Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Our likenesses are stronger

Grift and I agree on most things not related to baseball (or specifically Roger Clemens), but even when we disagree, can you really be upset with a guy with this picture?

Makes me think of another handsome fella with a cold drink in his hand.

Set the bar low ...

Outside of Peach Pundit, not too many folks are as fired up about Fred Thompson, who badly missed his fundraising target.

Trade deadline

While I had hoped they'd get Jermaine Dye, the Red Sox landing Eric Gagne as a set-up man is an excellent move.

That automatically gives them the best closing options in the game.

Couple of things

- Folks are getting upset over the NAACP pseudo-supporting Michael Vick when, in actuality, I don't think it's that big of a deal. Why? Because what the NAACP is arguing is ultimately what our judicial system is built on, and that's that Vick is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. No one at that press conference said Vick is getting a raw deal because he's an African-American athlete, though the boys at Peach Pundit would have you believe otherwise.

- Trading for Mark Teixeira is a good thing for the Braves, but hardly the 'biggest thing since landing Fred McGriff.' The McGriff deal was huge and completely changed the scope of the National League West in 1993. In 2007, Teixeira, while good, ain't McGriff, and the Mets are still the deepest and most talented team in the National League East (even more so as they dealt for Luis Castillo).

- I'm sure it's definitely a little outside the box, but I offered a suggestion on what to do with the revenue from the sale of the local government's property on Willow Street.

- Bill Mayberry offers a murky rebuttal of the Athens Banner-Herald's report on health care for the poor, one which is devoid of statistical evidence and dismisses the work done by OneAthens solely because he doesn't feel it adds up. It's also not grounded in reality as he uses the example of a grocery store giving away food to the poor not being good business policy, but fails to recognize that there are those models already out there.

- Listen Michael Oxenreider, Fred Thompson ain't gonna do anything to do what you want him to do. For one, it's fairly obvious he's ideologically opposed to such a course of action, and for another, he'd actually have to wake up before noon to accomplish it.

- Blake speculates on the governor's race in 2010, and I think it's pretty much a given that Johnny Isakson will run and, quite frankly, be pretty hard to beat. For the Democrats, while I do like DuBose Porter, I think he'd have a hard time upending Isakson, but could do very well against either Casey Cagle or Glenn Richardson (though the latter getting out of the GOP primary is so far-fetched, it's not funny).

- Speaking of ABH blogs, J.T. offers a mea culpa on blogger etiquette after Peach Pundit gives him a hard time.

- You can count my parents as folks who fit this model, which is a shame. Also be sure to note that the president is saying he'll veto the bipartisan effort to fund SCHIP - one which stretched all the way down to the state level - with little explanation of why.

- While sifting through iTunes a few days ago, I came across Eric Church, who I only knew for his pop country song Guys Like Me which I didn't care for that much. His actual album, however, is pretty darn good. Big fan of Sinners Like Me and Pledge Allegiance to the Hag.

For clarity's sake

Because Xon and I, ever since we first met back in sixth grade, have enjoyed having ideological and philosophical debates - and, every once in a while, a sports-based one - let me briefly address his comments from this post.

... if there is a surplus then the gov't in effect 'owes' a refund (morally, if not legally) to the people from whom that money was confiscated by force.


While I disagree that it is "ridiculous" to have philosophical and ethical concerns about taking money from other people by force and using it in a way that YOU think is best ...

It would seem to me that by using language like 'confiscated by force' - as well as previous discussions we've had - that you've set yourself up in a difficult-to-defend position here. If you're a libertarian, and you recognize that government has some measure of responsibility in providing for, say, defense and infrastructure, it's logically inconsistent to use this type of language.

That is if taxation is confiscating money by force (particularly if the taxpayer has to have some measure of consent in the spending of said taxes), then any usage of those monies is unethical or immoral, is it not? It wouldn't matter what the expenditure was, the money was 'confiscated' and, according to your argument, not the government's to spend no matter what the project was.

Wouldn't a more consistent manner of approaching this issue be along the lines of arguing about how the private sector can 'do it better' (or, in my case, how a good balance of public expenditures and private investment can 'do it better') rather than use overblown and hyperdramatic language?

A good start

Selling this property is win-win in terms of the revenue it will bring in through the sale, as well as through taxes in the future. Plus it will continue the path of redevelopment of areas such as those along North Avenue, particularly if the buyer decides to put a mixed-use development there.

Athens-Clarke County has already decided what to do with the revenue from the sale, but I'm going to differ and put out a different approach - one I'll concede might not even by feasible since it's unclear whether or not the money has to go toward something such as building improvements - but wouldn't this be a nice amount of starter funds to get a pool of insurance for small business owners started (as was originally sugggested by Partners for a Prosperous Athens - Page 15)?

Monday, July 30, 2007


In a welcome sight, despite some of my ideological and theological disagreements with the folks at Pat Robertson's CBN, Sen. Barack Obama engaged conservative religious blogger David Brody in an interview.

Brody responded with his own breakdown, and I can quibble with some of his points, but all in all was pretty fair.

Couple of things

- Count my grandmother in this group as she lives one block from the front entrance to the Augusta National Golf Club and folks routinely come by and offer her anywhere from $500,000 to $700,000 for her one acre lot. And we as the family members who love making a little extra cash parking some cars during Masters week, as well as having a close proximity to the tournament itself, urge her not to. But this is a special case and the folks who live along the course need some sort of property tax relief.

- This is good news, and I'd like to see them go to even higher blends in the future. I'm also proud that my neck of the woods features the only gas station to offer biodiesel in the area, though the real reason 'the public is cool to it' is probably because we haven't seen a move by the auto industry to create more vehicles which feature diesel engines. My non-diesel Honda Accord has no use for it, but you better believe if I drove a diesel engine I'd be going there every day. If the manufacturers began offering wider options, I think you'd be surprised to see who would give it a go.

- Flack, I've heard him coin it too, though I'm not ready to classify me as one yet.

- Continuing to discuss this, but Matthew Yglesias points out that a good number of folks like Barack Obama's take on foreign policy.

- In news of the not-so-comforting, I'm going to take the word of the U.S. Surgeon General and the rest of the medical community over a guy who specializes in Latin American history and whose family happens to be chummy with the Bushes.

- Along somewhat similar lines, this is another good column by Leonard Pitts.

- Ah Cynthia ...

- Of course, the rebuttals to Robert Szabo will probably be juvenille and shallow, rather than recognize that a reasoned and respectful one has already been produced.

- Again, I know it's the NBA, but is it ultimately wise for the Celtics to mortgage their future for a shot at winning today? Granted I don't think either Rajon Rondo or Al Jefferson would ever pan out to be an NBA superstar, so it's probably OK to build that trio of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, but you do have a trio of superstars that are 30-and-over, which means you probably have a three-year window at the max (if you can keep them together).

Education on the horizon?

In what is a welcome sight, sources close to the Georgia House Democratic leadership told me over the weekend that they have plans to push to use the $142 million state tax surplus to fund the gaps in education.

This, to me, would be a better course of action rather than sending out $77 checks to folks.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Politics of division

Speaking of my home town, this article from The Metro Spirit is pretty darn interesting. It takes a look at how The Augusta Chronicle doesn't work to edit profane, inflammatory or racist comments from its blogs, and how such things inadvertantly contribute to slowing economic development.

But I think it reveals a larger problem that Augusta, like many Southern cities, struggle with, and that's the fact that most political issues are still divided sharply by race. It's true that flat-out racism is still alive and well down there, as it is, sadly, almost everywhere, but I think it's a little more than that.

You have a large population of the white community which is fearful of change, nervous and wary of the rising political power of African-Americans and is unaware and/or oblivious to the concerns and challenges facing the black community. And, on the other hand, you have a large population of the African-American community which often acts, understandly to some extent, in a reactionary, hostile fashion toward many in the white community.

Factor in years of ineffective leadership and representation from the likes of Bob Young, Larry Sconyers, Marion Williams, Charles Walker Sr. and many, many others, and you've got a recipe for disaster. The political situation is awful down there.

Oone example, which I alluded to earlier, involves Gilbert Manor. The low-income housing development is not only sorely in need of renovations, but it also is situated next to the Medical College of Georgia. Here both sides let those folks down as several African-American commissioners opposed moving the development to a new location, with numerous folks presuming that it was because it would cost them a couple of thousand votes. However, a new proposed mixed-use, mixed-income development off a predominantly white area of Deans Bridge Road was ultimately shot down because many of the white leaders in the community vehemently opposed it.

As a result, Gilber Manor remains where it is ... and, as a result, there is no room for MCG to grow and the state government and the board of regents looked elsewhere in Athens-Clarke County.

The division and, in the case of folks like Robin Williams or Charles Walker Sr., corruption in Augusta has made it extremely difficult to attract meaningful economic development to that community, which is unfortunate. Change is needed down there, and I do think that their new mayor, Deke Copenhaven, has worked hard to bridge the vast racial gap which exists.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Take a breath, please

Via Blake's take on this, I've come across Sylvia Cooper's take on some of the Augusta vs. Athens debate. Buried in there is this little gem ...

Use Gilbert Manor housing project property or lose MCG was the warning state Rep. Barry Fleming gave Augusta-area chiefs at the end of a two-hour powwow at Augusta Technical College last week. Well, maybe not in those exact words, but the message was clear

"Next year, we could be looking at $20 million to expand MCG, and it could be in Athens," Mr. Fleming said. "And every time we try to fight the fight to bring that money back to Augusta, and they can ask us, 'Have you taken care of that expansion problem down there in Augusta yet?' and we say, 'No, it hasn't been taken care of.' That $20 million is going to start heading other places. And once that path gets worn with money leaving Augusta, it's going to be easier to travel in the future, and it's going to be too late."

First off, Fleming's already campaigning for next year's GOP primary, and he's going to again rely on the ridiculous, but tried-and-true 'us against them' line of argument.

Second, what is the problem with the elected officials of my home town? Do they have one gigantic inferiority complex regarding this whole MCG thing? Can they not comprehend that this state - facing a shortage of doctors and a steadily growing population - has more than enough resources to support two state-funded medical schools? I mean, it doesn't seem like rocket science to me.

Call me crazy, but I'd even venture to say that if they somehow are able to find a way to address the Gilbert Manor situation (which has been going on for quite some time), we could probably find a way to accommodate expansion in both Athens and Augusta.

Of course I remember growing up, there was this rumor that kept getting floated around town that Atlanta was out to steal The Masters from us which, in hindsight, is absolutely absurd. But so many of the folks in position of leadership down there just apparently have a hard time understanding that growth can occur in more than one place in the state of Georgia.

Maybe Fleming and the rest of the voices of alarm oughta sit this one out for a bit.

Couple of things

- The RDC flap thing is official as Athens-Clarke County District Six Commissioner Carl Jordan officially submitted his letter of resignation from the authority after only one meeting. I talked about it earlier, though it was mostly me asking questions. Two observations ... first, am I mistaken on this, but don't commissioners actually serve on committees as assigned by the mayor? I mean, can Jordan really resign? I suppose he can, but this would mean he'd have to be penciled in for something else right? And, the other thing is that I stand by my original comments, which is that while Jordan disagreed with this specific issue, it does seem rather counterproductive to just quit the whole thing altogether. On top of that, don't come out and say that one of the reasons is because of your 'lack of influence' ... or worse, your 'lack of press coverage.' Much of the best work done by any branch of government is found in the art of compromise away from the glaring spotlight of celebrity-hood.

- Regarding the alcohol ordinance revisions, Elton Dodson responded to me, so I responded to him.

- I'm not exactly sure what Donald Burkhard would have us do then. According to his observations, I suppose I need to line my house with solar panels.

- Flack has a link to the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer's beatdown of the Glenn Tax.

- Apparently Paul Broun made one of his first votes stand out as he was the only Georgia Republican to vote against appropriating funds for the Department of Justice to prevent states from legalizing the use of medical marijuana. That's definitely libertarian of him ...

- Steve echoes my thoughts on the Obama-Clinton foreign policy flap, but also puts the whole thing in its appropriate context.

- Let's not forget folks, vote for Blue Moon Electric ... because this guy can wire a mean house.

Music for the moment

Thursday, July 26, 2007


Grift answers my Top Five players by making a strong case for Hank Aaron, and I'll get to that soon enough.

But in the comments he commits a grievous sin in naming Roger Clemens the 'greatest pitcher of his generation.' Seriously, I think I blacked out for a second.

Clemens? Really?

I didn't realize we were naming 'the greatest pitcher of his generation ... when pitching with a five-run lead and when nothing crucial or pivotal is hanging on this particular contest.' If that's the case, then sure. I'll vote for Roger Clemens any day.

(As an aside, I've added Sara to the blogroll solely based on her defense of Pedro Martinez.)

For the good commissioner ...

Athens-Clarke County District 10 Commissioner Elton Dodson wanted some clarification from my statement that some elements of of the alcohol ordinance were 'kinda bad' from this particular posting, so I'm glad to oblige.

Namely, I don't like the fact that a ban on brown-bagging is still on the proposal. I think that punishes folks for no good reason at all and will do little to address the actual problem folks are hoping to address, which is underage drinking. If anything, it would merely make folks drink in their apartment rather than at Cali-Ni-Tito's (though, again, I don't believe overindulgence and/or underage drinking is a problem at those establishments).

Also, I'm not a fan of mandating to the local businesses what they can and can't charge for their drinks. To me at least, it's an unnecessary regulation on businesses downtown that I don't feel will have a significant impact on reducing underage drinking (and will result in bars charging just above whatever the minimum price is in order to have a 'special'). And, though I haven't been to, say, Flanagan's in a long time, is this really that big of a problem for the college bars?

Also, Hillary asked about the difference between bars and restaurants, and the ordinance appears to make such a distinction when it comes to restaurants as 18-year-olds could serve there.

I'm just not crazy about regulating for the sake of regulating. We have good laws on the books now, and a combinaton of diligent enforcement and tweaking them somewhat - such as alcohol training courses and some of the doorman policies - could pay dividends. Restricting some practices and banning others doesn't seem to be the most fair way to address this matter.

Getting close

Thompson has some woes

The boys at Peach Pundit are, as usual, falling all over themselves to rationalize Fred Thompson's lackluster fundraising ... among other early (non-)campaign gaffes.

The problem with Thompson, well one of 'em at least, is that he holds little appeal outside of the South and Republicans outside of the South aren't ready to come to grips with that (or come to grips with the fact that today's version of the Republican Party is rapidly losing popularity outside of our neck of the woods). There's a very real chance the GOP will face a divided convention, which could be mighty interesting to watch.

Some news

Apologies for the lack of posting this morning as The Wife and I had folks in town, I had a meeting and then lots of work to catch up on.

But that leads me to mention this little nugget of information ... your humble blog administrator got a new job today. It's a nice little pay raise, as well as a nice office with nice folks over on North Campus. So, despite being sad that I won't be four feet from Hillary anymore, it's pretty exciting news.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Couple of things

- There's nothing in the article on brown-bagging, but Athens-Clarke County Commission's Legislative Review Committee did amend some of the proposals for a new alcohol ordinance. Apparently they're going to go ahead with the ban on selling discounted drinks after 11 p.m. which, again, I'm not a fan of in principle because it's a vague form of price-fixing. There are some good elements to the proposal, but I also think there are some ones which overreach and are kinda bad. Here's hoping it gets cleaned up before any action is taken on it.

- Jim Whitehead decides to concede, meaning we officially have an Athens congressman ... albeit a really, really conservative one.

- I'm with J.T. and the boys on this. Gary Anderson may very well be a 'crank' but that doesn't mean his allegations aren't valid. Someone with a better legal mind than me could help me out here, but it seems rather obvious that a political action committee designed to assist Gov. Sonny Perdue isn't a charity or a political party, which would mean this would appear to be a misuse of campaign funds. And the fact that an ethics panel handpicked by Perdue quickly dismissed the charge makes you wonder as well.

- That said, Bill Shipp continues to do nothing that would suggest to me that he isn't a baffoon. Is he actually questioning the need for a second medical college in this state? Despite the fact that we rank toward the bottom nationally in available doctors, but near the top in growth? And this is tied to the Grady Hospital mess? Really?

- Last night I listed five quotes to illustrate the difference between Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton, and Matthew Yglesias ultimately agrees with me.

- State Sen. David Shafer attempts to defend the lavish spending lobbyists do in efforts to woo legislators, and I'm still not buying it ... primarily because while I'll concede that, yes, a legislator from St. Simon's Island will have to eat dinner in Atlanta and not home, that doesn't mean he/she should be out ringing up tabs of $300 with lobbyists.

- Listen, the Glenn Tax is only 'great' if you, you know, enjoy stamping all over local control.

- Lindsey, Lindsey, Lindsey ...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Five quotes

" I would (meet with them) ... the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them — which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration — is ridiculous."
- Sen. Barack Obama on July 22, 2007 in response to a question about whether or not he would meet with the leaders of hostile regimes.

"I thought that was irresponsible and frankly naive."
- Sen. Hillary Clinton on July 23, 2007 in response to Obama's comment.

"You don't refuse to talk to bad people. I think life is filled with uncomfortable situations where you have to deal with people you might not like. I'm sort of an expert on that. I have consistently urged the president to talk to Iran and talk to Syria. I think it's a sign of strength, not weakness."
- Sen. Hillary Clinton in February 2007.

"A great nation and its president should never fear negotiating with anyone and Senator Obama rightly said he would be willing to do so — just as Richard Nixon did with China and Ronald Reagan with the Soviet Union."
- Anthony Lake, national security advisor for President Bill Clinton.

"Obviously, Hillary's answer was a seasoned answer within the realm of what we're doing. But I don't think Obama was intending to say we want to give legitimacy to dictatorships."
- Joe Garcia, chairman of the Miami-Dade County Democrats and former director of the Cuban National Foundation.

The greatest?

It's a brief discussion, but Grift is arguing that Hank Aaron is the greatest baseball player of all time and I, while being a big fan of Hammerin' Hank, think he's overstating that.

My top five?

In no particular order ...

Babe Ruth
Willie Mays
Ted Williams
Ty Cobb
Pete Rose

Another thing ...

Hillary makes a good point but I think goes too far in her description of the Athens Banner-Herald's editorial on lobbyists, well, going too far.

Namely that it's one thing for a lobbyist to speak on behalf of a concerned portion of the citizenry. It's another thing for them to be picking up the tab for $350 meals and giving them box seats for Thrashers games.

Couple of things

- The Democrats got together and held a fancy debate where, in a radical concept, average folks got to ask the questions ... via YouTube submissions of course. Definitely one of the weirdest debates I've seen in a while (the dude holding up the automatic rifle was one of my favorite moments), but it also provided us with some really honest questions. From what I saw, I thought Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Joe Biden were the strongest, though John Edwards did well on the health care portion of the discussion (as suspected). Obama got his legs under him about one-fourth of the way through the debate and, though I'm probably a little biased I know, turned in the best performance from that point on. Clinton did very well and was in control, again, while Biden is blunt and honest, which is refreshing even if I had some disagreements with him on some issues.

- For some other takes, take a look at Mike-El's wrapup, Matthew Yglesias or First Read from MSNBC ... the latter reporting that Obama won the focus group over).

- Actually Bill, I had the same impression when I read the headline, but the column actually takes a much more moderated path. What Charles Jones was talking about was the need to keep religious voices active in the political discourse, and he may have gone a little overboard with some things, but it was actually a well-reasoned column I thought.

- Glenn Richardson continues to be one of my least favorite politicians.

- This Michael Vick thing ... is he guilty? That's for the courts to decide. If he is, he should face the appropriate punishments. Should he be suspended? Absolutely, because this is just the latest in a long string of off-the-field incidents that have damaged not only him, but his team. And, let's be honest, he was kinda overrated to begin with. It's still amazing to me that the Falcons turned down the chance to obtain the No. 1 overall draft pick, Randy Moss and Jerry Porter for Vick and their No. 1 pick. Who would have thought that adding Moss would have been a step up in character for a team?

- Jimmy ... seriously, your 15 minutes are up.

- Speaking of odd politics, this Norwood fundraiser thing is mighty fishy. Are we to seriously believe that, despite the fact that Gloria Norwood endorsed Jim Whitehead, that none of the folks attending the Norwood 'fundraiser' went over to the Whitehead shindig? Seriously? Does Amelia Brown think we're that naive? Apparently not as she refused to hand over attendence lists.


This is an excellent editorial that points out exactly why Glenn Richardson is so miserably out of touch with the voters of this state - conservative, moderate and progressive.

Among other things, The 'Stache has banned members of the media from having access to the state legislators and is pushing a risky tax scheme which strips vital elements of local control away from our communities.

And now, he's admitting he loves to be pampered. Not only is he out there defending his right to have lobbyists shower him and his wife with gifts, drinks, dinners and favors, he's telling you that he damn near deserves it.

He deserves it because 'that's how you do business' ... he deserves it because folks want access to him ... he deserves it because he 'only' gets paid $17,500 for his three months work in Atlanta.

Forgive me if I don't feel sorry for the economic hardships of one of the managing partners of Vinson, Talley, Richardson & Cable and see that as a worthy excuse for lobbyists to wine and dine him in exchange for supporting or not supporting legislation which favors their employer.

And kudos to the Athens Banner-Herald's editorial staff for calling him on it.

Stupid political tricks

I haven't done anything on the fact that Mitt Romney gleefully held up a sign which lumped Barack Obama, Osama bin Ladin and Hillary Clinton all into the same, ridiculous 'not-we-red-blooded-folks-need-in-America' category because, well, the lady who made the sign is obviously a moron and, as we all know, Romney will say, or apparently do, anything to get elected.

Mike-El has a good take on it, and the only thing that I'd add would be that the educational system of South Carolina must have failed this poor lady unless this lady was taking a shot at the world's best modern art museum.

And I'm gonna go on a limb and suggest that she's never heard of it.

Hats off

This is what you call a comeback ... as well as courage.

Bravo Jon Lester.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Seeing double?

UPDATE: Folks say that it was inadvertent error on the part of the MJD, and that the editorial ran on the wire and got picked up. No harm, no foul.

You don't want to say plagerism, but someone needs to point this out.

Flack at Tondee's Tavern has a link to a Marietta Daily Journal editorial.

Here is the Athens Banner-Herald's editorial on what to do with the state surplus that ran on July 17 ... and then here is The Marietta Daily Journal's take on it that appeared at their web site with no attribution today.

Call me crazy, but those are the exact same editorials. Now, granted, I've worked at a newspaper and lots of things run on the wire, but the way it appears on the web site for the Marietta paper is that this is something which is their work ... and it definitely ain't.

I mean, Flack says it's the work of the MJD, so it's obvious some confusion is going on out there.

Votin' for stuff

The Athens Banner-Herald has up the voting for its annual Readers Choice Awards, and I'd encourage everyone to go do so. And let's see if we can't flex what minimal muscle my blog has by asking you folks to support Blue Moon Electric for 'Favorite Electrician.'

That's my buddy Ed, and he does some damn fine work.

Couple of things

- Guys, you're just now realizing there's no room for a drive-through ... in a building smack in the middle of downtown?

- It isn't as if I think this is a bad idea by any means, but it just seems like everyone else is doing all in their power to limit development on 316 and Barrow County is marching on full-speed ahead.

- Amen to these columns, as they're perfect examples of why Sergio Garcia fell out of my favor a few years back. First Scott Micheaux's take on it, followed by Art Spander.

- Listen, I know that Democrats have a long way to go in order to get back to being in a consistent, competitive state in Georgia, but can we at least find someone I'm OK in voting for for U.S. Senate? Vernon Jones? Really?

- First off, I want to know where exactly Jerry Keen is having dinner at for $300-plus. Second, yes, I am one of those guys who think this kind of thing is ultimately detrimental to our political system. To claim these poor guys need a break because they sacrifice so much to make collect $17,500 for three months work, so it's 'OK' to get kickbacks from lobbyists trying to woo them is ridiculous.

Was Saturday early and stupid?

I always like taking a gander at one of DriftGrift's weekly specials - Saturday Stupids - just for the comedic value of the photograph.

But did anyone else notice that this week's version was up at 11:43 a.m.?

That's early brother.

On a related note, a few of us, including Billy, started on the Athenian version this past Saturday at the Manhattan, and it might become a regular thing.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Seriously ...

While this may appear a tad crass, can we stop all this talk about 'choking' by a guy who's actually won three majors and instead shift it to the guy who tanks in the majors and only shows up for The Ryder Cup?

Am I the only one not surprised that Sergio Garcia blew a three-shot lead heading into the final round of the British Open, including a one-shot lead at the 72nd hole?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Dinner with Barack

This is pretty cool, and The Wife and I gave money hoping one of us would be chosen, but we'll have to wait for the next go 'round I suppose. One of the girls is from Georgia and is receives HOPE, so they talk about that which is interesting.

Click here to see the video.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Couple of things

- I think the support of the parents, and their unwillingness to transfer to a new school, is further proof that some of these AYP standards are getting kinda silly. Also, No Child Left Behind requires they offer 'free tutoring' after a certain number of times not meeting AYP? I mean, seriously ... they've been doing that since they opened the doors folks.

- Local control? What local control?

- I shared some thoughts on the possible revisions to the alcohol ordinance, namely because while I do, as always, appreciate the hard work of the commission, I'm not exactly seeing eye-to-eye with some of the proposed changes.

- Hey! I covered Leigh Crosby, so kudos to her for making it to the quarterfinals.

- Seriously ... what is this local control you speak of?

- Nicki's got a little more on the 10th Congressional District.

- I'm not entirely in agreement with his overall philosophical approach to intervention in cases of genocide, but this is a strong explanation of Barack Obama's position on the matter. And, of course, the GOP trumps out the oldee but goodee by crying 'he's a flip-flopper!' Which, naturally, he isn't, but more importantly, with the field of presidential candidates Republicans have, you want to play that game? That's fine dude ... we'll see how far that gets you.

- It's appropriate his last name is 'Waters', isn't it?

Keep it in the bag

Ugh ... a new alcohol ordinance is in the works, and according to the article there are couple of revisions which I'm not a fan of in there. While I'm glad the commission has worked through some of these and is taking this is an appropriate manner, I do think, for instance, banning 'brown-bagging' is not a terribly good idea.

To be honest, I don't entirely understand the rationale behind that one. It isn't as if a ban on that practice will suddenly mean folks will not purchase 12-pack of Natural Light ... it just means they won't do it at a restaurant. Any problems involving alcohol don't come from establishments which permit brown-bagging either as they typically shut down considerably earlier than the downtown bars and feature competent staffs which don't accept any rowdy behavior. I've frequented two establisments which permit brown-bagging and never had an unpleasant experience at them or seen an individual get 'out-of-hand.'

Now, I'm not particularly a fan of banning the practice of letting bars cut drink prices after a certain time - though I honestly don't think that's the case, but then again I don't actually go to your typical college bars anymore - because I don't fancy the notion of price-fixing which, quite frankly, this loosely is. Still, I'd be more content in letting this one pass than the ban on brown-bagging.

The stuff involving the bar doormen I'm OK with, but I still think this is largely a matter of enforcing what we already have on the books and not being afraid to punish those who break the rules, severely if necessary, and that includes business and patron.

Music for the moment

The Glenn Tax

I'm a little late coming around to talking about this, but in light of the nonsense involving the appointment of three Republican state senators to the Jekyll Island Oversight Committee who have little to no geographical connection to the island it's worth mentioning Glenn Richardson's proposal to eliminate all sorts of methods of local taxation, primarily property taxes, and replace them with a 'flat' sales tax of 5.75 percent.

Listen, I've got plenty of concerns about the Glenn Tax - the fact that this now levies taxes on professional services ranging from barbers to accountants being one of them - but my main one is, again, why is the party that tells you it stands up for local control once again taking some element of control away from local governments?

Why should the state get to determine how much funding each local community receives (particularly when it comes to education)? Why should the state abolish local elected offices? Why should the state have all say in your matters of taxation?

And it ain't merely a handful of folks saying the Glenn Tax is a bad idea, it's everyone from the Georgia Municipal Association to the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute casting severe doubts on this thing.

Like I said, I'm a little coming around to chatting about this, but Flack has been on it for a while now.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

You stay classy ...

As if some regular readers weren't already aware, it's kinda common knowledge that State Sen. John Douglas of Social Circle is one of the least respected state legislators among not only progressive bloggers, but also some conservative ones.

And now it appears he's fond of blackmail as he is openly stating that he would consider withholding funding for projects in Conyers for what he believes is a police department overreaching its jurisdiction. In fact, Douglas is even threatening to bring 'the risk of damage' to the city of Conyers.

Of course, if you read the article, it's pretty clear that the police department is merely acting within its jurisdiction by pursuing traffic-related incidents which originate within its city limits. And that Douglas is primarily upset with them because they stopped him for driving recklessly one night while talking on a cell phone. Since then, the senator has apparently made it his life mission to abuse the privilege of his office by harassing this small Georgia town's municipal government.

A class act I say ...

Or, as Flack noted, Douglas just wants to fight the Conyers Police Department there so we don't have to fight them here.

Little more on the ND rumor

Paul has new stuff on the Notre Dame-Orlando thing, and the tentative dates are in 2011 and 2014. Regarding the unsubstantiated Georgia rumors, the Bulldogs have considerably more flexibility in both 2011 and 2014. Each season has two open dates reserved for non-conference matchups, and the 2011 is particularly appealing since it features an October open date, and the Irish are rumored to be looking for a later-in-the-fall contest and have that date open as well.

Still, I'll freely admit it's not terribly plausible, but, again, it would be a pretty darn cool game to watch.

On Jekyll Island

I've tried to follow the issues surrounding Jekyll Island fairly closely and was pretty pleased with the outcome, which included the preservation of the southern end of the island from future development, as well as the redevelopment of existing, run-down properties.

Still, I'm a little confused by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle's appointments to the Jekyll Island Oversight Committee, which feature, well, no one with actual connections to that region. In fact, it flies in the face of conventional wisdom and ultimately proves to be a de facto thumb in the eye of the folks down there who have worked hard to not only protect the island, but want to have a needed local voice on the committee.

Sen. Jeff Chapman has been a strong advocate for folks down there, and he was passed over, as was Athens-Clarke County's own Sen. Bill Cowsert and Sen. Regina Thomas from Savannah. All three of those candidates were recommended by the residents of Jekyll Island, but ultimately not chosen. And it's puzzling seeing how this group would have been politically diverse (two Republicans and one Democrat); featured a representative from the area, one from a nearby metropolitan area and then one from another region from the state; and the majority have a direct connection to and understanding of this particular community.

Who was picked? Three Republicans with no geographical ties to the region in Sen. Chip Pearson, Sen. Tommie Williams and Sen. Ross Tolleson ... three Republicans who also advocate for increased development, which is contrary to the wishes of that community.

So, again, the Republican leadership in Atlanta continues to confound me as the party that likes to tout itself as the great protector of local control has once again opted to, well, not give local citizens control.

Notre Dame on the horizon?

In college football news, Paul tells me that the word on the street is that Notre Dame is expected to announce that it has reached an agreement to play two neutral site games in Orlando, possibly as early as 2008, and that Georgia is one of the names being bounced around.

While that would be unbelievably cool for a variety of reasons, it doesn't seem terribly likely. Supposedly the Irish are looking for a mid-season contest, and the only open non-conference slots the Bulldogs have in 2008 and 2009 are early in the year.

Aside from that, both of those schedules are among the more difficult ones Georgia has faced in years past. Next season, the Bulldogs open the season by traveling to South Carolina and Arizona State, return to host Alabama and then have a four-game away stretch to close the season out with visits to LSU, to Jacksonville to face Florida and to Auburn. In 2009, Georgia has a visit to Oklahoma State, goes to Tennessee and faces LSU and Auburn at home. Dropping Notre Dame into that schedule would make it one of the most challenging in the country.

Not that I wouldn't appreciate such a move, but it seems unlikely as of now.

Couple of things

- Paul Broun really is going to Congress as only a few provisional ballots remain outstanding, meaning a few outlets (i.e. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution) bit on Jim Whitehead's fanciful rumor that 1,700 magical ballots existed in Columbia County to rescue his failed bid from the jaws of crushing defeat.

- Nicki's got her wrapup of the 10th Congressional District up. Good stuff, and I know that Broun is apparently a heckuva nice guy. Most folks I know who know him in local circles actually rave about the man, and I hope he operates in good spirit as our representative. However, my primary concern is that he is philosophically more conservative than the overwhelming majority of Athens-Clarke County's citizens (and I would actually say most folks in the district). Plus he's going to have to mend a lot of fences with Republicans in the Augusta area in hopes of fending off a primary challenge next year, meaning it's going to be very difficult for him to please two groups with differing ideological views. I hope he's able to do so.

- Hey guys, don't spend that $12 all in one place.

- This is an interesting editorial that focuses on the announcement of Brenau University to consider opening its own private medical school. I'm not terribly concerned primarily because the Athens-Clarke County-centered medical school, when it finally gets here, will have considerably more name recognition, greater resources and a much-needed connection to the existing Medical College of Georgia in Augusta. Sure, there are going to be politics tossed around, and I imagine that Augusta will ultimately get something tossed their way to soothe their fears.

- Andre has some poll stats which focus on how the Democratic presidential candidates fair in different demographic groups, and it reveals that Hillary Clinton holds a lead - ranging from 10 to 12 points - over Barack Obama in most age categories, except 18 to 29, where the latter holds a massive lead. Also it reveals that most Georgia Republicans have a high impression of Obama, which makes Andre argue that Obama should work win over older Democrats to secure the nomination. I don't necessarily disagree, but I'd also like to point out that the fact that his favorables are so high with independents and conservatives is more reason to give him the nomination as Clinton will have a much more difficult time in peeling off any independent or moderate voters.

- Well, again, the editorial note explains it all. That and the fact that we weren't there when Caleb King was stopped. Frankly speaking, I'm just glad it was traffic-related so he's got the chance to stay in the mix at running back this year.

- Peach Pundit has exceeded its bandwidth which has hindered my typical morning reading.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Why us-against-them was wrong

Politics in the Augusta area have always been interesting as the commission is currently, and unfortunately, largely divided by race. Previous politicians from that area, and from both parties, have faced numerous ethical scandals and, for some, even prison time.

Still, it's my hometown, and I love my hometown. It's because of that love that Jim Whitehead's attempts to make the special election for the 10th Congressional District an Augusta-vs.-Athens showdown were so disappointing to me. And it's why the comments of Frank Spears, a former Columbia County Commissioner, in this article in The Augusta Chronicle were pretty unfortunate.

Spears is all but claiming that not having an Augusta-area legislator in Congress will spell certain doom for the community and, by de facto, continuing to push forward this falsehood that a congressman from Athens-Clarke County (or elsewhere in the district) will prove to be detrimental for Augusta. Nothing could be further from the truth, quite frankly.

A good representative will work hard to provide for all residents in his district and, though I don't agree with Paul Broun on darn near anything, I have no reason to believe that he won't be out there lobbying for projects in his district.

The Medical College of Georgia isn't leaving Augusta. Nor is Fort Gordon or any other state/federal institutions in that community. To think otherwise is not only contrary to the actual political realities of today's environment, but it's also not even the actual proposed plans out there.

Couple of things

- It's the upsets of upsets as Paul Broun edged Jim Whitehead by the narrowest of margins thanks to increased turnout and support in Northeast Georgia. I take a little look at what all of this means for us.

- Some thoughts around the blogosphere include ... Peach Pundit, Drifting Through The Grift, Tondee's Tavern and Blog for Democracy

- But, still, congratulations Congressman-elect Broun. And don't let the door hit you ex-State Senator Whitehead.

- I'd like some additional information on this development because, from what I can gather, the developer has been pretty open throughout the process and his most recent plan actually preserves a large part of the area in question. Am I wrong on that? Anyone out there got anything?

- Adrian's talking about overpass signage ... stop the presses! :)

- As Hillary noted earlier, Flicker is actually closed, which is quite sad. Where will Ben and I meet for a drink now?

- Anyone who can somehow tie 'staying the course in Iraq' into support for the National Intelligence Estimate's report on terrorism is approaching this all wrong, particularly when the report reveals that hostility in that country - and the whole region - is further inflaming the situation and aiding recruitment for Islamic extremist groups.

What will Broun do for you?

So Paul Broun's going to Congress, and what does this mean ...

- It means that Jim Whitehead made this a divisive race that pitted Augusta against Athens, and not only did that backfire with area Democrats turning out to give Broun more than 5,000 votes in Athens-Clarke County, but it also energized the conservative rural counties as well. When you openly admit you're going to benefit one community over another, the other community gets upset ... as do its neighbors. Did Whitehead really think that such negativity wouldn't hurt him in the surrounding counties? Did he not realize that places like Madison County and Oconee County rely heavily on Athens-Clarke County, and the promise of having someone who would go out of his way to harm a community for the benefit of another wasn't something those voters sympathized with?

- It means old-fashioned, neighborhood politics where the candidate knocks on your door and pats you on the back and asks to stick a sign in your yard is not only still alive and well, but also the most effective way of campaigning. Whitehead did, well, whatever his handlers told him would be best, while Broun knocked on doors and called my house three times yesterday (and a total of five to six times since last Friday).

- It means a lot of conservatives and independents weren't quite ready to embrace a Democrat, but were ready to voice their displeasure with the Republican establishment.

- It means Oconee County, by turning out 2,600-plus voters for Broun, is slowly becoming a political player in this state.

- It means Athens-Clarke County has a native son in Congress (again, though we hope this one won't be drawn out of our district), but it also means it's one who shares almost nothing in common with the majority's political vision. While we're all happy that Whitehead lost, Broun did win ... and that means conservative positions on Iraq, health care, the environment, the economy, etc.

- So ... it means that Broun will probably not win his home county during next year's re-election bid.

- It means that though Broun may not see eye-to-eye with us on most issues of the day, Athens-Clarke County does have someone in place who will help secure additional dollars for this community's growth.

- It means that even though they declared Broun's candidacy dead just two days ago, Peach Pundit is all too eager to jump all over Whitehead.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Broun's the man

UPDATE (10:31 p.m.): I wonder since we elected another Athens-Clarke County resident to Congress if the Republican leadership will try to redistrict us again?

UPDATE (10:14 p.m.): Blake disputes the absentee totals at Peach Pundit, which would mean Broun's got this locked down. And Erick over there did already declare Broun the winner.

Jim Whitehead hasn't conceded yet, and there are 1,700 absentees out in Columbia County and 900 up here in Athens-Clarke County.

But Paul Broun, local boy done good, is on the verge of a huge upset if the numbers hold. The first was edging out James Marlow to secure a spot in the runoff against Whitehead, and the second - and what would be even more impressive - would be knocking off the Republican Party's establishment candidate.

Wow. I mean, really ... wow.

Regardless of how this pans out, you've got to tip your hat to Broun for effectively mobilizing Democrats in Athens-Clarke County who were rightfully upset with Whitehead, but you've also got to be staggered by the real reason he's run so strongly ... which is how he kicked up turnout and support in the rural areas.

After garnering 1,594 votes in Oconee County for the June 19 election, Broun picked up an incredible 2,683 in the runoff. In fact, if you look at his areas of decisive wins, he gained large numbers of votes (an additional 400 in Jackson County and an additional 600 in Madison County). Those numbers will be the difference as the Athens-Clarke County Democrats wouldn't have been likely to back Whitehead anyway, but Broun's ability to get those additional voters to the poll in the rural counties is nothing short of incredible.

Seriously. They should study his campaign - minus his gaffes, of course - and figure out what he did to get those folks to the polls because it's amazing.

Flickering out ...

If true, it will mean the loss of one of my favorite places to grab a drink ... but Hillary tells me the word on the street is that Flicker is closing.

No more $1.50 tall boys of Schlitz ... so sad.

Couple of things

- I'm all for giving relief to the taxpayers where appropriate, but I agree with this editorial for a variety of reasons, the primary one being for what it outlines ... that the state is woefully behind in fully funding several areas of pressing concern. Tossing a handful of folks an extra $145 doesn't seem to be wise stewardship of our public funds.

- Today, by the way, is the runoff election for the 10th Congressional District. Typically I encourage everyone to get out and vote, and I'm not necessarily not doing that here, but it's hard to encourage folks to go choose between someone who doesn't particuarly like the community I live in and then someone who lives here, but I share no common political views with. Still, go vote if you so feel compelled (or if you're a Republican).

- Over at Peach Pundit, Jeff Emanuel did a nice wrap-up of not-so subtle implosion of Paul Broun's campaign in the final days.

- Oh, and Hillary has excerpts from a Broun campaign letter which is, well, good I suppose?

- Don't forget Poland.

- According to Flack, Wyc Orr won't challenge Saxby Chambliss in 2008. Orr seemed like a quality candidate ... arguably stronger than either Vernon Jones or Dale Cardwell or that other guy whose name escapes me right now.

- Of course, R. Thomas Trimble's letter is entirely comical to read, but can I quickly point out that columns, which are opinion pieces, typically do tend to be biased no matter what? I mean, he concedes talk radio is conservative, so why is it 'OK' for that to be biased, but wrong for the occasional print media column to be liberal?

- Speaking of letters, Hank Raichle is on the IHN of Athens board with me (and he makes a good point).

- Speakign of folks I know, this has been linked a couple of times in the blogosphere, but fellow Athens Banner-Herald alum Kate Carter penned a piece on diversity in the public schools.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Couple of things

- Not that this is particularly shocking seeing how my home region has, throughout history, long been slow to come around to changing its ways, but it is nonetheless disconcerting. While I don't think solar power will ever catch on in this part of the country, I do think the proposals of utilizing biomass and creating offshore wind production facilities, in addition to beefing up our hydroelectic production, are promising. I also think - and, again, perhaps I'm speaking heresy here - it's important to analyze the potential of nuclear power in this region.

- I'm content with Augusta-Richmond County taking as much credit as it wants for the Medical College of Georgia because, like the existing proposals out there, I don't want to take that college away from them. Instead, I want to build an expansion of it in Athens-Clarke County. For people to think that in a state that is not only growing, but also faces a shortage of doctors, we can only support one medical college - and that is must be in Augusta-Richmond County - fail to see the whole board.

- He's high quality people, but I disagree a bit with an argument posed by Flack.

- While I ultimately respect the Oconee County Commission's decision not to rezone this property, I do have to ask ... where do those opposed think they have all these grocery stores in their community? I can think of the Publix off Hog Mountain Road, and I'm sure there's a Bell's somewhere there because, well, there's a Bell's in every surrounding county in the area ... but that's it.

- Erick at Peach Pundit has the text from a letter that Paul Broun's wife wrote defending her husband and lambasting Jim Whitehead. This travesty to the American political system, er ... runoff election can't end soon enough.

- And Reason No. 7,214 Leonard Pitts remains my favorite columnist.

- Speaking of Barack Obama, his speech in Chicago on violence in the inner-cities is yet another reason why I remain firmly in his camp.

- In what is truly a weird situation for me to watch, GriftDrift takes issue with conservative consultant Phil Kent. It's weird not because I ultimately think GriftDrift is kinda right on this or because Kent is so much more conservative then I could ever fathom being ... but because I know Kent. Heck, I bartended for the guy at a party one time. I hung out with his son in high school all the time. So, yeah, I think he's irrationally Republican and writes books on ridiculous topics, but I've always actually liked the guy.

In-house stuff

Over at Tondee's Tavern, Flack is talking about investigative-reporter-turned-senatorial-candidate Dale Cardwell's 'Sister Soulja moment', and he rightfully so calls him out on it.

However, I do think I differ with Flack regarding this whole notion of 'Republican-lite' candidate running in primaries. Not only do I think such a term is terribly misleading and tossed around as a derisive term for moderates and conservatives in the Democratic Party, but I also think it misreads a much larger challenge facing the party today.

Flack argues that when given the choice between a moderate-to-conservative Democrat and a Republican, the conservative voter will always opt for the Republican. That may or may not be true (I actually think the jury is out on that one quite frankly), but one things is true ... when given a choice between a more liberal Democrat and a Republican, the conservative voter will always opt for the Republican.

And we have to face the political realities of this state. It's overwhelmingly Republican. It's independent and moderate voters tend to support Republican candidates.

The Democratic Party, in my opinion, has struggled over the past 20 years in connecting with rural whites and moderate voters, and it's primarily because its candidates have little to no ability to actually communicate with them on a most basic level.

In addition to the rural gap, the party has struggled to identify young leaders in local communities, which is the key to building a base of candidates for the future. This is changing thanks to the new leadership in place in Atlanta. But the reason that candidates like Jim Marshall or John Barrow have success is not so much because they're a little more moderate than other folks (though that helps), but also because they have considerable name recognition in overwhelmingly conservative districts.

That is the key.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Changing your life

One month from today, the smart folks at the doctor's office tell us that The Wife will have our first child. And though one month may seem like it's, well, a month away, it's really just right around the corner.

I must be honest, but I'm a little bit nervous about this whole thing. What will transpire 30 days or so from now will be nothing short of an absolute, life-changing experience. Nothing about my existence on this planet will ever be the same, and that's a bit unnerving.

Still, as I helped my friend Ed move some things into his new house today, and we returned back to his place for a fresh load of boxes, I watched as his four-year-old daughter excitedly shouted 'Daddy's home!' and leapt into his arms.

And then I think ... sure, this may be a life-changing experience, but it's the promise of moments like that make me can't wait for my life to change.

Emma Kate, my dear, your daddy is ready for you to get here.

Of note

Thus was the debate in which (Mike) Huckabee cracked wise at John Edwards's expense a fascinating exercise in political dick-waving. Mitt Romney talked about wanting to 'double' the prison at Guantanamo Bay, and Tom Tancredo cited Jack Bauer, the fictional terrorist-stopper from Fox's hit 24. Only poor (John) McCain sounded a note of warning about the efficacy of torture, and what in the hell does he know about it, anyway? Not one of them could muster the courage to criticize by name a president whos performance had lodged his poll numbers in the vicinity of those owned by scabies and the mange. They're not going to run to end the war, none of them, except Ron Paul, the libertarian crank from Texas. They're wedded to the war not just by virture of being in the same party as the president who launched it, but because - as a piece of public performance - it is the perfect demonstration of the macho Kabuki that has come to define the politics by which they believe they have succeeded.

The war is a pestilence. Two thirds of the country knows it and suspects, angrily, who's to blame for it. But Mike Huckabee made his joke, and all the very manly men had a big old laugh about it, even though John Edwards shows more steel just getting out of bed in the morning than most of them did on the bravest day they ever lived.
- 'The Beauty Contest' by Charles S. Pierce
Esquire, August 2007

Friday, July 13, 2007

Couple of things

- As we all know, the Greene County charter school won approval, and I shared some thoughts earlier, but can I point out the audacity of James Bostic to wade into something he doesn't know? What personal attacks are we talking about here? And from what side? It's been a rather passionate discussion, but I honestly don't think we've gotten personal in this thing.

- And I second this editorial. It was the proper thing for Brian Burdette to recuse himself, and he should be applauded for doing that.

- These are the types of kids we should be most proud of ... the ones who struggled and fought and came out on the other side better for it, with a degree in hand and a firm idea for what they want to do with their future.

- I'm definitely skeptical about how effective the new Georgia Special Needs Scholarship will be, and I share some concerns here. Also Jason Pye has the list of approved schools.

- Some interesting discussions at Peach Pundit ... John Barrow and Jim Marshall voting with the GOP on the War in Iraq and another Iraq one which has morphed into a discussion on health care.

Music for the moment

Thursday, July 12, 2007

On the GSNS

This isn't an argument about sincere ideological or philosophical support or opposition to whether or not parents should have expanded school choice options or be given taxpayer-funded vouchers. There is little to be done that can sway someone from such firm convictions, which is fine.

Instead, my concern is with some of the numbers being used regarding the newly approved Georgia Special Needs Scholarship fund, which was pushed through the Georgia General Assembly by Sen. Eric Johnson (R-Savannah). Johnson and the supporters of the scholarship argue that this voucher will open up new doors to parents of children who have behaviorial issues or special needs.

The premise is that a general number is selected - $9,000 - and that is the approximate amount of money the state government spends on each pupil in Georgia to educate them in the public school systems. Using this number, the state is then able to divert those funds into a general scholarship program where parents can apply for assistance in sending their children to a private school.

The Gwinnett Daily Post has a story on some of the schools in their coverage area that have applied to the state to be eligible for the scholarship money.

A while back Jason Pye was kind enough to respond to some of my criticisms and concerns at Peach Pundit during an earlier discussion, and he went as far as offer a link to a Cato Institute study on the cost of private schools. That study contends that private schools, on the average, feature tuitions of $5,000 to $6,000, which is proof they are producing equally educated - if not better educated - students for less money.

I don't necessarily dispute the actual numbers, but I do think such comparisons are unfair for a variety of reasons.

Public education systems are required to take all children - regardless of their socioeconomic status, the condition of their families, their learning, emotional or physical disabilities or their ability to comprehend and understand the English language. There is no litmus test for a child to attend a public school. There is no admission process. It truly is a place where everyone is given the opportunity to obtain an education.

Private schools are not required to admit such a wide range of children, and that's perfectly fine. I would never dream of infringing on their right to develop their own criteria for admission or the focus of their curriculum or on the size of their classes. I support the freedom of private schools to tailor their curriculum and their programming to suit their students.

However, knowing that public education is required to offer such a wide range of services to its diverse population, it's understandable that it costs more to provide a variety of educational services. Many private schools, with fewer faculty, less services for special-needs children and smaller class sizes, don't incur the same costs that public schools do.

And those that do often actually have considerably higher tuitions.

Consider this list of private schools from across the state:

Atlanta Girls Academy - $15,830 per year
Atlanta New Century - $8,950-$9,500
Augusta Christian - $5,000-$9,940
Augusta Prep - $8,430-$10,810
Brandon Hall - $23,390-$25,900
Brenau - $9,825-$22,575
Darlington - $13,900 ($31,300 for boarding)
Frederica Academy - $8,100-$12,000
Greater Atlanta Christian - $11,080
The Heritage School - $5,860-$11,095
Lakeview Academy - $9,350-$12,900
The Lovett School - $14,560-$17,360
Marist - $13,250
Mount Vernon - $5,500-$12,900
Paideia - $8,955-$15,984
Tallulah Falls - $8,000
Trinity K-6 - $10,440-$15,300
Walker - $8,020-$14,350
Wesleyan - $13,190-$15,215

The full list of GSNS schools comes out tomorrow, and some of the above schools may not be listed. But the following in Gwinnett County were listed according to The Gwinnett Daily Post:

Branch Christian Community School - $5,000-$6,000
Hopewell Christian Academy - $6,175
Notre Dame Academy - $8,120
Perimeter Christian School - $6,000-$7,000
St. John Neumann Catholic - $7,200 (non-Catholic)
Special Needs Schools of Gwinnett County - $6,500

Also, take a look at this list of private school tuition in the Atlanta area and, in particular, note the high tuition rates for schools which exclusively focus on children with special needs.

Schools such as Athens Christian, which offer tuition rates between $4,000 and $4,500 are financially able to do so because they don't offer the similar resources or teacher support for things like special-needs education. If they desired to reach out to more students and increase the number of special-needs children they took care of, it would surely force them to raise their tuition rates.

Furthermore, many of the private schools that are in the tuition range of $2,000 to $6,000 are often understaffed, feature caps on enrollment per class, lack up-to-date resources and technologies, feature a more narrowly defined curriculum and don't offer adequate programming or services for special-needs students (granted, this is a blanket assertion on my part, so I concede it won't be true in all cases). It's these schools which dramatically bring down the average per pupil spent in private education.

Now, please don't take this to be a condemnation of private schools as this is far from it. As I noted earlier, I think private schools are important instutitions which serve a vital role in our educational system. I attended a private school in elementary school before moving onto public schools, and I have several friends and children of friends who attended or taught at private schools.

I may be a good Democrat, but I'm no ideologue. While I have serious reservations and considerable criticisms about any possible move toward a voucher system, I also enter any discussion with an open mind. Like we all should be, I ultimately want students to excel, and whatever system offers them the best opportunity to do just that is what I will support. I am not, as of now, convinced that a system of vouchers is the way to achieve that.

Furthermore, the other part that troubles me about this thing is that Johnson worked to sell this as something where parents of special needs children would get their allocation back. But if you notice in the article by The Gwinnett Daily Post, Dale Dempsey from Snellville said the scholarship calculator told him he would be eligible for $5,600 to put toward tuition for his son. Dempsey concedes this will cover just 60 percent of the tuition of the school he wants to send his child to.

Now Dempsey may be comfortable enough to cover that difference, or perhaps he can find additional financial assistance, but what of the others who are unable to do so? And what of the talk of them receiving the $9,000 that Johnson said was owed to them?

Something doesn't appear to add up for me here.

LOA gets approval

The Athens Banner-Herald is reporting that the state signed off on Lake Oconee Academy which, while disappointing, isn't terribly unexpected.

Erick at Peach Pundit chimes in and says he favors 'neighborhood schools' (though I'm kinda unsure of what he means since the public education system is actually built upon that model). I'd also like to point out that charter schools are supposed to include more inclusionary policies so as to help students from across the school district, but that isn't really the case here.

Out of 400 students for LOA, only 80 slots will be held for those outside the approved attendence zones that ring Lake Oconee. That means out of 2,100 students - overwhelmingly low-income and African-American - 80 will be hand-picked to attend the new charter school.

Listen, I honestly don't fault the folks at Reynolds Plantation or along the lake for wanting to have a strong, quality school for their children to attend. Having a safe and challenging academic environment for one's child is the desire of any parent ... but I just think it's rather unfortunate that this new school has the very real potential to not only harm the other students in the school system, but to also damage the relations between black and white, rich and poor in this community.

There are so many things that could be done to help support and better the existing Greene County schools and empower the low-income citizens there, it's just a shame this much energy and so many resources are being devoted to this school when it will well serve only one portion of the population, yet be funded by all of them.

Yet, it's done. So what now? The folks at Reynolds Plantation have won the right to open up a charter school, and I sincerely wish them well and hope their children gain a good education from LOA. My concern now is that we - and, yes, I mean we - find something to do to help provide opportunity and support for those who live north of I-20 in Greene County.

I imagine there are several ways to support the schools up there, and I'm going to look into finding out how.

Couple of things

- Todd Walker, see earlier post.

- The state Board of Education will decide on the proposed Lake Oconee Academy charter school after the charter school committee punted yesterday. Not only does this appear to be largely about economics rather than education, but it also doesn't seem terribly feasible for a rather impoverished school system, like Greene County's, to be expected to fund another school which excludes the overwhelming majority of its low-income students north of I-20. Again, if the folks in Reynolds Plantation want to have a school for their own kids, then organize a private school. If you own a home worth $975,000 (at least), I'm going to go on a limb and say you have enough disposable income to start up your own school.

- The 'Stache (aka Glenn Richardson) answers the Athens Banner-Herald's editorial and finds himself on rather shaky ground. In particular, it's staggering the lack of understanding he possesses on how property taxes work, but that's besides the point. The bigger thing he misses is that, for most communities, property taxes have gone up primarily because the state has cut back on its allocated funds for local school districts and, with the litany of new costs and expectations from No Child Left Behind and the underfunding from the federal government, that money has to come from somewhere. Blaming the method of revenue collecting is backward in my mind when it's the system drawn up the state and the federal government which is leading to this.

- The U.S. Attorney finally got involved in the distribution of the Generalow Wilson tape and one can't help but acknowledge the work done by GriftDrift in bringing so much attention to this issue.

- This is very good news, but I'm not exactly holding my breath for it based solely on the political influence that both Texas and Mississippi can wield. I think we're as strong of a candidate as the rest, but it's going to be tough to seal the deal on this one.

That's dead on

Felton Hudson, a former Greene County school board member and one of the most vocal critics of the proposed Lake Oconee Academy, put together perhaps one of the best criticisms of the school yet ...

"We're not opposed to the school, but we are opposed to the attendance zones outlined in the petition," Johnson said. "It's de facto segregation at its best."

If Reynolds Plantation believes the school is necessary to sell more homes in its developments south of I-20, Hudson said, its primary purpose isn't to educate students, but to sell real estate.

"We believe this is an opportunity not to further education of children, but to further economic advancement of the petitioner," Hudson said.

The school would overwhelmingly and disproportionately serve residents of Reynolds Plantation rather than work to improve the school situation for the low-income students of Greene County.

The petitioner calling for LOA? The man representing them at the meetings?

Rabun Neal ... the president of Reynolds Plantation, which is planning on building 1,500 new homes if the charter school is approved.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Some 10th District linkage

Jeff Emanuel and commenter Kepper got a pretty good little discussion started at Peach Pundit regarding the Georgia Sport Shooting Association's endorsement of Paul Broun. Lots of interesting comments brought up, and Bill Greene even stopped by to offer his two cents and weigh in GSSA's endorsement process and the topic at hand.

Worth a read, particularly with the runoff less than a week away.

LOA clears hurdle?

UPDATE (4:29 p.m.): The Athens Banner-Herald has the story, and the word is that because there wasn't 'complete consent' they opted not to recommend one way or another ... meaning tomorrow's vote should be interesting.

UPDATE (4:04 p.m.): OK, maybe not so much as I've gotten conflicting reports from some folks that the AP story isn't up-to-par and that there wasn't a greenlight given by the committee, which makes things a little murkier it appears.

Lake Oconee Academy has won approval from the state Board of Education's charter school committee, according to the Associated Press. Also, is there some sort of unintentional editing going on in that piece from WIST or is the capitalization of 'NOT' and 'NO' being done intentionally.

If it's the latter, that's kinda biased, isn't it?

Some RDC questions

Blake did some catching-up after his return from his vacation, and his last item focused on a loan from the Athens-Clarke Public Facilities Authority to the Northeast Georgia Regional Development Center to assist the latter in expanding its existing offices (which is a good thing seeing how the RDC helps rural communities, well, grow).

District Six Commissioner Carl Jordan was sworn in to serve on the authority, raised some questions about the loan and then, after disagreeing with the 4-1 vote to approve (he was in the minority) resigned his post after merely an hour.

I'm not really clear on some things here, and perhaps someone can give me some clarity, but here's what I'm talking about ...

The RDC, which basically functions as a planning department for rural communities, asked the authority to help it procure about a $900,000 loan from Wachovia Bank, to be paid back over 11 or 16 years with a fee of 20 cents per resident paid by member cities and counties.


That wasn’t good enough for Jordan, who argued that, because Athens taxpayers are partially on the hook for the cost through the per-capita fee, the authority ought to make the RDC check around a little more. He was also concerned about a conflict because he owns Wachovia stock, though not, he assured us, a controlling interest.

Regarding the per-capita fee, it seems, on the surface at least, that Jordan is right. If anything, it does seem he appeared to be concerned about burdening taxpayers with an additional fee and rightfully encouraged the RDC to do what most folks do which is, well, shop around.

However, I'll fully concede I might be misreading this thing. It's not clear to me whether or not there would be any cost passed on to the taxpayer or not - not that I'd automatically oppose that either - since the post says the RDC is responsible for the payment and not Athens-Clarke County.

Still, either way, it's not necessarily a bad thing to suggest shopping around.

Aside from that question, I do think it's rather unfortunate that Jordan opted to resign from the authority based on this disagreement. One would think that if you've got some concerns about how business is being done, you'd rather stay and argue your case rather than pack up and head home.

Couple of things

- This is some good work by Ben Price at the Athens Banner-Herald because it points out how foolish so many of the Adequate Yearly Progress standards are. The fact that Clarke Central made all of its academic and attendence goals and improved its graduation rate, but then 'failed' because someone almost a thousand miles away changed the goal at the last second is absurd.

- The secret is kinda out as we learn Belgian vaccine company Solvay may be headed to the Orkin tract which, as I've noted before, is a positive step toward building up a new economy in the community.

- Who knows what's going to happen with the vote on the Greene County charter school today. Sadly, I fear they'll let it pass rather than tell the wealthier folks in that community that they, you know, ought to build their own private school. Regardless of the outcome, I think it's about time some folks got mobilized to help bring some much-needed change, empowerment and opportunity to the low-income citizens of Greene County. I'll tout Price again by recommending his earlier story on the situation down there.

- The wrap-up of the first workshop for the update of the Athens-Clarke County Planning Department's 10-year plan is pretty interesting, and can be found at the bottom of City Pages. I was glad to see a large number of folks opposed to a continual process of widening streets since that impacts private property owners and has the potential to create more dangerous driving situations, though I'm not sure if I like Victor Dover's suggestion to include more on-street parking. I don't necessarily think that's a feasible solution to any sort of parking problem and, though I may speak heresy to some here, I think the construction of either garages or lots would prove to be more effective in the long-term. Still, the next meeting is this Saturday beginning at 9 a.m. at the University of Georgia's Broad Street Studios.

Rational dialogue?

Though they had only a brief episode toward the end where they actually debated an issue - (the price of co-pays and premiums compared with higher taxes - last night's 'debate' between Michael Moore and Sanjay Gupta was rather silly.

And all it did was merely reinforce the skepticism I have for Moore, who is a man who employs misleading and over-the-top methods to bring light to serious issues. Gupta made the best points by saying he didn't necessarily disagree with Moore's take on the situation (and he actually praised Moore for making the movie), but stressed it wasn't appropriate to cherry-pick data and statistics and then frame them in a way was merely reinforces your pre-existing hypothesis.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Moving on up

The latest Blognet News index has come out, and I've moved up to No. 15 in the political blog rankings. While flattering, the rankings are still a bit curious, and even the new No. 1 agrees.

Couple of things

- You feel kinda embarassed for 'em, but the folks at Peach Pundit are gushing over Fred Thompson like a middle-school girl with a crush on the quarterback of the football team. Since July 6, they've stuck up 10 posts - 10 - that focus on Thompson. Other folks are noticing it too as Chris pointed this out and Flack has started poking fun too. I mean guys, come on, you could at least play a little hard to get.

- It's kind of a weird editorial on the Greene County charter school as it acknowledges that Brian Burdette's presence on the charter school committee will more than likely assist the manipulation of the charter school petition, says that isn't really a big deal but finishes by calling for Burdette's recusal. So I kinda disagree with the meandering path it took, but I ultimately agree with the end.

- It's crazy meets crazy at 10th Congressional District runoff debate.

- Very good to see this. Any sort of assistance this community can provide to small businesses, be it from the Economic Development Foundation or the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce, is welcome.

- Again, I'm not really up-to-speed on much of the Genarlow Wilson stuff, but Grift is asking good questions ... namely how did so many non judicial/law enforcement types get to watch a video that is, quite frankly, illegal to watch in this state?

- In his most recent blog entry, Blake notes that Denise Freeman is upset with the Democratic party bosses for backing James Marlow. While this is patently false - the state party sat out of the whole thing and the individual county parties where free to endorse whatever candidate they liked the best - Freeman should be more upset that her snagging a few hundred votes here and there ultimately kept a Democrat out of the runoff.

- I'll disagree and say I've heard louder things at Sanford Stadium (the 1991 Clemson game and 2000 Tennessee game were mighty noisy), but this was pretty darn cool.