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Does Thurbert have the guts? 

Editors' note

Eventually, every politician gets his chance to prove he has the courage of a leader. That time has arrived for Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker.

Baker won re-election last fall, even though he was running as a Democrat in a great year for Republicans. He won because he's a competent and decent fellow, the kind of guy you'd like as your state attorney general. But he also won because his specialty lies in seldom offending the power structure.

Well, Mr. Baker, it's time for you to stretch a little.

Last week, the White House handed a huge gift to its fat-cat allies in the coal-burning industry. Big polluters, most notably Georgia Power and its parent Southern Co., have for years fought a Clean Air Act requirement that they replace their asthma factories with cleaner power plants. George Bush's Environmental Protection Agency gave the polluters a loophole -- a rule that allows them to define as "routine maintenance" any work on their plants worth up to 20 percent of the plant's overall cost. That bit of fiction exempts aging plants from pollution reductions.

The rule has real consequences. According to a study backed by the Pew Charitable Trusts, 1,090 premature deaths a year in Georgia could be eliminated if Georgia Power cleaned up its plants.

Other state attorneys general responded angrily to the administration's assault on their constituents. At least four are preparing to sue the EPA for its perversion of the Clean Air Act.

But Baker has been silent. Part of the reason may be his close ties to the state's power structure. His contribution list reads like a who's who of law and industry. It includes hefty amounts from Georgia Power's law firm.

But we think Bush's gift presents an opportunity. Georgia Republicans have gained ground partly because Democrats no longer are perceived as the party of the little guy. What better way to redefine one's self as a populist than to represent average folks against Georgia Power's special interests?

Thurbert Baker has a choice. He can stay silent, or he can break new ground by battling with his fellow state AGs for a broader interest group: breathers.

-- Ken Edelstein

Pay your own way
(In response to News & Views, "Southern Co. fought blackout fix," Aug. 21): From what I understand about the proposed Regional Transmission Organizations, they would cause customers in the Southeast and Northwest (areas where the electric power grid is in great shape) to, in effect, subsidize improvements in the electric power grid in the Northeast and other parts of the country where the grid needs improvement.

As a customer of Georgia Power, I don't like the sound of that. Why should Georgians pay for the improvement of the grid in the Northeast? I think the blame for the blackouts should be placed on the companies in the Northeast that have failed to keep their part of the grid in as good shape as companies in the Southeast and Northwest have. Let the people of Ohio and New York pay for the upgrades and maintenance of the part of the grid that brings power to their homes.

-- Mike Bowles, Woodstock

Don't blame Bush
John Sugg: I read, with interest, your article on Odin (Fishwrapper, "On the road with John," Aug. 21). Glad to see that you remembered that the Illinois Central and Baltimore & Ohio railroads once had an interlocking there. The Panama Limited and the City of Miami never stopped there; you had to go a bit south to Centralia. But the local from the B&O and the IC did, and they kicked off the mail sacks and swung up the bags from the mail crane, so the mail was reliable.

Much of what you said rang true. No one makes things here now. I was a conductor on that anachronism now called a caboose. Though blaming it all on Bush is BS. Democrats, Repubs, Greens, Libertarians -- they are all merchants of hot air.

-- Stephen M. Nunan, Atlanta

At home with the Yahoo
Your article "From Russia with Love" (Aug. 21) is comical. Russian, German and Asian women are mostly seeking to get out of their country and come to the land of the free.

The comment made by your average White-Collar Male Yahoos was "that Russian women know that they're the weaker sex." And your comment "... who don't need to be shopping all the time." In other words, the White-Collar Male Yahoo doesn't have to spend any money, and just take them to the local Wal-Mart and fast-food restaurants. The Russian, etc., women will never know of the good life because they're barefoot and pregnant, living in a doublewide trailer watching "Soap" reruns wondering what happened to their dream of freedom, while White-Collar Male Yahoo Husband is out with the local escort.

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