Even a blogger needs to eat. This blog is primarily Charles' hobby. But if he is intent on continuing to woo the Hooter's waitresses
in Chatanooga he needs something that pays.... wings don't come free you know. Here's a link to his
day job where he works the education beat
and, assuming he can't annoy enough people that way, is sometimes allowed to write opinion pieces.
Need perspective? Watson offers readers all they could possibly eat. For a unique view on current events, namely how they look from
orbit, here's Chuck's Real-Time(ish) Satellite Imagery of Areas of Interest.
Whenever it strikes his fancy, and there's good telemetry, Chuck will
process and post near real-time images of locations in the news. Eminently engrossing.
Wanna get into the head of a Japanese salaryman? Why, for Chis'sakes?! Well, assumin' you do, feel welcome to check out
the on-line journal of
Campbell's English class. Everyday, a group of disaffected salarymen are required to spill out their inner-most thoughts about life, the universe
and everything in broken English. Amazingly prosaic.
Working for the Company Our loyal and alert reader Domenic Anghelone sends this link to a discussion of DynCorp. DynCorp is one of those companies largely composed of ex military and government types that exists solely to get government contracts of various kinds. For those of you who are not familiar with these companies, they perform two roles. The first, which is public, is to further privitization and to streamline the DoD budget, since everybody knows private companies do things more efficiently than the uniformed services (pause to regain composure). The second is to conduct operations that the US Government wants to keep some distance from.
The first purpose is absolutely bogus. The goal is to free up resources spent on support functions that are not in harms way (logistics, maintenance, etc.) for front line use. Of course, it doesn't work. What tends to happen is that these clowns skimp to make more profit and combat readiness suffers. And when the shooting starts these guys head for the tall grass. On paper it looks may look like a cost saving, but in the long run it wastes money.
As to the second, unfortunately what tends to happen is that you get folks who believe themselves to be unaccountable (which is the point), and after a while they start to act like it in areas unrelated to the original mission. I don't believe in using private companies for covert ops. (Using private companies as cover is a different story). Too many problems result from it.
I've heard some pretty disgusting things about the behavior of both private companies and the uniformed services in Bosnia. The kinds of sexual exploitation described in the link are at the mild end of the "substantial rumor" spectrum. I suspect that DynCorp personnel (who are proably guilty) are going to be used as 'scape goats for the misbehavior of all US personnel (contractor and GS) who have been doing this stuff.
Immigration And Wages. My Daily Citizen colleague Cady Van Dolson has a story on counterfeit documents with this news:
Several Dalton workers have called the law offices of Chitwood and Harley in Atlanta, and Johnson and Bell in Chicago claiming their wages are being depressed because illegal aliens are being hired, attorneys with the firms said.
Howard Foster with Johnson and Bell said he has received many calls about the hiring of illegal aliens in Dalton.
"I'm called the illegal immigrant basher," Foster said. "A lot of people from Dalton say there are a lot of illegal immigrants working there. Dalton is one of the capitals for this in the country, along with Southern California."
Craig Harley with Chitwood and Harley and Foster said they plan to file lawsuits on behalf of those claiming their wages have been depressed.
But officials at area carpet companies said worker wages are far from being depressed.
"It's just not true," Lord said. "The minimum wage is $5.15. Our people start at over $9. The Hispanic population has not impacted wages and benefits at all. We're not paying any less today because they're here."
Is This For Real? Just reading Osama Bin Laden's letter to the American people. Have we confirmed whether this was actually sent by OBL or al Qaeda? If it's legit, there's a lot here for the left to chew on.
The author seems to make a play for the ant-American left with charges such as these:
You have destroyed nature with your industrial waste and gases more than any other nation in history. Despite this, you refuse to sign the Kyoto agreement so that you can secure the profit of your greedy companies and*industries.
Your law is the law of the rich and wealthy people, who hold sway in their political parties, and fund their election campaigns with their gifts. Behind them stand the Jews, who control your policies, media and economy.
That which you are singled out for in the history of mankind, is that you have used your force to destroy mankind more than any other nation in history; not to defend principles and values, but to hasten to secure your interests and profits. You who dropped a nuclear bomb on Japan, even though Japan was ready to negotiate an end to the war. How many acts of oppression, tyranny and injustice have you carried out, O callers to freedom?
The freedom and democracy that you call to is for yourselves and for white race only; as for the rest of the world, you impose upon them your monstrous, destructive policies and Governments, which you call the 'American friends'. Yet you prevent them from establishing democracies. When the Islamic party in Algeria wanted to practice democracy and they won the election, you unleashed your agents in the Algerian army onto them, and to attack them with tanks and guns, to imprison them and torture them - a new lesson from the 'American book of democracy'!!!
Your policy on prohibiting and forcibly removing weapons of mass destruction to ensure world peace: it only applies to those countries which you do not permit to possess such weapons. As for the countries you consent to, such as Israel, then they are allowed to keep and use such weapons to defend their security. Anyone else who you suspect might be manufacturing or keeping these kinds of weapons, you call them criminals and you take military action against them.
You are the last ones to respect the resolutions and policies of International Law, yet you claim to want to selectively punish anyone else who does the same. Israel has for more than 50 years been pushing UN resolutions and rules against the wall with the full support of America.
But this passage isn't likely to win him any friends:
You are the nation who, rather than ruling by the Shariah of Allah in its Constitution and Laws, choose to invent your own laws as you will and desire. You separate religion from your policies, contradicting the pure nature which affirms Absolute Authority to the Lord and your Creator. You flee from the embarrassing question posed to you: How is it possible for Allah the Almighty to create His creation, grant them power over all the creatures and land, grant them all the amenities of life, and then deny them that which they are most in need of: knowledge of the laws which govern their lives?
And this is the part that will really lose them:
Who can forget your President Clinton's immoral acts committed in the official Oval office? After that you did not even bring him to account, other than that he 'made a mistake', after which everything passed with no punishment. Is there a worse kind of event for which your name will go down in history and remembered by nations?
Look, you can kill 3,000 Americans and destroy one of our most famous symbols. You can enslave the people of Afghanistan and call for the destruction of the Jews. You can call for jihad on all non-Muslims and the impostion of Islamic law on the entire world. You can get away with all that. But when you criticize President Clinton, the left is going to lose any sympathy for you.
Saturday, November 23, 2002 Chinese Education. I missed this Nicholas Kristof piece when it ran in the New York Times, but it's still interesting, and more than a bit scary.
One reason for Chinese educational success emerges from cross-cultural surveys. Americans say students do well because they're smarter. The Chinese say it is because they work harder.
A growing body of evidence suggests Chinese students do well partly because their parents set very high benchmarks, which the children then absorb. Chinese parents demand a great deal, American parents somewhat less, and in each case, the students meet expectations.
The result is apparent at No 2 Secondary School. The students live in dormitories, going home only at weekends, and they're mostly studying from 6.30 am until lights-out at 11 pm. On Saturdays, they attend tutoring classes from 9.40 am to 5.10 pm, and on Sundays, they do what one girl described as six hours of 'self-assigned homework'.
She explained: 'This is extra work to improve ourselves. I read outside books to improve my ability in any subject I feel weak in.'
Chinese students may not have a lot of fun, and may lag behind in subjects in which some American students excel, like sex, drugs and rock n' roll. But they know their calculus and are driven by a work ethic and thirst for education that make them indomitable.
With them in the pipeline and little kindergarten pupils like Tony Xu behind them, China may lead the world again.
Random Thoughts Here are a few facts about immigrants in Dalton that I found interesting, but I couldn't fit into any of the stories that eventually ran.
The Hispanic population in Whitfield County is unique in several ways. First, while the Hispanic population of Georgia as a whole is just 44% Mexican, in Dalton it's 90% Mexican. Further, Dalton has a much lower share of initial immigrants. In other words, few people immigrate directly from Mexico, or the rest of Latin America, to Dalton. Most of the immigrants here have been bouncing around either the East Coast immigrant circuit or the Chicago-centered Midwest circuit for a number of years before settling in Dalton. They've been in this country a few years. They tend to have better English skills and to have developed some social and financial capital. That explains the relatively high level of entrepreneurship seen in the area's Hispanic population.
The median grade of education finished by adult immigrants in Whitfield County is 7th grade. That is low by U.S. standards, but it's actually a couple of grades higher than the median in Mexico. And it's likely even higher than the rural areas most of these immigrants come from.
The overwhelming majority of immigrants here did originally migrate from small towns and rural areas. But in the last couple of years researchers have detected a strong surge in immigrants originally from Mexico City. That's confirmed by surveys of companies that ship goods and transfer money back to Mexico. They report a strong growth in shipments to Mexico City.
Thursday, November 21, 2002 Hispanics And Politics. Here's my final story from the immigration conference.
One important fact that didn't make it into print: Just a couple of weeks ago, Georgians elected the first Hispanic members of the state legislature. Two were Democrats. One was a Republican. All of them, obviously, were elected in districts where Hispanic voters are negligible.
I'll have more thoughts on immigration this weekend. But the Dalton Board of Education called a special meeting for 7 a.m. tomorrow, and I have to be there. So I'm about to crash for the night.
Wednesday, November 20, 2002 Teach Your Children Well. My latest article focuses on the challenges large numbers of immigrant children present to the local school systems. One innovative step Whitffield County has taken is to bring in certiifed, bilingual teachers from Mexico to teach in local classrooms. The Georgia Project helped set up the program six years ago. The women are all graduates of the University of Monterrey, and if the half dozen or so I've met are representative, Monterrey only graduates cute females.
Today's Citizen also includes a couple of stories on the dark side of immigration. Check this and this.
Tuesday, November 19, 2002 Immigration Sorry I didn't link to this earlier. But I was at work all day, and Blogger was acting up when I got home.
Here's my story on the first day of the big immigration conference in Dalton. One thing is clear: Hispanic immigration to Dalton isn't an accident of market forces. Carpet companies went looking to bring immigrant workers to the area.
Only The Best. My latest story concerns four local schools honored for improvements on the state's CRCT test.
I'm not a big fan of standardized tests. But I find the ways these schools achieved their higher scores to be interesting. If you read the article, you'll see that two of the four adopted the Saxon math program and Shurley grammar. These two programs have long been popular among homeschoolers, but public school systems have often been ouright hostile to them because of the rote nature of the texts and their stress on mechanics over "creativity." But it seems that when they actually have to show results, some schools find the Saxon and Shurley programs to be pretty darn good.
I'm looking forward to Charles' posts on immigration. This weekend I made a roundabout trip through south Georgia, taking my Mom to visit her sister in Moultrie. Because of the rain we went down I-95 to cross the state on "Corridor Z", aka US 82. After staying in Moultrie, we then cut North to near Peachtree City to visit my Mom's daughter (my biological sister the socialist). It's been over 15 years since I've been through the southern part of the state, and was astounded at the changes. Virtually every small town had a "La Tienda" - a spanish market. 15 years ago a multi-lingual sign was never seen - today, "Habalmos Espanol" is everywhere.
Another observation: I saw only one "new" Georgia flag, and it was on an I-75 rest area. Everywhere else "off interstate", even on public buildings like courthouses, it was the old "stars and bars" flag. And lots of signs with the old flag and "let us vote".
I have a lot of trouble communicating with my Mom's family. We not only live in different worlds, but have totally different world views. I find this facinating, since I don't have this problem with those in my Dad's family that remained "on the farm" in northern Alabama. A regional difference?
Another observation: I don't recal the level of racial tension being as high as it is. The Mexican (and a few from San Salvador and other central american countries) influx has really altered the balance. Charles - any thoughts on this?
Sunday, November 17, 2002 You Can Lead An Underemployed Alienated Youth To Water but you can't make him him have kids. But the Japanese government is going to try. The Health Ministry is going to try to boost a historically low birth rate, by subsidizing match-making meetings hosted by local governments to promote marriage.
Hey, how about getting the econoym moving so young adults can afford to raise kids?
Banned In China? My co-blogger Ron Campbell has sent word that Shoutin' Across the Pacific is blocked by the government's Internet filters. It's probably all of Blogspot that's been blocked, not just us. Maybe he'll post with more info later.
Peeing In A Bottle. Here's my latest story for the The Daily Citizen, a report on one local school district's mandatory drug testing of student athletes. It'll be interesting to see what mail and phone calls I get tomorrow.
Saturday, November 16, 2002 American Radio Is Segregated? Say it isn't so. British R&B singer Craig David is coming to the U.S. to promote his latest album. But black execs at urban radio stations in America have told him to dump his white lead guitarist, Fraser Smith. David says he was told an all-black support band would maximize sales among an African-American audience.
But David is sticking to his guns, er, guitar.
It shouldn't matter what colour or creed you are. Fraser plays licks that half those urban guys can't even fathom. They can lump it or leave it.
Making the whole situation just a little more farcial is the fact that David himself is half-white.
Thursday, November 14, 2002 Next Week. I'll be covering a huge conference on immigration and Georgia. Here's a preview. People who haven't been in the state in a few years may not realize just how much immigration, especially from Latin America is changing the place. Should be interesting. Check back here for links to what I write.
Saving Women From Themselves. The men of the Los Padres Hot Shots, a band of wild-land firefighters stationed in the Los Padres National Forest above Santa Barbara, Calif., have decorated their vehicles with pictures of scantily clad women taken from Maxim magazine. That doesn't bother the only woman on the team, Monika Miller. Nor has it bothered women who worked on the team in the past.
But when feminists found out about the photos, they not only demanded the be removed, they asked that the team be shut down.
Women like Miller can't imagine a time when an employee might shut up and take abuse because of her gender, and they have no patience with would-be protectors. What she wants from those who would act in her interests, she says, is what the crew gives her: respect. "I'm treated as Monika. As a worker. As somebody who's going to pound dirt."
Which isn't to say that, by some definitions of the word, she's not "harassed."
"We all are," Miller says. "It's part of the job. Part of life. That's the fun."
Sound like a "hostile work environment?" Consider that concept from a Hot Shot's perspective. At its least pleasant, wild-land firefighting means taking off on a moment's notice to fight a conflagration
You spill out of your buggy and hike uphill to the fire. In 118-degree heat. Without a trail. Wearing heavy gear, including canteens that hold less water than your thirst craves. For 10 or 16 or even 24 hours you hack, grub and chain-saw along a wall of flames, dodging rocks bigger than your hard hat, breathing wind-whipped embers, maybe grabbing a couple of hours sleep beside a smoldering stump before starting over again. Eager to cull weakness and rightly viewing whiners as a safety threat, bosses harangue and colleagues haze.
The female Hot Shots I talked to said they were prouder of their time on the Los Padres crew than anything else they have achieved. Diane Pryce is now an air-tactical supervisor in Utah, flying over fires to make sure retardant drops hit their marks and crews stay safe. Working for the "shots," she says, instilled an attitude - "Be professional and pull your own weight" - that has earned her respect at every step as she advanced to become the first woman smoke jumper in California and then Alaska, following a Los Padres Hot Shot who became the first female smoke jumper in the United States.
Who You Callin' Bill Wyman? Former Rolling Stone Bill Wyman is suing Atlanta Journal-Constitution writer Bill Wyman. The Stone doesn't want the writer using his name. There a catch. Wyman isn't really the bassist's name:
Bill Wyman the Rolling Stone wasn't born Bill Wyman.
His real name, Stones fans know, is William George Perks. During a stint in the British Air Force, Perks had known a guy named Lee Whyman.
A thought struck me, and I pulled "Stone Alone" down off the shelf, to the page where he expressed his admiration for his old buddy Lee.
Wyman says he first used the name onstage in 1963. "In 1964 I adapted his name, and changed mine by deed poll," he writes in a footnote.
Me, I was born Jan. 11, 1961.
What I need now is a lawyer to ask Mr. Siegel that his client stop using a name I have claim to by several years.
Wednesday, November 13, 2002 The Perils Of Open Borders. Immigrants from this nation, legal and illegal, come to this country and murder. And if they escape back to their home, that nation refuses to extradite them. no, it's not Saudi Arabia.
Tuesday, November 12, 2002 The East-West Connection. Here's a story I did on a local teacher who just got back from Japan. The fact she has an exchange going on with a fifth-grade in Japan is pretty cool. But the business of asking elementary school kids to devise solutions to environmental problems and debate them is not exactly how I would have used it.
Don't Gloat. Don't Overreach. Earlier I posted about Trent Lott's promise that a ban on partial birth abortion would be at the top of the agenda. I know that Lott doesn't share my concerns such a ban violates the 10th Amendment. But I said that his promise reeked of the worst kind of politics.
It seems someone else shares my view, at least about the politics of it all.
Whatever you think of the merits of the partial birth abortion ban and some of the other anti-abortion legislation, Bush clearly wants to go slow. And why not? The GOP has at least two years, maybe more to deal with the issue. Take it slow. Don't seem too radical. Don't seem too beholden to any interest groups. You'll get to where you want to go, maybe not as fast as some would want, but you now know you'll get there. Pass a few bills on other topics. Then do the partial birth abortion. Then wait a little bit and pass some of the other bills.
Once again, Bush shows himself to be a smarter politician than many give him credit for. And Lott shows himself to be as dumb as many of us believe.
Still Hedging. Sonny Perdue seems more and more like a man trying to find a way to keep the flag issue from flaring up again. During the campaign, he promised a referendum of returning to the old flag with its prominent use of the Confederate Southern Cross.
In recent statements, he's hedged on that promise. He now says a referendum "is something we will look at with the leadership..." Perdue may have unleashed a genie he can't now control. He'd clearly like to find a way to kill this issue. But he may not be able to.
Monday, November 11, 2002 Global Climate Change Watch Our loyal reader and frequent Shout Backer Domenic Anghelone has sent me a couple of links over the last week or so about climate change. The first is about the correlation between saline levels in the Mediterranean Sea and ice ages. One of the fascinating things about climate change in the past is how rapidly it can occur. The slow stately change of climate that we learned in school has become "punctuated equilibria", where climate shifts from temperate to ice age in a decade. The influence of haline (salt) circulation and levels in the ocean are apparently a major influence on climate. These shifts (which are related to shifts in winds, or vice versa - the whole thing is hideously complex) seem to be a key driver in the process of generating an ice age. The gross oversimplification is that a decrease in the polar caps (cause by warming or haline levels or both) allows more moisture to enter the air at northern latitudes, which allows more snowfall and starts ice sheets. Some research indicates that through much of the initial states of the last few ice ages, the poles were actually ice-free. So the irony is that global warming could actually trigger an ice age! I am intrigued with this view - that anthropogenic emissions could trigger an rapid swing in climate that ends up in an ice age. Either way, we are conducting a massive global experiment in changed atmospheric composition and surface properties, and we don't know where it will end up.
The second link concerns desertification in Africa. This link is on a site called the "Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change", which seems to be run by the Idso family. They were largely funded by the coal industry, although Exxon-Mobil has given them lots of money lately, and concentrate documenting the benefits of increased atmospheric CO2 levels. This is an interesting site - they seem to concentrate on making their points by reviews of articles in mainstream journals. This is a similar tactic to that used by some "scientific creationists" - use the messy process of science to confuse the lay person by citing isolated articles in respected journals that seem, on the surface, to support your arguments. The arguments of Idso et al are a bit like saying that stomach cancer is a good thing because you don't eat as much, and therefore save money. That said, Africa's problems are largely political, not meteorological. Any study of changes to land cover in Africa that ignores politics (such as both the UN's studies and the studies cited by Idso) are fatally flawed. The expansion and contration of the Sahel have much to do with population fluxes due to war and famine, not changes to CO2 levels.
Update In the above, I'm not meaning to suggest that if you take money and do research for corporate giants that automatically makes you a shill; likewise, government sponsored research isn't automatically pure. I've done (and continue to do) both, and there are advantages and disadvantages to each. But you have to be very careful not to sell your soul to your funders in either case, and far too many researchers in the climate field appear to have done so. In my opinion, the Idso's are an example on the corporate side, just as some of the folks working for the IPCC are examples on the government side.
Sunday, November 10, 2002 Veterans Day. Dalton had a big parade Saturday. The crowd wasn't that great. But the sparse attendance isn't indicative of the area's patriotism. People my age and younger aren't into parades that much. I remember when the local Christmas parade used to be a big deal. They cancelled that a few years ago because of the poor crowds.
Since I was working Saturday, I did the police blotter for that day. An awful lot of people from Tennessee get busted for DUI here. Makes no sense to me. If I was going to get liquored up and drive recklessly, I think I'd do it in Chattanooga. There's just more to do there. Youv'e got to wonder how slow Ooltewahe is if people there come to Dalton on the weekend to party.
I also had a column on Lynyrd Skynyrd getting passed over for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in today's paper. Unfortunately, it's not on line. It's one of the best things I've written recently.
For those of you who are interested, here's some earlier thoughts I had on the topic. One of the great things about having a blog is that I find that I can often take my incoherent ramblings here and turn them into (semi?)coherent articles that I actually get paid for. Hey, if Andrew Sullivan can do it, so can I.
Saturday, November 09, 2002 This Won't Make James Taranto Happy. The Pentagon wants to reduce its role in the war on drugs. At thhe top of the list is diverting special forces solider from the war on drugs to the war on terror.
Hedging. Georgia governor-elect Sonny Perdue was in Dalton yesterday. He basically gave a thank you speech, nothing major. But when we asked him about the flag, Perdue said "We are going to deal with that in January."
Perdue promised a referendum on switching back to the old flag. But columnist Bill Shipp, who is about the savviest observer of Georgia politics, says today that Perdue is already trying to finesse the issue. I'd only add that Perdue started finessing the issue during the campaign. He didn't declare his allegiance to the old flag. He only said that he didn't like the way the switch was made. That's a legitimate stand, and one likely shared by many Georgians. But that isn't exactly what the neoconfederate types were saying.
But there's a couple of problems with the referendum. First, it would alienate the business wing of the party. People forget that Roy Barnes changed the flag after being prodded by Atlanta business leaders. Now, alienating business leaders may not be a major problem. Perdue won without significant help from them this year. But it's probably a good rule of politics not to piss off the money guys too often.
The bigger problem is timing. I'm not sure that the GOP wants a referendum of the November 2004 ballot. The party won this time because of low black voter turnout. A referendum on the ballot could be just the ticket to energizing black votes next time. Maybe it will energize white voters even more. But with the GOP in charge, the state's white conservatives might get a little complacent next time. White complacency and a heavy black turnout wouldn't be good for the GOP.
It's going to be interesting to see who Perdue handles this.
Islam And Women Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a somali immigrant to the Netherlands and a member of the nation's left-wing Labor Party. She's also an outspoken opponent of the way women are treated by the country's Muslim men. She made a name for herself pressing for the emancipation of Muslim women and documenting how thousands, living even here, were subjected to beatings, incest and emotional and sexual abuse.
More than 100 women a year have surgery to "restore" their virginity, she estimates in her published work. While only 10 percent of the population is non-Dutch, this group accounts for more than 60 percent of abortions, "because the Muslim girls are kept ignorant," she said. Three out of five Moroccan-Dutch girls — Moroccans are among the largest immigrant groups — are forced to marry young men from villages back home, to keep them under control, she said.
To the surprise of many, she joined the late Pim Fortuyn in calling for reform of the nation's immigration policy. The government, she says, should impose Dutch law on men who beat their wives and daughters, even if the Muslim clergy say it is permissible. It should also end teaching the immigrants in their own language and stop paying for the more than 700 Islamic clubs, most of which, she said, "are run by deeply conservative men and they perpetuate the segregation of women."
The result: death threats from angry Muslim men, lots of them. The government advised her to move to a new address, and it provided here with bodyguards. But the liberal Dutch apparently can't guarantee her safety. She's now been forced into hiding in another country.
Thursday, November 07, 2002 Partial Birth Abortion? Okay, you know that you are going to be the Senate majority leader in the next session, if not sooner. The nation is still at war with terrorists and may soon be at war with Iraq. The economy isn't in freefall, but it's still wobbly. Social Security and Medicare are still headed for red ink in less than 20 years. So what's your first major piece of legislation?
Well, according to Trent Lott, the big priority is banning "partial birth abortion."
Leave aside for a minute, if you can, how you feel about this procedure. (I'd personally ban all third-trimester abortions unless the life of the mother is in danger. But I don't know if I'd single this procdure out for further restrictions.)
Let's leave aside whether passing such a law reveals Republicans to be hypocrites when it comes to their professed concern about strict construction of the Constitution and states' rights.
What does this say about their priorities and how they'll use their new powers? Are they actually going to tackle some of the problems that plague the U.S.? Or are they simply going to throw red meat to their base? With their slim majority, it's probably not the time to tackle complex issues like Social Security reform, though they could certainly start laying the groundwork for such action. But they could take a hard look at regulatory reform. And they could try to get a grip on federal spending (which soared even in the years they held both chambers of Congress.) But moves like that could anger some voters and stretch Trent Lott's clerly poor powers to hold his members together.
More likely, they'll follow up the abortion vote with a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning and hope that the economy turns around and pray that there's not another major terrorist attack on U.S. soil.
Georgia Elections. Virginia Postrel has some interesting letters on her blog regarding Tuesday night. I think that one writer is correct when he suggests that low black voter turnout was the key. Roy Barnes won in 1998 only because of an a large black turnout. Blacks made up more than one-quarter of those who voted in '98. Haven't seen good numbers from Tuesday yet, but some of the more knowledgabe people I've talked to estimated that blacks probably made up no more than 20% of Tuesday's vote, likely less.
But I'm not sure that the weather played a very big factor. The writer describes the Tuesday rain as "biblical." Maybe he hasn't been in Georgia long, but it seemed pretty much like a typical Georgai fall shower to me. Actually, not nearly as bad as some. The rain was pretty heavy, but there was no lighning that I saw, nor any tornadoes I heard of.
Wednesday, November 06, 2002 Yes, But Is It Pornography? Many bloggers like to knock The Guardian. But that paper was the only one smart enough to do this piece on this year's Turner Prize for art. It's nice to hear and expert's view.
If Mr. Dover does submit an entry for next year's prize, it would likely be more interesting than previous winners.
Georgia's Biggest Loser. That's a no-brainer. Despite being the incumbent and outspending his opponent by more than 6-1, Roy Barnes lost the governor's mansion.
And the second biggest loser is also clear: Bob Barr. Barr refused GOP pleas to run in the 11th District, the one scientifically drawn by state Democrats this year to insure a Democratic victory. Instead, he moved to the 7th District, where he was soundly defeated in the primary by John Linder.
But guess what? Phil Gingrey, a relatively little known Republican state senator, beat Democrat Roger Kahn Tuesday night in the 11th District. In retrospect, Barr would likely have had little trouble against Kahn, whom he'd beaten two years ago in his old district. Sucker.
On Message. I spent a lot of time over the past two or three months interviewing candidates for state house and senate races from the local races, as well as covering speeches by them and by Sonny Perdue and and the other Republican candidates for statewide office. It's amazing in retrospect how unified they were. With only minor variations for the office and the district, they all hit the same points in almost the same language.
Of course, even an idiot could have seen that hammering Roy Barnes was a winner for the GOP, and the talk of returning schools to local control, capping property taxes, etc. was going to be very popular. But the way they refused to get distracted from their points was remarkable. I made a comment about how inept Georgia Republicans tend to be earlier, and in the past the GOP has often frittered away near-sure things.
The state party machinery is clearly more rpofessional and capable than it has been in the past. I wonder how much of this is due to my old friend Ralph Reed and how much of this he inherited.
The King Is Dead. Everyone knows that the GOP broke a 140-year Democratic grip on the Georgia gubernatorial mansion, but few outside the state realize that there was another story Tuesday that's just as important. House Speaker Tom Murphy was defeated by his Republican opponent. Murphy has been speaker for over 20 years and in the house for longer than I've been alive.
It's no exaggeration to say he wielded as much power as any house speaker, national or state, in U.S. history and more than any other current speaker. Generally, when a a powerful, autocratic speaker is overthrown, the legislature rewrites the rules to deny the next speaker as much power. I predict the same will be true in Georgia. And that's likely good news for the GOP. Even though they don't control either chamber, it'll be harder to keep their bills from reaching the floor and harder for Democrats to lard spending bills with projects designed to bring them votes. Not impossible. Far from it. But the Republicans are certainly in a much better position than they would be if Murphy had been re-elected.
On a side note, Murray and Whitfield counties didn't report any problems with the new voting machines. I don't know about Bartow and Gordon counties, but I think if there had been major problems down there, I'd have heard about it. Based on my limited anecdotal evidence, I think reports of voting problems in Georgia were greatly exaggerated.
Update: No one seems to have any idea who might replace Murphy. His loss is so unexpected that no one can even think of any likely candidates yet. And no one is quite sure what will happen to the planned reservoir/lake that would just happen to turn land owned by Murphy and his family into valuable lakeside property. But the general feeling is the project is to far along to stop.
Reich is an idiot On the radio arm of the Peoples Broadcasting System, NPR's Morning Edition, Robert Reich argued that Bush actually lost this election, because winning wasn't the objective. Reich said that Bush didn't want to win because now that the GOP controls both houses they will be responsible for getting things done. What a moron. I may not be much of a political pundit (see below), but this administration has a plan and seems to want to get things done. Unlike the previous bunch, they are adults and are not concerned with avoiding responsiblity.
As Bugs Bunny said, "He don't know me very well, do he?".
Election Post-Mortem My election predictions tanked. Guess I'll stick to analyzing death and destruction (which I've been told I'm pretty good at; at least I get paid for it). The envelope please:
1) Historic amount of Fraud: I think I was right on this one, but the margins were so high that it didn't matter.
2) Dems 52-48 in Senate. Blew this one. (1) wasn't enough.
3) Barnes, Cleland, and Walker: should have listened to my wife on this one (of course, that goes without saying!). I think teacher anger and to a lesser extent the flag backlash really did in Barnes. Most Georgians would probably have supported a compromise to change the flag, but the way it was done (and the butt-ugly result) just hacked off a lot of people. Georgia schools are a mess - but most realize it's not the teachers fault. Cleland was just too liberal for most Georgians - they no longer see a Vietnam Vet, but a Ted Kennedy pal. It will be interesting to see what Black turnout was in GA. Burns (who beat Walker for the GA 12th Congressional District) ran a series of ads trashing Walker, using an obviously "African American" voice to point out his extensive experience with the Law Enforcement community (shoplifting, leaving the scene of an accident, etc). Another ad accused him of profiteering from jails. If that depressed the traditionally democratic Black turnout, it may have hurt Barnes and Cleland. Blacks in Cynthia McKinney's district were supposed to boycott this election as well.
4) Bro Jeb: not close enough for the recount's to matter.
However, my prediction that my predictions would be wrong was right, therefore I actually scored 100%! (It's a negative zone).
Tuesday, November 05, 2002 It Has Been A Long Day, And It Ain't Over Yet. The Whitfield County Board of Education met this morning, and I was out there covering it. Then back to the office to write the story. After that, I had to call everyone I'll need to talk to tonight and pin down where they'll be.
After a break for dinner, it's back to the office to take part of our team coverage of the elections. I've been covering the state house district 5 and state senate district 54 races, so I'll be watching those. And I'll be doing whatever else is needed.
Depending upon how fast this goes (As of 7:19, no precincts had reported), I could be here until midnight.
Voting in Georgia Georgia has gone to an entirely electronic touch screen voting system. It scares me - there is no paper trail. I would at least like to get a receipt showing what was recorded. The old system we had in Chatham County, based on optical scanners, seemed a better one. Also, maintenance is an issue: at my precinct there were 6 machines. 2 were already dead as of 11:30. I overheard a poll worker saying that they didn't know if the votes on the dead boxes could be recovered. Oh, well.
The opportunity for fraud here is limitless. The check in area and line to actually cast the ballot were seperate, and there was nothing to verify that someone going to vote had actually past through the check in area! Very poor security.
Monday, November 04, 2002 No Tears For Jesse. Jonathan Rauch has had it with tributes to Jesse Helms.
There are, I have little doubt, literally millions of Americans who would be conservatives today if not for the snarling visage of Jesse Helms. His place in conservative annals is not alongside Reagan or Goldwater, or even Gingrich or Kemp, but next to Robert H.W. Welch Jr.
Actually, Helms is worse that Welch. Welch was a nut, dismissed by every serious libertarian and conservative of his day. But today's serious conservatives have nothing but praise for Helms. At the risk of sounding insensitve to a dying old man, the only thing I can say about his departure from the Senate is good riddance.
Turkey With the fuss about US elections, lets not forget the JDP (AK) party victory in Turkey. This could be really bad - they are only 4 votes shy of a two thirds majority (363, need 367), which would allow them to change the constitution and presumably allow the presently secular Turkish government to take on more of an Islamic character. The military supposedly stands in the way, but either way this could be interesting. I tend to agree with those who suggest that the EU is partly responsible for this. They rushed to let in the newly freed eastern european countries, but have continued to "dis" Turkey with respect to EU membership.
Election Predictions Never one to shy away from a forecast, here's my day-before election prognosis:
1) There will be a phenomenal amount of fraud and abuse this cycle. Normally that runs about 3% in bad districts, maybe .5 to 1% typical. I think some districts will see upwards of 8-10%. Most of the fraud and abuse will benefit the Democrats (who don't see it as fraud and abuse, but as re-enfranchising the disenfranchised). The lesson from the last 2 years, with respect to election law, is that crime pays. This may be overly pessimistic, but I'm really afraid this will be a very nasty post-election season.
2) National: Dems win most of the close senate races, either directly or in the courts post-election. Senate ends up 52-48. I see the house tightening by a seat or two - maybe even a near tie, again due to the fraud factor.
3) Local: Barnes and Cleland eek out narrow (1-2%) victories. Walker wins the new 12th district.
4) Jeb wins Florida, but the recount(s) go to McBride.
Given my poor performance in the Frog elections, the above is proably wrong (and I sure hope so!).
Sunday, November 03, 2002 The Simpsons. Spoiler alert for those who haven't seen it.
It was one of their annual Halloween episodes. In one segment, Lisa finds the grave of one William Bonney, gunned to death at the tender age of 21. His dying wish was for a world without guns. Touched by his story, she convinces the people of Springfield to destroy all their firearms. ("I now pronounce this town officially defenseless:" Mayor Quimby.)
Of course, Bonney is actually Billy the Kid, and he wanted a word without firearms so he could run roughshod over it, which is exactly what happens. Fortunately, Homer travles through time, saves all of Springfield's guns, and they kill the cowboy zombies before they can take over.
One of the funnier and more explicitly political things they've done. I wonder how fans will react to it. Heck, I wonder how Matt Groening will react.
Where I've Been. Some of you may have noticed that posting has been rather light recently. I've taken a job as education reporter for The (Dalton) Daily Citizen. I've been covering Dalton city schools and Whitfield County schools. It's really exciting stuff. I've also been covering the local race for state senate, and I'll probably do other things as my work on the education beat permits.
When I was freelancing and worked at home, it was easy for me to interrupt my work for a few moments and post something. It's more difficult to do that at the office, and in any event my employer wouldn't like that. So I'll probably be posting less during the day, but I'll try to keep adding stuff at night.
Saturday, November 02, 2002 Clearly They Haven't Seen Her Recently. Police thwarted an attempt to kidnap Posh Spice.
The photo accompanying the story is actually one of the more flattering ones I've seen of her recently. She was never a great beauty, but something has really happened to her. Maybe Beckham has been practicing his kicks on her face.
Now this surprised me. I expected the tinfoil hat crowd to start speculatiing that Wellstone was assassinated. When I saw this article, linked from the always entertaining JPFO "unpopular speech" page (BTW - are you a member?) , it really threw me. I was expecting speculation that the Democrats knocked off Wellstone, learning from the lesson that Carnahan and "the Torch" seem to be teaching, that the sympathy vote can put you over the top with a last-minute ticket change. This made no sense - why would the Republicans off loosing candidates?
Question For The Military Types.Jim Henley points out something that has troubled me over the last few days. John Mohammed apparently at various times in his military career struck an officer, stole an Army rifle and threw a grenade into a tent full of other soldiers. How the hell did he get an honorable discharge from the Army?
Peckinpah Westerns And Scorsese Mob Films. That seems to be all non-Americans know about the U.S. It's an an incredibly violent place, due solely to the easy access to weapons.
Even Damian Penny seems to have fallen for the myth. He links approvingly to an anti-gun article that claims firearms are the second-leading cause of death in the U.S. after automobile accidents. (Our easy access to cars is also a fault, apparently.)
I can only say: Wrong, and wrong again!
According to the CDC, the leading causes of death in the U.S. are heart disease and cancer. (Our easy access to Big Macs may be the real problem here.)
All accidents, including autos, rank only fourth as the cause of death.
Heart disease alone took more than 12 times as many lives as guns in 2000.
Thursday, October 31, 2002 First National Bank Boulevard. In Georgia, the only thing politicians like as much as building roads is naming roads after other politicians. You can't drive anywhere in this state wihtout passing a sign telling you you're a driving a stretch of blacktop named after some person of dubious achievement.
I drive from Dalton to Rome each Thursday night to play trivia at Hooters. Most of the drive is along I-75. For those of you who've never drive 75, the stretch that passes through Gordon County is officially designated Bert Lance Highway. Those of you who remember Lance (and you know who you are) remember him as the small-town banker Jimmy Carter made head of the Office of Management and Budget. He got embroiled in some ethical problems in that post after news of some questionable banking practices at his bank came to light. Technically, he is Gordon County's most famous son, I guess. I wonder if Great Britain has named a highway after Peter Bourne.
Speaking of Hooters, we were in second place all night until the final question: What city is the largest, by land area, in the U.S.? We blew that. But I was one of just two people in the bar to know what movie ended with a ski-off between Lane Meyer and Roy Stalin.
King Roy in trouble? The CW is that Roy Barnes is in pretty good shape for re-election as Governer of Georgia, with polls showing a 10 point lead. But this election, for the first time in history, the Georgia Association of Educators (the GA affiliate of the NEA ) did not endorse the Democratic candidiate for Gov. There is a great deal of bitterness in the educational community over his educational "reforms". Barnes reportedly said to a audience of secondary school teachers that "every teacher in Georgia should be fired. They are all incompetent.". In the last few days there has been a huge grass roots effort (however, I suspect NEA/GEA involvement) among teachers to stick it to King Roy. My wife (a high school science teacher, but not an NEA member) has received numerous emails urging her to vote for Purdue, the Republican. For a Democrat actually having the NEA hacked off at them, and possibly even working against them, is pretty unusual.
Another interesting Barnes misstep is his announcement that DaimlerChrysler is building a new van manufacturing plant in the Savannah area. Problem is, it now seems that there are a lot of "if's" coming out from the Daimler side, like "if demand warrents", "if the economy picks up", and "If the Daimler board decides to actually build the plant". The initial good feeling about the announcement is starting to evolve in to a suspicion that it was a political ploy by Barnes, and it will be years if ever before the plant is built.
I bet this election will be closer than many expect, and an upset isn't out of the question.
Wednesday, October 30, 2002 Sorry About The Lack Of Posting Yesterday. I had to do some writing that paid. Among the stories I did was this one about a speaker at the local college. The publisher said the he liked it, so I guess I did good.
Monday, October 28, 2002 Help. I need a costume for Thursday night. Something inexpensive that I can put together out of things around the house or stuff that I can pick up on my lunch break tomorrow or Wednesday. It must also be something that I can easily change into after work Thursday.
It doesn't have to be particularly good or innovative.
Blowing My Horn. Brad De Long has one of the best blogs out there, but he's a couple of weeks behind the curve on this one. Shoutin' brought you this the night it happened. (You'll have to take my word for it, since Blogger seems to have eaten the last four weeks of archives.) I still say that #3 shows that some Late Show writer has a wicked sense of humor.
It's cold outside. And France is about to find out just how chilly it'll be once they succeed in emasculating the only body in which they still hold sway. As even the Independent notes: "Washington has been signalling with decreasing subtlety in recent days that it will soon give up on the UN and plan for military action alone, with support from Britain. Such an outcome, however, would embarrass the UN and could undermine its authority for many years." Really.
Sunday, October 27, 2002 Looks like you were right. As an update to Charles's post about that gas being something more than a knock-out gas is this UPI link. They're reporting that it was a neuro-toxin and may have been directly responsible for some of the deaths in the theatre.
Update: D Anghelone provides this link which states that only one (1) of the over 100 killed in the raid was killed by gunfire. Again, I agree with Chuck, this was probably the best outcome of a bad situation. After all these guys had detonators *in their hands* yet seemingly couldn't use them.
Putin gets it... we hope. This translation of Putin's speech following the raid is very moving.
"Dear compatriots! These days we have, together, gone through a terrible test. All our thoughts were with the hostages, in the hands of armed vermin. We hoped for the best outcome, but each of us understood, that it is necessary to be ready for the worst. Today the rescue operation of this morning is done. It was possible to do almost the impossible - to rescue the lives of hundreds, hundreds of people. We have proved that Russia cannot be put on her knees. But now I first of all want to address the families and relatives of those who were lost. We could not rescue them all. Forgive us. Let the memory of the victims unite us. I thank all the citizens of Russia for their endurance and unity. Special gratitude to everyone who participated in the rescue operation. Special thanks to the employees of the special divisions who, without hesitation, risking their own lives, struggled for the rescue of the hostages. We are grateful also to our friends all over the world, for their moral and practical support in our struggle against the same enemy. This enemy is strong and dangerous, brutal and severe. It is international terrorism. While it is not defeated, anywhere in the world, people can not feel safe. But it should be defeated. And it will be defeated. Today in the hospital I talked to one of victims. He said to me, 'It was not that terrible - there was a confidence among us, that the future of the terrorists is not enduring.' And this is the truth. They do not have a future. We do."
Now segue to this story. Russia is publicly linking the Chechen terrorists to al-Quaeda. Yet the Russians are still holding out support for dealing with one of the biggest supporters of international terrorism by fighting against the US's resolution in the security council. Why the seeming cognitive dissonance? The Sunday Herald offers this explanation:
With time running out, the US needs a decision. But it has been stymied again and again by France -- which now looks as if it will make concessions -- and Russia, which has been far more stubborn.
Now that Putin has emerged as a player in the war against terrorism -- he has made much of links between the Chechen terrorists and al-Qaeda -- the US will be looking for a change of heart, and seeking support for its resolution.
They may get it, but it will be on Putin's terms. Russia is owed $3 billion by Iraq, and any regime change could put that asset in jeopardy. If Iraq ends up being ruled by a US-backed military administration under General Tommy Franks, Putin will want firm guarantees about repayment of the debt.
Until now Putin has argued that inspections are the way to handle Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and that there is no link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. His firm action against the Chechens could change all that, but the deal will have to be right for the Russians.
Once again, the former KGB man will play it right up to the wire.
Stephen Den Beste agrees that it's about the money but argues that US has a moral duty and imperative to nullify France and Russia's contracts negotiated after 1991. I think we'll have to buy Russia's support -- some combination between oil contracts between the US and Siberia and a brokered agreement on just how much of Iraq's debt will be honored will be easy to negotiate with Putin. The issue of post-Gulf War contracts between Iraq and Russia are going to be more difficult. As Den Beste notes, the US has to decide how much they are willing to reward Russia for its bad-faith business practices vs. the value of a security council resolution. In the interest of international appearances the US will probably honor a good number of those post-war deals; sure, it'll be our war, and our blood but we need at least the tacit approval of another superpower (it's still a big country and it's got street cred). Probably spot price guarantees on Russian oil are going to be offered to cushion the humiliation at having to let Putin keep most of his Iraqi contracts.
It's interesting to speculate about what Russia may believe it can negotiate out of the US. But given this attack, the coming crackdown by Russia in Chechnya (which won't have Euro-sophisticates up in arms), and the well-documented links between these terrorists, al-Quaeda and Iraq... when will Russia stop playing realpolitik and start acting like there is a war on and they're part of it?
Update: Qsi at Dilacerator answers the central question "What does Russia want?" using stuff like research, historical antecedents and macroeconomics with just a pinch of visceral speculation... very well written and thought provoking.