Friday, August 29, 2008


OK, I get it now.

The selection of former part-time, small-town mayor Sarah Palin as John McCain's vice president really helps explain why Tom Peavey resigned as mayor of Bogart. Obviously he's in the running for a potential cabinet seat in a McCain Administration.

Awesome(ly horrible)

Merciful Mother of Mary.

As if I didn't think Georgia Tech was pathetic enough, they show this at halftime last night?

Convention wrap-up

Some final thoughts ...

- Well, um, yeah. I thought the speech was pretty darn good.

- I like the pick of Joe Biden more and more. His delivery wasn't too sharp, but it was candid and honest, which was refreshing. His son's introduction of him was pretty impressive too.

- I thought there was a very effective attempt to tie the promise of an Obama presidency to the successes of the Clinton presidency, something which hadn't been done prior to the DNC.

- John McCain will apparently abandon the 'experience' argument he's trumping now since he's tabbed Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his vice presidential pick seeing how the depth of Palin's political experience is 18 months as governor of 47th-least-populated state and two terms on the Wasilla City Council. Again, it ain't that I'm opposed to that - fresh faces are a good thing, particularly in a change election - but it makes it difficult to criticize someone as too green for the job when you choose someone with less experience as your running mate.

Music for the moment (Go Dawgs edition)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Public art

This always proves to be an interesting debate, and I'm not opposed to public funds being spent on public forms of art (Works Progress Administration!). I am, however, opposed to making an investment in that given our current fiscal state, and I think most of the commissioners would agree with that statement.

Plus, those bus shelters didn't cost Athens-Clarke County taxpayers an additional dime because the additional cost was covered by a private fundraising effort from the Athens Area Art Council. And perhaps that is the way to proceed since this would appear to be a very good case for a healthy public-private partnership.

Revision or regime change?

I think it's good that Oconee County is going to evaluate how it does business, but I think there's a larger question worth pondering here ...

Is the community pondering changing the structure of the government because it think it will increase efficiency, openness and fairness or are they doing it because they don't like who is currently the chairman? It seems to me that a strong chairman is actually a very effective form of government, it's just that Melvin Davis has, to some extent, abused the power of said position.

A strong chairman that employs committees, values open government and delegates responsibilities wisely is one that would be quite valued. The problem, quite frankly, is that Davis, by most accounts, doesn't do those types of things, hence our current situation.

Granted I'm new out here, but I'd be curious to see what reforms would be put in place had Sarah Bell been able to get 100 more votes.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Saxon's challenge

In the 'I Get Emails' department, Bobby Saxon has challenged Paul Broun to debate him in every county ...

"I recently accepted the following invitations to debate the issues facing the voters of the 10th District. Today, I again call on Congressman Broun to debate me in every county. The voters of every county in District 10 have the right to make an informed decision when they visit the ballot box," Bobby said.

September 13th - Radio forum on the Martha Zoller show broadcast in front of a live audience from Brenau University (WDUN 55O AM) at noon.

September 23rd - Forum sponsored by the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce at 7:00PM.

September 30th - Debate sponsored by the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity at Augusta State University in Augusta.

October 4th - Debate sponsored by the Columbia County Democratic Committee at 7:00PM.

October 26th - Debate sponsored by the Atlanta Press Club live on Georgia Public Broadcasting TV at 6:30PM.

TBD - Debate live on the Austin Rhodes radio show in Augusta.

"As an outspoken supporter of debate during his first congressional race, I am certain Congressman Broun will work to ensure that the voters of all twenty-one counties receive equal treatment."

Powell responds

Jim Powell has a statement out ...

Once again, well reasoned, independent members of our state’s judiciary have ruled that I am a qualified candidate. Yet Secretary Handel’s continued attempts to litigate this matter are blatantly frivolous. While the Secretary tries to win in the courts, I’ll continue to run the campaign that we all deserve and take my message to the people.

“I call on Secretary Handel to let the voters decide who is qualified to be the next Commissioner. This is no time for partisan politics. Handel is charged with ensuring fair and efficient elections, and it is high time she starts doing her job.

Who wants to be governor

I suppose David Poythress is the first Democrat to officially announce his candidacy for governor in 2010. He should be an interesting candidate, and he's got a great resume and some apparent crossover appeal.

The usual suspects still include Rep. DuBose Porter and Sen. Tim Golden, and while I like both of them, I still see it being a tough road. But the presence of Poythress should make this interesting.

I still think there's more intrigue on the Republican side as even a showdown between Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine should be fun enough to watch, but if you start throwing in some other wildcards (aka, Glenn Richardson), then it might put the any of the Paul Broun/Jim Whitehead-Barry Fleming races to shame.

And ...


Yep, this isn't a partisan witchhunt at all.

By request

A colleague of The Wife at her work requested more photos of The Kid.

The public asks, and the public receives ...

Convention thoughts

Truth be told, I typically don't watch much of either the Democratic or Republican National Conventions. I didn't catch really any of the DNC on Monday night, though I did tune in to see Mark Warner and Hillary Clinton last night. A few thoughts on some things ...

- Clinton, who I was especially hard on during the primary, did an excellent job last night. It was a passionate speech that equally focused on her accomplishments and passions, promoted Barack Obama and criticized John McCain. I was most impressed.

- Warner's speech was, well ... eh. I like the guy, and I'd love to have a Mark Warner-type guy running in Georgia, but his speech was so mundane and lacking of fire that I kept finding my mind wander. I'm a postpartisan kinda guy, but his comments were so bland and unmotivating, all his talk did was just occupy time until Clinton spoke.

- Regarding the VP selection, I like picking Joe Biden. I think he's got some good credentials on both foreign policy and domestic policy, and he won't shy away from directly attacking the Republican ticket, which is something Democrats haven't effectively done since the 1996 presidential election. He can go off message quite frequently, but so can Obama, and I think their penchant for candor will be refreshing this year.

- Regarding my criticism of Warner's speech, the speakers as a whole need to kick up the criticism and contrast of their opponents. One thing Republicans do very well is devote their convention to branding their opponents, and it's time we get that. Clinton, of course, gets that, and that's why her speech was so effective (and, from what I heard from Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer's speech in between Warner and Clinton, he gets it too). It isn't enough to say 'we need to move to the future' but also tell folks why they should pick you over your opponent.

- Talking with a friend after a church meeting last night, he and I were discussing the Republican pick for VP. I think it will ultimately be a safe pick in someone like Mitt Romney, but I honestly believe McCain wants to take Joe Lieberman because he feels he'd be the right man for the job. And I think that's the wise choice because it works for the GOP in two ways ... it could pay off immediate dividends by showing bipartisanship and force the party to finally adopt a more mainstream approach rather than wildly lurch to the neoconservative right (save foreign policy, of course, which would grow even more hawkish and unpredictable) or it forces the Republican base - assuming a McCain loss with Lieberman on the ticket - to regroup and reenergize its faithful. Picking a Romney or Tim Pawlenty doesn't offer either opportunity.

UPDATE: In hindsight, it's a shame the Schweitzer speech didn't get better press coverage. Folks were too obsessed with what Clinton would or wouldn't say, they actually missed a solid speech on energy independence that was sharp, funny and engaging (which is hard to do when you're talking about energy independence), and it's one reason why Schweitzer is one of my favorite Democrats.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The streetlights

A roundup of last night's streetlights discussion and ultimate backing away from turning off the lights, and I was most impressed. It takes a lot in this day and age for an elected official to admit when they've misjudged something, and the majority of them did that.

I was really impressed by the honesty and sincerity of David Lynn and Kathy Hoard. They're both to be applauded for their candor and thoughtfulness.

More on Powell

Here is the (handwritten) court order from Judge Wendy Shoob in favor of Jim Powell, and it affirms everything I've been arguing all along. The argument has been levied that the homestead exemption is an 'explicitly defined requirement in the statute' but I think that one fails because the same statute allows for the consideration, thus inclusion, of other factors to establish residency.

The ALJ, on a request from the secretary of state, prepared a report that ruled in favor of Powell's residency based on the usage of those other factors given the explanation of the his homestead exemption.

This seems more than logical to me. The ALJ would argue that 'the homestead exemption determines residency' and Powell would respond 'yes, but here is the explanation for why the exemption is located where it is and the same statute permits consideration of other factors to determine residency.' The ALJ would respond 'given your explanation and the inclusion of the other factors, your residency is in Towns County.'

The SoS ignored the inclusion of other factors and recommendation of the ALJ, deliberately relying on a narrow interpretation of the law ... and it is a narrow one because she refused to take into consideration other allowable factors to establish residency. You'll have a hard time convincing that if this had been a Republican challenger Handel wouldn't have - rightfully - taken into account all of the factors.

Heidi gets some love

Heidi Davison gets some love at The Political Insider for, well, doing the logical thing and telling the governor to back off his party's increasing fondness for micromanaging local affairs and budgets.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Powell wins (apparently)

No Nunn

Not that I'm surprised, but apparently Sam Nunn is out of the running to be Barack Obama's vice presidential pick. It was a longshot, and the focus now is on Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, Deleware Sen. Joe Biden, Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh and Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

I'll be honest ... it ain't my favorite group of names. I'd probably go Biden and then Kaine as my two favorites out of that bunch.

Week One observations

Random thoughts as I'm a week into residence in The OC ...

- I don't think I'm ever going to get used to having horses in my backyard. It's pretty friggin' cool, and I'm going outside almost hourly to see if they've wandered over. As a side note - having not really ever been around horses - you don't realize exactly how large of animals they are until you're up close.

- The Butler's Crossing Publix is solid. It's hard to let go of my Atlanta Highway one, but this one is laid out very well (though, for the life of me, I'm always baffled why most grocery stores have the meat located near the entrance ... only Harris Teeter, to my knowledge, doesn't do this) and offers individual slices of their Key Lime Pie.

- If there is a door stop in our house, my daughter will find it.

- Related to Publix, it seems really weird to me that in my three trips there (yes, I go to the store that frequently) most of the checkout attendents are somewhat socially awkward. All good people and friendly, just not big talkers, and seeing how I like to chat with a lot of folks, we've had some uncomfortable conservations. On the other hand, the folks at the deli counter are ridiculously nice and all too eager to talk to you. Last Saturday, I got a very thorough rundown of the new type of roasted chicken they're offering.

- You think you have a lot of books until you get wall-to-wall bookshelves, and then you realize you need some more.

- In the 'I-can't-logically-explain-this' department, I like The Taco Stand here. Now, most friends of mine know that I absolutely hate The Taco Stand, so why this one is OK with me, I can't reconcile.

- That said, it pains me to be this far away from Food For The Soul. And Five Star Day. Fortunately, I have on my calendar to visit both tomorrow.

Let there be light!

Hillary's talking about the streetlights issue, and she and I have some differences on this. A couple of quick notes ...

- A lot of this is responsiveness, isn't it? I mean, if the residents of that community want to keep their streetlights, why are they being cut?

- The jury is out on whether or not streetlight do or do not deter crime. Much evidence says it doesn't, while other evidence says it does.

- Remember, this was all to save about $18 a year in property taxes ... though, thanks to the governor and a lack of vision in Atlanta, we're now stuck with even higher bills across the state since they're yanking the homestead exemption grant.

Broun's Bucks

Loyal reader Ned has started Broun's Bucks to bring attention to Paul Broun's reckless spending because as we all know, according to Broun ...

Public money for things like education and infrastructure are bad.

Public money for things like getting me re-elected are good.

As a side note, McClure Studios only charged him $300? I changed my daughter's diaper in there and they wanted to charge me $500.

Circular logic

Karen Handel's response to what she feels are disingenuous attacks on her with her own disingenuous column.

It's disingenuous because it responds with an argument of 'no I'm not, you guys are' which is beyond childish for an elected official to engage in. She combats numerous allegations of letting partisan allegiances guide policy in the secretary of state's office by responding with her own allegations of partisan politics being employed against her.

Of course, it's what Handel doesn't say that makes her response even more suspect.

Jim Powell was disqualified as a candidate for District 4 of the Public Service Commission for a simple reason: Under Georgia law, Powell is not a resident of the district and is ineligible to run for the office, or to serve should he be elected. Georgia law states that, if someone has claimed a homestead exemption, the specific address of the exemption shall be deemed the person's residence address.

This is misleading because, as the Administrative Law Judge noted, the homestead exemption is one component worth considering in determining one's residence. There was justifiable reason to believe that Powell was - and is - a resident of the district based on the evidence examined, and the ALJ laid out a perfectly rational case affirming Powell's residency based on additional factors.

It should also be noted that Handel - as is practice for such cases - is the one who sought guidance from the ALJ in determining what course of action to take. She adhered to almost all recommendations offered ... except this one. So what she did was seek more experienced legal counsel for a ruling, said ruling ran contrary to her own thought process and then deliberately chose to ignore it.

Also, I don't understand this ...

In addition, the timing of (Bill) Shipp's column coincides with a partisan grassroots effort directed at my office to drop Powell's case and let him appear on the ballot in November. I'll leave it to the readers to decide if this is a mere coincidence.

Well, of course it isn't. If there is a grassroots effort to point out Handel's partisan handling of the office, they probably targeted Shipp as a member of the media for someone to be aware of this case. This effort is being spearheaded by Take Back Georgia, and I've gotten emails from them about this. Of course, that doesn't mean I'm a part of it by any means, and it doesn't mean Shipp is either.

It means Take Back Georgia is employing an effective media outreach campaign, particularly if one of the state's top political commentators decides to pick up the story. It doesn't mean there's a conspiracy afoot. It means they do good PR.

Handel must be pretty paranoid.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Broun's almost bankrupt

Internet problems hindered my ability to update some comments (apologies again!) and comment on a few things, but all of that appears to be fixed today. And that lets me be a day late to the party in commenting on Paul Broun spending more than 80 percent of his congressional budget.

Broun doesn't make any apologies for spending close to $600,000 on franking - which is more than folks like John Barrow or Nathan Deal spent in altogether in the first half of the year - and that's ridiculous.

Of course, Broun's logic doesn't hold up. Seeing how with close to $300,000 in campaign debt lingering from the 2007 special election, to suggest he was merely staying in touch with constituents via mailing and phone calls doesn't make sense. Particularly since if one was presumably trying to communicate with those he represents, than those mail pieces wouldn't have been carefully targeted to only Republican-leaning voters and some moderates.

Sounds more like a campaign strategy rather than constituent outreach to me.

Here's the thing, if you run as a fiscal conservative - one who abstains from certain votes on spending or votes against them because you don't feel it's the government's responsibility, all the while railing against representatives fighting for funding for local projects - then do this, it's almost inexcusable. If nothing else, it reveals you to be one of the most shameless hypocrites who have exploited taxpayers' money for your own personal gain.

Monday, August 18, 2008


Clarity, please

Make no mistake, I think this isn't a bad thing by any means. Still, regarding this ...

The foundation's eventual goal is to build a multimillion-dollar endowment to provide startup and operating cash for local nonprofits.

To do that, the foundation needs other local businesses to follow the Benson family's lead, Porter said.

... wasn't OneAthens not going after local donors?

Seems like their story changes every other week with regard to donor solicitation. Again, if they openly want to go after those types of gifts, then I say that's fine. It's just preposterous to keep saying they're not when they obviously are.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Our own Katherine Harris

I haven't really agreed with Bill Shipp on too much as of late, but his latest column is a good effort to take a look at Karen Handel's effort to turn the secretary of state office into a partisan stronghold for the GOP. While I think he tries to tie too many things together - for instance, Keith Gross was rightfully kicked off the ballot - he does touch on three things which are rather distressing ...

- Removing Jim Powell from the ballot in his bid for a spot on the Public Service Commission - despite an administrative law judge ruling in favor of Powell's residency - the day prior to the primary election. Powell wisely fought Handel's absurdly incoherent ruling and earned a stay (and close to 85 percent of the vote the next day), and all he is waiting on now is a final court hearing.

- Blocking Michelle Conlon's bid to get on the ballot to challenge party-switcher Mike Jacobs. After Gross was kicked off, Conlon sought to get on the ballot as an independent and turned in more than enough signatures for the petition. Handel, without explanation, threw out just enough signatures to prevent Conlon from establishing her candidacy. Conlon has mounted a legal challenge to get on the ballot.

- After Joe Carter opted to not seek re-election for the State Senate, his seat was considered open and, as Shipp notes, state law requires that qualifying be reopened ... and Handel did that, but only for Republicans.

Now, these three instances are all some form of inside baseball and have, for the most part, gone unnoticed. And, to make matters worse, the Republicans control pratically all of the statewide political offices meaning they can easily stamp out any sort of opposition or take the immature route and dismiss the rightful objections to these actions as 'sour grapes' on the part of Democrats or independents.

The secretary of state office is supposed to work to make elections fair and open to all, though it appears Handel is all too eager to do the exact opposite during her tenure.

Audacity of arrogance

This editorial absolutely nails it.

Either the Clarke County Board of Education is so oblivious to the community-wide skepticism and concern that surrounds them or they're comprised of nothing but a bunch of shameless liars. Quite frankly, I think it's a combination of both.

Let's recap a bit, shall we? After more than a year of meddling in the affairs of interim superintendent James Simms, ignoring calls for transparency in how they conduct their business, needlessly displacing talented teachers and administrators across the school district and working to secure favors and plum jobs for their own family members, Simms finally called their bluff and resigned.

The board, under the rightful scrutiny from the community, opted to reconsider its actions and met with Simms to work to secure his long-term commitment to the school district. The superintendent agreed to stay on if the BOE would consider updating their vastly outdated ethics policy (or, apparently, lack of one), to which the members gladly agreed.

When push came to shove, however, the majority of board members opted to accept the status quo, which means they see no problem in using their influence to get family members jobs (and doing so behind closed doors with the related board member involved in the vote) or in micromanaging the jobs of staff so much that they write all the job descriptions and oversee the transfers of all staff.

It should be noted that the proposed changes to the policy were also requested by not just Simms, but also the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which is the agency responsible for providing the Clarke County School District with the necessary accreditation.

It's ridiculous. Honestly, I'm absolutely stunned at the board's audacity in not only lying to Simms - and the community - in order to get him to stay on through the beginning of the school year, but also conducting business in such a selfish, power-hungry fashion that it endangers the accreditation of the schools in the district.

This board is comprised of some of the most talentless, arrogant, do-nothing individuals in this community. If you are looking for a reason why the schools here continue to struggle despite so many committed teachers and so many eager students overflowing with potential, look no further than folks like Vernon Payne or Charles Worthy or Sidney Anne Waters or Ovita Thornton.

Waters is mercifully resigning this year, thus ensuring a fresh face in her district, Worthy is being challenged by Jim Geiser, while Payne is facing a challenge from J.T. Jones. Help both of these challengers out with your time, your energy and your resources.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Brief update

Apologies for slow posting and updating comments.

I've spent the past four days packing, cleaning, moving and unpacking. I'll do my darnedest to get back up-to-speed in the next day or so, including some commentary on the Clarke County Board of Education.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Yeah, but ...

Awesome. I know Phil Kent! And I genuinely like the guy as a person, though his political views are typically not supported by logic and pretty far out there.

I think my earlier dismissal of Tim Echols's commentary does a good job addressing the same points raised by Kent. One additional one worth noting is that Kent argues that schools in Arizona and California are offering the pledge in Spanish - again, this spells the end of society how? - but the logical response to that would be ... why is Paul Broun introducing this measure then? Why isn't some determined and dedicated representative from those areas doing it? Since this appears to be a local issue, surely one of the congressman out there would do something about this.

Because, if not, Broun's just being a busybody ... and, of course, worrying too much about the issues affecting people in Arizona rather than, oh I don't know, trying to fight for things like the USDA facility in Oconee County.

Lessons in debate

Um, yeah ... here's an effective way to persuade someone to endorse your views. Rather than express your concerns one-on-one in a civil and respectful way, why not just write a letter to the editor calling them an idiot for the whole community to see?

The fact that the process appears to be more political does nothing to bolster arguments either for or against NBAF. The criteria for selecting the location as well as the targeted community's existing infrastructure was done fair and square, and Athens-Clarke County scored rather high in all those departments. It appears now that another site will land the facility based on political preferences, but that does nothing to indicate that the project isn't safe or that Athens-Clarke County isn't a viable location for it.

It's a strawman, the latest one that being clutched by the opponents of NBAF.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Inside baseball

Wow. Erick kicked SpaceyG off the front page of Peach Pundit, and I say ... good for him.

If Peach Pundit is supposed to focus on Georgia politics - albeit from a skewed, predominantly conservative perspective - then it should, you know, actually focus on Georgia politics. SpaceyG's posts were rarely, if even, related to news from our state, ranted about 'the mainstream media' and read like they were written by a four-year-old.

Monday, August 11, 2008

NBAF rankings

Some interesting reporting by The Associated Press on the process to rank the finalists for NBAF in which we learn that politics have apparently played a part in who's in the mix for this facility. The Bush Administration hasn't been terribly swayed by reality or data when making their decisions, so opting to rank lower-graded facilities higher than ones with better scores isn't shocking.

Still, while this is definitely discouraging for a variety of reasons, I don't think this should give any additional ammo to critics of placing NBAF in Athens-Clarke County. For instance, the reasons cited against locating the facility in Flora, Miss., revolved around proximity to existing research facilities and a lack of skilled workers to perform certain tasks. It had nothing to do with environmental or safety concerns, and that's important to note. It's shamelessly political, sure, but it suggests nothing about safety.

I think what this does underscore is that Athens-Clarke County is probably not going to land this facility. It's either going to Texas or Mississippi, and one has to think the latter due to how obviously political the former would appear.

The Irish rule

Who knew that Padraig Harrington would step to the plate while Tiger Woods mended his injured knee?

- Regardless of who's in the field, three out of the last six majors is amazing ... particularly the way Harrington was won them in which he's rallied on the back nine in each of them. Few were more dramatic than Sunday's PGA Championship where he sank three 12-foot-or-more putts on the final three holes to erase Sergio Garcia's one-shot lead.

- Speaking of Garcia, it gives me great joy to see him lose to Harrington again. The guy's a whiner - doing it again in yesterday's press conference where he bemoaned how 'fortunate' everyone else is, but said fortune never comes his way. Rather than man up and say 'I should have sank that birdie putt on No. 17 and not pushed my three-wood into the rough off the tee at No. 18, particularly after Harrington went in the sand just a few moments before me' ... he just pretty much says everyone else is lucky to beat him.

- Is Harrington the PGA Tour Player of the Year? Well, maybe. Two majors in a year is impressive, but Woods won four of the six tournaments he entered, was on pace to shatter the record for lowest score per round average and punctuated the season with his dramatic one-legged win in the U.S. Open (though I still think it was mildly exaggerated ... I know, call me crazy). It's tough. If Harrington plays in the FedEx Cup playoffs and notches another win or records some Top Five finishes, it would be hard to not give him the award then. Right now, though, it's a dead heat.

- The U.S. Ryder Cup team should be interesting, particularly with no Woods. Ben Curtis played his way onto the team with his second-place finish yesterday, and now Paul Azinger's got a tough choice for the two captain spots. I'd lean toward taking youth this time around. J.B. Holmes had a lousy final round, but the thought of him in a Best Ball competition is scary. And you can't go wrong by adding either D.J. Trahan, Brandt Snedeker or Hunter Mahan.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Close to pie in the sky

I'd like to be wrong, but this post at MyDD regarding Jim Martin's chances seems to be rather naive to me. Again, I'd like to see Martin knock off Saxby Chambliss - particularly after the latter proceeded to batter a whistleblower at Imperial Sugar, which was rather convenient since Chambliss had received campaign support from that company and its executives - but I just don't see it happening.

Though, this isn't to say you shouldn't fight for Martin or give him some coin.

Creating a diversion, er, problem

Tim Echols's column defending Paul Broun is quite silly.

While he cites the noble work he does with his non-profit organization, he then makes a leap of huge proportions by attempting to use that work as an analogy for the bill Broun has put forward that would require the Pledge of Allegiance to be conducted in English only, threatening to take funds away from schools which don't heed the legislation.

Putting the focus on English and withholding funds sends a strong message to school systems that kids need to speak and read English. All of our founding documents and most supplemental materials about important figures in American history are in English.

OK, but I don't see where this is actually a problem. English is the primary language spoken in all schools throughout the country with only a handful of schools in the Southwest - which feature high Hispanic populations - offering the pledge in Spanish in addition to English.

Plus, the point lost on the congressman and Echols is the fact that the children of immigrants - legal or illegal - are typically the ones who are fluent in English. As a result, they also are often better equipped for the world because of their profiency in more than one language.

But, seriously, here's the interesting part ...

Media types have speculated that somehow Broun introducing his PLEDGE Act is an effort to divert attention from alleged budget issues within his office. Of course, it is only speculation that the office will run out of money, but newspapers have to have something to write about. It should be remembered that Broun opened an Athens office so citizens in our area wouldn't have to drive to Toccoa or Augusta. The new Athens office added a substantial cost to his congressional office budget.

Note that Echols, the treasurer of Broun's campaign, doesn't deny the allegations. He acknowledges them and even offers a justification on why Broun would have higher expenses in that he runs three offices, not just one or two like 'establishment' congressman. In a column attempting to refute a column that charged his boss with using not-likely to pass legislation to divert the attention from his boss's fiscal problems .... Echols returns to talk about said problems.

If Echols is clamoring for a definition of 'political wizardry' he should look no further than the preposterous response he's given.

It's not a serious rebuttal coming from a congressman who himself isn't serious.

If you want some seriousness, then give Bobby Saxon some change.

Friday, August 08, 2008

All politics are local

Well, I'm going to have some fun with James Griffith when I get out to The OC ...

Oconee County GOP Chairman James Griffith said he wasn't surprised that local Democrats would seek to change the system, characterizing it as a move to gain a foothold in county offices.

Griffith acknowledged that the partisan system may push Oconee Democrats, for example, to run as Republicans, but he said that's usually not a factor.

"Most of the time, they don't get elected," he said. "Most of the time, people figure out they're not who they think they are."

Yeah, it couldn't be that the system forces them to choose between supporting their candidates at the state and national level or having a say in who serves at the local level. To this day, it's preposterous to me that all local elections - county commission, city council, sheriff, etc. - aren't non-partisan.

I supported non-partisan elections in Athens-Clarke County where Democrats control most local offices, and I support non-partisan elections elsewhere across the state where Republicans control the local offices. Why? Because it makes sense, encourages more involvement in the process and requires the voters to work a little harder to find out where the candidates stand on the issues ... and, last time I checked, a more educated and informed populace ain't a bad thing.

Besides, as I've argued before, partisan political views don't necessarily translate to decisions about local policy. And that's because local politics are inherently more personal and built on relationships and connectivity, not talking points and party lines. Consider this post by Brian, a Republican, on the move to limit growth in South Oconee County. I've had several discussions with him and, safe to say, we don't exactly see eye-to-eye on a lot of national issues or state issues. However, on most local issues, he and I share similar beliefs, including this particular issue.

Unless Griffith and other opponents like Ralph Hudgens feel the average voter is too ignorant to be able to determine for themselves who they want to serve as their sheriff or Board of Education representative, they ought to be behind this thing.

This was thought out well


First we set up a flawed program that keeps 'Needs Improvement' schools in that same category, despite making yearly progress, and then we have a law which requires them to move ... but there's not place for them to go to and other districts don't have the resources to take them.

Of course, one could make the argument that if you let the better-performing students transfer out of the schools that are struggling, how exactly will the struggling schools get better?

Music for the moment

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Strong move

As I scramble to cram as much Oconee County political knowledge into my brain just one week before moving out there, I'm very pleased with this move. In addition to the very, very good deal The Wife and I got on our house, one of the other appealing aspects of moving out there is the fact that within a matter of moments you can hit a quiet, serene area. That the Oconee County Board of Commissioners have made a commitment to preserve that environment throughout half the county is to be applauded.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Get on the bus

Earlier this week, Congressional Quarterly noted that Bobby Saxon was not one of six Democrats targeted by the DCCC for support in the general election. While disappointing, it's not terribly shocking. After a promising start, Saxon has struggled with some elements of fundraising, though he's raised a good chunk in comparison to previous Democrats who have sought this seat over the past 10 or so years.

The DCCC passing him over is rough because it would have meant a national profile and a much-needed influx of dollars and resources to a race that, while still a long-shot, is not completely out of the realm of possibility due to some recent missteps by Paul Broun, as well as a lingering distrust by Augusta-area Republicans and moderates and the fact that the Democratic voters in Athens-Clarke County who propelled the congressman to his special election win won't be as so eager to get behind him in 2008.

The point being ... yes, it's a long-shot for Saxon to knock off an incumbent Republican congressman, but it is feasible with the right amount of resources. And that's where we are today.

Folks, it's time to get behind this guy.

It's time to quit hand-wringing about what kind of congressman he'd be because he might be a little more centrist than others or bemoaning his struggles with raising money in an absurdly red district. For many folks, Saxon ain't the perfect candidate, and I can respect honest difference of opinion on some issues. Shoot, I don't see eye-to-eye with Saxon on all the issues, but, then again, I haven't met a candidate yet who I'm in full agreement with.

And his campaign has seen its share of missteps, there's no denying that. But all of that must be cast behind us because, as we're seeing, Broun is in a world of hurt. He ran as a small government conservative who decried wasteful government spending and has now unfathomably blown his $1.5 million budget by mid-year, with the majority of the expenses going toward franking privileges (i.e. taxpayer-funded campaign materials).

But more than that, he's revealed himself to be hemmed in by his own stated ideological beliefs. As Brian noted, it does our district little good for Broun to state he's philosophically opposed to lobbying for local projects while other congressmen continue to do so. In the end, the 10th Congressional District gets the short end of the stick or our senators have to pick up the slack (as they did on USDA facility in Oconee County), all the while Broun cozies up to the camera and takes credit for the work he himself claims he's opposed to doing.

This choice is clear and, with some discontent brewing surrounding Broun, this race is winnable. And it's time to let any lingering hesitations fall away and invest in Saxon's campaign. I know of a few folks who read this blog and have the means to really help Saxon's campaign get going, and I'd like to strongly encourage you to do so.

Go to ActBlue's donation and help him out.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Well, we're doomed

Georgia Sports Blog says this is out tomorrow, and the march toward a 7-5 record begins.

Senate runoff

Not really a need for a running blog, but with 25 percent reporting Jim Martin's got roughly a 5,000-vote lead. That's not huge - and it's with DeKalb County not reporting any of its 195 precincts - so Vernon Jones ain't out of this by any means.

UPDATE: Well, it's early but Martin has opened up a 59-41 lead and it's hard to see how DeKalb County can make up more than a 10,000-vote deficit in a runoff election.

UPDATE (8:40 p.m.): Wow. It's ugly now with Martin opening up a 26,000-vote lead. Looks like Vernon is done, and Martin's the man to take on Saxby Chambliss.

UPDATE (9:12 p.m.): Well, Martin's up by more than 40,000 votes. It's obvious Vernon's supporters didn't get back to the polls and, more than than, there was some backlash against him as DeKalb County is going heavily for Martin.

A bit misleading

A reader forwarded me this site which is being randomly emailed around today to folks and is trying to pitch Vernon Jones as being aligned with Barack Obama.

Anyone else see this?

More validity

Time debunks - and ridicules - the criticism of tire gauges to boost energy efficiency ...

But who's really out of touch? The Bush Administration estimates that expanded offshore drilling could increase oil production by 200,000 bbl. per day by 2030. We use about 20 million bbl. per day, so that would meet about 1% of our demand two decades from now. Meanwhile, efficiency experts say that keeping tires inflated can improve gas mileage 3%, and regular maintenance can add another 4%. Many drivers already follow their advice, but if everyone did, we could immediately reduce demand several percentage points. In other words: Obama is right.

In fact, Obama's actual energy plan is much more than a tire gauge. But that's not what's so pernicious about the tire-gauge attacks. Politics ain't beanbag, and Obama has defended himself against worse smears. The real problem with the attacks on his tire-gauge plan is that efforts to improve conservation and efficiency happen to be the best approaches to dealing with the energy crisis — the cheapest, cleanest, quickest and easiest ways to ease our addiction to oil, reduce our pain at the pump and address global warming. It's a pretty simple concept: if our use of fossil fuels is increasing our reliance on Middle Eastern dictators while destroying the planet, maybe we ought to use less.

The RNC is trying to make the tire gauge a symbol of unseriousness, as if only the fatuous believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil without doing the bidding of Big Oil. But the tire gauge is really a symbol of a very serious piece of good news: we can use significantly less energy without significantly changing our lifestyle. The energy guru Amory Lovins has shown that investment in "nega-watts" — reduced electricity use through efficiency improvements — is much more cost-effective than investment in new megawatts, and the same is clearly true of nega-barrels. It might not fit the worldviews of right-wingers who deny the existence of global warming and insist that reducing emissions would destroy our economy, or of left-wing Earth-firsters who insist that maintaining our creature comforts would destroy the world, but there's a lot of simple things we can do on the demand side before we start rushing to ratchet up supply.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Powell case pushed back

Well, we're still waiting on a ruling for Jim Powell as the Superior Court judge recused himself (herself?) from the hearing. So, we'll wait to hear about a new judge, further leaving this race in limbo.

Something doesn't feel right about this, and this needs to be rescheduled ASAP because you can't have a race in limbo since the candidate needs to, you know, campaign.

More Broun fallout

Blake's take on Paul Broun's money woes is a good read, and it continues to hammer home some of the concerns that have raised so many red flags. Again, I tended to respect Broun because, like Ron Paul, he seemed to hold deep principled beliefs about things like small government, and though I didn't agree with him on most ideological issues, it was refreshing to see someone stand up for them in what appeared to be an honest way.

(Granted, I think such a way of being an elected representative isn't feasible seeing how it leaves your constituents out in the cold, but whatever.)

But this whole breaking the bank thing by mid-year is inexcusable, particularly for someone who rails against wasting taxpayer money. And, make no mistake, if Broun spent - as some reports have estimated - more than half of his $1.5 million a year budget on franking in an attempt to use public funds to aid his re-election campaign, that's something he should be held accountable for.

As Blake notes, Broun's staff is either going to have to shift to the campaign staff - and they wouldn't be able to actually campaign either if they're performing day-to-day tasks related to his congressional obligations - or all work as volunteers. He doesn't have a ton of money either (or at least enough to handle both costs), and that could have opened the door for Bobby Saxon ... though, naturally, the DCCC didn't target his race for support.

The knock against Saxon was that he is struggling to raise money, and it's true that he hasn't raised a ton. But a little bit of support from the national level in the form of some mail and advertising could go a long way, particularly in Augusta where lots of Republicans are still very wary of Broun (and his latest financial woes won't help him out at all).

Shafer leaning toward run?

Erick thinks David Shafer will run for Lt. Governor now that Chip Rogers is out, and the GOP could do a lot worse (and, had Rogers joined Eric Johnson, they would have).

I have deep ideological disagreements with Shafer, but he's actually taken the time to engage me in discussions over the past year or so and is a honest guy. And, in today's political environment, some principled disagreements with honest individuals is in short supply.

Well, you know ...

Conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan bemoans the John McCain campaign ...

They really played the arugula card? For all McCain's personal qualities, we're learning that the machine behind the GOP simply re-makes the campaign in its own Coulterite image. Instead of actually fighting on the core questions - how do we get out of Iraq with the least damage? how do we get past carbon-based energy? how do we tackle al Qaeda's new base in Pakistan and within the nuclear-armed Pakistani government? how will we reduce the massive debt bequeathed us by the Bush-Rove GOP? how do we restore the Geneva Conventions? - we are debating people's cultural insecurities and food choices.

The slow collapse of conservatism as a coherent governing philosophy is not unrelated to this. If you never want to fight campaigns on policy, why bother crafting any?

Losing makes you 'clutch'

I think this is a rather silly list, partially because many of the names who are supposedly 'clutch' players actually haven't delivered when it mattered.

The two most glaring examples are Tim Tebow and Cullen Harper. Both are fine players, and I'll even utter blasphamy and say that Tebow is arguably one of the best players to suit up in the past 15 years, but athletic ability doesn't always translate into those intangibles that help you lift your team to victory.

Tebow's a popular pick since he won the Heisman Trophy last year and easily is the most recognizable face in college football, but he hasn't willed the Gators to anything yet. His team dropped close games to Auburn and LSU last year, were dominated by Michigan in the Capital One Bowl and couldn't get by Georgia.

Maybe Tebow will, you know, actually win a big game this year, and we can add to the lovefest surrounding him, but he hasn't done that yet.

Harper is more puzzling since, quite frankly, Clemson always opens the season 5-0 and then completely tanks the rest of the way. In fact, the Tigers losing big games has become par for the course it seems. It seems ridiculous to put the quarterback of a team which fails to win the close games on a list of the most clutch players.

Just seen

Casino Royale - Never really been a big fan of the James Bond movies, but this one was surprisingly strong. It was an interesting take to see how Bond became Bond, and that his tragic love with Vesper Lynd is what propelled him to take on such a disconnected, yet suave persona. Plus, lots of cool action scenes.

The Return - My girl Sarah Michelle Gellar has made some awful movies in recent years, but this one wasn't one of them. Sure it was kinda slow at times - and there's no explanation for why a co-worker who was upset over her being awarded 'his' client would drive down to an isolated, small town in Texas to try and rape her - but lots of very solid and jarring camera shots helped give it a sort of Hitchcockian feel. And, still after all these years, she can still make the ole heart skip a beat or two.

Good move forward

This would appear to be a mixed-bag, particularly since the Athens-Clarke County Commission has wisely stated the need to deter growth along this rural corridor. However, not only does Steven Hill's project make a ton of sense and is one of the better proposed re-developments in these parts, but it would also bring a benefit to a worthy non-profit.

Ultimately, it needs to be approved. It seems to me that if the concerns are preserving the rural feel of the area as well as protecting Sandy Creek, both of those can be achieved by simply not putting in the extended, permanent line.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Change in policy

Sad to say it's come to this, but I suppose it was inevitable.

Safe As Houses now operates under a policy of approving comments. The past few weeks have unleashed a spate of random anonymous comments that, at times, are unrelated to the posts at hand and offer no serious discussion on the postings and typically feature unfair, dubious and immature attacks on other commenters.

I've always worked to make this a blog that appreciates and welcomes serious discussion from varying ideological, philosophical and theological spectrums. But I'm not going to have commenters who lack the guts to put even a psuedo-name on their submissions, yet feel they have carte blanche to randomly and rudely attack other readers and their views on this blog.

In addition, you now have be a registered user to submit comments for consideration. Again, I apologize for the change in policy.

Difference of opinion - even passionate differences of opinion - is welcome and encouraged. Blasphamizing traditional Catholic prayers to falsely lampoon the beliefs of others is not.

Cast your ballot!

Just like last year, let me encourage everyone to go vote for my buddy Ed's business - Blue Moon Electric - as the best electrician in town in the Athens Banner-Herald Reader's Choice Awards.

It's easy to do, and you don't have to fill out all of the entries ... just the ones you want. And your help came through as he finished second last year. I'd like to see him win this year, so go take a few moments and help him out!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Spreading the love

Over at Peach Pundit, lots of Republicans are mad at Sen. Eric Johnson contributing to Democratic candidates who shared his views on school choice. I'm torn on this issue.

On one hand, as I noted in this discussion at Tondee's Tavern, I don't think it's a bad thing when folks support people in other parties. I personally know some folks who are Republican and I think would do a fine job in public office, and I wouldn't have any qualms supporting them.

That said, it is a tricky area because Johnson's problem now is that, as someone seeking the Lt. Governor's seat in 2010, he's spread money around to candidates - many unopposed - who, in turn, will send that money to Democratic challengers in contested races. As a result, he's indirectly aided a Bubber Epps or Chris Huttman.

So there's understandable resentment with Johnson over this issue and, quite frankly, it will probably severely damage any chances he would have in a contested GOP primary.

Who wants sucky music?

Seriously, you're embarassed for them ... but here is a recap of the John Rich concert for John McCain which only drew a few hundred people. The lyrics of all of his songs are absolutely painful.

Crappy music aside, two almost comical notes ...

- He had the audacity to butcher a Johnny Cash song (though, to be fair, that's a travesty visited on the Man In Black by most pop country stars) and claimed that Cash would be supporting McCain, despite the fact that Cash was a Democrat.

- The other half of his duo - I would assume 'Big' - has contributed to Barack Obama's campaign and endorsed the Illinois senator.

Tech fans are funny

And kinda dumb.

"I don't understand how they can be ranked No. 1," (Georgia Tech freshman Brent) Thomas said. "They didn't win their division last year. They lost to a team that didn't go to a bowl [South Carolina]. Their big triumph was beating Haw-a-ii, who's in the WAC."

I mean beating Alabama, Florida and Auburn en route to finishing the season ranked No. 2 was nothing, right?

They also have short memories too, though you'd think beating them seven years in a row would give them a better frame of reference.

A bit of distinction

Erick's bothered by this flier for DeKalb County CEO candidate Stan Watson, and - while I see his argument - I think it's a bit misguided for two main reasons ...

- The mailer is targeted toward Democratic voters, the vast majority of whom are African-American. In doing so, the contrasts that are drawn show that his opponent is partnering with individuals who support a more conservative agenda and they just happen to be white since most Republicans in Georgia are white.

- The mailer was paid for by an independent group called 'Concerned DeKalb Citizens' and is not something sanctioned or distributed by Watson's campaign. To attack Watson for something he didn't do seems disconnected. In fact, the mailer that was sent out by Watson's campaign tells a different message, and Peach Pundit implies that both mailers came from his campaign.

Granted, I don't know anything about Watson, and he might very well be a bastard, but it seems that this is a skewing of the facts in order to perpetuate some bizarre reverse racism trend going on.

Friday, August 01, 2008


In news of the awesome variety - and dizzying expections department - Georgia is the preseason No. 1 according to the USA Today Top 25 Coaches Poll.

Unrelated, Justin Goar from The Bleacher Report presents his take on 10 non-conference games he'd like to see, and they're ridiculous.

Clemson-Georgia? He says the series ended in 1995, but they played in 2002 and 2003 and are slated to play again in the coming years.

Washington-Notre Dame? They played last year, and it isn't as if this is an intriguing matchup outside of South Bend or Seattle.

USC-Florida? Well, that would be fun to watch, but why Florida over LSU who has won two national titles and broke up the 'dynasty' the Trojans had?

I don't know what to feel

Well, trading Manny Ramirez certainly fosters a great moral confusion for me. On one hand, Manny was heading past his prime, horrible on defense and arguably a distraction for everyone in Boston. Still, he's Manny, and Manny's always a distraction for Boston but still mashes out a .300 average with 30-plus home runs. Now that he's gone to where good ballplayers go to die, who knows what will happen.

That said, shedding his salary next year is good, and acquiring a younger outfielder who hits for power in Jason Bay ain't bad either. If he can protect Big Papi, the Red Sox are still the best team in the American League East and, with their pitching, have a legitimate shot to repeat as World Series champs.

Embarassed for them

John Rich, half of the country music duo Big & Rich, wrote a song for John McCain, though one glance at its lyrics reveals that it sounds more like a Joan Collins novel than a campaign song.

He stayed strong, stayed extra long til they let all the other boys out. Now we've got a real man with an American plan, we're going to put him in the big White House," the song says. Its refrain: "We're all just raising McCain."

Maybe they should get a room.