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October 18, 2002


Savannah: Time to Pull a Toricelli?
When Georgia reapportioned its congressional districts, some Democrats in charge of the process worked to draw the maps for their personal benefit. Voters don't always do what their elected officials say, however, and it only took months for their efforts to start blowing up in their faces. First came state Sen. Greg Hecht, who crashed and burned in the August primary for the 13th District. And now it's Champ Walker's turn.

Champ Walker, son of the majority leader of the state senate, was handpicked by his father this year for a seat in the 108th Congress. The governor and Democratic legislators agreed to draw him a hospitable seat — one that stretched all the way from Athens, in the north, through Augusta and along the South Carolina border to Savannah, in the south. The district sprawls, but takes in a healthy proportion of black voters and college-town Democrats. It's perfect territory for a Democrat.

Correction: it's perfect territory for a Democrat who knows what he's doing.

Unfortunately for state Democrats, whose hopes of reversing a 10-year decline on Capitol Hill ride on winning this seat, Champ Walker is not that man. Leaving aside the shadow cast by his ethically challenged father, Walker finds his campaign in heap big trouble.

For starters, his arrest record made the news this week — a needless blunder, since Walker presumably knew about it and could have inoculated himself by disclosing the arrests early in the campaign. The list included charges of disorderly conduct, leaving the scene of an accident, and . . . shoplifting a can of Slim-Fast. The charges were dropped each time — but that fact, instead of helping him, only raises questions about misuse of his family's influence.

He could contest any public charges of misconduct — if, that is, he would show up for a debate. Prospects for that look bleak, however, with Walker most recently ducking out of an event organized by the Savannah League of Women's Voters.

Perhaps he stayed away to save on cash; disclosure reports revealed yesterday showed that in spite of his family ties, Walker actually has less money on hand than his Republican challenger. Walker hurt himself by overspending to get through the runoff for the August primary. Republicans are salivating at the prospect of taking him down; at a downtown Atlanta fundraiser yesterday that featured President Bush, congressman Charlie Norwood told the crowd: "[Walker opponent] Max Burns is doing a fabulous job. We're even or just a little bit ahead in a tough congressional district. Happily, he has a great opponent, one you would die to run against. You don't have to know a lot because [Walker] doesn't know anything.''

I can't argue with that. And with barely two weeks to go and polls showing the candidates tied at 40 percent in a district once projected to vote 60 percent Democratic, Walker is just about out of time to smarten up.

Greg G. @ 4:22 PM | # |


Savannah: So Much Depends Upon . . . a New Car Plant
The word from the Savannah Morning News this morning was that DaimlerChrysler — the auto company with the funkengrüven name — has decided to set up a new van plant west of the city that, when finished, will employ 3,000 workers. The announcement should come sometime today.

This is big news for the city, of course. But it's also big political news.

At a time when underfunded Republican candidate Sonny Perdue keeps blaming Gov. Roy Barnes, a Democrat, for the sorry state of the economy, landing the plant gives the governor something to crow about. With a new auto plant locating in Georgia for the first time in 55 years, after 20 years of locals watching with frustration as companies built in Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee, Barnes can now claim credit now for laying the groundwork for an economic turnaround. In Atlanta, which has the economy that's eating the South, that won't mean much. In south Georgia, though, with its dried-up economy, dwindling population, and residents wary of big-city types (read: 'Atlantans') taking over the state, news of 3,000 new jobs should put people in a festive frame of mind.

Just north of the border, though, S.C. governor Jim Hodges might be feeling some heat. He can boast of a strong record on economic development, as former Hodges administration staff member Wyeth Ruthven points out [read through post #26]. But that hasn't spared him from Republican attacks blaming him for growing budget deficits and recent job losses. In a state that as monolithically Republican as South Carolina has been until recent years, those attacks might prove deadly.

Hodges can get by well enough, perhaps. But he needed that plant.

Greg G. @ 2:34 PM | # |


The Green[e]house Goes to South Georgia
Your trusty blogger is at his office in Atlanta today, but what with all the rest of the keiretsu reporting from the far reaches of the world — Tim talking about programming, Wyeth pondering Orwell, Esta giving reasons not to shave your legs without your contacts in — I thought it was time to claim some territory of my own.

So I'm blogging today with Savannah in mind, where the squares stay pretty, the moss stays Spanish, and it's always midnight in the garden of good and evil. I'll be talking about politics -- some things won't change. But you'll get a chance to look at a different scene. So sit back, fix yourself a mint julep, and enjoy.

Greg G. @ 2:31 PM | # |

October 17, 2002


Strange Days Indeed
Quiz time! Everyone get out your pencils . . .
In this year's mid-term gubernatorial elections, GOP prospects waver between blah and bleak (Click on Multimedia Graphic inside this link for a complete assessment of this year's races). Blah would be the loss of Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Although George W. Bush lost all of these four states in 2000, he didn't lose them (with the exception of Illinois) by much and he obviously hopes to win at least two of them in 2004.

Bleak would be the loss of Florida and perhaps even Texas. In both states, the numbers are already too close for comfort. While President Bush is certain to win Texas in 2004, he must also win Florida to win re-election. And in order to win Florida, he probably needs his brother there to deliver unto him Atwater's one percent.
So, who said that? Was it:
(a) DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe
(b) Ann Coulter, on her meds
(c) Karl Rove, off his meds
(d) Georgette Mosbacher, at Club Med™; or
(e) John Ellis, presidential cousin?
Ellis?! George and Jeb's flesh and blood? Wow. That's most peculiar, mama.

Greg G. @ 5:44 PM | # |


That Was Then, This Is Now
"It's irritating . . . to be treated as 'children who need to be lied to.'"
Glenn Reynolds, Oct. 16, 2002 @ 6:59 a.m.

"The administration's decision to keep news of the North Korean admission secret for the past 12 days [emphasis added] while it fashioned a response appears significant for several reasons. Mr. Bush and his aides have clearly decided to avoid describing the situation as a crisis that requires a military response at a time when dealing with Iraq is the No. 1 priority."
The New York Times, Oct. 17, 2002 @ 12:01 a.m.

Greg G. @ 1:41 AM | # |


Crisis = Danger + Opportunity*
Let's hope the White House doesn't blow the opportunity to defuse this one.

Greg G. @ 1:29 AM | # |


Stop the Inanity
Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin does some good old fashioned trash talk in a recent column, all but tagging NPR fans as crybabies for "whining about . . . unexpected competition to its secular media monopoly." The competition, of course -- wouldn't you know it? -- comes from a Tupelo-based broadcast company, American Family Media, run by a preacher named Donald Wildmon who attests to disliking public radio.

"He detests the news that the public gets through NPR," a spokesman told the New York Times in September, "and believes it is slanted from a distinctly liberal and secular perspective."

Save us from the bias, Rev. Wildmon! And so he has, using a decidedly less-than-conservative tactic: manipulating FCC licensing rules to knock NPR off the air, in favor of his own programming, in towns where public radio can't afford more than a repeater signal. Peculiarly, Wildmon pulls that off using a rule designed to promote localized "community programming." Some community -- Wildmon's broadcasts all come from Mississippi.

Malkin gives the regulatory backstory a liberal whitewash, handing the credit instead to a "growing Christian radio audience." That's poppycock. Wildmon doesn't gain his frequencies through popular outcry — he gets them by muscling out his FM neighbors. NPR plans to fight back, of course, but Malkin sees just more big-government socialism; she gives Christian broadcasters huzzahs for the business acumen that obviously enabled them to do battle with the "fat and lazy" NPR stations that "[feast] on government handouts."

Riiiiight. Public radio gets, let's see, two percent of its funding from Uncle Sam? Wow, what an advantage. They're rolling like Bill Gates over there.

Ms. Malkin, let's face facts: this isn't a triumph-of-free-markets story at all. This is about a company in one of the most heavily [mis-] managed sectors of the economy -- broadcast media -- using government-written rules to shove aside its competition. Call it God's will, or call it socialism with a Christian face -- but don't sell us a line about how it amounts to a "classic David-and-Goliath battle, one that smug NPR liberals never anticipated and now deeply resent." That reads like an insult to your own intelligence.

Greg G. @ 12:44 AM | # |

October 16, 2002


Kiss Your Bass Goodbye
Good news for conservationists this morning: eighty (80!) Atlanta chefs have joined a mushrooming boycott and pledged to take Chilean sea bass off their menus. The move brings the national total of restaurants participating in the moratorium to 1500.

This hurts fishermen. There's no getting around that. But people in the industry — wholesalers, fishermen and restaurateurs — who complain today are actually getting a free ride, because the boycott boosts the probability of keeping a healthy sea-bass population around over the long term. In 1982, when the fish first appeared on American plates "the specimens that came to market averaged 5 feet and 200 pounds," the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. "Now they average 2 feet and 20 pounds, a sure sign that the fishery, which circles Antarctica, is being depleted." We shouldn't have to fish down to 3-pound fish before the rest the industry gets the point.

Another measure of the problem: a worldwide treaty sets the catch limit for sea bass at 16,500 metric tons. Illegal fishermen alone catch 34,000 metric tons — more than twice as much. Drastic measures to stop that are well in order.

Not that we're all together on that, or ever will be; a Seattle curmudgeon on the payroll of "restaurant operators, food and beverage companies and individuals" bashes the boycott as "environmental hype" pushed by "a few agenda-driven environmental scare groups." Ahhh, yes, groups like the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Australian govenrment and President Bush: environmental scare artists, the lot of them. =)

Greg G. @ 1:40 PM | # |


Plausible Deniability
Thought the attack on the courage of a Bronze Star-winning triple amputee went low enough? Georgia Republicans have gone a step farther: a few are talking up the notion that Democratic senator Max Cleland . . . y'know, just might be getting a little soft.

"Several Chambliss supporters even questioned whether Cleland's wounds had left him unfit to serve in the Senate," wrote the Macon Telegraph yesterday. "'I think he's deteriorating physically and mentally,' said State Senator Seth Harp, R-Columbus, who said he was alarmed by Cleland's wandering mind when Harp visited him two years ago."

"'It was almost bizarre,' he said, comparing Cleland's mental state to that of Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. 'I empathize with his injuries, but we need a strong voice for Georgia.'"

Chambliss campaign staffers were shocked — shocked! — to hear about it. "Chambliss spokeswoman Lisa Gimbel said Chambliss does not agree that Cleland is mentally incompetent," said the Telegraph. "She said, 'What's at issue is Max Cleland's voting record. Period.'"

Really? Then why put the article on the campaign’s web site?

Greg G. @ 12:25 PM | # |

October 15, 2002


Printed Without Comment
From The New York Times:
ARLINGTON, Va., Oct. 15 — It was a tumultuous year for Linda Franklin. But hers were not just the stresses of working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the time of terror, or the reflexive motherly worries about her children and the health of a first grandchild about to be born.

A year ago, at 46, Ms. Franklin, an analyst for the F.B.I., had faced the prospect of her own death: a diagnosis of breast cancer and tests showing the disease so advanced that she had to have a double mastectomy, relatives said. Then, late in August, they said, her 18-year-old niece was killed in a car accident, and there was a funeral, a wrenching family gathering that turned out to be the last time she saw her parents.

Despite all that, there were to be cheerful things ahead as Ms. Franklin made her way on Monday night with her husband to Home Depot.

There was the first grandchild, of course, and Ms. Franklin had recently received a clean bill of health from her doctors and was making good progress in her physical therapy. She was adored at her job at the F.B.I.'s National Infrastructure Protection Center, where she had worked for four years as an intelligence operations specialist in the cyberdivision and was considered a keen analyst, colleagues said.

She and her husband, Ted Franklin, a network engineer for a Washington technology company, had recently bought a penthouse apartment in Arlington. It was much bigger than their red-brick, two-bedroom, one-bathroom condominium on South Wakefield Street, which had accommodated so many relatives in need of a place to stay and stray animals that Ms. Franklin had taken in.

Their condo, along a tidy row of town houses on a gentle street in this Washington suburb, was virtually all packed up; moving vans had already carted away boxes of belongings and pieces of furniture.
No wait, I have a comment that fits perfectly: bastard.

Read Jim Henley for more posts on the ongoing story; he's been on it like white on rice. Let's hope this situation gets resolved — soon.

On a side note: has anyone else ever visited that shopping center at Seven Corners? I've spent time in the Barnes & Noble and the Starbucks more than a few times . . .

Greg G. @ 11:37 PM | # |


Dude, You're Getting the Boot
He goes off to college for just two months, and bam! -- Dell pulls the plug. That got the ixnay faster than a freshman-year long distance relationship. =,

Dude, that really bites, but remember the lesson of Saved by the Bell: the College Years: pop culture touchstones cannot, under any circumstances, jump from high school to college.

Of course, I just realized I implied that Saved by the Bell had redeeming value once upon a time (--shiver--). Excuse me for a sec -- after that, I need to go get a wet noodle.

Greg G. @ 10:31 PM | # |


Clark on the March?
Matthew Yglesias just picked up on something I've noticed: Wesley Clark's been traveling an awful lot lately. Attention must be paid.

The retired general takes the public line that he's not running for anything -- his spokesman even tells us so. But look at the facts. Between television appearances, the former NATO commander travels, makes speeches, raises money, and gives endorsements -- all giving him the look of a man intent on building up chits with the Democrats. What he needs them for is anyone's guess -- but it's not just for show.

Which brings up a thought: if Dick Gephardt won the nomination and gave the general the veep nod, would that leave the Democrats with a Dick-Clark ticket? (I know, I know -- stop groaning . . . )

Greg G. @ 9:42 PM | # |


Hats Off to Apple . . .
. . . for paying homage to Jimmy Carter today on its home page. What a great gesture -- and what a demonstration of how Apple exerts such a hold on its customers. It's not the technology, good as it is, that does it; it's the soul.

Has Microsoft figured that out yet? Nope -- but it's fun to watch 'em try!

Link courtesy of Tim Jarrett.

Update: This should come as no surprise at all, but some conservatives feel a mite ticked at Cupertino over this. (See, e.g., Brian Tiemann, who has a mild case of the grouses.) But then, maybe Mr. Jobs knows something we don't. (Thanks to Jeff Cooper for the additional links.)

Greg G. @ 8:46 PM | # |

October 14, 2002


Cleland Responds
Sen. Max Cleland, the Georgia Democrat assailed by his opponent for falsely "'claiming' to have the courage to lead," posted a response to the allegation on his campaign website today:
Response from Senator Max Cleland to the Chambliss-Osama Bin Laden Attack Ad
October 10, 2002

"I have been working to defend this state and this nation since I volunteered for Vietnam 35 years ago. The attack leveled against me disrespects everything I have worked for throughout my life. Accusing me of being soft on Homeland Defense and Osama Bin Laden is the most vicious exploitation of a national tragedy and attempt at character assassination I have ever witnessed. Today my opponent not only attacked my honor, he attacked the very fiber of my being. This attack will do nothing to help Georgians and my opponent will find that it will do nothing to help him.

"At this time of stress and strife in our nation, now is a time for us to pull together, not pull apart. In the words of Congressman John Lewis, "we may have come to this nation in separate ships, but we're all in the same boat now." Protecting Americans is not political and using Osama Bin Laden in pursuit of a short term political goal is an insult to every man and woman from every Georgia military installation now risking his or life searching for Bin Laden and his terrorist cadre. My opponent should be ashamed of himself. I would have thought he was raised better than this.

"Georgia's senators have always kept the interests of our citizens at the heart of what we do. Attacks like these are neither in the interest of Georgia's citizens, nor in the tradition of Georgia's senators. Georgians are interested in helping our seniors with a real prescription drug benefit; protecting social security from those who want to privatize it; and improving education for Georgia's children. I have chosen to stay focused on Georgia's future while my opponent has chosen to stay focused only on his own."
Not bad, but not a homer. The response should have come on television. Of course, that'll probably happen tomorrow -- but if it doesn't, I'll start to wonder whether I need to write the commercial myself.

Greg G. @ 10:08 PM | # |


Like Kudzu on Steroids
Never been to Atlanta? Sit tight -- before long, it may come to you.

The city too busy to hate sprawled out like Yao Ming on Xanax over the last decade, stretching from a 65-mile wide region to a 110-mile colossus between 1990 and 1997. But the growth's not done. Not by a long shot.

You can read the word "long" literally. According to Census Bureau research reported in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution this morning, the city's economic influence has reached out so far that the expanded metropolitan region, up for designation next year, would be larger than nine states. It could eat the whole state of Massachusetts, and have room left for a swallow of Little Rhody.

Let's put this in different terms. Ever driven Interstate 85 on the way from the Northeast to New Orleans? From the moment of crossing the Georgia line -- in either direction -- you would be cruising through the new-and-improved metro Atlanta. [In fact, to get out of the region, you would have to keep going for a whole county in Alabama!] Along the route from the Midwest to Florida the area's new span would seem just as bizarre: after entering the Atlanta region two counties past Chattanooga, a driver would ride right through it until coming within 20 miles of Macon. [Click here to see for yourself the huge distances I'm talking about.]

Growth is good -- I grew up in Birmingham when the steel mills started to close, so I've seen the alternative. Still, the growth has to stop somewhere -- if the region assimilates more counties, you'd practically have to use the Jetsons' car to cross it. In the end, the distances become too large, the traffic to heavy, the resources too strained.

Or maybe I'm neglecting the larger point: that, with the addition of the new counties, the South can boast of a megalopolis all its own. Forget pie-in-the-sky Babbitry, just look at the here and now: today, the agglomerations along Interstates 20 and 85 run all but seamlessly from Tuscaloosa, Ala. through Raleigh, N.C. — a distance of more than 600 miles across four states. The only gaps would be a county or two in Alabama, and maybe one county in North Carolina. Other than that, suburbs, exurbs and cities for as far as the eye can see.

What does that transformation mean for the South's economy? What does it mean for transportation, or housing costs? What does it mean for water quality, air quality, traffic, and forestland? We don't have answers now, but in a few years, governors, mayors, and county commissioners will have to make it their jobs to find them. Because the future — whether we're ready or not — is here.

Greg G. @ 9:51 PM | # |


Anybody Care to Buy Me a Dictionary?
Friends and countrymen, I spent some downtime this weekend on a hugely important task: updating my Amazon wish list. Buy early, buy often -- but hey, there's no need to rush over all at once. =,

Greg G. @ 8:38 PM | # |


How to Fight a Negative Ad
Republican senate candidate Saxby Chambliss hit the airwaves this weekend with an ad that impugned Sen. Max Cleland's courage [click here to watch -- RealPlayer required], and some Democrats feel mad enough to spit fire.

I can hardly blame them. A good campaign, though, has a more immediate worry: how to blow the opponent out of the water. Getting mad's okay -- but why settle for that when you can get even?

Chambliss, an avid jogger with Vietnam War deferments for a bad knee, could be the worst-positioned candidate on earth to question the loyalty of a Bronze Star-winning triple amputee. But question it he has -- and that gives the Democrats a gigantic opening. Now, with a new ad and a little footwork, Cleland can club Chambliss with the 'courage' issue and still look sympathetic.

Study Nebraska Democrat Bob Kerrey's 1994 senate campaign to see how to pull it off. That fall, the National Rifle Association attempted to give the Republican challenger a lead over Kerrey with a commercial condemning the incumbent's sponsorship a ban on assault weapons. Since gun issues resonate in rural Nebraska, the attack could have hurt Kerrey. He had a secret weapon, though: his war record. Kerrey has a Purple Heart and an amputated leg.

With a counterattack mounted less than a week after the NRA blitz, Kerrey all but demolished his opponent's campaign. He pulled it off in one ad..

The opening shot featured someone shooting clay pigeons on a clear day -- but when the camera panned down, we could see that the marksman was Bob Kerrey himself, dressed in full hunting garb. Here's a paraphrase of what he said.
I'm a hunter. I've been a hunter since I was a boy. And when I go hunting, I use one of these. [He holds the rifle up for the camera to see.] My grandfather handed it down to my father, and my father handed it down to me.

When I was in Vietnam, people hunted me. And this is what they used.
And then he puts down the rifle to pick up . . .
This is an AK-47. It can fire 400 rounds a minute, and kill at 1500 meters. It's one of the most effective military weapons ever made.

I'm a hunter, and I believe in the constitutional right to bear arms. But you don't need one of these to shoot birds.
The ad was as brilliant as they come. Shifting people's attention to Kerrey's war past blotted out memories of the charges the NRA made -- and made Kerrey look far more the statesman than anyone attacking him ever could. It was a slam dunk.

I can't wait to see Cleland's.

Greg G. @ 8:37 PM | # |