Archive for March, 2009

The Great Streak of 1974

The month of March can’t be allowed to escape without some celebration of that spring night, 35 years ago, when 1,543 students at the University of Georgia ran naked across the Sanford Stadium bridge.

It was a streaking record that still stands, and may never be matched — not in a world littered with cell phone cameras and Internet connections.

Mass nudity is a strange topic for political discussion, you say. But think about it. A generation ago, more so than today, UGA was home of the gentleman’s “C” and a training ground for the children of Georgia’s ruling elite.

The naked students of 1974 — as well as several thousand more who lined the streets to urge them on — are now well into their 50s. Their bodies may be sagging, their hair may be gray or missing, but some of them are now in command of large slices of your world.

More than three decades later, the act of throwing caution and clothes to the wind remains a sensitive topic. In a phone conversation, one public figure in …

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Looking at a Roy Barnes comeback

My AJC colleagues James Salzer and Jim Tharpe have produced this weekender:

More than six years after Gov. Roy Barnes’ defeat signaled the death of Democratic dominance at the statehouse, the 61-year-old Marietta lawyer appears primed for a comeback.

Should former Gov. Roy Barnes attempt a comeback in 2010?

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He’s making the rounds of speaking circuits, venting populist outrage over the perceived wrongs of the Republican-controlled Capitol. He’s been in touch with old political allies about the 2010 governor’s race, and he’s answered endless inquiries from the media wanting to know whether he, indeed, is going to run.

But his potential candidacy raises questions: Is the polarizing politician whose crushing defeat in 2002 ushered in the first Republican administration since Reconstruction the man to bring Democrats back? And is a state that has become used to electing Republicans open to change?

Backers argue that Barnes …

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The House speaker and governor talk, and the transportation debate changes

State Rep. David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge), before the House Transportation Committee. Photo credit: Kimberly Smith/AJC

State Rep. David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge), before the House Transportation Committee. Photo credit: Kimberly Smith/AJC

Negotiations between Gov. Sonny Perdue and House Speaker Glenn Richardson on Friday produced a compromise that would give the governor unprecedented control over transportation policy in Georgia, but would also hand the Legislature new authority over more than $2 billion in spending.

Up to $400 million of that cash, or 20 percent, could be earmarked for special transportation projects selected by lawmakers. That amounts to $1.7 million for each of the state Capitol’s 236 lawmakers.

The new proposal, which was approved by the House Transportation Committee, could also encourage a House-Senate compromise over a sales tax to finance more road construction in Georgia.

But with only a week before the session’s end, the Senate would have to agree to what one lawmaker described as a near-revolution in the way road dollars are spent.

“This General Assembly will …

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Your morning jolt: A critique on the performance of female leaders of both state parties

Down in Macon, the city’s water supply has been contaminated with a near-toxic dose of testosterone.

This is the only explanation for the tear that Erick Erickson of PeachPundit.com has been on.

On Thursday, the conservative political blogger first bulldozed U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson for plugging the Serve America Act, “which many on the right view as a compulsory service bill.”

Then he offered a bit of free advice to School Superintendent Kathy Cox, another Republican, who — with her builder husband — is struggling through bankruptcy. “Your career is in sunset. You have no major accomplishments, but a lot of controversy. It’s time, Kathy. You need to announce you will not run again,” Erickson tapped out.

But the day was not finished. A note had to be written to certain male political figures in Georgia, advising them of the poor performance of the two women elected to lead the Republican and Democratic parties — Sue Everhart and Jane Kidd, respectively.

“Fellas, let me be …

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Speaker sinks governor’s plan for a transportation super-agency

Speaker Glenn Richardson made a dramatic appearance before the House Transportation Committee late Thursday, acceding to the wishes of his members — and all but killing Gov. Sonny Perdue’s plan to create a transportation super-agency.

The governor had called for stripping the much-maligned board that governs the Department of Transportation — constitutionally controlled by the Legislature — of its control over $2 billion in spending.

That power would have been handed to a State Tranportation Authority dominated by the governor, speaker and lieutenant governor. And a secretary of Transportation.

“We understand you don’t wish to create a new agency and you don’t wish to change the way we elect the DOT board,” Richardson said, according to my AJC colleague Ariel Hart — who was in the room.

Richardson hinted that the governor would probably win the power to appoint the DOT commissioner, now the province of the DOT board, and more control of the DOT staff.

A refashioned S.B. 200 …

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Christopher Buckley on Newt Gingrich’s Catholic conversion

Christopher Buckley, son of William, takes a non-too-gentle look at Newt Gingrich’s pending change of religion in the Daily Beast:

Brace yourselves for a tsunami of punditry this weekend, when the much-married Newt Gingrich is received into the Catholic Church.

This would ordinarily be a private occasion, but Newt Gingrich is not ordinary. He is (I hedge) probably the most interesting putative candidate person on the Right at this point. Google “Gingrich” and “2012” your hard drive will melt under a trillion hits. So attention to this event must and will be paid.

Buckley goes into some unkind detail about Gingrich’s personal life, but finally strikes on this weird but strangely satisfying assessment of the former House speaker:

His website’s motto—“Real Change Requires Real Change”—seems quite apt to the present occasion, even if it sounds like it was lifted from Peter Sellers’ Chance The Gardener in Being There. Gingrich is a protean fellow—continually evolving and …

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Improper Gingrey tax break was D.C.’s fault, but they still want their money

The District of Columbia is taking the blame for a homestead exemption improperly given to U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Marietta) for a second home he and his wife purchased in Washington.

But the District intends to charge him for the four years’ worth of back taxes anyway.

On Monday, Roll Call , the Capitol Hill newspaper, cited Gingrey as one of a handful of members of Congress who had improperly received the property tax break, worth several hundred dollars a year.

Gingrey spokesman Chris Jackson passed on the letter just received by the congressman. Download a copy here.

The letter says, in part:

Although you never applied for the benefit or the tax cap, the Office of Tax and Revenue applied the deducation to the property when the deed was recorded. Occasionally, these deductions are carried forward, even with ownership changes….

As a result, the property inadvertently received tax deductions for which you neither applied nor were eligible. Consequently, the Homestead …

Continue reading Improper Gingrey tax break was D.C.’s fault, but they still want their money »

A GOP move to prevent Michelle Obama from following in Hillary Clinton’s footsteps

First Lady Michelle Obama cheers local schoolchildren on the South Lawn. Photo credit: New York Times

First Lady Michelle Obama cheers local schoolchildren on the South Lawn. Photo credit: New York Times

Politico.com says it’s detected a Republican move against Michelle Obama:

House Republicans are pressing for a change in federal law that could force Michelle Obama and future first ladies to do more of their policy work in public. But Democrats warn President Obama may take the attempt personally “as an attack on his wife.”

The GOP effort is being led by the ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), whose initial salvo was rebuffed recently at a contentious committee markup session. Under Issa’s amendment, any government policy group that Mrs. Obama or another first spouse regularly participates in would be subject to a law requiring meetings to be announced in advance and, in most instances, public.

Sounds like an attempt to prevent Michelle Obama from assuming the role that Hillary Clinton did during the first …

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Your morning jolt: An F-22 crashes in California

One of the Air Force’s top-of-the-line F-22 fighter jets crashed Wednesday in the high desert of Southern California, killing a 49-year-old test pilot for Lockheed Martin Corp.

It was the second crash of one of the Marietta-made stealth fighters. The previous one occurred in December 2004.

Nearly every news organization noted the crash comes as the Pentagon considers whether to order more than the 183 fighters to which the Air Force has already committed.

Lockheed is trying to convince the Department of Defense to buy as many as 20 more F-22s. The military is expected to signal its intentions when the 2010 Pentagon budget is released next month.

Writes the Wall Street Journal this morning:

Though it has flown overseas, it has not conducted missions over Iraq or Afghanistan and has been criticized by Defense Secretary Robert Gates for not being useful in current combat missions against insurgents.

Lockheed says there are 95,000 jobs at 1,000 companies connected to the F-22. …

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Republicans ready to blow out the candles, belatedly, on Obama’s 100th day

Barack Obama’s 100th day in office will be on April 29. But Republicans appear willing to push the celebration into the next month.

The state GOP holds its convention in Savannah on May 15-16. The beginning of the Obama tenure is likely to be a major theme.

Days later, on May 19, the Georgia Christian Alliance will hold its annual fund-raiser. The organization headed by Sadie Fields will pair with WGKA (920AM) to bring in former education secretary Bill Bennett, Dennis Prager and Hugh Hewitt.

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

It’s being billed as “the nation’s largest talk radio tour addressing President Barack Obama’s first 100 days in office.” The Alliance event will be at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center — tickets will be $30 a pop.

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