Friday, April 29, 2011

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad state

We live in a state and a nation gone mad. We have lost touch with reality. We’ve jumped off the deep end and are falling like a rock. Think about it. What in the legislative session that just ended gives the impression sane individuals were in charge? The lunatics are running the asylum.

For example, wouldn’t logical people question the rationality of a bill that the Chamber of Commerce, President Obama, the Catholic Church, and several left-wing organizations all oppose? Obviously I am referring to the immigration law passed by the Georgia legislature. Didn’t they learn anything from Arizona? In a struggling economy, which depends heavily on the tourist and convention industry, why would we be doing something that might cause organization to not schedule conventions, or tourists to not visit Georgia? It could be seen as a job killing bill, not a job creation bill. Didn’t the Republicans promise more jobs, not less, when they ran last year? And, aren't they supposed to be in favor of less government, not more? Admittedly, there is a problem with undocumented workers, but this bill doesn't address the real issues, and besides immigration is a problem better handled at the federal level not by individual states.

Other job killing actions include cuts to education. Some businesses have decided not to build plants in Georgia because of our poor record on education. So how is cutting education funding whether at the pre-school, K-12, or college level going to create jobs and attract businesses? What is rational about that?

At the national level, Congress and the President finally agreed on a 2011 budget. Some of the cuts insisted on by our Senators and most of our Representatives were to FEMA. In the wake of the recent rash of tornados this spring, that doesn’t seem like a wise or compassionate decision. But whoever said they were compassionate, or wise?

The problem is we voted for the people making these decisions. What does that say about us, our compassion and our quality of education? Even if we didn't personally vote for them, we obviously didn't do enough to convince our friends and neighbors to vote for representatives who will protect our interests and those of most Georgians, instead of voting for those who will only protect and benefit the people at the top of the food chain.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"Frank Roosevelt" asks "Do GA Dems Have the Courage to Fight?"

From my in-box this morning, "Frank Roosevelt" has this to say, and I expect the discussion will be aplenty!
Do GA Dems Have the Courage to Fight?

On the final day of the legislative session, Georgia suffered another enormous blow dealt by the Republican-led legislature. Gov. Deal's likely signature on the AZ on steroids immigration bill, HB 87, will lead to an international boycott of GA, and GA's farmers will suffer without vital migrant labor. This legislative battle, like all others this session, sheds light on Democratic Party strategy- strategy that must change if the party hopes to win major legislative battles in the future or elections.

An AZ on steroids law will do irreparable harm to GA. Conventions scheduled in AZ immediately canceled their plans upon passage of that’s state immigration law, costing the state an estimated $141 million dollars. The legal fees spent defending the law coupled with the tourism boycott, will likely end up costing AZ tax-payers in the hundred millions. If these reasons were not enough to fight an even more punitive immigration bill here in GA, the issue also presented a compelling political opportunity for Democrats to reconnect with rural Georgians. The GA Farm Bureau took a strong stand against the bill, rightly claiming it will scare away vital migrant labor and impose over-burdensome E-Verify requirements on Georgia farmers. The hospitality, tourism, restaurant, landscape, and convention industries similarly weighed in strongly against passage. Large business interests, rural advocacy groups, and a latino population that doubled in the past 10 years joined to demand that GA Republicans back off. How did GA Democrats respond?

The utter silence from some quarters of the GA Democratic establishment regarding immigration was deafening. An elected Dem first commented on immigration after Republican B.J. Pak offered an amendment gutting the English-only drivers licence bill. House Democratic Caucus chair Rep. Brian Thomas opined: “We recognize that there is a segment of our population that may be uncomfortable with people who come from a very different cultural background.” On 3/2/11, the day HB 87 first passed the House, the House Dem Caucus issued a release that said “While bill authors claimed the intent of the [sic] HB 87 is designed to improve Georgia, the intent may not match the outcome.” Beyond that, the House Democratic Caucus, the Senate Democratic Caucus, nor any Democratic member of the House or Senate issued one press release or official statement that I can find online about the havoc an AZ on steroids law will wreak on our state. Stephanie Benfield made her case in an email: “Many have said the federal government has failed to act on immigration and Democrats agreed.

The Senate Democratic Caucus has no website or Facebook page, so no one outside the Capitol can learn what they’re doing. I do salute the Senate Democratic Caucus for going on a listening tour around the state. However, there’s no record of that tour in online Democratic materials that I can find. I must point out that Sen. Curt Thompson lives in a 45% latino district and actively opposed HB 87 through Facebook, a blog in Spanish, and appearances at events around the state. His work against HB 87 was exceptional.

Other elected Democrats made appearances at public rallies. A comprehensive Democratic strategy for posting video footage of these appearances, however, would do wonders. A video of a speech by John Lewis at a rally against HB 87 made serious waves state-wide. Rep. Marin gave a stirring speech in Spanish that was uploaded online by an Atlanta human rights advocate. Concerted outreach to the public means more work, but it is necessary to make a continuous case to the public that Democrats are ready to lead.

What did Democrats do inside the chamber to stop HB 87? From the outset, GA Republicans pushed to pass HB 87 out of disgust with federal inaction on immigration. Unfortunately, as seen in Rep. Benfield’s remarks above, many Demcrats mistakenly adopted that argument as truth, even though President Obama oversaw the deportation of a record 400,000 people last year. Rep. Pedro Marin opened his remarks in the House against HB 87 with “For the record, allow me to say that yes, the United States has not adequately and sufficiently addressed the issue of immigration.” Other Dems followed Marin but opened slightly differently. Leader Stacey Abrams led with “As my colleagues have stated, there’s not a single person in this chamber who supports illegal immigration.” Calvin Smyre continued: “at the outset, let me say that I for one do not support illegal immigration.” Unfortunately, Abrams, Smyre, and most others who spoke in the house also gave voice to a Republican attack that Democrats support illegal immigration by meekly disputing the claim at the beginning of their remarks.

Overall, there seems to be a lack of courage from GA’s elected Democrats. They speak against a bill within the chamber, but they too often make Republican arguments. They send out press releases, but they too often attack bills that have already passed. This session proves those actions do little to no good. The failure of the GA Democratic establishment to publicly fight the passage of HB 87 was another opportunity squandered to do the right thing for GA and win future elections. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that many of the currently elected Democrats (especially those in the House leadership) simply don’t know how, or don’t have the stomach to fight for the people of Georgia. By taking a strong stand on issues once they present themselves and publicly fighting legislation before it passes, GA Democrats will once again earn the respect of Georgians as a party willing to fight.

Frank Roosevelt

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Grits and Groceries

Most Excellent Sour Cream Muffins
Consider this the beginning of a Sunday dinner feature with a menu and/or special recipes. (Read all the way to the bottom today for a great sour cream muffin recipe.)

What does that have to do with politics?

In the South, "good food and lots of it" is synonymous with just about any occasion worth noting. If you drop by on a Sunday afternoon, you can expect to be offered a piece of cake and a glass of sweet tea. Death in the family? Your friends, neighbors and some folks you haven't heard from in a while will load your kitchen table with so many casseroles you'll need to designate someone whose sole job is to catalog the offerings and make sure each dish, with the appropriate thank you note, are returned to the right person. Graduation? Holidays? In the South, the only thing more important than the menu is our trademark hospitality. Political gatherings are no exception.  Iowans may have the Harkin Steak Fry, but south of the Mason-Dixon Line, you're not much of a candidate if you can't put on a descent fish fry.

There's no getting around the fact that just as church is a way of life in much of the South, so is Sunday dinner. When I was growing up in rural North Carolina, Sunday dinner, served at lunchtime, was the largest, fanciest meal of the week. By fancy I mean chicken fried steak, stew beef, fried chicken, or maybe a pork chop plus vegetables, homemade biscuits or cornbread and dessert - peach cobbler, pound cake, chocolate bread pudding, or chocolate or lemon pie with meringue. Eating out at a restaurant on Sunday was rare and controversial because we were not too sure that businesses should be open on the Lord's Day, after all. Usually, the main dishes were prepared in the morning before church, so all we had to do when we got home was heat it up. Sometimes we'd stop at Granny Watson's for lunch, or one of my cousins would come home from church with me, or I would go with them, with the visitor being returned at the evening service.

Today, in our family, Sunday dinner is still important, but for us, it's the evening meal. For a while, I was in the habit of posting our Sunday dinner menu on Facebook, and some folks have requested recipes, so "Grits and Groceries" will become a regular feature on Cotton Patch. Below is tonight's menu, a simple one because my kitchen is torn apart while we renovate. Since there's no real recipe with tonight's meal, I've also given you a special recipe for the easiest and best sour cream muffins you'd ever hope to put in your mouth. (Liz Pavle, this one's for you!)

 Easy Sunday Dinner

BBQ Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches on Onion Rolls w/ Sweet Cole Slaw
Sweet Potato Fries w/ Honey Mustard Dip
 Ice Cream 

For the sandwiches, use that grilled pork tenderloin left over from a meal earlier in the week. Slice it thin and combine it in a saute pan with your favorite bbq sauce. Warm it up, warm the onion rolls, put the bbq on the rolls, top with the cole slaw, and you're done.  We like Sticky Fingers Carolina Sweet Sauce that's available in the grocery store. Buy the sweet cole slaw and the onion rolls at Publix, in the deli and bakery area. The sweet potato fries are available there, too, in the freezer section. I suggest frying them rather than baking so they'll be crispier, and as soon as they come out of the fryer, dust with a mixture of salt, pepper, sugar and cinnamon- equal parts salt, sugar and pepper, plus one half part cinnamon. Serve with your favorite honey mustard dressing.

Sour Cream Muffins 

Two cups, sifted, self-rising flour*
One stick melted butter
One cup sour cream
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Combine the above ingredients, mixing lightly until all the dry ingredients are just wet. Drop by teaspoon-fulls into greased miniature muffins tins. Bake at 350 for about 18 minutes, until just light brown on top and around the edges. Serve hot. I have no idea how to store these because there are never any left! 
*Do not mistake all-purpose for self-rising flour, or you will have some hockey pucks to feed to the birds.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Georgia - Immigration Fight in Photos

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then these images marking the fight over HB87, Georgia's effort to enact a likely unconstitutional Arizona-style bill, tell the story better than I ever could. Many thanks to Todd Rehm for these images.

Gold Dome, Sine Die - Todd Rehm
Georgians Protest Arizona-Style Immigration Bill - Todd Rehm
Be a Life Saver - Todd Rehm
Candlelight Vigil - Todd Rehm
Immigrants are Not the Criminals - Todd Rehm

Senate Vote on HB87 - Todd Rehm

Southern Politicos on the Move

The ice is breaking in the land of campaigns.

After a long, but normal, employment freeze immediately following the devastating elections of November 2010, Democratic groups and candidates are starting to hire up for 2011 and 2012, and some Southern political types are among those getting the nod.

From Virginia to the DNC:

Former Mark Warner staffer Amanda Howe was hired this week as COO of the DNC. Howe is replacing current DNC COO Ann Marie Habershaw, who served in that role for the past two years and just made the jump to COO of Obama’s re-election campaign.

Raising Money in Montgomery:

God Bless the Alabama Democratic Party. The much-beloved, much-beleaguered party saw the exit of both its long time Chair Joe Turnham and it's long time ED Jim Spearman in the last few months.

New ED and Alabama native Bradley Davis is fantastic, and the party also touts new Chair Mark Kennedy (He's an Auburn grad, btw). They even have a new money guy - a first in recent memory. Longtime Montgomery resident and Mobile native Will Blanton was named Finance Director this week. Good luck to the new slate at the ADP.

Florida now running the DNC:

Garnering lots of national headlines last week, Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s was recently named as head of the DNC - a move which elicited almost universal praise. Elected Dems will have a colleague at the helm for the first time in decades. Wasserman-Schultz is well-known in Florida and is unfortunately leaving a hole at the fundraising helm of the DCCC with her departure there.

Louisiana Senate Caucus hires new Director:

Luling, Louisiana native and Tulane grad Adam Eitmann was hired on earlier this month as Caucus Director for the Louisiana Senate Democratic Caucus in Baton Rouge. Eitmann recently handled races in Pennsylvania and Virginia. He's young, smart, energetic, and answering to LA Senate Caucus Leader Sen. Eric LaFleur, a rising star in Louisiana Democratic politics.

North Carolina House Caucus' lose is DC's gain:

Leslie Martes will be leaving the NC House Democratic Caucus to head to DC, where she will be working for Womens Voices, Women Vote. The NC Democratic Party and both the House and Senate Caucus are held up by most state parties as the model of how to do things in the South. More money, more staff, more wins... North Carolina is the high water mark of Democratic performance and Democratic operations below the Mason-Dixon line, and Martes certainly played her part in that success. Good luck to Leslie in DC.