The Bushies: Slow Company Men in a Fast Company World Writing in the latest New Yorker about the Harken-Halliburton administration's economic team, James Surowecki points out that since senior White House advisers have little to no experience dealing with competition, we should hardly expect them to get free-market religion now.
Almost none of the C.E.O.s on the Bush team headed competitive, entrepreneurial businesses. The majority of them, in fact, made their bones in protected or regulated industries, where success depends on personal lobbying and political maneuvering. Bush himself, of course, built a small fortune on family connections, finagling a spot on the board of Harken Energy, and securing a publicly financed stadium for the Texas Rangers. Dick Cheney, meanwhile, got the top job at Halliburton almost solely because of his political connections. His successor there, David Lesar, has said, "What Dick brought was obviously a wealth of contacts." Wealth of contacts, indeed: under Cheney, Halliburton expanded internationally, gained $1.5 billion in subsidies from the U.S. government, and added a billion dollars in government contracts.
Greatest Hits Weekend This being my last major stretch of downtime before the election, I plan to make like a radio station and kick back while you treat yourselves to well-aged content. But you've only had a blog for two months, you say? Well, that problem has an easy enough remedy: my e-mail archives, where I've got great writing busting out all over. I've changed all names to protect the innocent.
A Triumph of the Flying Biscuit To: Tricia Johnson
From: Greg Greene
Subject: A triumph of the flying biscuit--
Cc: Josh Steiner
Trish, I believe that I've bested the Flying Biscuit. A bold boast, you say? You're absolutely right. And considering this week's earlier culinary setback, who would have expected me to have reached that pinnacle so soon?
But there I am, savoring the memory of this morning's coup -- a batch of biscuits that held moisture with the gentle embrace a mother might give her newborn, but kept their crisp composure on the outside; that browned perfectly without betraying so much as a hint of a scorch or a singe; that rose up with an ineffable lightness that made them a beauteous and heavenly sight to behold. [Why, I thought I heard the angels themselves singing hosannas in praise! Or maybe it was the lack of sleep.]
As the sweet mysteries of life reveal themselves to me -- whatever that nonsensical phrase means -- I can stand here and gaze out upon the world in blissful satisfaction. I may never match this feat again, but I can walk on to that great festival in the sky serene in the knowledge that at last I've found a biscuit so close to perfect that the authority in charge up there will come a-calling on me for the recipe. [Or sue me for misappropriation of trade secrets.]
Fireworks at 8 p.m., then cocktails for an hour. Best--
Greg Greene =,
How Not to Join the God Squad The 11th District Republican primary runoff in Georgia is coming down to the wire, with bothcandidates triple-dog-daring each other about who can sound the more arch-conservative. Yesterday, though, one candidate took the game a dare too far.
Phil Gingrey, a state representative from Cobb County, earned the enmity of local gay groups this year by sponsoring a "Defense of Scouting" bill during the legislative session. More people in the district live in the hinterlands than the Atlanta suburbs, and observers think Gingrey's stance may help him garner votes in rural areas.
Gingrey opponent Cecil Staton, flustered by that prospect, decided to do his utmost to neutralize the issue. How? By selling himself as a "minister and a man of faith" fighting to keep a clandestine "supporter of homosexuals" out of Congress.
Only one wee small problem with that gambit: one look at Staton's record makes him look way more down with the Village People than Gingrey ever has. The Atlanta Journal-Constitutiondecided to prove as much in the morning paper.
In 1997, Staton led a group that broke away from a Macon church in the Southern Baptist Convention to start a church that joined the Alliance of Baptists. The alliance affirms gay members and its churches have ordained many gay and lesbian ministers, according to Jeanette Holt, associate director of the alliance.
Staton said he was unaware of the organization's tolerance of gay ministers and he does not believe the group had the same policy when he joined. "The issue of homosexuality was not an issue for that congregation and had nothing to do with my membership in the congregation," he said.
William Merrell, vice president for Southern Baptist Convention relations, said the Alliance of Baptists is considered to be the most liberal of Baptist denominations.
"Most of the people I know who left the Southern Baptist Convention for the Alliance of Baptists despise Southern Baptists," Merrell said. "Anyone who has left the convention in protest is being disingenuous to say they are friendly to Southern Baptists."
Staton, who moved from Macon to Rome this summer to run for Congress, refused this week to say where he now attends church.
"I don't want my church affiliation to be an issue in this campaign," he said. "I'm not going to politicize my choice of where to go to church."
Highland Hills Baptist Church in Macon said Staton is an active member there.
The church is affiliated with both the Southern Baptist Convention and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a moderate denomination that opposes the "purposeful" hiring of gay missionaries and staffers.
[Former Sen. Mike Mansfield (D-Mont.)] has an uncanny knack of finding exactly the right word. When the conversation at lunch turned to American foreign policy, he called it "haphazard." That is better than 3,000 words from Henry Kissinger.
-- David Broder, "Mr. America," The Washington Post, Mar. 21, 1999, @ B7.
Cynthia: the Sequel? [cont'd] I just checked the web site of the Georgia secretary of state's office for information on qualification deadlines for elections. It turns out that the last date for qualifying as a write-in or third-party candidate came three weeks ago, on Aug. 5.
But wait, how about the write-in option? Going through with it would mean signing up with the secretary of state's office by . . . Sept. 3.
Let's cross our fingers and hope she doesn't make any announcements next week.
Bush in Iraq: On Whose Authority? I spent much of yesterday champing at the bit to get my $.02 in on the Bush administration's dizzyingly elaborate explanation of how the President can fight Iraq without asking Congress. [For those who missed the news, long story short, it boils down to this: "because I said so."] I ran out short on time to pen down any thoughts, but as it turns out, law professor Jeff Cooper has weighed in with a more thorough post than I would have bothered to write. My favorite paragraph:
A straightforward consideration of the Constitution and prior resolutions of Congress . . . suggests that the administration needs to obtain congressional approval before initiating a war against Iraq. A clever lawyer, no doubt, could formulate counterarguments in support of presidential action without congressional approval. But on a matter as serious as war, it would be inappropriate to rely on clever lawyering rather than an act of Congress.
The Chariots Roll On The U.S. Olympic Committee dumped Houston and Washington on Tuesday, nixing their chances of hosting the 2012 Summer Games. Some living in the two cities woke up with sore feelings about it today, and having lived in Atlanta during the runup to the 1996 Olympics, I can understand.
I don't have much to say about Washington getting the brush-off due to foreigners who might veto D.C. as a proxy vote against an unpopular America, except that -- sad to say -- the committee probably had a point. As for Houston, though, I've only had one question all along: how did it make it this far?
The IOC did the dull downtown thing with Atlanta in 1996, and hated it, hated it, hated it. Dick Pound, then an IOC executive from Canada, slagged the town from one end of the city limits to the other. IOC chairman Juan Antonio Samaranch, meanwhile, could only find it within himself to call that Olympiad "most exceptional games" -- not only short of his standard "best games ever" accolade, but also not even a compliment.
After that experience, the crowned heads of the IOC have no stomach for staging another stateside Olympics cum urban-renewal project. New York and SF would stand as a direct refutation of the Atlanta model. Houston would have been its carbon copy. The USOC was wise enough to understand that, and consequently cut Houston out.
Sorry it had to happen, Houston, but the key to getting the games now is to be a great city first. [Or to kvetch for long enough, like China. =, ] Build light rail, create some street life and a good walkable environment, and who knows -- maybe in a decade or two, Houston will be ready to give the Games another try.
"[South Carolina], long the doormat of SAT rankings, passed Georgia this year, bringing finger-pointing and promises of change from embarrassed state officials in Atlanta. Only the schools in the District of Columbia scored lower this year on the college entrance exam." -- "SAT scores land Georgia in 50th place," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Aug. 28, 2002
"The Republicans campaign on ideology and resentment," he told about 400 people at the West Memphis Civic Auditorium. "They're good and the rest of us are bad. They spent $70 million of your money to prove I was a sinner, and you could have told 'em that for free."
Cynthia: the Sequel? I have no intention of turning this into a single-issue blog. But . . .
Some careful observers found an odd note over the weekend on Cynthia McKinney's campaign site. It read:
Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney is going through all the letters and e-mails asking her to continue the struggle, to run again, to run for the US Senate. Shortly, there will be an announcement on this button -- more to come.
That cryptic message sparked plenty of talk come yesterday, as you might expect, about the smackdown Zell Miller would put on her -- with relish -- if she tried. But if you read the note again, you might notice something.
She didn't say anything about skipping the Senate race in 2002.
Georgia Democrats were counting on Cynthia -- why, I don't know -- to boost black turnout come the general election in November, when Sen. Max Cleland (D) leads the ballot. Well, now she's toast, and when she needed help this summer, most state Democrats were too busy raising money or making tee times to bother.
So Cynthia's an angry woman. [Not that she wasn't plenty angry already.] And she has two assets to her name: time on her hands, and an ego to feed.
With a write-in campaign, she could make use of both -- and torpedo Democrats' chances of holding the Senate in the process.
The GOP already has Cleland in its sights as one of the senators it wants to take down. The Bush administration handpicked a candidate, Rep. Saxby Chambliss, and festooned him with cash and endorsements before the primary campaign even started. [Bushes, brushing off the will of the voters -- gosh, never heard that one before.] Cleland's approval ratings beat 60 percent, but pundits expect the Republicans to wallpaper the state with radio and TV ads to get their man into office.
Suppose Cynthia, heartened by those calls and e-mails she mentioned, decides to take to V103 one September morning and jump into the race. Who does she hurt? Well, Republicans deserted their own primary last week for the chance to toss McKinney out on her ear. Don't expect a sudden groundswell of love there.
Cleland, on the other hand, thought he needed all those McKinney voters come November to help him out. What if some of those McKinney voters -- 20 percent, maybe -- show up to vote for her?
Then those votes come directly out of Cleland's hide, that's what. In a close race -- and putting Cleland's popularity and heroic personal history aside, most everyone expects a close race -- those votes will count.
McKinney won about 50,000 votes last week. A one-fifth swing to McKinney in the general election would cost Cleland 10,000 votes -- and that only covers votes in McKinney's former district. We haven't even gotten to the 4 million other residents of the Atlanta media market.
Making matters worse, Georgia's Democrat-controlled state government eliminated runoffs for statewide general election candidates after Sen. Wyche Fowler (D) lost his seat in late 1992. If Cleland falls even a whisker behind Chambliss, it won't matter whether Chambliss hasn't edged his share of the vote above 50 percent. He'll win anyway.
Considering that McKinney promised in her concession speech that "[she] will not help the Republicans," the irony here is so thick you could chew it. Running a kamikaze campaign against Cleland would help Republicans get the one thing they most dearly want: control of the Congress. Yet McKinney is so blunderingly self-absorbed that she just might plow ahead anyway.
For the sake of the party, she'd best not do that. Cynthia, from one Democrat to another: sit down and shut up.
More About SouthPAC Let me turn the floor over to the Jonathan C. Hamilton, a true gentleman and one of the leaders of SouthPAC:
Dear Fellow Democrat, With one quick minute of your time right now, you can help to build a better America by helping Democrats retake control of the House of Representatives in Washington. Eight years of venomous, partisan control by Republicans is
enough. Republicans are digging into their deep corporate pockets in a desperate attempt to hang on to their slim majority. Democratic candidates need your help.
The Southern Democratic Political Action Committee (SouthPAC) is currently raising funds to support Southern Democratic candidates in key races that are going down to the wire this fall. Southern Democrats are key to retaking the House, with their platform of common sense solutions for a better South, and a better America.
Make a difference today. Log on to www.southerndemocrats.org to contribute securely online to help support this effort. It only takes a minute to click and give. If 100 individuals who receive this message give just $50 each, that represents $5,000 to fund get-out-the vote efforts and last
minute campaign advertising. If 100 individuals give just $100 each, that is $10,000. If 500 give $100, that is $50,000. That's the power of individuals working together to impact elections and improve our representation in Washington.
Encourage others to make a difference, as well. Forward this message to all of your Democratic friends around the country and encourage them to get involved. Also read answers to frequently asked questions about this effort. Together, we can make a difference and help the Democrats retake the House.
Southern Democratic Political Action Committee
Let's take a moment here to think about the difference you and I, with just a little effort, can make this fall. All we need to retake the House for the Democrats is six more seats. Six. Four of those, as I said earlier today, can come from Georgia. One more could come from Tennessee. Another from Alabama.
The battle for Congress is happening right here, in the South, today. This is where you can make yourself count. This is where you can change this country for the better.
Think of how much better you'll feel waking up in the morning without having to worry that no one's keeping an eye on John Ashcroft. Think how much better you'll feel knowing that Congress won't blow our retirement security on more tax cuts for the wealthy or on more corporate welfare. Think how much better you'll feel with a Congress led by people who treat better health care as a goal, not a slogan.
Think how much worse you'll feel if you wake up on the first Wednesday in November wondering how that day ended two years farther down the road.
Tired of what you're seeing from Washington? Then do your part to change it. Lend Southern Democrats a hand. Give today.
A Special Announcement . . . Joining the Green[e]house keiretsu today: SouthPAC, an political action committee that a good friend of mine has had under development since we were fresh law school grads in 1998. The group, just launched, plans to mount a full-throttle effort this fall to raise funds for moderate Democratic candidates around the South. Among its spotlight races you'll find key battleground campaigns in the Democrats' efforts to retake the House of Representatives.
Expect the site to become an even richer and informative resource over the weeks to come. For now, though, SouthPAC has one paramount goal -- to help Southern Democratic candidates gain more seats this November. Do your part and give -- or shop -- today.
Getting Ready to Rumble With Labor Day fast approaching, the time when we can block thoughts about the fall elections from our minds has just about run out. [Not that I could do that if I tried. =, ] At the prompting of a friend, I've taken a look at two races in Georgia with huge implications for the Democrats' chances of retaking the House.
Thanks to the 'max-black' reapportionment of Georgia's congressional districts in 1991 -- in layman's terms, max-black was a Bush pére-era push to create Republican seats in Congress by forcing states under the Voting Rights Act to form as many districts as possible where black voters were 65 percent or more of the total -- Georgia's congressional delegation from a 9-1 Democratic majority in 1990 to an 8-3 Republican majority in 1994. Georgia Dems have been sore about that outcome ever since, and with litigation forcing the state to redraw the districts throughout the 1990s, by this year state politicians were fed up with taking instructions from Washington.
Gov. Roy Barnes capitalized on that frustration, drawing a new congressional plan and suing the U.S. Justice Department before the attorney general could meddle. The district court validated the plan in April -- paving the way for a rebalanced delegation where the seats would go 7-6 to the Democrats.
If the voters go along, that is. In two districts, they might not.
In Georgia's 11th District, once the home to Bob Barr, Roger Kahn squeaked through a slash-and-burn campaign last week against Buddy Darden, a former congressman ousted in the GOP sweep of '94. Kahn's negative advertising turned off many Democrats, and that could hurt the party's chances against the probable Republican opponent, state Sen. Phil Gingrey.
In the interest of getting all sides out there, I've compiled a handy desk reference for Cobb teachers to use whenever this pesky 'evolution' business comes up:
Samoans believe the god Tagaloa created earth, sky, water and man by splitting rocks.
Hindu and Shinto peoples both say that heaven and earth came from breaking eggs, but don't quite agree on what happened after the eggs cracked. Hindus say Brahma made heaven from one half of the egg and earth from the other, you see, while the Shinto say earth came from the yolk, the heavens from the white.
Norse myth tells of a giant, nursed by a cow, who birthed offspring under his left arm, but died at the hands of a god created while the cow licked an ice block. Thank god -- um, Odin -- that he felt guilty enough to cover his tracks, or else he might never have come up with the idea of using evidence from the crime scene to create the universe.
According to John Travolta and his fellow Scientologists, a few Thetan spirits struck up a joint venture to build the universe. Dastardly evil-doers barged in, though, wiping their memories and forcing the good businessmen to spend their lives in -- ack! -- bodies.
Finally, Nuwaubian legend has it that their leader, 'Dwight York,' came from the planet Rizq in the Illyuwn galaxy. He'll head back there next year after a long vacation with the Earthlings, but not before he picks 144,000 people to ride back on the spaceships with him.
Tilting Against Windmills As an environmentalist, I live according to some principles: recycle when possible. Use as little as necessary. Leave nature as good as you found it. Weaving ideas like those into everyday life has given me a sense of personal virtue, but over time I've also grown more and more convinced that, with a little education, other people might get to the point where conservation is as much second nature for them as it is for me.
Coming to environmentalism through politics, though, makes me ever ready to compromise. Not that I want to sell out the whales, mind you -- though that might not be such a bad idea. Still, I'll take a few roads for more trains and car-pool lanes, or a smaller increase in fuel-economy standards in return for more production of hybrid cars -- anything that, over the long haul, advances the cause.
That's just me, though. I compromise because I'm in it to win. Making environmental gains can be a pain, though, because of the people strictly in it for moral purity.
There's only one thing: the local Audobon Society already says that only a few birds migrate through the area of the farm -- and that the mills shouldn't hurt them.
Pennsylvania sits atop tons of sooty, dirty coal, which utilities there have burned to fuel their power grids for years. Coal burning causes smog and acid rain, and generates pollution so dense that it can waft through other states. Compared with that, windmills are a godsend -- they don't consume resources and they don't smoke up the atmosphere. The company behind the Pennsylvania project went one better, looking for endangered habitat and moving a few turbines around to protect some scarce breeds of trees.
So let's look at the balance sheet. The consortium gets to turn a profit on clean power, Pennsylvanians get better air to breathe, and nature gets some attention to sensitive habitat. That's a textbook win-win outcome. Compare that prospect with Dick Cheney's nostalgia for smokestacks and uranium, and you have to wonder: why would anyone risk this project with a struggle over hypothetical birds?
Purity is great, but taking environmentalism to the masses means politics. And politics works better when people learn to take yes for an answer.
A Comment on Comments After all the blackouts this week, my comment server, eNetation, looks pretty much down for the count. If I don't see improvement in three days, expect me to strip it altogether or replace it with a new link.
I know the service is free, which means I'm getting what I paid for . . . but still -- if you promise me a service, I at least expect it to work. Call me old fashioned. =,
Apple Makes the Fur Fly A little bored Friday night, I ducked out of my place about 10 o'clock to take a gander at the release party for the new Apple operating system, Mac OS X 10.2 -- known to the wonks as Jaguar. Sounds like a blowout idea for a Friday night -- look at the wicked new operating system, whoooooo! -- but my geek side has to get out and stretch every once in a while.
I figured on running into just a small crowd there, so I didn't drive in any big hurry. A monster traffic snarl on the Downtown Connector forced me to cut through Midtown, which was so packed last night that I lost 20 minutes. I just rolled with it, though, and finally made it into the parking lot at Lenox Square at about 11:10.
The store had opened 50 minutes earlier at 10:20, so by then, I figured, the MacHeads had crashed through and filtered out, just leaving a few stragglers. Since I got a parking spot right by the mall door -- how often does that happen? -- that idea sounded about right. So I locked up the car, walked past the Pepsi machine to the automatic doors, went around the scrolling ad banner column in the corridor, then heard a murmur. That's nothing huge, I thought, just another day in the mall, right?
A few steps further, and I'd change my tune. Apple had a wee-bit of a line.
Strike that -- it had a hell of a line.
It looked like more than I'd seen since the opening day of ticket sales for the Olympics, in fact. It went halfway through the mall, four abreast -- from the FAO Schwarz at the middle upper-level entrance to the Crate & Barrel at the front, across to the Anthropologie, then all the way back to the gates of Apple-palooza.
This for a cardboard box with two CDs?! Hoo, boy -- this could take a while.
Thinking I'd seen it all, I wound up commiserating with a guy down from New York on business who'd just wandered in on a lark. He was fun enough, but the kind of guy Michael Lewis might have called a 'Big Swinging D--k' -- loaded with equipment and toys and unafraid to let the world know it. A family lined up behind us a minute later, though, out of breath and sounding crestfallen about seeing a long line after four traffic jams.
"Well, we came in all the way from Columbia, S.C., to get here. We left at 7 o'clock."
Now I'd seen it all.
They got a show, though, for all the trouble -- laptops whirring away, strange haircuts and body piercings everywhere, free mousepads flying, digital cameras clicking, Mac journalists asking everyone how long they'd stay in line. Hot as it was without mall air conditioning after-hours, it was a hoot -- check the pictures along with this story to get a sense of what a spectacle it was.
Still, for me it was too much -- after a week of late nights and politics, lining up just to get into a store seemed silly. By midnight I'd only worked my way up to the Corner Bakery just before the Crate & Barrel, and after that I still had half a line to go. I needed to go to Kinko's, and bedtime called -- so I called it quits.
That means no Jaguar for me, at least not yet. What a party last night, though. Something tells me Steve Jobs and the boys are going to be hitting the sauce by the time they finish counting the money.