunate enough to once meet him outside the Star Bar. I was drunk and he was not, but he was as pleasant and gentlemanly to me as he probably is to his close relations. He's about as fine an example of a real southerner that I know.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Detailed Demographics of Where You Live



This is one of the most incredible sites you will ever see. Dustin Cable at the University of Virginia created a map based on data from the 2010 U.S. Census where each dot represents a single person color coded by racial makeup.

As you look at the whole, you see a mix of colors, but as you zoom in, the lines become stark. Above is a snapshot I took of my home town of Moultrie, Ga. It doesn't really tell me anything new - "Northwest Moultrie" has always been the center of the African American community and in the past two decades, "The Circle" to the west of downtown as become a center of the Hispanic community - but it certainly illuminates the contrast more vividly than anything I've seen.

No real commentary or judgment here. Just try to not get lost for hours.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

More Poll Stuff



My opinions of polls vary from indifference to hostility. Whenever someone starts screaming about a poll where a thin majority supports their position, I like to say, "well most people would like to ride a pony to the supper table and eat nothing but ice cream, what's your point?"

So that's why I take Public Policy Polling's latest round of surveys with a grain of salt. However, based on conversations and reading, I wish I could say I'm surprised by these results but I'm not. Hopefully, this is just a case of confirmation bias or correlation perceived as causation, because if these numbers are accurate, it is almost too depressing to comprehend

- 53% of Georgians prefer Creationism to Evolution. Before you start arrogantly cackling Democrats, a plurality of your fine folks believe this also.

-A plurality of Georgians think the much ballyhooed White Student Union at Georgia State is a fine and dandy idea. Probably because the lazy press hasn't reported it has ties to a white supremacy organization.

-But perhaps the saddest part. We don't like Honey Boo Boo very much. Is it because she and Mama June and Sugar Bear are a mirror? Or just another caricature designed to eternalize us all as gap-toothed rednecks? I don't know. I like watching her family mostly because I've known people like that and even though they are complete bug crazy, they are good people. My people I suppose.

PPP is testing the temperature of this state. It's a sign that the upcoming Senate race may be the real deal. It will still be herculean for Democrats to turn it competitive but we still have a year of Republicans seeing just how crazy it takes to dance the primary jig and there are indications real money might swing this way.

Meantime, the rest of the country will see these polls, flip on a rerun of Dukes of Hazzard and thank God they don't have to deal with Enos chasing down Daisy Duke once again.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Quote For The Day



From the snarky Dave Weigel on Michelle Nunn's political acumen.
So far she's good at dodging questions. That's important!


The national press/politiratti have turned their flame rimmed eyes towards Georgia.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

About That Poll



All the insiders are atwitter over the first poll of the Senate season. In the Public Policy Polling survey just published, Democrat Michelle Nunn ties most of the field and wallops firebrand Paul Broun. Three first impressions.

Why the Democrats can be happy

-Despite the entrenched narrative that PPP "leans left" (it is a given they poll demographics more favorable towards Democrats) according to Nate Silver, in the 2012 Presidential election, they were actually biased towards Romney! More importantly, they were far more accurate than some of their top competitors.

Why the Republicans can be happy

-Nunn still polled no higher than 42%. As we've shown, the mid-40s is the Democrats high water mark in non Presidential races. There's a good chance this poll is closer to the ceiling than the floor

Why the weird can be happy

-Relative unknown David Perdue polled 40%. The only reasonable explanation is people think he's former Governor Sonny Perdue.

And that last point brings us to the bottom line. Polls, particularly early ones, are useless at the strategic level and marginally useful at the tactical level. At this point, they are really about driving the narrative in whatever particular direction you favor. And with the first one on the board, expect a lot of narrative spew in the next 24 hours.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

TSPLOST One Year Later



It is an ignominious anniversary. One year ago 9 of the 12 regions voted against the TSPLOST (a local one cent sales tax pegged for transportation). Of course, one of those regions was Atlanta.

It should be remembered that even supporters of TSPLOST considered it a crap sandwich. It was so full of poison pills and political chicanery that even those desperate for transportation relief pulled levers reluctantly.

Of course this didn't prevent the Atlanta Tea Party (conveniently headquartered in Dacula) from claiming credit.

Rightly so. To a degree.

They used a broad coalition of traditional rivals such as The Sierra Club and the NAACP to lash TSPLOST from stem to stern. Also, anxious to show they were not just the voice of "NO", they promised to use their new power and take leadership in the new tax free transportation world that followed.

Atlanta Tea Party's Debbie Dooley promised the marriage of convenience with The Sierra Club would continue and together they would work a executing a "Plan B". Prior to the vote, they presented one version (see below). After the election, didn't hear much about it ever again. You would think a group that in Dooley's words "took on the governor, the lieutenant governor, the mayor, big business and slick political consultants...emerged victorious" would be revel in strikiing off additional victories.

Here's what they proprosed four days before the vote:

1) Discard the current three different taxes on motor fuel and enact a single motor fuel tax, based on the value of the commodity and allowed to rise and fall with price inflation, dedicated solely to funding transportation with a portion[a] of the motor fuel tax receipts available for “all transportation purposes,” including operating costs as well as capital and maintenance.

2) Allow any two or more local governments to create, and fully fund, transportation projects to meet the needs of their citizens through referenda on local motor fuel or sales taxes, and other revenue sources.
 
a) Allow referenda to levy local fractional sales taxes and motor fuel taxes of less than one percent for local transportation funding purposes.
 
b) Leave decisions over specific allowable allocations of local transportation taxes and fees in control of the local governments and their agencies that administer them, free from State interference.
 
c) Allow combinations of local governments to form fiscal partnerships with GA DOT for sharing capital and/or operating costs of local transportation projects to meet the needs of their citizens.
 
3) Before elected officials are given more money they need to show they can be trusted with what they have. As a first step toward transparency and accountability, DOT Board members should be elected at annual public meetings of Congressional District Legislative Caucuses in each Congressional District for open public election (no secret ballots) to one-year terms of service and review of transportation activities in the District.
 
4) Before MARTA is expanded, it should be brought up to date on maintenance and be restored to a reasonable level of service.
 
a) The Legislature should end its interference in MARTA budgets and resume an oversight role. Voters and elected officials where the MARTA tax is collected (Fulton, Dekalb and Atlanta) should decide how MARTA revenue should be spent.
 
b) The hotel/motel tax the City of Atlanta collects yearly should in some part go to MARTA or transportation needs, not to be used to build a new stadium for the Falcons.
 
c) Other options that should be considered include distance based user fares, charge for parking at MARTA lots, use part of the hotel/motel tax to help fund MARTA — even consider raising the tax to fund transportation needs.

Other than bitching about the new stadium, do you remember hearing anything about any of that during the last legislative session? Yeah. Me neither.

What has happened is true to his word, Governor Deal has executed his plan B - I decide what gets built where.

Good for those living at either end of GA-400. For everyone else? Not so much.

Same as it ever was.

Chart Of The Day


You can disagree with Obamacare. You can think it is the wrong policy for the country. You can even believe, with some credence, that it will raise rates.

But stop pretending that rates were not already increasing dramatically prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

As you can see from the chart above (provided by Kaiser), annual health insurance increases were far out pacing inflation. From 2000 to 2005, the average annual rate increase topped 8%.

We will soon hear "repeal" for the fortieth time in the U.S. House of Representatives. However, we will not hear what comes after and everyone should be able to agree returning to the status quo is not tenable.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Another Reason We Should Love Atlanta



Ethics in government has been a hot topic in Georgia during the last two legislative sessions but a new study from Harvard may indicate we should be counting our blessings.

Felipe Campante of Harvard and Quoc-Anh Doh of Singapore posit the more isolated a state capital the greater possibility of corruption. One of the most dramatic examples they use is New York, with upstate Albany, and Massachussets, with white hot center Boston.
if we compare two Northeastern states with similar levels of GDP per capita, we see that Massachusetts, with its population quite concentrated around Boston, is measured as considerably less corrupt than New York and its isolated Albany
The researchers provide plenty of data to show their hypothesis is more causation than correlation and provides evidence of ancillary causes such as concentration of media coverage.

Next January, when once again we debate the cost of steak dinners or even trips to France, just remember it could be worse. The Gold Dome could be in McIntyre.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Majestic Neon


No Senate race today. No politics. Just a little fun for Friday.

Flavorwire lists 35 of America's most majestic neon signs. Two are in Atlanta. Can you name them without looking? (Hint: sadly the Majestic's majestic sign is not one of them.)

Have a great weekend everyone. Politics resumes next week.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

What If....Republicans Start To Lose?


According to the Yoda of the Numbers, Nate Silver, punditry is not only useless but is comparable to a cardinal sin. Well, either I could turn this blog into a never ending stream of kittens (and make more money than a porn mogul) or I could commit a little sin. I hate cats, so sin it is!

Let's play what if.

The what if is not what if Michelle Nunn wins in next year's Senate election. The slavering national press already has that covered and I've already said I don't believe it will happen. (To be Nate Silver-like, I'd put her chances at about 20%)

Instead, what if after Michelle Nunn, the Georgia Republican Party rests on its laurels believing its shield of righteousness will protect it from all challenges?

What if they start to lose elections?

Sound far fetched? One only has to look at the resolutions of the last Georgia Republican convention - a sop to a specific industry, opposition to an education proposal -  to infer that a decade of white washing Democrats has led the Republicans to a place where they are obsessed with the tactical while believing the strategic is a given.

If we accept this as valid, where might another electoral victory lead them? Let's speculate.

2014 - Republicans elect Phil Gingrey/Paul Broun in the primary. Gingrey/Broun beats Michelle Nunn, 52-47

2016 - After two years of Sen. Gingrey/Broun and continued demographics changes, State Rep. Jason Carter uses a strategy focused on not only Metro Atlanta but the other four metro areas (plus Libertarian defections) to narrowly beat U.S. Representative Tom Price for U.S. Senate. Democrats win Gwinnett County for the first time in a generation.

2018 - Using the groundwork laid by the new Senator Carter, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed not only wins Gwinnett but peels off Henry County to decisively beat U.S Rep.Austin Scott and becomes Georgia's first African American governor.

And then the fight really begins. What insiders understand is despite the importance of these races, they are brushwars compared to the all out war that 2020 will be. In that year, whichever party holds the Presidency will be up for re-election, we'll have a census and this will ripple all the way down to the state house where the representatives who will draw the next voting districts will be elected.

If the Democrats hold the governor's mansion and are within striking distance of taking back either side of the Capitol, it will be a bloodfest.

Is that all a little out on a limb? Likely. However, once you leave the fever swamp of over-confidence where the ardent currently wallow, I guarantee there are a few furrowed Republican brows who have pondered these scenarios.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Deep In The Fever Swamps



Comment sections are vital to the the health of the social media landscape. If you don't agree, I have a stack of AJC back issues I'd like to sell you. They are the mulch that support and feed the surface landscape, however don't dig too deep. Otherwise, you'll just end up in the dark covered in garbage and dung.

But occasionally it is fruitful to turn the earth and see what's percolating underneath. With these cautions in mind, let's see how the commenters of Georgia's two major partisan websites handled yesterday's announcement by Michelle Nunn that she is entering the race for U.S. Senate.

The Riotgrrls at Blog For Democracy were not too happy with the roll out. I'm hard pressed to remember when they were ever happy with a candidate rollout. They are Democrats after all.
We’ve been waiting months, and if it weren’t for the intros in the articles we wouldn’t know Ms Nunn was even running as a Democrat. No mention of hoping for support from Georgia Democrats, no appreciation for President Obama’s leadership. Only a nod to the two Bush’s.
While true, Nunn's initial releases were as soft as curdled milk (even Republican site ZPolitics noted the lack of reference to Democrats), what Catherine and others are not seeing here is that Michelle Nunn is already running a general election campaign. Twelve months ahead of schedule. Instead of another Hunger Games primary, they have a candidate who can slow roll right up to the general election and appeal to the broadest part of the electorate while the Republicans spend a year trying to out crazy each other.

But as I said. Democrats. Only they can turn an advantage into a reason for full bore panic.

Over at Peach Pundit, everyone is wringing their hands over the Georgia Republican Party's initial response to  Nunn's candidacy. And not just the usual caged monkey poo flingers. From Bull Moose,
Just my opinion, but I think the GOP is making some big mistakes in it’s immediate attacks on Michelle Nunn. 
Most of the comments are about the juvenile nature of the press release and it isn't the best thing I've ever read. But I thought it was funny and a welcome break for the normal mad-lib/fill in the blank press releases.

But more importantly. It's July! 2013! Sixteen months from the election! The only people who read the thing are the people commenting on it. And unless their adderall gives out, in a day or so, they will move on to the next "outrage".

For the first time in a while, the Republicans are going to have a bloodbath while the Democrats stand on the sideline and watch. A little focus on the truly important might be useful.

Welcome to day 2 of the 2014 Georgia Senate campaign. Only 500 or so to go.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

47



47. That's the highwater mark for a Democratic candidate in a statewide race in Georgia in the past decade. It was achieved by Jim Martin in 2008 against Saxby Chambliss*.

Chambliss is now retiring and a new Democrat is seeking to replace him. Michelle Nunn is the daughter of legendary Georgia Senator Sam Nunn and she will certainly face whatever candidate emerges from the crowded Republican primary field.

47 is daunting but it gets worse. In the last election where President Obama was not at the top of the ticket, the Democratic highwater mark was 43% by Roy Barnes in 2010.

You will hear many stories today that will use words like "battleground" and "changing demograpics", but they will ignore the cold hard math. The last time a non-incumbent Democrat posted over 45% in a statewide race where Barack Obama's name wasn't at the top of the ticket was Michael Coles well-funded campaign against Paul Coverdell in 1998.

1998.

Anyone who ignores the unsexy numbers while charging towards the sexy narratives are dreaming of dog wagging tails in the political doldrums that suffocate the summer before a big election.

*Editor's note - Democratic candidate for PSC Jim Powell actually achieved 48% in 2008 but there was so much craziness in that election, it shouldn't be considered comparable.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Love Letter To South Georgia




From my Last Word column in this week's Creative Loafing.
When I was a boy, the roads surrounding my home were still dirt and I would walk, barefoot, between my house and my grandmother's place. On an adventurous day, I might cut through the woods, avoiding the briars and the snakes they likely hid. Although the city limits were creeping closer, Moultrie felt very far away to my small eyes. Atlanta was as foreign and distant as the great cities of the North.
 Read the rest here.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Life In The Burbs

Although I've moved further north, I struggle with saying I'm in the burbs. Even if I'm not ITP, I can see ITP from my house!

Now that I'm settled in, it's time to take a look around and see what's happening. A quick perusal of the landscape finds some old friends and some old lessons the new city people a little further to the south may want to heed.

Sandy Springs: My new home. Let's talk about the positive first. Although I only recently became a resident, I have roamed the mean streets of Hammond and Roswell for some years. As I've written before, despite it's long painful birth, Sandy Springs has shown it can handle its business on things that really matter. Like potholes. And trash. I'm pretty happy with the conditions of the streets and dealing with a private contractor for pickup was the least painful part of moving.

On a less positive note, on Tuesday, the Sandy Springs city council voted 5-1 to use the power of eminent domain to take away the property currently occupied by Makara Mediterranean Restaurant. The land will then be used to build a new government complex. It is not lost on me that many of the founders of the city are Republicans in the mold of "less government" hyperbole. And also were ones complaining quite loudly about the actions of their former landlords Fulton County. (It should be noted the one lone no vote was by Gabriel Sterling, more on that in a second).

Fortunately I got to eat at Makara recently and it is excellent. I highly recommend the lamb kabobs. Get them before they are gone.

Dunwoody: Just next door, Dunwoody is having its own struggles. I seem to remember writing something about tinker toys getting jammed up noses. Dunwoody seems intent on jamming both the silly and the serious in places they do not go.

Recently, the city's ethics committee found council member Adrian Bonser in violation of the rule against being discourteous to a constutent. You read that right. She's being smacked down for being rude. We have a state legislature which can't decide how small they can make the lobbyist trough without losing all the slop while also keeping the peasants from tossing them out and a few miles north there's a city that will publicly shame you for telling a noisy resident exactly what you think of them. And people say we don't have diversity.

Then there's the bus shelters. Some on the council want bus shelters but are offended by the advertising on them. And in a fine trying to twist the mouth to eat the cake you have, they will not only lose the revenue they receive but may end up having to pay the company that places the ads. I find billboard type fights fascinating. I seem to be able to ignore them and wonder if maybe I'm missing a key gene that causes outrage when one intrudes on my line of vision.

Dunwoody also can't seem to make up its mind about a fire department. But what it really comes down to is taxes and can they be raised with or without a vote. I wonder if this is the same first step on the path to "unresponsive government" that former Dunwoody parent Dekalb County took many many years ago.

Brookhaven: New kid on the block. They're hell bent on getting rid of the house of sin that was sinning away when they decided to draw their boundaries around it. It's an exorcism by inclusion which I'm a bit rusty on the concept but is probably not part of the canon.

It would be easy to roll in "told you so" here. After all, most of these new cities popped up because they couldn't get what they wanted from the current government entity and at least in the case of Sandy Springs and Dunwoody, the primary proponents are the same folks who constantly spew about the lack of necessity for government. But I won't and here's why.

Once the thump your chest rhetoric of city formation dies down, the reality of running a municipality sets in. And it is hard. It is easy to rain thunder on the decisions of those in power until you are in power and have to start making compromises of your own. Sandy Springs and Dunwoody have now been around long enough that the shine is off the new and streets still have to be paved. They are struggling but every government does. Hopefully, they will use these hard times to reflect on the reasons they left Dekalb and Fulton, consider that some of their criticisms should have been tempered and most importantly, not be seduced down the same paths which caused their own secessions.

Also, it is easy to forget there are real people involved here.

Sandy Springs city councilman Gabriel Sterling annoys me and he knows this. He is exactly what I think is wrong with the modern Republican party. His rants are sourced from talk radio and Breitbart and he is a living breathing example of confirmation bias. However, despite the fact that he is not my council person, twice, I've asked him for information and he responded quickly. If you ignore all the hoo hah he posts on places like Facebook, he's exactly the type of local representative you want. And his lone vote against the use of eminent domain to wipe out a small business is exactly the kind of consistency you want to see in a politician.

Dunwoody city councilman John Heneghan does not annoy me. In fact, he's one of the nicest guys I've met. I'm not really sure what he's got against ads on bus shelters, but I'm confident he feels he's trying to represent his folks as best he can. When I commented about Dunwoody's shenanigans on twitter, John almost immediately responded and through the digital air, I could sense his hurt. It was the hurt of father who watches his offspring stumble around and scrape both knees.
 
Growing pains are part of life whether you are a scoundrel who just bought your first house or you are newly formed city. But I have confidence Gabriel, John, the residents of Dunwoody and Sandy Springs (myself included) will figure it all out. If only because they have to. After all, that's life in the big city.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

An Opportunity For Us All

When partisan Republicans start crowing about the findings of dyed in the wool liberals, it is not only time to take notice, but also to pause and reflect.

Criticizing the current President's policy on drones was all the rage a few weeks ago. A frequent refrain Republicans used to make Democrats squirm was "are you going to be comfortable with future President's executing this power"?

Echoes of the past never die.

That same argument was used by civil libertarians when the Patriot Act was created by the Bush Administration. We'll have to wait for a Republican to start the drone killin' before we can address the slide of that slippery slope, but the precipice of the one created in the last decade, at the height of the "we must do everything can to protect ourselves hysteria" has arrived.

All the participants are performing the usual partisan reels, but instead of focusing on the smugness of those who supported much worse less than a decade ago or the sudden non-chalance of those who once deeply care about things like the Fourth Amendment (to be fair, my personal observation is there has been more of the first than the second. After all, the source here is deeply liberal Glenn Greenwald), we should instead turn to the words written by Charlie Harper three days ago.
The assumptions behind most recent political debate have been “my side is good and can handle power. Your side is evil and should not have it.” The current scandals give Republicans a solid chance to change the debate. It should no longer about who has the power of government, but should government have this much power over us at all?
But replace Republicans with Americans, because today shows government restraint is not a partisan issue.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Erickson's Arrogance Exposes Democrats Incompetence

Our old friend Erick has been all over the news lately.

On the national front, he's lamenting the fact that some wives earn more than their men and it could possibly unravel not only the entire fabric of society but nature itself.
When you look at biology — when you look at the natural world — the roles of a male and a female in society and in other animals, the male typically is the dominant role.
Locally, he's congratulating Athens Republican Regina Quick's response to her Chamber of Commerce grade of C+:
Good for Regina Quick. Increasing, Chamber of Commerce Republicans are not small gov't Republicans
That "conservatives" like Erick are willing to cast off sizable portions of demographics such as working women is nothing new. Although it is dangerous. I've personally witnessed more than one young female Republican, I mean dyed in the wool Republican, rankle at similar attitudes.

That he and those who continue to narrowly define what is and isn't a Republican are willing to cast off one of the pillars of the larger business community is new.

But what is striking is not Erick's ridiculous pronouncements. After all that's what he is paid to do - say outrageous things with little or no accountability. What is striking is as he and his allies continue to successfully shed appendages of the traditional Republican coalition, the Democrats, at least in the state of Georgia, cannot seem to acquire the cast offs.

As much as Erick's arrogance makes me not want to be his version of a Republican, the utter mewling kitten weakness of the Georgia Democrats certainly does not make me want to be their version of Democrat.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Stupid of the Day

Via Scott MacFarlane's, Cox Media's Washington Correspondent, twitter:
Rep Paul Broun (R-Ga), in hearing in wake of Oklahoma tragedy: Govt spends 100 times more CPU power on climate change than weather forecasts.
You would think that someone with Doctor attached to his name would understand that modeling a planet's climate is a slightly different scale than forecasting the weather on a given day.


Must be more seepage from the Pits of Hell.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Dekalb Cities Gaining Powerful Allies

As I wrote in April, the second wave of city formation now infecting Dekalb has a slightly different flavor from the breakaways of the last decade. Druid Hills is now in the game and note who their sponsor is - Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) - about as liberal a Democrat as you can get.

Peach Pundit's George Chidi's summary of Druid Hills Civic Association President Bruce MacGregor's comments at a recent meeting at Clairmont Baptist Church reflects the feelings that I've heard from several Dekalb residents.
MacGregor has a basket of misgivings about incorporation — the process sucks, it’s expensive, incorporation doesn’t address schools, it doesn’t really lower taxes, most of the county’s services aren’t really a problem and incorporation fights can piss people off — but when you’re being ignored and in pain, it’s defensive kung-fu. The civic association has several disputes with the county that should be solvable with a little communication, but county leaders have been curiously unresponsive, he said.

Cityhood is not a panacea, however, when no one is listening, what other options do you have?  Beleaguered CEO Burrell Ellis' continued stance of silence is creating a political vacuum and very powerful political players are beginning to fill it.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Gun Fetishists And The Fearful



The loudest voices in the gun control debate are the fearful and the fetishists. The fetishists want the biggest bang from the loudest toy and any effort to limit their appetites are viewed as denial of life itself. The fearful only encounter guns on news reports filled with tragedy and fear the day the unseen power of guns will touch their lives. In the middle live the non-gun owners whose only battles are paychecks and mortgages and gun owners who view their firearms as tools to be respected, protection they hope they never have to use and recreation in controlled venues.

In Washington, despite bipartisan support and public polls supporting some restrictions on the purchase of firearms, the U.S. Senate will not even vote to hold a vote on any gun legislation. In this era of the legislative arms race, the middle doesn’t get much play.

The word regulate appears exactly three times in the U.S. Constitution. It appears twice in Article 1, Section 8; granting power to the Congress to regulate interstate commerce and regulate how money is valued.

The third time is not in the body of the original document but in the second amendment as part of the compound word “well-regulated”.

The fetishists and their enablers in the N.R.A. either ignore this clause -  instead choosing to chant the more attractive “shall not be infringed” mentioned earlier in the amendment or they argue semantics claiming “regulated” actually is intended as “maintained". Both arguments ignore that the word is plainly there and we clearly accept some forms of regulation on speech and public gatherings despite the First Amendment's declarative “shall make no law".

Most of the fearful suffer from a lack of familiarity with guns. They were not raised in the gun culture. They do not sit on deer stands on cold October mornings. Gun shows are festivals for the weird and the paranoid. Gun ranges are no places for a family outing or a gathering of friends.

Unless they have been a victim of crime, those who hold an irrational fear of firearms only encounter them through fiction or blood filled news broadcasts. Guns can never be a source of pleasure. They are the deliverers of death and mayhem. They see no purpose for their existence and believe the world would be better if they were treated as a virulent disease and completely eliminated.

Where the fetishists are correct is gun regulations as they now exist would not prevent most tragedies. When he entered Sandy Hook Elementary, Adam Lanza held a legally purchased assault rifle and he had no criminal background. The same is true for Colorado move theater shooter James Eagan Holmes. In Eagan’s case, he directly purchased the firearms and passed several background checks.

Where the fearful are correct is guns greatly increase the potential scope for mayhem. In a matter of minutes, Adam Lanza was able to kill 20 children and 6 adults. James Eagan Holmes in less time killed 12 and maimed 58. Evil will always be with us and the ability to control mad men will always have limits, but when guns are added to those two ingredients, the outcome will always have deadly finality.

However, just because those who see owning guns as a right passed down from the Almighty and those who do not know the difference between a double barrel and a banana clip have taken these points of correctness to create walls of righteousness does not mean we should be paralyzed in the status quo. Instead of focusing on karmic salves such as cosmetic assault weapons bans which are easily bypassed by gun manufacturers or dipping into the paranoid fever swamp that only guns prevent the government from taking over everything, we should be seeking regulations which may not prevent but could limit the horror of the Lanza’s and the Holmes’.

For example, anyone who needs more than a handful of rounds is either intent on fun or madness. Instead of limiting or eliminating high capacity magazines, why not require anyone purchasing beyond a certain amount of ammunition submit to the same background check as those who apply for concealed carry permits? For a small touch of regulation, those who think it is fun to fill targets full of holes would still be able to have their hobby but someone who intends an extended firefight with law enforcement may be stopped before they leave the store.

It is only one suggestion and may not be the best suggestion, but the real root of evil in the gun debate is it and other ideas are not even allowed discussion. Whether it is out of fear of electoral retribution or principles held so tightly as to constrict, our leaders in Washington play parliamentary games in order to win small political battles back home while potential larger real world battles remain in our future.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Wilcox County Round 2


Creative Loafing's Gwynedd Stuart's open letter to the students of Wilcox County says all that needs to be said about the recent segregated prom controversy. But politics often does not care for resolution when there is still advantage to be gained.

Despite a poor response last week to calls for a statement on the situation, Governor Deal once again this morning attempted to clarify his position . He should have kept his mouth shut.
None of us condone things that would send the wrong message about where we are with regard to race relations.
That sounds an awful lot like the non-apologies we hear so often these days; usually in the form of "I'm sorry I made you feel that way".

Wrong message? How about just wrong? Is that so hard for the Governor to say?

My mind has not changed on Better Georgia's actions in this mess. They trolled, plain and simple, and exploited the situation for political gain. Some have called me naive for getting riled about something that is just part of politics these days. Don't care. These types of political games are repulsive no matter who pulls them.

However, it may be time to concede Better Georgia has a small point. Not by implying that Governor Deal (and Republicans by association are racists. Frankly, there's nothing worse you can do in politics than call someone racist and that was really Better Georgia's intent), but by exposing that when it comes to race, certain politicians, usually of a particular party, have a real problem facing up to racial issues with any real honesty.

I've seen it before with a former governor of another state who many on the outside believe is secretly prejudiced but those close to him, even the opposition, will tell you it's absolutely not true. But when it comes to confronting race in public, he frequently stumbles and couches. It becomes an easy caricature to target.

Given their similar positions in life, I can speculate Governor Deal suffers from a similar affliction. However, the cure is simple. 

Governor Deal is right about one thing when he says "We’ve come a long way in the state of Georgia." But we've got a ways to go and it would help if our politicians remove the mask of political equivocation and use the face of honesty to state when something is plainly wrong.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Latest Manufactured "Controversy"

A few weeks ago, Georgia and the rest of the country were shocked to learn a dirty little secret  - Wilcox County High School has segregated proms. The events are not sponsored by the school system, but none the less, it is an ugly anachronism that should not be.

As the saying goes, the children shall lead and in this case they did. A group of students took it upon themselves to organize an integrated prom.

What should have been a story of the next generation overcoming the sins of the previous generation should have ended there. But we live in the days of zero sum politics where every incident must have a choosing of sides and clear winner and a clear loser.

Despite their claim to be non-partisan and independent, Better Georgia is well known as a progressive activist group. They are very aggressive in their pursuit to get Democrats elected in Georgia. Given the wet rag resistance of Democrats in Georgia for the past ten years, a little aggression is probably needed. But there is a line and Better Georgia quickly crossed the line from aggressive politics to naked exploitation.

Peach Pundit's Charlie Harper has a good breakdown of the timeline of the "controversy" but here's the bullets:

  • Wilcox County High School's segregated prom becomes a national story
  • Students of Wilcox County determine to organize their own integrated prom
  • Wilcox County Republican Melvin Elverson assists the students by promoting private donations for the event
  • On April 5th the students announced on Facebook they had met their financial goal and the prom would be held
The story should have ended here, but last week, many of us involved in politics started seeing posts all over social media from Bryan Long and Don Weigal asking Georgia Republicans to not only "support the students" but donate money so they prom could be held. Here's what happened next

  • Better Georgia starts trolling Republicans on social media demanding they support the Wilcox County students
  • Governor Deal's spokesmen responds to Better Georgia calling their actions a silly publicity stunt
  • Governor Deal also issues a statement saying he trusts local leaders to resolve the issue to protect the equal rights of all students (see below)
  • Better Georgia begins using social media to promote the idea Governor Deal refuses to endorse an integrated prom
Anyone who has been in the business for a hot second saw this coming. Better Georgia trolled the opposition looking for an inarticulate response. Once they got one, they pounced and used confirmation bias of Democrats in this state and elsewhere to subtly promote the idea the Governor of Georgia (and Republicans in general) supports segregation.

Here's Governor Deal's full statement on the Wilcox County situation.

Gov. Deal is focused on reviewing the legislation that was passed in the legislative session and bringing jobs to Georgia. In the Wilcox County case, the governor expects and trusts that local leaders will find a long-term solution that protects the equal rights of all students, regardless of race or ethnic background.

My goodness, he's practically a modern day George Wallace.

The bottom line is this was never about the kids in Wilcox County. This was about professional political operatives scoring a "victory" for their side. With the usual political jujitsu common in these ugly cage match mud fests, they exploited kids while claiming to support them; they decried the reputation of the south as racist while exploiting national liberals own perception the south is crammed full of card carrying members of the KKK.

Their actions may be justified in the political world but it should not pass that they also belie their very name. Nothing about this episode makes Georgia better.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Is The City Of Lakeside Inevitable?

From my column in this week's Creative Loafing:
Lakeside will form if the residents wish. It should not be viewed with anger or resentment. Given the state of DeKalb County, enough may be enough and cityhood might be the only solution.
Since initially putting paper to pen, the Lakeside Alliance has made several missteps, pissing off a large portion of Tucker not being the least, but I still believe it will happen. If for no other reason than people I speak to who still live in Dekalb County are angry beyond reason. And can we really blame them?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Gay Marriage Is Conservative

From conservative commentator and former opponent of gay marriage David Frum,
No agency of government can ever begin to do for anyone what loving spouses do for each other. The stronger our families are, of every kind of family, the less government we’ll need.
There is the conservative argument. Conservatism in the traditional sense. Not the snake oil being peddled by tribute demanding idolators.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Welcome To The Road To Damascus





Last night, Rand Paul spake and it was good.

For thirteen hours, the junior Senator from Kentucky did not read the newspaper, did not recite nursery rhymes, did not impress us with his knowledge of Betty Crocker. Instead, he spoke eloquently on one subject and one subject only; will the President guarantee he will not kill U.S. citizens on U.S. soil if they are not engaged in combat against their country.

For one day in that much reviled house on Capitol Hill, there was no discussion of the record number of judicial appointments unfilled, no talk of the idiocy meat cleaver called the sequester, no whining about who caused what latest inanity. For one day, it was about the most fundamental right; the right to not be killed by your government.

As I watched, Sen. Paul, I found myself frequently responding, nodding my head, retweeting missives from two writers, one liberal, one conservative, who have led this quiet crusade for years. As the night wore on and other Republicans joined Paul, there was a subtle shift in attitudes on my social media. Suddenly, it was a pep rally. A chance for Republicans to call out Democrats for not supporting the obvious. Rightly so.

But let's not shake those pom-poms too vigorously yet.

Let's travel back a decade and visit with Jose Padilla. Padilla was arrested in 2002 on charges of conspiring to create a "dirty bomb". He was transferred to military custody and held in solitary confinement for years without facing a court. The Bush administration argued vigorously that the in times of crisis, the 4th Amendment did not apply. Sound familiar?

Before his case came before the Supreme Court, the Bush administration finally transferred Padilla to civilian court where he was indicted, tried and convicted.

That decade also saw the establishment of the TSA. At the time, it was seen as a necessary inconvenience. Heck, there were those who said it didn't go far enough; that we should profile or ban certain groups from traveling all together. Ten years, later, TSA is seen as molesters of grandmothers and young children. Was this radical change caused by the natural tendency of Americans to quickly forget necessities when it interferes with convenience or yet another case of political expedience when the other guy holds the power? Probably a little of both.

As much as those hypocrisies irritate, so be it. The fight is here and it is now. As I hoped over five years ago, President Obama has awakened Republicans from their decade long slumber and prodded them to care about things beyond placating Grover Norquist or worshiping the deceased. He did it by mixing a little Nixon, lack of transparency, and a little Dubya, the imperial Presidency, and certainly with a stance I find abhorrent. But, it is done none the less.

Welcome to the great civil liberties awakening, Republican brothers and sisters. But have a care about preening with too much pride over your latest star. For it is pride that brought us here.

Friday, March 01, 2013

The Last Spoke



Many speak of the greatest generation, coined by Tom Brokaw to honor those who survived the Great Depression and won World War II, but in my family, the greatest generation was born a few years earlier. Not only did seven brothers and sisters experience and shape those towering events, but longevity allowed them to stretch their legacy from the days of the pioneers to the modern world which surrounds us now. At 104, the last of that generation, Cornelia Murphy, left us this week.

In the late 1830s, three Murphy brothers journeyed down the Thigpen Trail from North Carolina to the pine forests of southern Georgia. They purchased a stretch of land on the Ochlocknee River. In country still considered frontier, they carved out a harsh but fruitful life harvesting the longleaf pines, gathering the turpentine and hauling loaded mule drawn wagons to the nearest mills.

A few miles from the river, their grandson Robert Murphy established his first home. In that house were born eight sons and daughters; my grandmother, Fonnie, was the oldest. After Fonnie came Claudie, Addie, Onie, Roy, Mary, Cornelia and finally Paul. Claudie died very young and as time passed the remaining Murphy children became known as the "Seven".

Robert Murphy's small tin roofed house near burst at the seams and in 1913, he built a larger house just up the hill. It still stands today.

My grandmother and her siblings shaped the early life of a young man. When roads were still dirt, television was black and white and the woods were still a wonder, I would sit at her kitchen table listening to stories of going to town in the horse and buggy, picking peas and fishing in the deep holes of the Ochlocknee. She insisted I learn to swim because she never did and a recalcitrant mule once nearly dumped her and her father into the river, where she surely would have drowned.

She remembered the novelty of airplanes, the great struggles of the depression and sending her oldest son off to war. She tended to hoard her small bits of money. Flour, meal and vegetables grown in the garden were staples. Candy was an occasional extravagance. Hard lessons from living through hard times created a restraint and reserve we rarely see today.

Her brothers and sisters, including Aunt Cornelia, never strayed far from these roots. The men remained farmers. The women married and left but never too far; Aunt Onie making it as far as Tallahassee. As they grayed, they still gathered every Christmas. Much to the chagrin of the next generation of women, it was years before they were invited to the sisters special afternoon meetings.

Uncle Roy was the first to leave us.Gone too soon in a family known for its longevity. My grandmother was next. The rest stretched their full lives well into their eighties with the majority making it to their nineties. Aunt Cornelia made it to the century mark and beyond.

With the "Seven", there was a tradition. One florist in town had a peculiar standing order; a wagon wheel arrangement with eight spokes. As each brother and sisters passed, it would appear at the front of the church with an additional spoke removed.

Today, the last spoke is broken and the wheel is no more.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Cult Of Orignalism

From my piece in Creative Loafing,
The 17th Amendment was debated for the country's first 100 years. And it has worked for the past century. But the current claimants to the priesthood of conservatism choose to ignore all history between the then and the now. In their world, only that which was written in the beginning can define today. Genesis defines the course, Revelation the destination, and all between is vague parable and psalm.
I hope that those on the Republican side of the fence will see the criticism as constructive. Honoring the past is one thing; obsessing about it is another. One way preserves the conservatism envisioned by Burke and others. Down the other lies the Whigs, Copperheads, etc.

P.S. I always knew I needed a real editor and I was fortunate my first official one was a good one. Thanks TW.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Quote For The Day

This one hits a little close to home.
The Republican Party of Reagan who defended gay rights in the 1970s, of Bush 41 and even parts of Bush 43 is now emphatically and increasingly a party of the fanatical Christianist right, based in the South, and dedicated not to conservative politics but to dogma, theological and political.
At first glance, it may seem overwrought, but is it? Too often these days, conservatism is not a philosophy, it's not even an ideology; it's a checklist. And in a Republican dominated state like Georgia, it is easy to be convinced it is the one true way. Fortunately, there are those who see beyond the bounds of current dogma and insist on saving the philosophy if not the ideology before it rots from the innards.

Of course, those few are usually called RINOs, if not outright liberals.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Quote Of The Day

From the bearded one; on the hesitancy by the majority of the GOP establishment to call out Rush Limbaugh:
He is their Sistah Soldja. And the GOP awaits its Bill Clinton.
I listened to El Rushbo the other day. A schedule change around lunch time and his move to the premier radio station in my town led to this unholy convergence. I snickered mostly. He still peddles the same brand he did in 1996 when Bill Clinton was the devil and America was being "held hostage".

Now it's all about "the regime".

But no matter how absurd he becomes, no matter how stagnant his audience becomes, he remains a whistle stop on the tracks of the GOP express. It wouldn't take too many people bypassing him to make him a ghost town.

But as the linked article implies, who will be first?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Electoral Time Machine

An old saying - be careful what you wish for, you might get it.

There is serious talk of changing the way Presidential electors are selected. All states with the exception of Maine and Nebraska are winner take all with whichever candidate winning the popular vote also winning the entire number of electors.

Maine and Nebraska apportion their electors based on popular vote in individual Congressional districts.

With the Republican Party now having lost consecutive Presidential elections, critical states won by President Obama but controlled by Republican legislatures are considering switching to the Maine/Nebraska model.

In Georgia, oddly enough, this type of change would award three additional electoral votes to President Obama. Not so oddly enough, there is no talk in Georgia of switching to this type of system.

In Virginia however, where President Obama became the first Democratic President since FDR to win consecutive elections, the talks are hot and heavy. In the Old Dominion, under this type of system, Mitt Romney would have received 9 elector votes to President Obama's 4 despite losing the statewide vote handily.

National Republicans aren't shy about their intentions and this leads normally even tempered analysts like University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato to exclaim,
corrupt and cynical maneuver to frustrate popular will and put a heavy thumb — the whole hand, in fact — on the scale for future Republican candidates
Due to the last redistricting, there is little doubt that flipping a half dozen key states to this system would give the Republican Party a huge advantage in 2016. But what about beyond? We've already seen the unintended consequences of "voter id" laws which energized the Democratic base in swing states like Florida.

We only have to look thirty years in the past to ponder the what if's of the future.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan stomped Jimmy Carter; setting the stage for the Reagan Revolution. Today, we still feel the echoes of that thunderous election.

Reagan beat Carter, 489 to 49

But what happens if you apply the Republican party's new scheme basing it on party control of individual congressional districts in the 95th Congress?

Carter wins, 283 to 221*

The modern Republican nightmare of a Carter second term.

Now obviously, given how many Reagan Democrats switched sides in 1980, Reagan would have won many Democratically controlled districts. However, you cannot deny, the race would have been much closer, the mandate would not have been nearly as strong and there's a pretty good chance Carter would have won.

Given the backlash voter id created, Republicans should consider what might happen in those state houses where this new plan is enacted. It might turn Republican legislatures seen as destiny driven into battlegrounds against a re-invigorated opponent.

And after 2020, it might be Democrats controlling those district lines and ultimately those electors.

*Total does not add up to 538 due to vacancies where party could not be determined

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

There's Two Parts In Partnership

The Falcons stadium deal has created much thunder but, in my opinion, not a lot of heat.

A quick recap. Falcon's owner Arthur Blank wants a new retractable roof stadium. His proposal is the team will foot $700 million of the deal and Georgia/City of Atlanta will fund $300 million via bonds issued by the Georgia World Congress Center authority.

The rub is the GWCC only has statutory authority to issue $200 million in bonds. Obtaining the additional $100 million would require the legislature to raise the borrowing cap.

This unusual situation has led advocates on all sides to question the need for any new stadium when $300 million or even $100 million could be used by the City of Atlanta in other areas like the Belt Line or MARTA.

Those are legitimate questions that need to be posed. However, considering the funds in play are generated by the city of Atlanta but are designated to service state owned facilities, speculating on how they could be used solely by the city is where the heatless thunder arrives.

Last night, WABE reported Governor Nathan Deal and Mayor of Atlanta Kasim Reed have schemed a way around the deadlock by using city backed bonds to float the extra $100 million.

This has caused stadium opponent Charlie Harper, editor of Peach Pundit, to draw a line in the sand,
And the City will soon come to the state asking for help with issues that do affect the entire region, and those in the suburban part of the region will point to the distruction (sic) of a Dome with 20 years of functional life remaining and laugh.
The issue which Charlie refers is transportation.

To which I glibly replied.
Because as we all know, they really have needed an excuse to say no over the past 40 years.
Apparently Charlie believes there is an opportunity here to put aside differences held in the past and tackle the difficult questions. Yet, while promoting a partnership between the State and City to solve our thorniest problems, over the past weeks he has castigated the Mayor for not stepping up and showing "leadership".

But here's the problem with that thought, every partnership needs a partner. What exactly has Atlanta received in the past when it has reached its hand out?

  • Atlanta asked the state for money to assist MARTA. Not only was Atlanta, Fulton and Dekalb told to pound sand, but the state created its own oversight board and dictated to MARTA how it would spend its own money

  • Atlanta, Fulton and Dekalb asked the state to help the region's only Level One Trauma Center (Grady Hospital) and was again told to pound sand

  • The Legistlature created the 2012 TSPLOST in an "effort" to untangle some of the transportation knots but once it became politically unpopular, washed their hands of it and left Mayor Kasim Reed as practically its only defender. Guess who got bloodied when it went down to defeat?
So here's my question for Mr. Harper. If we truly need a partnership, and I agree we do, when does the legislature plan to show any inclination to add their part to the partnership?