Saturday, September 29, 2007

Newt's Neutered

I couldn't resist. Gingrich will not run for President. He was apparently more daunted by the prospect of giving up his role in his nonprofit than raising 30 million by the end of October.


Peake's Double-Speak

Advocates for a sensible design for Forest Hill Road are, shall we say, less than pleased with Rep. Allen Peake, and Sen. Staton is also in a bit of hot water. For those of you who do not live in Macon, there is a controversial plan in place to expand Forest Hill Road, a winding, shaded road through a residential neighborhood in North Macon.

Lee Martin says that Peake offered to set up a meeting with GaDOT officials to communicate the concerns of the neighborhood group. Instead, he invited two of the commissioners (Bishop and Richardson) who support the current plan to come to the meeting and invited exactly no one representing the other side of the argument. Forest Hill neighbors are none too happy, and I'm wondering which of the neighbors may now have their eye on Peake's seat.

Here's a portion of Lee Martin's email on the subject:

Three weeks ago, as did many of you, I attended Charlie Bishop’s “listening” forum at the Museum of Arts and Sciences, ( I sat behind State Representative Allen Peake, who represents District 137 which includes FHR. I had all I could take of County Commission Chair Charlie Bishop's lack of knowledge and misrepresentations about the FHR project. I started to leave and Rep. Peake stopped me with a request to “please don’t leave yet, I have something to say and I want you to hear it.” He went on to publicly state that he and Senator Cecil Staton were going to Atlanta the next Monday to visit Harold Linnenkohl and “take the concerns of the FHR neighborhood to GaDOT.” In a conversation after the meeting, in four or five e-mail conversations, and one phone conversation before the trip, he mentioned over and over that he and Senator Staton were going and also that Larry Walker, the Georgia State Transportation board member for our district was going and would meet them there. He indicated that he planned to ask DOT to put the project on hold for five years until the city and county could study the impact of new demographics occurring within the county and he said he would ask for the moratorium and “only intersection improvements and resurfacing.” All of these requests were agreeable to the neighborhood and residents. In fairness, he said, “He could make no promises”, but he didn’t indicate he was taking all the "opposition"!!

That unfortunately is not what happened and this is what we know:

From conversations with someone whom I know that is intimately connected with GaDOT, from written records that we have obtained under an Open Records Request from GaDOT, and by extrapolating from information that we have not been able to obtain because there were no minutes taken at the meeting, either by written record, or audio, and by information that was received, but portions “blacked out” (see attached) we can only deduce that because of the people “invited” and present at the meeting, and the lack of a written record, Rep. Peake never intended to “take the concerns of the neighborhood” to GaDOT, and in fact, misrepresented to me personally, and to others, his intentions to do so.

From what is shown in the “blacked out” document received from GaDOT, these people were present at the meeting and “signed in”: Charlie Bishop, County Commission Chairman; Elmo Richardson, County Commissioner who represents the FHR county district; Ken Sheets, the county engineer, Dallas “Van” Etheridge, Moreland-Altobelli (I’ve never known him to be called anything but Van!), and Steve Layson, the county’s Chief Administration Officer. The other names were “blacked out”, but one would have to assume that Rep. Peake and Rep. Staton were there!! Wouldn’t one.......? Charlie Bishop said at the county commissioners’ meeting the night after the Atlanta meeting that County Commission District II representative and County Vice-Chairman, Bert Bivins, was also present. I think that begs an important question as to why no one from the FHR neighborhood was invited to go, or why Commisioner Joe Allen, the remaining county commissioner and a supporter of a rational design for FHR was not invited, and more importantly, why no one from the city was invited?

My reliable DOT source, who although not present at the meeting, said the scuttlebutt around the agency, was that the delegation from Macon emphatically asked Commissioner Linnekohl to continue with the project as proposed.

I will not tell you how to feel about Rep. Allen Peake’s or Senator Cecil Staton’s actions, but I will tell you it has been a long time since I have felt so mislead and misrepresented. To have invited all the avowed "opposition" and none of the supporters for a reasonable solution to the FHR dilemma is just unconscionable.

Attached is a copy of the “blacked out” sign in sheet. Incredible, is it not? I only have the power of one vote, but I can assure you, Rep. Peake and Senator Staton, who represent my district, will not get my vote. Again, in all fairness, I never spoke to Senator Staton, but I can’t believe in my wildest imagination that he wasn’t complicit in this whole sorry duplicitous arrangement.

One can only wonder what their motive really was. Certainly it was not their publicly stated one. I will pray for these two politicians.

Lee Martin

Here's the document Martin refers to:

New Poll: Edwards Handily Leads Giuliani, Thompson

Today, a new Rasmussen poll again confirms that John Edwards is the most electable of all the Democratic candidates, besting Giuliani by nine points, Thompson by ten points and attracting 50% support in their latest national telephone survey. Edwards has consistently out-preformed other Democrats in general elections match-ups. We have a unique opportunity-perhaps a once in a generation opportunity-to nominate the candidate who is both the most progressive and the most likely to win. You can help do just that by making a contribution today. Your contributions, up to $250.00 will be matched by federal election funds, so there's no better time to give.

Friday, September 28, 2007

This is (Mostly) Good News

Republicans may be poised to beat themselves again. Maybe. Earlier this week, I wrote about a Republican effort to put a measure on the ballot to split California's electoral votes by congressional district-a move that could put twenty or more votes in the "R" column that otherwise would likely belong to the Democrat in the race. Well, thanks to GOP in-fighting, it looks as though California will remain a 'winner takes all' state in next year's fight for electoral votes. That's very good news for Democrats. (Thanks, Tom, for the tip.)

We may not be out of the woods, though. Efforts to suppress likely Democratic votes continue. Consider these examples:

Ohio and Florida, which provided the decisive electoral votes for President Bush's two razor-thin national election triumphs, have enacted laws that election experts say will help Republicans impede voting by Democratic-leaning minorities in 2008," McClatchy reports.The new Ohio law aimed at reducing voter fraud allows for "caging" -- "used in the past to target poor minorities in heavily Democratic precincts, entails sending mass mailings to certain voters and then using the undelivered letters to compile lists of voters for eligibility challenges." While Republican groups paid for caging efforts in the past, the new law makes the government pay for it. In Florida, the new law "stripped the state's 10.5 million registered voters of the right to contest challenges at the polls. Now a challenger need only swear to a "good faith belief" that a voter is ineligible to force the voter to file a provisional ballot."

The moral of the story? "Don't expect a fair fight."

Stop the Madness: Act Now

Do you believe that presidential elections should be publicly financed? John Edwards does, and yesterday he took the courageous step of opting to accept federal matching funds for this election, and he's the only leading candidate to do this, and tonight, I'm asking you to show your support for that decision by making a contribution to his campaign.

That means, if you contribute to John Edwards for President today, up to $250.00 of that contribution will be matched, so $10 becomes $20 and $250 becomes $500. So, how about it? While Hillary Clinton continues to rake in the money from Washington lobbyists, the only money that's good in the Edwards campaign is yours and mine. Your small change can make a big difference, and you can contribute on this secure web page.

So many of my progressive friends have told me that they support public financing of elections. Well, now is the time to step up the the plate and show that you will support the candidate who agrees with you. If you contribute before midnight on Sunday, it will be counted in what is sure to be a strong third quarter fundraising total for Sen. Edwards.

I have found it interesting in that today, on some "progressive" blogs, the Edwards team has been assailed for this decision. Not a terribly progressive attitude if you ask me. After all, Edwards is opting into a system that was established in the wake of Watergate to help stem the tide of corruption in elections and return control of the process to citizens like you and me. It's time to stop the madness and support the candidate who is, once again, leading-in the only way that really matters. It's one thing to talk about big, bold change and quite another to actually embrace big, bold change-right now, this year, in this election. Isn't that the kind of leadership you are looking for in a president?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Censor Verizon

Update: According to NARAL, Verizon Has Caved!
You can use your phone now.

If you buy cellphone service from Verizon, it's time to look for a different carrier. It seems that Verizon wireless is censoring text messages of its customers-messages they deem unsavory. Those include messages from NARAL.

Here's the text of the email:

I've got some bad news for you: even your cell phone isn't safe from censorship.
Last week Verizon Wireless deemed NARAL Pro-Choice America too "controversial" and "unsavory" to approve a short code for our text-messaging program.
Not familiar with the term "short code"? That's okay. The bottom line is that Verizon won't let its customers access our text-messaging program.
Verizon's decision sends chills down my spine. What kind of company would deny its customers who signed up to receive information the ability to use their cell phones to participate in our democracy? That's just wrong.
I've sent a letter to Verizon president and CEO Lowell McAdam asking him to end his company's policy. But Verizon hasn't contacted me with an official response - so now I'm asking for your help.
Please send your own message to Verizon opposing their decision today!
The principle at stake here is simple. Verizon Wireless' customers have every right to decide what actions to take with their phones, regardless of their political views.
If you think that Verizon, which controls 25 percent of the cell-phone market, has no business deciding what information their customers can and can't receive,
I hope you take action today.
Thank you for standing with us.
My best,

Nancy Keenan President NARAL Pro-Choice America
Visit the web address below to tell your friends about Verizon's censorship.
If you received this message from a friend, you can sign up for NARAL Pro-Choice America's Choice Action Network.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Biggest Loser

I just finished watching tonight's presidential debate, and while I readily admit my Edwards bias, he did an especially good job tonight. This was his best performance so far. He drew more than one "bright line" between himself and Clinton, beginning by differentiating his stand from hers on leaving combat troops in Iraq. Loved his "unto the least of these" choice of scripture. If you agree, there couldn't be a better time to toss some change his way.

On the other hand, I thought that Obama was the biggest loser. The pre-press indicated that he was going to go after Clinton, and he really did not. His answer about why he did not go to Jena was extremely weak. He said he was in Washington trying to bring an end to the Iraq war. Well, if not missing votes is so important, why did he not vote on the Iran resolution today? And why was he in Georgia for a fundraiser last week rather than being in Washington for a vote? I also heard a rumor-just a rumor-that disclosures will show he has spent a TON of his cash. And, to what advantage?

I also thought that this was Clinton weakest debate performance. She simply refused to answer some questions. And she's a Yankee's fan.

Elizabeth Edwards: We Can't Wait

I am dedicating this video to Congressman Jim Marshall. Our kids can't wait, Jim.
By the way, it is worth noting that John Edwards has stayed competative in Iowa despite the fact that he is not up on television yet. Clinton, Obama, Biden and, to some extent, Richardson have all been up on air. When he goes up, watch what happens.

For Those of You Who Want to Win....

I encourage you to read the article "Regaining the Rural Vote" in the National Review about what it's going to take to win, not just the Presidency, but seats in Congress in rural America.

The Magna Carta is Up for Sale

Of course it is. What a perfect metaphor for the current political environment.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Naked Yoga, Sex in Cars Poll

Yes, you read that right. I really don't know what's stranger-that these were questions in a phone poll I got tonight or that I actually answered-some of them.

Here's the deal. The phone rang about 8 pm, and an automated voice asked me to take a poll the results of which would be announced on national television. Okay, at this point, I'm thinking, "the MSNBC debate is tomorrow night, and this might be about the presidential, so let me stay on the phone long enough to give Edwards a bump."

After the standard demographic information, including political party, these questions were threaded in between questions about "right direction" or "wrong direction", Iran and the death penalty:

#1: "Have you ever been questioned by the FBI?"

#2: "If your neighbors were doing yoga in the nude in the backyard every morning, would you call the police or watch?

#3: "Have you ever had sex in a car."

They did not ask about sex in the Oval Office, cellphone conversations with madams while voting or solicitation of Congressional interns. And, no, there was no presidential preference asked.

Very strange indeed.


I could not possibly be more disappointed in my congressman than I am right now. Jim Marshall voted "no" on SCHIP. Flack has said it better than I can. I would like to say that I'm in shock, but I'm not. Marshall voted "no" on the last SCHIP bill that moved through the House.

Congressional Democrats are in real trouble. Bush has promised to veto this bill. If we do not come up with the margin needed to over ride the veto, then we are about to look as impotent on health care as we do in Iraq.

There are those who live in a fantasy land where the majority in an incompetent Congress with an approval rating of barely over 10% expands its margin at the next election and manages to get one of it's own members elected President. I don't live there. We are in real trouble not just in terms of whether or not we can win, but more importantly, in terms of whether or not we can lead.

"Sick in America: It can happen to you"--broadcast Thursday afternoon

The Oprah Winfrey Show, “Sick in America: It Can Happen to You,” will be broadcast nationally Thursday, September 27, at 4:00 pm local time (airtime in most areas) on ABC-TV affiliate stations (check your local TV program schedules for details).

Monday, September 24, 2007

But, I Did Get Three of These...

I got not one, not two, but THREE invitations to Bill Richardson's fundraiser on October 5th. All to "Amy Morton" at my home address. They might want to de-dup their list. These are expensive to print and mail! There were no surprises on the host committee, but I did get a couple of emails about the event for him at IBEW. While the GADCC website makes it clear that the $25 donation goes to the organization, not the candidate, Andre's post was not quite so clear, prompting some to ask me why these organizations were hosting a fundraiser for Richardson. Clearly, they are not, and I assume would offer a similar courtesy to other candidates. I think it's great that they are hosting him for a more public event before the fundraiser. We need to get as many of the candidates into Georgia as often as we can before the primary.

It's Called Debt

There's been a lot of yacking on the blogs today about a fundraiser Rep. Porter is having tomorrow. For the record, I didn't get an invitation either, and I haven't talked with him at all about the event. Also, I agree that bloggers should've been included in the press invite to the event. On the other hand, I'm glad to see him raising money. Money is one of the things-not the only thing-that stands between Democrats and victory in Georgia. If you look at states where the Democratic House and Senate caucuses have chipped away at the margins and regained the majority, the leadership of those caucuses made it their business to raise money-typically LOTS of money-whether or not their own races were contested. Our elected officials have to do that as well. As long as the caucus carries debt, we are operating with one hand tied behind our back when we try to get Democrats elected. So, while we box his ears for not inviting us to the party, let's not discourage him from raising the cash. We need it.

I Knew He Liked Islands...

Today, Mayor Jack Ellis issued a press release indicating that he has been appointed to serve on the advisory committee for the Jekyll Island Revitalization Group, one of the three entities considered to be "in the running" for the controversial development contract for the island.
The release claims that this "further solidifies Ellis as a pivotal and progressive municipal leader." I don't know about pivotal or progressive, but if they wanted a board member with lots of experience with controversy, they picked the right guy.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

If You Can

If You Can't Win, Cheat

Heading toward next year's general election, we'd all better remember the classic GOP mantra: if you can't win, cheat. The big corporate interests that fueled the neo-conservative rise to power stand to lose a great deal if Democrats take control of government, and they do not intend to go quietly. Let me be clear: I am not talking about rank and file republican voters here. I am talking about the big corporate interests and their lawyers who actually run the party and fund the campaigns. For them, this effort has never been about furthering democracy; it is about keeping great wealth in the pockets of a few. Period. It's really not more complicated than that. The rest of us better understand that this is a street fight, and they will respect no rules. They will throw a hand full of sand in our eyes and then start punching.

According the The New York Times and MyDD, they have already started gathering those first few fist-fulls of sand. The Times reports today about the possibility that California will move to split it's electoral votes, awarding them based on who wins a particular congressional district rather than the winner of the state taking all. The group that is leading this fight is headed by some of the same Republican trial lawyers who helped successfully litigate Bush v. Gore. They are gathering the signatures needed to get the measure on the ballot in June of 2008, and they are readying for the inevitable constitutional challenge should the measure pass. Why? Because if California splits it's electoral votes, then an estimated 20 electoral votes could be awarded to the GOP nominee, even if the Democrat wins the state. That is the equivalent of Ohio, and will be very hard for Democrats to overcome. Here's the story, In 2008, Bush v. Gore Redux?

MyDD points to an article, Tracking Political Prosecutions, by Scott Horton published today in Harper's Magazine. According the article, the Bush administration used the Department of Justice to target key potential funders of John Edwards and Hillary Clinton. The DOJ investigations focused on lawyers and included raids of their offices and threats of criminal prosecution. The purpose was to dry up a key source of funds for these likely presidential candidates. Here's an excerpt:
In the last two weeks, two sources, one of them inside of the Justice Department, have told me that a scheme was hatched in the upper echelons of the Bush Administration shortly after it took office in 2001 or early in 2002. The project identified John Edwards and Hilary Clinton as likely Democratic challengers to President Bush, and identified prominent trial lawyers around the United States as the likely financial vehicle for Edward’s rise. It directed that their campaign finance records be fly-specked, and that offenses not be treated as administrative matters but rather as serious criminal offenses.

This is Watergate on steroids.

Friday, September 21, 2007

New Poll: Edwards Strongest Dem in Key States

How well I remember election day 2004. In the afternoon, we were elated as exit polls leaked indicating Kerry was well ahead in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Even Florida was within reach, or so we thought. I worked all day as a poll watcher in Bibb, and after the polls closed, Daryl and I headed toward Atlanta to watch the returns come in on the big screens with other dems. As the evening progressed, the early predictions fell apart, Ohio was colored red, we had lost another national election, and the three years that have followed have been worse than I imagined-and I knew it would be bad.

It was awful, and in November of 2008 I don't want a sequel. That's a key reason why John Edwards gets my support for President. While his policy proposals have been early and detailed, the truth is that all the leading Democrats are fairly close on policy. But, Edwards can win and has coattails in rural areas that help other Democrats-like Warner, Marshall and Barrow-win, too. For instance, a new SurveyUSA poll indicates that Edwards is the Democrat who is strongest in the critical swing state of Ohio. In 2004, a blue Ohio would've put John Kerry in the White House. Add states like Virginia to the blue team, and we just might acheive an electoral margin that would get everyone to bed-or to the party-by midnight.

This Smells a Little

The open records act request below hit my email this afternoon, and I have to say, this smells a bit. Lindsay Holliday seems to think that Rep. Allen Peake and three of our five Bibb County Commissioners had a meeting with officials at GDOT without notifying the public. I'm not sure if this meeting was an effort on the part of Peake to advocate for the people in his district. If so, notice would've been a good thing. Here's the letter:

From: Holliday Dental []
Sent: Friday, September 21, 2007 1:56 PM
To: Steve LaysonCc:; Joe Allen; Lauren L. Benedict
Subject: Open Records Request - Meeting 9/17/07

Steve Layson
Chief Administrative Officer
Bibb County Board of Commissioners

Re: Open Records Request - Meeting 9/17/07

Dear Mr Layson,

It is my understanding that three (3) Bibb Commissioners were present at the meeting with Rep Peake & GDOT, in Atlanta on Monday, Sept 17th 2007. The Commissioners discussed the Macon-Bibb RIP - Roads Improvement Program, and its SPLOST monies. They also specifically discussed their policy and financial commitments to the design of the $17Million proposed expansion of Forest Hill Road. Any 3 Bibb County Commissioners constitutes a quorum. The Georgia Sunshine Law requires that whenever a quorum meets, the public shall receive advance notice of the meeting, and minutes shall be taken and made available to the public. I am hereby requesting a copy of the minutes of the meeting of the Bibb County Commissioners who did meet in Atlanta with the Ga DOT on September 17th, 2007. Thanka, Lindsay
PS - this is a follow-up to citizen requests at the regular scheduled meeting if the Bibb Commission on 9-18-07 here:

The plan to widen Forest Hill Road in Macon is a hot local issue, and one that I have not studied closely. Forest Hill Road is a winding road through a residential area, and it is beautifully lined with trees. I have traveled on that road frequently, and rarely recall being delayed in traffic. It appears to me that the road needs some repairs-there are lots of potholes, and there are a couple of intersections, particularly one at Ridge and Forest Hill, that need to be revamped. But, along with most residents of the area, I cannot comprehend why there is a need for a vast widening project. There was a time when the thought was that this was a road people would use to get to and from the Macon Mall. Well, the Mall as we know it is about to be history as a new mall is constructed in North Bibb. It will be interesting to see the response to this request.

Is the NYT Shrill, Too?

Writing today for the New York Times, Paul Krugman, says
Senator Clinton delayed a long time before coming out with her own plan — a delay that created a lot of anxiety among health care reformers, and may, as I’ll explain in a minute, be a bad omen for the future. Still, this week she did deliver a plan, and it’s as strong as the Edwards plan — because unless you get deep into the fine print, the Clinton plan basically is the Edwards plan.

Over the last week, the Edwards campaign has been effectively holding Hillary Clinton's feet to the fire on health care. The issue is not the substance of her plan, but, rather, the timing of her plan. The truth is that John Edwards led on this issue in February-just as he has led on virtually every issue. While Hillary Clinton was talking about incremental steps, John Edwards published a comprehensive, workable plan to cover every American. Now, Clinton, seven months later, published a plan-one that is remarkably similar to the Edwards' plan. Any why not? It's an excellent plan. The Clinton campaign appears to be pushing back by focusing, not on any plan, but instead, on Elizabeth Edwards suggesting that she is "attacking" Hillary and is becoming "shrill." (For those of you who don't know, "shrill" and "attacking" are words people toss about in an effort to shut up strong, smart women-especially when they are both right and effective.) So, is Krugman "shrill," too?

It's not a problem that Clinton's plan so closely mirrors what Edwards proposed seven months ago. The Edwards plan is the best plan, and it makes perfect sense for her to emulate it. The question is, why did it take her so long? Krugman has a thought about that as well:
...even if the Democrats take the White House and expand their Congressional majorities, the insurance and drug lobbies will try to bully them into backing down on their campaign promises.
That’s why the long delay before Senator Clinton announced her health care plan made supporters of universal care, myself included, so nervous — a nervousness that is not completely assuaged by the fact that she finally did deliver. It’s good to know that whoever gets the Democratic nomination will run on a very good health care plan. What remains is the question of whether he or she will have the determination to turn that plan into reality.

For the first time in my memory, in John Edwards, we have an opportunity to nominate a Democrat who is both the most electable and the most progressive. John Edwards is not in bed with the lobbyists for the industries that hope to derail universal health care. Hillary Clinton is still taking their money. She says that the money won't impact her resolve to reform health care, but you have to wonder. With Edwards, there is no question about his resolve.

They're Speaking Our Language

If Democrats have learned anything over the last eight years, we have learned that once we use their language, they have won the debate. Well, Republicans are now using our language. This week, the Bush Administration used the words "universal health care," and for the first time in my memory, no expletive followed. Here's the quote from TPM Cafe:

Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said President Bush wants to achieve universal health care before he leaves office.
Leavitt told the USA TODAY editorial board that Bush will veto a Democratic plan emerging from Congress that would add $35 billion in taxpayer subsidies to the Children's Health Insurance Program over five years. In doing so, Leavitt said, Bush will urge Congress to join him in seeking coverage for all Americans.
"He'd like to see the larger debate begin," Leavitt said. "The very best opportunity we have may well be in the next 15 months."

I'd say that this idea is now officially mainstream.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Fred Had a Bad Day

It was a rough day for Fred Thompson, the "Johnny I'm Coming, I'm Coming, I Swear I'm Coming Lately" savior of the GOP's casting call for a remake of "Grumpy Old Men."

Per Talking Points Memo, in a private email obtained by the Associated Press, Fred got this critique from none other than Focus on the Family's James Dobson:
Isn't Thompson the candidate who is opposed to a Constitutional amendment to protect marriage, believes there should be 50 different definitions of marriage in the U.S., favors McCain-Feingold, won't talk at all about what he believes, and can't speak his way out of a paper bag on the campaign trail?" Dobson wrote.
"He has no passion, no zeal, and no apparent 'want to.' And yet he is apparently the Great Hope that burns in the breasts of many conservative Christians? Well, not for me, my brothers. Not for me!"

Not for me, either, James.

Help Us, Jim Marshall, You're Our Only Hope

During the last legislative session, I was so proud when Marshall addressed the General Assembly and told them that he was confident that Congress would certainly reauthorize the SCHIP program and would likely even expand it. Now, we need Congressman Marshall to vote "yes" to reauthorize the program and side with working families in Georgia. I don't know how he plans to vote, but he needs to hear from Georgians.

This is important, critical, really. It's time to act. Please call or email Congressman Jim Marshall and ask him to vote 'yes' to expand and reauthorize SCHIP. The vote in the House is likely to be on Tuesday. Marshall's is a key swing vote on this issue. He was one of only ten Democrats to vote 'no' on an earlier version of the bill. We need his vote, not just to pass this critical legislation, but to send a message to Bush that a veto is unacceptable.

This is his email address, and he needs to hear from all of us:

Here's what I know, courtesy of First Focus:

...An agreement on a framework for SCHIP re-authorization has been reached by the House and the Senate leadership. Congress intends to send a bill to the President before the program's September 30th expiration date. While the details of the agreement have not been released, we understand that the bill will closely resemble the $35 billion Senate-passed bill, S. 1893, which includes a 61-cent tobacco tax and covers approximately 4 million new uninsured children. As expected, the Medicare provisions that were part of the House-passed CHAMP Act (H.R. 3162) will be stripped from the bill to be taken up in a separate measure later this fall. While the agreement tracks more closely with the Senate bill, we understand that key provisions from the House bill are part of the agreement, e.g. the agreement includes the House funding formula with a cap and the House dental benefit. While negotiations are ongoing and staff did not offer any sort of comprehensive review of the agreement that has been reached, in answering a very limited number of questions from advocates we learned that some of the provisions in the current agreement include the following:
§ Address in some manner the August 17th CMS letter;
§ Includes some “blended” provision on citizenship documentation requirements;
§ Includes some “conceptual agreement” on Express Lane Eligibility;
§ Includes some form of mental health parity;
§ Tracks the Senate bill on parent coverage and pregnant women.

We expect that details will continue to trickle out but that we won’t see the final agreement until early next week.


The House leadership says the bill will be taken up by the House Rules Committee on Monday, followed by a House floor vote on Tuesday. The bill will then be taken up by the Senate. To be sent to the White House by the end of the week.

Get Dialing!!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

SEIU and John Edwards

SEIU met this week, heard from the presidential candidates, polled their members and discussed endorsement. The buzz on the blogs is that while SEIU is officially mum on the results, Edwards won the straw poll; however, as expected, the executive committee is going to take their time with the endorsement process and will hear from the three top contenders-Edwards, Clinton and Obama next Monday about their strategy for winning the election.

Most did not expect that there would be an endorsement today. The sense is that it's early and the race is very fluid. There is some speculation that SEIU may not endorse at all, but regardless, Edwards has strong support among the members of SEIU, and if the report that he won the straw poll is accurate, then that can translate to critical support on the ground. We'll see what happens on Monday!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"GREAT" tax plan produces more questions than answers

[submitted by Tina Simms, contributor from Perry]

Today (Tuesday, Sept. 18) I attended the Georgia Municipal Association's meeting at the Bd. of Educ. auditorium in Perry. The presenters were Jay Powell, president of the GMA and Mayor of Camilla, and Lamar Norton, lobbyist for the GMA. They pointed out that this issue is not about Republicans vs. Democrats. It affects everyone.

Here is my understanding of the highlights of their presentations:

The GMA opposes Speaker Glenn Richardson's proposal for the following reasons, which all have to do with the realities of fiscal management, particularly the loss of local control by cities and counties over local expenditures and goals. Much of the incentive for counties to seek new industries (to help their tax base) would be removed.

According to the GMA, for many Georgians, Richardson's "GREAT Plan" proposal is a tax shift, not a tax break. In fact, broadening taxes on sales and services would even be a tax increase for many Georgians without their really knowing exactly how much they are paying in taxes. There would be no assured way for cities to fund new or expanded services as demanded by the community. Financial issues which are currently decided on the municipal or county level would be decided by the state, or might have to go before the legislature for a vote.

One mayor of a rapidly growing "bedroom community" who attended the meeting said that his town is largely dependent upon ad valorem taxes.

Many questions were raised by members of the audience about what services will be taxed in our "service economy." There are so many services, everything from medical to legal to architecture and engineering to getting a haircut or a massage or a pedicure.

And what about for-pay educational services...private school tuition, cheerleading camp, music lessons, dance lessons, karate lessons, paying for the SAT or the ACT ? Attending an Elderhostel? Attending a training forum?

It was pointed out that many medical patients (including myself) are on Medicare. So, who picks up the tax bill? It would have to be the doctor or the patient. Surely not Medicare !! And if you go to the hospital and have $10K in surgery---what part gets taxed, the deductible that you paid or the whole bill. Hmmmm.....we won't even go into Medicaid or nursing home services which are billable to Medicaid or to the patient or patient's family.

Answers...that's what everyone wants. And that's what is not forthcoming. According to the GMA, the written details will not be available until right before the next legislative session. Thus nobody, including the legislators, will have ample time to study all of the byzantine details.

We have heard from the GMA and the Georgia School Board Association, both of which oppose Richardson's plan. Where are the voices of big providers of services? What are large professional organizations doing? They may be saving their lobbying dollars to try to get exemptions during the frenzy that will follow if the "GREAT plan" becomes law.

The biggest question for the voter remains: How will your state representative or your state senator vote?....and what will be their rationale for voting yea or nay ?
What you should do is write and ask them both questions, NOW.

I Am Livid

Governor Perdue is offended, and I am livid. Yesterday, the PBS program "Now" shined a spotlight on the looming crisis for SCHIP, the federal program that under girds Georgia's PeachCare program and provides the working poor with access to affordable health insurance. (H/T to Trackboy1)

Enrollment in Georgia's PeachCare program has been frozen since March, waiting for the re- authorization of SCHIP. While Democrats in Congress want to continue or expand the SCHIP program, many GOP members, including some of our own, keep wringing their hands and saying the words "socialized medicine" over and over and over. And, the threat of a presidential veto looms.

What PBS did so well yesterday was to put a human face on the crisis, focusing on a single mother in McDonough and another Georgia family with a teen with Type I diabetes, over $900 a month in expenses and no way to pay for her medicine. The politicians in the piece, Gov. Perdue and Nathan Deal, played the game of pass the buck. Gov. Perdue, when asked what he would tell these families, initially replied that they needed to contact their congressman. When the interviewer suggested that would not get this teen the insulin she needs to sustain her life every day, Gov. Perdue actually said that he "took offense" at being asked to address the plight of a specific person. He takes "offense." And he won't be held responsible for that. When the health care debate happens around tables laden with $50 lunches bought by insurance company executives, the outcome is predictable. There, it is easy to ignore the real cost of failing to provide access, but we are talking about people's lives-children's' lives. The video is on the web, and well worth watching.

If aiding the children of the working poor by giving them a chance to buy health insurance at an affordable price is not the role of government, then I don't know what is. This debate over SCHIP is the tip of the iceberg. I believe that access to health care is quickly becoming the great civil rights issue of our time. What can be more basic to our civil liberties than the opportunity to survive and the the suggestion that income should not be the determining factor in whether or not someone has access that opportunity?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Elizabeth Edwards: Headed to Atlanta

This is your reminder that Elizabeth Edwards will be in Atlanta on Wednesday, September 19th for a luncheon fundraiser. This is definitely a "don't miss" event, but you need to make your reservation tonight or tomorrow. Make your reservation by clicking here.

Please join us for lunch with

Elizabeth Edwards

103 West Restaurant
103 West Paces Ferry Road
Atlanta, GA 30305
Wednesday, September 19th, 2007
12:00 PM

Event Chair: $2,300 (Private Reception)Host: $1,000 (Private Reception)
Sponsor: $500
Friend: $250

*Maximum contribution per individual is $4,600, $2,300 for the primary and $2,300 for the general

Melissa Mullinax Abbott * Marie & Roy Barnes * Lauren Benedict *Stephanie & Rob Benfield * Jeff Bramlett * Jim Butler *Melanie & Chuck Byrd * Martin Chitwood * Robin Frazer Clark *Carol Cooper * Melita Easters * Karen & Jon Hawk * Steve Leeds *Steve Lore * Ron Lowry * Kathy McArthur & Waldo Floyd *Adam Malone * Tommy Malone * Toni & Tim Morrison *Amy & Daryl Morton * Fred Orr * Carmen & Geoff Pope * Marion Pope *Elisabeth & Buck Rogers * Tim Santelli * Kiran & Shi Shailendra *Karen & Glenn Sturm * Sacha & Mark Taylor * Teresa & Trip Tomlinson *Lyle & Michael Warshauer
* Host Committee in formation

For more information or to RSVP, please contact Liz Pavle at 919-636-3211 or or 1 9B

Paid for by John Edwards for President.Contributions to John Edwards for President are not deductible for federal income tax purposes.

John Edwards : We Didn't Get Healthcare, We Got NAFTA

Today, addressing the Laborers Leadership Convention in Chicago, John Edwards pressed Hillary Clinton on her newly unveiled health care plan. Today, Clinton became the third Democrat to unveil a plan for universal health care. Sen. Edwards led on this this issue by being the first of the candidates to announce a plan and provide the details. Today, Edwards took Clinton to task for continuing to take money from some of the same interests who help derail her 1993 plan. Edwards said:

"The cost of failure 14 years ago isn't anybody's scars or political fortune, it's the millions of Americans who have now gone without health care for more than 14 years and the millions more still crushed by the costs."

Edwards was referring, of course, to Clinton's typical "I have the scars to prove it" retort when challenged about her failed efforts on health care in 1993 and her advocacy for inviting special interests to the table now. To the labor union audience, Edwards pointed out that in 1993, the President (Clinton) strongly supported universal health care, none the less, thanks to the influence of lobbyists and special interests, we didn't get health care, but we did get NAFTA.

Edwards attempted to put bite in his growl today by saying that when he is elected, he will submit legislation that ends health care coverage for the president, all members of congress and all senior political appointees on July 20, 2009, unless we have passed universal health care. I don't imagine he's going to find a whole lot folks in Congress lining up to support that legislation....but, he made his point. What's good enough for the rest of us, is good enough for politicians in Washington.

HD 127: Democrat Bonnie Byrd Gardner

This is no ordinary candidate. A career educator, Bonnie Byrd Gardner is running in a special election to fill the HD 127 seat of republican Rep. Mack Crawford. I had an opportunity to talk with her on the phone a couple of weeks ago, and while we don't agree on everything, I was most impressed. Gardner has spent her life in the Pike County school system as a teacher, counselor and, ultimately as interim superintendent. She is running in large part because of the neglect of public education by the legislature. This a smart, articulate women who has earned a doctoral degree in education. She is a Democrat and describes herself as "a born again Christian" who is "pro-life." One of the interesting tidbits she shared with me was that her husband, who lived in Florida at the time, was a key support of Ross Perot. She has two republican opponents, but just might be in a position to win this seat. Here's her press release:

MEANSVILLE, Ga. – Democrat Bonnie Byrd Gardner, a resident of Pike County, announced her candidacy for the Georgia House of Representatives today. Gardner, who is the former Interim Superintendent for the Pike County Board of Education, is originally from Thomaston. In her campaign, Gardner is concentrating on several issues, including maintaining health care for the children of working families through Georgia's PeachCare program. "I know from being a teacher that an unhealthy child is a child that cannot learn and succeed," said Gardner. Gardner is also focusing her campaign on protecting the state employees' retirement system and bringing more resources to rural areas for emergency preparedness, especially volunteer fire departments. She would also work to give senior citizens some tax relief.Another concern she has is that so many industries have left our state for out-of-country production. We need more job training for the people who have lost their jobs, and those companies who have left need to be strongly encouraged to return. "A vote for me is a vote for the people, especially those who feel like the state government is ignoring their concerns," said Gardner. "I'm ready to get to work serving the people of the 127th District."This is Gardner's first foray into the political arena. She spent 24 years in the Pike County Schools as a teacher, counselor, and administrator and also worked for a short time in the Thomaston-Upson Schools. In 2004, she was asked to serve as Pike county's Interim Superintendent of Schools. She has also served her community as a member of numerous non-profit organizations, including as Past President of the Pike County Council on Child Abuse, President of the Pike County Retired Educators Association, Past President of Georgia Compensatory Educational Leaders, and as a member of the Georgia School Counselors Association, and the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders.Gardner lives in Meansville with her husband, Bill. They are active members of Meansville Baptist Church, and they co-chair the Survivor Activities for Relay for Life in Pike County. Bonnie has five children and stepchildren, and seven grandchildren.If you would like to be part of the Committee to Elect Bonnie Byrd Gardner, please call (770) 567-3503.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Hometown Guy Does Good

Based on the recommendation of a friend, I picked up a copy of "The Argument: Billionaires, Bloggers and the Battle to Remake Democratic Politics" by Matt Bai, and have been reading it this afternoon. I noticed in the acknowledgements that Matt has some awfully nice things to day about one of Macon's own, Jay Carson. Bai, calls Jay, who has worked for both Tom Daschle and Bill Clinton, "one of the great young talents in the Democratic Party." Some of you from Macon will remember Jay and his parents who now live in North Carolina. Jay's dad, Jim, was an attorney here for years and active in Democratic politics.

On a separate note, the book is a very interesting look at the evolution of the modern progressive movement and it's impact on the Democratic Party. Just published in 2007, it's filled with campaign trail stories and covers the 2006 Democratic takeover of Congress, so it is an interesting read that makes a compelling point. Here's a quote to get you started:

I was surprised to discover, as I tried to understand the progressive revolt, that most of it's leaders were trying to understand it, too. What they were still searching for in those early days of the movement was an argument, some compelling case for the future of American government. They aspired to win, but to what end?....

A kind of lingering unease shadows the land, and the movement that dominates the next generation of American politics will be the one not that exploits this emotion, nor that tries to soothe it away but that articulates some new and persuasive argument for how we meet the future.

Hold the Phone!

Call it my pet peeve, but I REALLY HATE getting robocalls on my cellphone. I especially hate it when I get robocalls on my cellphone for RACES I CAN'T VOTE IN. Neither I, not my cellphone (with a 478 area code) live in Fulton County, yet, today, I got a call on my cellphone asking me to vote on Tuesday for the new entity, South Fulton.

That's some fine targeting going on there.

"Issues associated with replacing the property tax with state grants"

The Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University has published a policy brief (July 2007, Number 157) entitled "Issues associated with replacing the property tax with state grants." You can find the brief at
It's just four pages long and well worth printing and reading. "This policy brief presents a set of issues and questions that should be considered as the state considers the elimination of local property taxes and their replacement with state grants....This brief focuses on the issues that arise in reducing local government fiscal discretion and establishing a state grant program to replace the lost revenue...."

Friday, September 14, 2007

Travis Fain is Being Funny

Get your Friday giggles here.

A Perspective From Mars

I get that this is a Georgia political blog, but this war impacts Georgia. We have many bases here, and many troops there. Most of our congressional delegation (including Marshall and Barrow) support the President on the war, as do both of our senators. So, on the heels of last night's declaration that we are in Iraq to stay, grant me just one more post.

James Fallows at The has a great "man from Mars" perspective on the speech and on the various responses to it. It is well worth the read. He crowned John Edwards and Michael Ware (CNN reporter) the "stars" of the night, and I would have to agree. I don't know how many of you saw the CNN coverage, but Ware was on with Anderson Cooper, and he took on the President like a laser guided missile, tearing apart his argument sentence by sentence, from the perspective of someone who has been reporting from the ground in Iraq for a very long time. Here's a portion:

How long has John Edwards been sounding like this? Wow!
Of the three Democratic responses to the president in this hour on CNN -- Jack Reed, Barack Obama, plus Edwards -- Edwards was by a mile the most impressive. To apply the Man from Mars perspective: if you'd heard of none of these politicians before, based on this sequence you'd immediately assume that Edwards was the dominant one from either party (including the actual president)...Those crisp arguments were all, and only, what Edwards presented. I don't have a transcript, but the gist was: we're patrolling a civil war, nothing matters without political progress, and that's not happening; it's shameful to keep making the link to 9/11 that does not exist, etc. Compared with the last time I'd seen Edwards handling foreign policy questions on live TV, he has come a very long way in knowledge, ability and confidence..
From Obama, the opposite surprise: when did he start sounding like a Senator? So many vagued-up sentences and so little pith? Is this why people have been saying that he's not been doing so well in the debates?
And of course, I have no idea how Hillary Clinton would have sounded in this lineup...

Remember when Anderson Cooper made his break to the big time, thanks largely to his genuinely-outrage-seeming, borderline-impolite questioning of federal officials about Hurricane Katrina? "Brownie" and others would say: we're doing our best. Anderson Cooper (and others) would say: what the hell are you talking about?? There are bodies floating down the street!
That was Michael Ware's approach to the claims in Bush's speech. Is Iraq returning to normal life? Oh, sure, if normal means living in the dark most of the time, huddling for fear of being shot, etc etc etc. There are moments in journalism that can't be faked, when reporters on the ground are so disgusted by what they hear from remote official spokesmen that they just can't contain themselves. That was Ware's reaction this evening, and in a way it was the most important response to the speech.

Over the last month, John Edwards' message has become more clear, more focused and much less guarded. I am thrilled to hear him speaking truth to power, calling it like he sees it and again, leading. A President is, first and foremost, a leader.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Are We in Iraq Forever?

Last night, Daryl and I went to a local restaurant for a quick dinner, and our waiter recognized me as "Tyler's mom." Jeremy, in his early 20's, is a friend of my son's, and Jeremy told us he'd just joined the Marines. His recruiter told him that, most likely, he's headed for Baghdad after he finishes his Paris Island training next month. No real surprise there, but, as I listened to Bush tonight, I didn't think about some generic soldier-I thought about Jeremy.

Tonight, the President said that we will be in Iraq for the foreseeable future, much as we are in Korea. I have believed for a long time that if this administration had it's way, we would be in Iraq from now on (how else can we babysit the middle east's oil?). Tonight, Bush said as much. I wonder what that will mean for Jeremy? Will his tour be much longer than expected? I'm not fine with that, and neither is John Edwards, who spent some significant campaign treasure to make that point tonight. There is an alternative to Bush's plan. Here's what John Edwards spent his two minutes saying:

Edwards Tonight: Unprecedented Address to the Nation

As Tina pointed out earlier today, John Edwards has purchased two minutes of airtime on MSNBC to address the nation following President Bush's remarks about Iraq. Unlike Clinton and Obama, the Edward's campaign doesn't have millions to burn. But, true to form, John Edwards is taking a bold step and doing what is right as opposed to what is easy. He knows that Bush will stand up for the status quo. John Edwards will be standing up for us. Be sure to tune in to hear what Sen. Edwards has to say. This would be a GREAT time to chip in a dew dollars to defray the cost of this address. I don't know what two minutes of national airtime on MSNBC costs, but it ain't cheap. But, it is about time someone stood up for us.

Will you help? Click here to contribute. And tune in tonight. Here's full information:

Tonight, after President Bush makes yet another argument for continuing the war in Iraq, John Edwards will speak directly to the American people in a nationwide address on MSNBC.Our campaign has bought airtime on MSNBC immediately following the President's address at 9 p.m., and John Edwards will challenge the President's remarks with a strong call to the nation to end the war now.Please watch in that timeframe—and forward this e-mail to your friends, asking them to watch as well. Each of us has a responsibility to make sure that President Bush and Congress understand that the time for excuses has run out. John Edwards will deliver a strong message tonight on our behalf. It's time to end this war and bring our troops home.Buying this kind of airtime is expensive. But we believe that President Bush's address must be countered with a strong voice in opposition to the failed policies that have kept our troops in harm's way for far too long. Tonight, John Edwards will continue to lead, and make the case to the nation that we cannot wait for an election to change course in Iraq—we as citizens must make Washington understand that the time to end this war is now.Don't miss John's address tonight on MSNBC, immediately following the President.President Bush will be on every network for free tonight. Our campaign will have to pay for the time on MSNBC so that John Edwards can challenge the President's failed policies. Please consider making a contribution to the campaign—to help us meet the costs of paying for tonight's address—and to help John's campaign continue to grow.

Thanks for all you do,--Joe Trippi Senior Advisor, John Edwards for President

September 13, 2007

John Edwards on MSNBC tonight

Don't miss John Edwards rebuttal speech after Pres. Bush's speech tonight. Edwards will address the nation on MSNBC after the President concludes his talk.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

New Rules

We need new rules for our elections, and tonight, I found just the right list. When my mother died in 2002, she left each of her daughters a folder of memories-certificates, papers, cards, newspaper clippings-things that would make us remember, laugh and think. This is not a fancy scrapbook, but instead just a manila folder tied with a piece of twine. I came across that folder tonight and in it found the purple mimeographed list of rules for candidates from when I ran for student government office at East Rutherford High School in Forest City, NC. I share these with you, and propose that we use these rules-or at least the principles behind them-for our "real" elections. Imagine the difference it would make! Here's you go:


1. No candidate is allowed to spend over $10.00 on his or her campaign. The candidate must present his receipts for expenditures to the Student Council Advisor before he will be allowed to present his campaign speech.

2. Any candidate must maintain a "C" average or above.

3. No candidate will be allowed to register for an office after April 15th at 3:05 P.M. Campaigns officially begin Monday, April 26 at 8:30 A.M. The election is Friday, April 30.

3. Campaign posters may be placed: (1) One per candidate in the concession area; (2) Two per candidate in the lunchroom, one regular size and one not more than six feet long; (3) President and Vice President candidates are allowed a qualification poster in the D.E. display window. If picture is used, it must be a recent one.

4. Posters found elsewhere will be taken down.

5. Good judgment should be used in making posters.

6. Speeches: (1) All speeches must be approved by Mrs. Dawkins and the Student Body President; (2) Candidates will be allowed five minutes for speeches.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Rep.Tony Sellier

Prayers and good wishes to Rep. Sellier and his family. We understand that he is having surgery to remove tumors from his lung. Best wishes for a good outcome and speedy recovery.

Pledge Doesn't Stop Clinton

Hillary Clinton should know that Iowa voters don't do "technicalities," yet, despite signing the pledge to skip campaigning in states that are trying to break DNC rules and jump ahead in the primary line, Hillary Clinton held six events in Florida on Monday, five fundraisers and one political, the Quad-City Times of Davenport, Iowa reported today. The article points out that Florida is technically not in violation at this time because they have until later this month to pick a new primary date, so Clinton technically did not break her promise. Technically. This is what the past chair of the Iowa Democratic Party had to say:
“It’s not immoral. It’s not improper, per se,” said Dave Nagle, the former Iowa Democratic chairman. “But it does raise the suspicion of how sincere they were when they said they wouldn’t campaign in those states.”

Such suspicion is the problem with technicalities, and that is particularly a problem for Clinton who already set off a firestorm in Iowa when an internal memo urging her to skip the Iowa caucuses leaked from her campaign.

Between finishing third in the Texas e-primary (which John Edwards won handily), returning over 850K in allegedly improper campaign donations, and this bit of news, Sen. Clinton has not had a great news day.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Elizabeth Edwards in Atlanta!

Please join us for lunch with

Elizabeth Edwards

103 West Restaurant
103 West Paces Ferry Road
Atlanta, GA 30305
Wednesday, September 19th, 2007
12:00 PM

Event Chair: $2,300 (Private Reception)
Host: $1,000 (Private Reception)
Sponsor: $500
Friend: $250
*Maximum contribution per individual is $4,600,
$2,300 for the primary and $2,300 for the general

Melissa Mullinax Abbott * Jody Andrade * Marie & Roy Barnes *Lauren Benedict * Stephanie & Rob Benfield * Jeff Bramlett *Tamara & Brendon Briggs * Jim Butler * Melanie & Chuck Byrd* Martin Chitwood * Robin Frazer Clark * Carol Cooper * Melita Easters *Karen & Jon Hawk * Steve Leeds * Steve Lore * Ron Lowry* Kathy McArthur & Waldo Floyd * Adam Malone * Tommy Malone *Toni & Tim Morrison * Amy & Daryl Morton * Fred Orr * Marion Pope *Carmen & Geoff Pope * Elisabeth & Buck Rogers * Tim SantelliKiran & Shi Shailendra * Karen & Glenn Sturm * Sacha & Mark Taylor *Robert Teilhet *Teresa & Trip Tomlinson * Lyle & Michael Warshauer

*Host Committee in formation

For more information or to RSVP, please contact Liz Pavle at 919-636-3211 or or
Paid for by John Edwards for President.Contributions to John Edwards for President are not deductible for federal income tax purposes

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Speaking of Ending It...

It's time for Georgia lawmakers to get out of bed with lobbyists-and I mean that only figuratively, I swear. Georgia needs to follow the example of neighboring states that strictly limit what lobbyists can spend on lawmakers. It is insulting to voters when our elected representatives argue that those who wine, dine and finance trips for them have no greater influence than the average citizen. Earth to lawmakers: we're not that dumb.

Shouldn't Georgia Democrats be the party that says "no more?" Sure, Democrats introduced legislation last year to cap lobbyist spending, and that bill went exactly no where, but how about we lead by example? How about we declare that we are the party that represents the people of Georgia, not special interests and big corporations who can afford to pay lobbyists to wine and dine legislators?* My point is that Democrats do not need a new law to say "no more" on this issue. They can, today, decide that they will self-impose a cap on what lobbyists spend on them. Several of our local lawmakers, notably, Sen. Brown and Rep. Lucas, seem to have already done just that. It's time to lead on this issue, and I'm giving some serious thought to leading myself. Why should I contribute to any lawmaker who is also taking contributions and perks from lobbyists?

(*By the way, if Richardson gets his way with the Great Big Tax on Everything, will the services lobbyists provide be subject to sales tax?)

What got me started on this issue again today? The AJC has a piece the summer trips financed by lobbyists for lawmakers.

What if your summer schedule included trips to posh resorts at St. Simons, Ponte Vedra Beach, Grand Cayman and Asheville, with some trips literally back to back? Rough life, right? Rep. Roger Williams seems to think so. Today, James Salzer with the AJC has a piece about the trips lobbyists provided for various lawmakers over the summer, including picking up a $20,000 tab for the Republican House Caucus's retreat at the King and Prince in St. Simons. (For the record, it's my understanding that the Democratic House Caucus Retreat was in Dubose Porter's barn. Not exactly the King and Prince, and a bit more down to earth. ) So entrenched is the culture of coziness with lobbyists and the industries they represent that in order to ensure equal footing, The University System of Georgia no less was among the biggest spenders at the Capitol during session. Isn't there just something inherently wrong with a system that has the state lobbying itself for a slice of the pie? The average citizen doesn't stand a chance in this high stakes, high dollar industry.

But, fear not, says Rep. Roger Williams of Dalton, those who wine, dine and pay for these extravagant trips have no advantage over average citizens. (I feel better, don't you?) As Chairman of Regulated Industries, he was "flat worn out" after attending one beach side conference after another this summer. I don't know how he had any energy left to listen to average citizens. According to the AJC:

First, in mid-June, it was the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers on St. Simons Island. Then it was off to St. Pete Beach, Fla., for the Georgia Beer Wholesalers Association. Next came the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores in Ponte Vedra Beach. A few days later it was back to St. Simons Island for the House Republican Caucus meeting.
Three weeks later, he was back in Florida, attending a gathering of the Georgia Food Industry Association, which represents grocery stores and pushed the Sunday sales bill.
The trips cost lobbyists about $3,200, not including what they spent to sponsor the Republican caucus meeting.

This is not a partisan issue-both Democrats and Republican state lawmakers have raked in their share of perks. The percentage given to each party just varies with who is in power, underscoring the ridiculousness of claims that such perks do not represent undue influence-just access. But in the world of legislative politics, access is everything.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Edwards: We've Got To End It, Not Defend It

Taking aim at the influence of corporate politicians and Washington lobbyists, today, John Edwards challenged Hillary Clinton, and all the other Democratic candidates, to "end it, not defend it." According to the Associated Press, Edwards made these remarks as he accepted the endorsement of the Carpenters Union.

To the roars of the union members, Edwards said, "Washington is rigged against regular Americans, against working Americans like you and the men and women you represent, whose interests and concerns don't stand a chance against the onslaught of lobbyists in Washington, D.C."

Edwards again issued his challenge to all Democratic candidates to refuse to accept money from federal lobbyists and political action committees. Edwards has never accepted either and no longer accepts contributions from state-level lobbyists. Edwards said that he is not asking any candidate to give back money they have taken in the past, but, instead, to declare this a new day for Democrats-a day when the party through the example of its leaders will be the party for the people of this country, not the party of corporate interests.

Edwards has Clinton in a bit of a box. Increasingly, she finds herself responding to him, both on the issue of her electability and on the issue of corporate influence/lobbyist money. To defend taking the money from lobbyists (over $400,000 and counting), she is forced to defend a system in Washington that most people believe does not work for them. Last week, she said that she intended to work within the system created "by the constitution" for change in Washington, and that "you can't deny that the system exists." Today, Edwards said:
Look, Senator Clinton is right – you cannot pretend the system doesn't exist. But you also can't pretend that it works. And that's where she and I part company.
Because I believe if you defend the system that defeats change, you can't be a president that will bring change. When it comes to the Washington influence game, we need to end it, not defend it.
She says you bring change by working within the system established by the Constitution. I think the system has been corrupted by corporate powers never contemplated by the Constitution. This is not the government of, by and for the people that our founding fathers intended.
There is no principled compromise between the way things have always been and the way things could be.

This discussion of whether the system need to change or merely be trimmed around the edges is a debate that is likely to escalate as Americans become increasingly frustrated with the escalation of the war in Iraq and the failure of the new Democratic majority to stand up to the President.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Perfectly Plastic

I don't want a perfectly plastic president, and with that in mind, I have a few thoughts about Fred Thompson and his announcement in Des Moines yesterday.

1) Where was the crowd? Apparently, only about 200 people showed up for the announcement, though his campaign claims the attendance was 400. Campaign math requires dividing any estimate of crowd size, coming from the campaign, by 2. I believe that I could get more than 200 of my family and close friends to show up if I were announcing a run for school board, much less, president. This was at least an organizational failing on the part of the campaign. Jay Wagner blogged, "But the room itself might be able to handle 50 at most." This was not exactly a Fred frenzy.

2) The Iowa Independent live blogged the event, and I was struck by this note:
2:23: "Thompson still seems to have his audience riveted. A women just collapsed in the audience--I'm not sure what happened but it hasn't had any impact on the former senator's flawless delivery." I don't want a president who can have a women collapse in his audience and be unmoved and able to stay entirely on script. Can you for one minute imagine John and Elizabeth Edwards ignoring that women?

3) Finally, this is foreboding. "People are also amazed at the custom-made stage that Thompson will use to make his announcement. It is built to resemble granite and has large video screens built into it."

Folks, George Bush, III has put on Ronald Reagan's clothes, and he's running for President. They are about to engage in political theater that will make the 2004 RNC look like a high school play. He is the greatest threat to a Democrat winning, and is already running on the line that he can stop Hillary. National polls indicate that paired up against her, he just might be right. John Edwards on the other hand, continues to beat him and all the GOP candidates in head-to-head match ups.

Friday Fun: Lawcat

" Surprise Witness"

Daryl was preparing for a couple of hearings at home Wednesday night, when Gracie found a comfortable spot in his trial case:

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Endorsements, Court Rulings, and The Golden Rule

This had been a busy day. Here are a few of the high spots:

1) I began my day with a committee meeting for Community Partnership, the Family Connection Project for Macon and Bibb County, and I am very pleased to report that in the coming year the collaborative will narrow our focus and address the needs of "The Peach Orchard" area of Bibb County.

2) Dana Blankenhorn has jumped on the Edwards bandwagon, citing his "fearlessness," especially since Elizabeth was diagnosed with caner and saying, "John Edwards is, for me, the clearest path to where we need to go. So I'm with him. I'm just sad it took me so long to admit it." Welcome, Dana.

3) Sen. Edwards scored another huge labor endorsement today. The New York City-based Transport Workers Union, representing 200,000 active and retired members, gave him the nod, calling him the one who can win.

4) Golden Rule Politics, the powerful DVD produced by The Baptist Center for Ethics is now available. This DVD and the study guide that comes along with it helps address the fact that the GOP does not have an exclusive contract with God, i.e., God is neither a Republican or a Democrat. Video clips are available for viewing on the site, and the DVD, study guide and the right to show it to large groups, only cost $20.00.

5) The Federal Court has upheld Georgia's Voter ID Law, and this is what Jane Kidd had to say:

Kidd responds to Voter ID ruling

ATLANTA – Democratic Party of Georgia Chair Jane Kidd released the following statement in response to a federal court’s decision to dismiss a lawsuit challenging Georgia’s Voter ID Law.“We disagree in the strongest possible terms with the Court’s decision, and maintain that Georgia’s Voter ID Law continues to represent a burden to the public and to the right to vote. The law especially places an additional burden on elderly and low-income voters. “Over the next few months, we will be ramping up our voter education programs, to ensure that every voter is prepared to vote with one of the proper forms of identification. To that end, we’ll be working closely with our county parties to help them educate voters at the grassroots level. We’ll also be focusing closely on our election protection program to prevent inaccuracies and inequalities at the voting booths.”

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Great Big Tax on Everything Smacks of Socialism

The Telegraph's editorial board weighed in on the Georgia GOP's Great Big Tax on Everything today (Proposal should have stayed undercover until complete) and concluded that the proposal is not ready for public viewing. "While Richardson and his team are to be applauded for their efforts to tackle the tax gorilla, they may have let the cat out of the bag too soon."

Now there's a visual. Richardson. Sheets. A gorilla. And cats. All in a bag.

The confusion that would ensue is a perfect picture of the mess that would be created if the GBTE becomes law. As Alan Essig, director of Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, said in Macon on Friday, one the the big problems with the proposal is that no one really knows at this point what those details are. Sure, the bill appears on line, but Richardson and his comrades have disavowed that version. To know what they are really proposing, you pretty much have to pay attention to every speech. For instance, today, in the Telegraph op-ed was the first time I had seen the words "possibly" in front of taxing services for medical and dental care. I still want to know if they plan to tax private school tuition.

As Essig also pointed out, this is not a proposal that we can try on like a new shirt and discard if it doesn't fit. Retrofitting the tax system to accommodate this proposal will cost money-no one really knows how much because no one really knows yet what they are really proposing. And, this proposal, to be implemented, would require a change in Georgia's constitution (you know, that document conservatives claim to love until they need to change it to fit the needs of their base.) So, 'undoing' this would not be easy.

Essig says that the biggest problem with the proposal is not philosophical, it's mathematical: the numbers just don't appear to add up. He says, based on the data he currently has, it appears that a sales tax as described cannot make up the gap if all property taxes are repealed. He argues for a three-legged stool, a balanced approach to taxation and transparency in how tax money is gathered and spent.

The Telegraph said that the repeal of property taxes would have a proportionally much greater impact on local governments where such taxes make up more than 70% of local revenue, than on state government, where property taxes make up just .4 % of total revenue. "That aspect of the plan smacks more of socialism than the less government more local control mantra of most Republicans." Wish I'd said that.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

You Might As Well Be Polling Canada

In political circles, when talk of national polls surfaces, a phrase commonly heard is "you might as well be polling Canada." That refers to the lack of application of those polls to the actual, state by state, primary process. Well, President Clinton, in defending his wife's electability issue, has taken it to a whole new level-siting actual polls of foreign countries. See the quote below from the Washington Post:

The former president observed that George W. Bush won the majority of counties in New York in 2000 (Al Gore still won the state as the most populous areas are heavily Democratic). But in 2006, when Hillary Clinton ran for reelection, she won the vast majority of the Bush counties.
The ex-president even noted a recent survey by a Canadian polling group called Angus Reid showing that more than 40 percent of residents in Germany, France and other European countries wanted to see Hillary Clinton elected president, putting her far-ahead of the other candidates. Clinton noted Americans like to make their own decisions, but argued this was a very important consideration because many countries have been frustrated by the policies of the Bush administration. "You want to fix America's standing in the world, elect Hillary," Clinton said.

Monday, September 3, 2007

"We All Answer to Women Somewhere"

How appropriate that six men and no women serve on the Georgia Senate Committee on Rights Relating to Reproductive and Genetic Technology. Go, now, and find women to run for office in Georiga. Here's a portion of the article from the AJC's Political Insider.
Last week, six men —- five Republican and one Democrat —- gathered in a fourth-floor room in the Capitol to convene the Senate Study Committee on Rights Relating to Reproductive and Genetic Technology.
(A male witness noted that committee members were of a single gender. "We all answer to women somewhere," quipped chairman Eric Johnson of Savannah.)

Steelworkers, Miners and Carpenters Endorse Edwards

Today, in Pittsburgh, the United Steelworkers and United Mine Workers unions. Last week, the Carpenters and Joiners union endorsed Edwards. This is great Labor Day news for the Edwards Campaign. Here's the full release:

Official endorsement at Pittsburgh Labor Day rally gives Edwards largest bloc of union support among presidential candidates so far
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – The United Steelworkers (USW) and the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) today endorsed Senator John Edwards for president. Following the Thursday endorsement of Edwards by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners in America, the two endorsements announced today at a Labor Day rally in Pittsburgh with union members and their families give Edwards the largest bloc of union support so far – combined, more than 1.8 million members and retirees – among any of the presidential candidates.
“I am especially honored to receive the support of the Steelworkers and Mine Workers unions,” said Edwards, “These are the workers who built the middle class in America, and they are the backbone of the American labor movement. They understand how important it is to fight back when jobs, safety, standards and our values are at risk – and they know what’s at stake in this election.”
“These workers have felt the negative impact of a broken system in Washington that is rigged against America’s working families for far too long – whether it’s the tragic lack of oversight in mine safety, trade agreements written to benefit multinational corporations while they ship American jobs overseas, or the millions of working Americans who still can’t afford health insurance,” added Edwards. “As president, I will proudly lead the fight on behalf of working families with their support – and together we will win.”
Representing 1.2 million workers and retirees, the USW is the nation’s largest private sector industrial union. Following extensive outreach to USW members that included a poll of the union’s 15,000 activists, as well as a nationwide survey of the union’s membership, the USW International Executive Board voted unanimously on Sunday, September 2nd to endorse Edwards.
The UMWA represents 105,000 active and retired coal miners, municipal employees, health care workers and manufacturing workers in North America. Their membership includes more coal miners than any union in the world
Both Steelworkers President Leo W. Gerard and UMWA President Cecil E. Roberts announced their endorsement by making clear the stakes hard-working families face and laying out why Sen. Edwards is the best candidate to lead the fight for change in America.
“Senator John Edwards is committed, as he has been throughout his life, to going to bat for everyday Americans and to changing a broken political system that leaves millions of Americans without a voice in their government,” said Steelworkers President Leo W. Gerard. “Edwards is right on the issues that matter to us, and he’s the candidate with the best chance of winning in the general election. The big corporations don’t need another president who does their bidding. It’s time we had a president who will fight for working people – and that’s what John Edwards will do.”
“Senator Edwards’ positions on the issues of importance to UMWA members make him the best fit of all the candidates for president,” UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts said. “We need a president who cares about ordinary working people instead of the richest Americans and the big multinational corporations. We believe John Edwards is that person, and we will work as hard as we know how on his behalf anywhere and everywhere we can.”
Close to 1,000 people were expected at the Pittsburgh Labor Day rally where the unions’ official endorsements were announced. Sen. Edwards was joined on stage by USW President Leo Gerard, UMWA International President Cecil Roberts and local union members. Elizabeth Edwards and Edwards Campaign Manager David Bonior also attended the event.
On Thursday, August 30th, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, representing more than 520,000 members from all political affiliations, also announced that they would endorse John Edwards for president. Their formal endorsement will take place at a rally of union members on September 8th in New Hampshire.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Baptist Leader: Women Hardwired for Housework

Works out well for men, don't you think? According to Gary Ledbetter of the Southern Baptist Texan, women are just "temperamentally better equipped than men to manage the home and nurture children." And, those who suggest otherwise? They're just sexist.

This is a continuation of the "Sex in the Seminary" debate about the "homemaking" classes offered at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Seminary in Louisville chimed in with a progressive position. He said that he did not believe that it is actually wrong for women to work outside the home, but that "a woman that does work outside the home is likely to miss something that is happening inside the home." Apparently there is nothing at home for men to miss.

There is something talibanesque about the basis of the SBC argument that there is an "appropriate" role for women. We can begin with the fact that there is little if any respect among this sect for the separation of church and state. They have no issue with legislating morality-on their terms. They do, as we have seen with Craig, Vitter and Foley, have trouble with hypocrisy. On the website of Southwestern Seminary, there is actually a statement that it is good for women to learn biblical exposition because that way they can teach other women. That's right. The seminary does not support women teaching men no matter the woman's level of expertise. They fired a female professor because of the rule. "Women-to-women" teaching, they say, is the biblical way. And, the president's wife has prepared a guide for how women should dress. There are no burqas involved but what is clearly implied is that it's up to women to make sure men control their sexual impulses. Wow.

Look, in all seriousness, the problem with this, and the reason that it's on a political blog, is because the issue is not whether or not a women should be able to make the choice to be a stay at home mom. The issue is that for centuries men have used religion to exert control over women by fostering economic dependency and limiting choice. They use their religion as a basis for discrimination and oppression, and then they make rules limiting women's roles in denominational decision making. What a trap. These are the SAME evangelical fundamentalists who propelled George Bush to power. Ordering society so that (frankly) rich white men are on top is the agenda, and they have crafted a theological position to support it. It really is that simple.

Conversely, Jesus, as described in the gospels, was revolutionary in his approach to women. He provided them rights, status, and most of all: access. Where's WWJD when you need it?

And This is a Problem, Why?

Today, Sen. Edwards made it clear that health care for everyone does not imply responsibility for no one. Today in Tipton, Iowa, he told a crowd that people would be expected to see their doctor for preventative health care. He said that if Americans choose to be in the health care system, they cannot choose to not see their doctor for twenty years. Regular checkups and a healthier lifestyles would drive down health costs in American. That makes sense, but, alas, the words had hardly left his lips before the rightwing bloggers started in. The same crew that preaches personal responsibility thinks expecting people to go to the doctor is just too much to ask. Okay, how about we compromise and let you drive your SUV to the doctor??

Steelworkers Set to Make Endorsement

According to WTAE in Pittsburgh, Sen. Edwards will be in town tomorrow to pick up a key endorsement from the United Steelworkers. Edwards is a consistent friend of labor, often siting unions as a key antidote to poverty.

Electability a "Hill of Beans?"

Campaigning today with his wife, Sen. Clinton, President Bill Clinton tried to counter arguments that she would have a tough time winning the general election. From the Washington Post:

"In Portsmouth, he sought to knock down arguments that his wife wouldn't be able to win a general election. He cited polling in several states showing her leading most Republicans in hypothetical matchups.
"This electabliity thing is a canard. It's a hill of beans," the former president said, adding he believed Americans would elect the best candidate."

Really? So, did Americans elect the best candidate in 2000 and 2004??? I admire President Clinton, but he is ignoring his wife's obvious weakness here. She does energize the Republican base in a way none of the GOP candidates can hope to do. In any candidate field, there are candidates who are easier to get elected than others, and in this field, Hillary does not win the "electability" contest, and frankly, the fact that the Clinton campaign is now addressing this directly underscores the fact that it is an issue.

Last week, at the health care forum, Edwards had her addressing his issue of lobbyist contributions, and today, she retools her speech to address the issue of whether she can be a change agent (something raised effectively by both Obama and Edwards). For the first time in the campaign, she is no longer controlling the message and the debate.

Or, Maybe Not So Much

I was really just kidding about supporting the GOP tax plan, but my phone started ringing. Apparently, no worries about your child's private school tuition. The hush, hush, wink, wink to private school parents is that one of the long term objectives of the Great Big Tax on Everything is that it opens the door for a fully implements school voucher program. See, you can't have statewide school vouchers-not really-unless all the money for schools flows from one source: Atlanta. So, there you go. Apparently, Richardson intends to act upon the disdain he has exhibited for local school boards. Soon, we won't be needing those anymore. Or maybe we will. Someone will have to educate the children no one else wants.

Is this one of the devilish details Peake and others refer to?