As I learn my way around the halls of power under the dome, I am coming to realize there is a name spoken with reverence by legislators and policy analysts. That name is Alan Essig. Mr. Essig is the founding Executive Director of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit organization which performs reseach and analysis of budget and fiscal issues in Georgia. Their website states that they work closely with "advocates for at-risk populations," so despite Republicans' insistence that God-fearing-tax-paying-patriots are *at risk* in liberal America, go figure whose side they are on.
What do they do for the cause? Basically, they cut to the chase about who really stands to lose and who stands to win in matters of finance and budget. They help us project the real costs and anticipate real outcomes of policy proposals. In short, they are our very own Georgia policy wonks. Recent papers include: "Georgia's Aging Population: What to Expect and How to Cope," "Don’t Tax and They Will Come? The Questionable Link between State Corporate Income Taxes and Economic Development," and "Show Us the Money: Full Disclosure Needed on Tax Breaks."
Their report on the Governor's proposed 2007 budget should be required reading for Young Dems:
Andrew Young backs Wal-Mart, Georgia left clueless
What have you done with Ambassador Young, Lee Scott? I don't know if I'd believe the story if I hadn't heard it on NPR this morning as well. How could one of our own, a man with firm roots in the long struggle for civil rights, take the helm of a PR campaign engineered by a solidly Republican corporate juggernaut with an abysmal record of discrimination, disempowerment, dastardly deeds, and outright lying? Andrew Young's great accomplishments can never be undone, but I can't help but feel trying to harness the power of the dark side for good is a fool's game, one that Darth Zell played only too well.
I know very few of you might find this amusing, but for the geeks out there, you might get a tickle. From our party's official blog, it's l33t:
VT-$en: PWN3D It's only fitting that the candidate hoping to purchase a U.$. $enate seat in Vermont with $10 million dollars of his personal fortune found himself "owned" in a public debate over campaign finance.
Georgia Democrats are mulling legislation sponsored by State Senator Vincent Fort, of Atlanta, that would place a moratorium on executions in Georgia and create a commission to study how our state metes out capital punishment. The Macon Telegraph is carrying the AP story.
I'll be brief - this legislation isn't going anywhere, and I'm happy about that. There are real problems with Georgia's capital punishment system that have got to be fixed, and I'm glad Vincent is trying to focus attention on them. But Georgia is pretty red on capital punishment, which means that bills like this divide Democrats and not Republicans. We can't win the debate on abolishing capital punishment outright any more than Republicans can win the debate on abolishing abortion outright (except in alternate realities like South Dakota), and I get the unsettling feeling that that's where Vincent wants to go with this. We need the right message on this issue, and that message should focus on fixing the death penalty rather than doing away with it.
Spending more money in Georgia classrooms sounds good, right? Sounds like a good Democrat type of proposal right?
Look a little further. A group called First Class Education is shopping this same legislation in over 20 states. The Austin American Statesman first uncovered a memo written by First Class Education explaining the real motives behind the legislation. This memo is now all over the internet, and reveals that the initiative has little to nothing to do with providing a first class education to our kids by spending more in classrooms. Here's a clip from the original AAS article (linked in full above).
"A First Class Education memo obtained by the Austin American-Statesman lists a series of "political benefits" of putting the 65 percent plan on the ballot. The memo says the plan will create divisions within education unions as dollars flow from administrators to teachers, and it says the plan will divert dollars away from other political goals of the "education establishment." Citing voter trends, it also says the plan can help build support for voucher and charter school proposals, which critics say take money away from public schools."
SB 390 has already passed the Senate and is headed to committee on the House side. It is so frustrating that school children in Georgia are being used as pawns in this initiative to turn voters nationwide against a core American value of quality public education for every single child.
Slightly distressed last night hearing my compadres lament the "fact" that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid is becoming implicated in the Abramoff scandal. Let's all remember how disgusted we have been with even the mainstream media over the past few years and take anything they say with a grain of salt. Here's a clip from Media Matters that puts in a few details the AP left out. Democracy is so difficult without a trustworthy press....
Associated Press omitted key information in attempting to tie Reid to Abramoff In an article about supposed ties between Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and former Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the Associated Press omitted several details that undermine the premise of the article. And the AP apparently didn't bother to contact a former Abramoff colleague for comment, despite writing extensively about his contact with Reid's office. The AP article suggested that Reid and Abramoff coordinated about legislation that would have applied the minimum wage to the Northern Mariana Islands, an Abramoff client that opposed the legislation. But the AP left out one rather significant detail: while Abramoff opposed the legislation, Reid supported it. In fact, Reid was a co-sponsor of the legislation and argued for its passage in a speech delivered on the floor of the United States Senate, as Media Matters detailed. Including that information would have painted a far different picture of the contact between Abramoff's associates and Reid's office -- one in which Abramoff may have wanted to influence Reid, but was unable to do so. The AP article also reported that Reid "went to the Senate floor" to oppose a bill that would have harmed an Indian tribe represented by Abramoff, saying the legislation was "fundamentally flawed." But the AP failed to mention several important facts. Coincidentally, each of these omitted facts undermines the suggestion that Reid took his position at Abramoff's behest. In quoting Reid describing the legislation as "fundamentally flawed," the AP bizarrely clipped Reid's comments to omit his reason for thinking it was flawed. Here's what Reid actually said: "The legislation is fundamentally flawed because it allows Bay Mills to establish gaming facilities under the guise of settling a land claim. The land claim is simply -- and everybody knows this -- an excuse to take land into trust for off-reservation gaming. " The AP devoted more than 1,700 words to this article, but didn't include among them Reid's full sentence opposing the bill. At absolute best, this is stunning sloppiness. Reid's opposition to the bill was entirely consistent with his longstanding opposition to off-reservation Indian gaming. As early as 1988, as Media Matters noted, Reid supported the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which generally prohibited Indian gaming on non-tribal lands. One reason for Reid's position on this should be more than obvious: Reid represents Nevada, the gambling capitol of the United States. Of course he would oppose off-reservation Indian gaming, which constitutes competition for the casinos that employ so many of his constituents. Most amazingly, the AP article made much of contacts between former Abramoff deputy Ronald Platt and Reid's office -- but the AP didn't bother to contact Platt for comment.
Dagnabbit, sometimes our party reminds me just how we let an incurious, totally unintellectual liar win a second election. We really get distracted by some stupid things and before we know it, the real fight has passed us by. From today's Progress Report:
ABRAMOFF HAS PHOTOS WITH BUSH ON DISPLAY IN HIS HOME: According to Eisler, Jack Abramoff has several photos with President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush in his house, "just sitting in his office." McClellan has previously said if photos of Bush with Abramoff exist, they are shots taken at "widely attended" Hanukkah receptions in 2001 and 2002. That's not what Eisler saw in Abramoff's home office. He reports that none of the photos at Abramoff's house were from holiday parties. One photo at Abramoff's home depicts Bush shaking hands with Abramoff inside the Old Executive Office Building. Another shows Bush with Abramoff at what appears to be the Corcoran Gallery of Art. A third photo, which has not previously been disclosed, is of Abramoff's wife with Laura Bush.
WHO FREAKING CARES? Policy Chair Kate has a picture in front of the Christmas tree with the Clintons - looking mighty cute and totally Bill's type (i.e., female) - hanging in her hallway. Does that mean she made out with Slick Willie? Come to my office, and prominently above my desk you'll find on my cubicle wall this cozy snap of me and my bestest buddy Al. See how chummy we are? Does this suddenly make me, your second most conservative officer, part of the screaming left wing? NO. It means it's fun to get your picture taken with powerful people. Ask Rev. Sharpton if he remembers me. And what about the amicable but fast moving Gov. Dean? Is he taking policy cues from our girl Kimberly down at MoveOn?
For crying out loud, if my Republican connections somehow landed me a 5 second photo op with President Bush, you can bet your sweet potato pie that crap would be up on the wall in my apartment, if only so I could tell you about the time I stumped the President. I doubt it'd be evidence that I changed his mind on Permanent War.
Jack Abramoff has done some nefarious things, and he's going to bring a lot of people down with him. But it is NOT going to help our side of the story if we go off chasing photographs and acting like a bunch of moonbats.
The Energy Department will begin laying off researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the next week or two because of cuts to its budget.
A veteran researcher said the staff had been told that the cuts would be concentrated among researchers in wind and biomass, which includes ethanol. Those are two of the technologies that Mr. Bush cited on Tuesday night as holding the promise to replace part of the nation's oil imports.
I'm seriously going insane. Why can't he just lie about oral sex instead of, you know, everything else?
I'm still feeling a little queasy this morning after a little SOTUA festivity last night, and it's not just because we picked the very popular Bushisms "terr'r" and "nukular" to drink to. (The double-drinks every time there was a close-up of Hillary making a face certainly didn't help, though.)
No, I'm sick to my stomach thanks to the outrageous exploitative sideshows, petulant finger-wagging, and of course some of the outright lies that made up the State of the Union Address.
Contrary to popular opinion right-wing slander, Democrats care about our troops, too, probably more than some people at the Pentagon do. We honor their commitment, and we appreciate -- and mourn -- their sacrifices. However, this use of The First Lady's Box™ as a clearinghouse for sensationalist human advertising is getting a little tacky. The late Staff Sgt. Dan Clay's family was invited to the coveted position, but what about all of the other families of the fallen? How do you pick one family? Through proper vetting of their unflinching political support? There was just something truly unsettling about the way they were put on display for the State of the Union Address, as if Bush was trying to hide behind their sacrifice: "If you challenge my war, your dishonor the sacrifice this beautiful family has made. Do you hate these nice people? You do, you Democrats hate this lovely widow and these grieving parents. Shame on you." No, Mr. President, shame on you. That was just tacky.
Apparently, questioning one particular war over another and the tactics employed in it make Democrats "isolationists," who want to "retreat from our duties in the hope of an easier life." I'd challenge that by pointing out the Democrats have their own policy vision of how to keep this nation safe from attack and promote American democratic ideals abroad, but wait, the right wing pundits keep reminding me that Democrats don't have any policies. Never mind. Color me rejectionist, you narrow-minded binary-limited black-and-white so-and-so.
"...and we! are! winning!" Apparently everything is on the up-and-up in Iraq. Things like insurgent attacks, up 29% last year! Hours per week when the power is out, also up (like 400%)! Iranian influence? Up the yazzoo! Oh, but you know what's not up? Oil production. No wonder this war isn't paying for itself...
"We now know that two of the hijackers in the United States placed telephone calls to al Qaeda operatives overseas. But we did not know about their plans until it was too late." Correct, Mr. President, but NOT because you lacked the warrant to listen in on the phone call. You HAD the phone call. Why do you think we had it lying around for the 9/11 Commission to report on? You just hadn't had time to translate and analyze it! If you want to win this war, quit dishonorably discharging military Arabic translators for being gay and pay attention to the intelligence you're already getting -- and quit lying about 9/11 to justify your stretched out executive power.
Mr. President, you have got to drop this "cut the deficit in half by 2009" garbage, because we all already know it's phony baloney. If I could say "I'm going to pay off my credit cards by March" and yet leave out my discretionary beer-and-burgers-at-the-Vortex line items, I'd be in like Flynn. But you've got to pay for the wars overseas somehow.
Free speech is of course a crime under the Bush administration. Cindy Sheehan gets hauled out of the House and thrown in jail without even being asked to cover or change her very non-profane t-shirt. Rock on, Thought Police!
President Bush wakes up in the morning and hears Coretta Scott King has died. What is his natural reaction? "Hey, why don't we work that into the speech somewhere -- I know, let's draw a parallel between my preemptive war strategery with Martin Luther King's civil rights movement! Gawlly I'm smart. Eh-heh-heh-heh-heh-heh-heh." That was about the most disgusting thing I've ever heard come out of this president's mouth, and he's said some pretty disgusting stuff.
Speaking of disgusting stuff, where in the blue heck did the threat of "human-animal hybrids" come from? Should I be reading Weekly World News? Or has the president and his speech writing staff (such as it is) been watching too much Surface on NBC? Well, whatever the hell a human-animal hybrid is, I'm sure Rick "Man-on-Dog" Santorum is having sexual nightmares about it.
Call me skeptical, but you will not be driving a hydrogen-powered car anytime soon, certainly not with a whopping federal commitment of $25 million per year (and yes, as a matter of fact I am a rocket scientist). And an average $2 billion a year on the entirety of our alternative energy studies? That is not something to be proud of. Weaning us off the violent teat of fossil fuels is going to require an effort on the order of the Apollo moon landing -- and even that, at a modest $135B in today's money, is only half of what we've already blown on the war in Iraq.
And speaking of technology initiatives, President Bush "proposed" one last night that sounds awfully familiar. Say, didn't the Democrats unveil an Innovation Agenda last Fall? Well, Mr. President, it's nice to see you're finally catching up to our ideas! Oh, wait, damn -- once again, I've forgotten that Democrats don't have any actual policies, so I guess technically Bush couldn't have stolen our ideas if we don't have any ideas of our own, right? Jeez. Silly me. You THIEF.