By Scott Henry
Rep. Bobby Franklin, R-East Cobb, a man whose proposed legislation has always had deep-seated relevance issues, may finally have topped himself Ñ marginalization-wise Ñ with a bill "to designate Georgia red clay as Georgia's official dirt."
Yes, you read that right. It's just the sort of inconsequential, file-it-and-forget-about-it lunacy on which Franklin has built his peculiar reputation. Perhaps he even imagined that such a trifling bill might somehow be able to slip through, perhaps as comic relief to the looming battles over immigration or eminent domain. After all, who doesn't love red clay?
The kaolin industry, that's who. And those folks don't take kindly to snubs; they'll do anything to promote "Georgia's White Gold" to dirt-gobbling customers. If Franklin doesn't watch out, he may find himself sleeping with the catfish at the bottom of a Washington County quarry. Just a friendly heads-up.
By Scott Henry
Apparently sensing a grievous shortage in patriotic symbolism in the Peach State, Sen. John Douglas, R-Covington, has floated companion bills to create state-issued license plates "supporting the Global War on Terrorism." SB 538 and SB 539 respectively honor the war's two fronts, Operation Enduring Freedom Ñ which some will remember as the short-lived Afghan War Ñ and Operation Iraqi Freedom, which, according to recent headlines, is, well, enduring.
Douglas neglected to mention the widespread public perception that the Iraq war isn't going so well when he made his pitch to the sleepy Senate Veterans and Military Affairs Committee on Thursday. Unlike with some specialty plates that are available only to veterans and their families, under Douglas' bill, any Georgia car owner with 25 bucks would be able to celebrate the achievements of Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz. In the space on the plate where the car's county of origin typically appears would be the words "Global War on Terrorism."
Sen. Ed Tarver, a Democratic newcomer from Augusta who replaced the prison-bound Charles Walker, asked Douglas if he could further define the Global War on Terror Ñ Is it part of the Iraq War or vice versa? Ñ but let the matter drop and ended up taking part in unanimous votes to approve both bills.
No doubt Douglas' easy success had something to do with the fact that he chairs the Vets committee.
By Coley Ward
On Feb. 15, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled that part of a state statute regulating obscenity -- the part that bans advertising sex toys -- was unconstitutional.
Now, as CL reports this week, it looks like the obscenity statute in its entirety is a goner. Earlier this week, CL called Russell Willard, a spokesman for Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker, to ask what he thought about the court's ruling.
At the time, Willard wasn't aware of the ruling, despite the fact that his boss is listed as one of the defendants in the case. But it didn't take long to get up to speed.
Willard quickly drafted a letter to Gov. Sonny Perdue, alerting him to the court's ruling and the need to draft a new obscenity statute.
"Unless the panel decision is overturned in subsequent legal proceedings, 16-12-80 [the obscenity law] is unconstitutional," Willard now tells CL.
The letter Willard sent Perdue pointed out a portion of the judges' ruling that gives the state some pointers in case lawmakers want to draft a new Ñ and potentially foolproof Ñ obscenity statute (like, immediately).
Everyone agrees it's a matter of time before the General Assembly drafts a new obscenity law. Until then, however, it's open season for obscenity. Most of the stuff the overturned law says
you can't do is, for the moment, totally legal.
How will you celebrate? Got any obscene plans for the weekend? Gonna make and distribute some bestiality porn? Maybe construct and sell a penis pump or two? Let's hear your ideas for how you plan to get obscene Ñ you dirty bastards.
Georgia's chief Democrat defends his party's performance and goes on the attack against Republicans on this week's Air Loaf.
Listen in Ñ or, better yet, call Ñ Bobby Kahn, chairman of the Democratic Party of Georgia. He and host Ken Edelstein will discuss Republican vulnerabilities like education, natural gas and Jack Abramoff during the show, which airs 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, and Edelstein plans to challenge Kahn on the Dems' recent shortcomings at the polls.
Air Loaf also will feature the Georgia ACLU's Beth Littrell, who will discuss the state's big brouhaha over gay student clubs and other civil liberties issues in the Legislature.
Jumpstart your mind: Listen to Air Loaf every Saturday, 10 a.m. to noon, on 1690 Air Atlanta. And call our listener line during the show at 404-633-1690 with your questions and comments.
By Coley Ward
Score one for lovers of outdoor art.
The Georgia ACLU and the city of Atlanta have reached a settlement in the
ACLU's constitutional challenge of the city's anti-graffiti ordinance.
The settlement eliminates penalties for property owners who commission
murals for their buildings or who are victims of graffiti, but retains
penalties for vandals who do illegal tagging. The settlement also creates a
new program using inmates to clean up graffiti throughout the city.
In 2003, the city established an ordinance that made it a crime for property
owners to paint murals on their buildings without prior government approval.
Many people living in buildings with existing graffiti or murals were sent
notices from the city instructing them to remove the artwork or apply for a
sign permit. Failure to remove the graffiti within that time period carried
a fine of up to $1,000.
In 2004, the ACLU filed suit on behalf of Donald Bender, a local businessman
who often commissions murals for his properties. The ACLU argued that the
ordinance was a violation of artists free speech and of due process.
By Scott Henry
Sighted unexpectedly at the Bill Campbell corruption trial last Friday: former Georgia Congressman George "Buddy" Darden, who sat on the bench reserved for federal staffers during the morning's testimony. Could this mean that Darden, a former Cobb County D.A., was getting back into the prosecution business?
No, Darden explained at a break: he was only there to look after a secretary from the law firm where he is a partner Ñ McKenna Long & Aldridge Ñ who had been called to the witness stand. The secretary, who works for McKenna partner Steve Labovitz, helped handle paperwork and billing for the Campbell re-election campaign, back when Labovitz oversaw Hizzoner's campaign war chest. During testimony, she confirmed that campaign funds were used to buy tickets to send Campbell to the 2000 Super Bowl, the NBA All-Star Game and to cover the cell-phone tab for little Billy, Campbell's son.
So, what does Buddy make of the ongoing allegations by federal prosecutors that his law partner was knee-deep in defrauding Campbell donors and laundering illegal campaign contributions back in 1997? It's a lot of bluster, he says. If the feds had a real case against Labovitz, he explains, they would've indicted him before the statute of limitations ran out.
By John F. Sugg
There's no doubt that Georgia's Christian Coalition has had an impact on state politics, using litmus tests, fundraising and politicizing pulpits in an attempt to enforce theocratic orthodoxy among elected officials and judges.
And keep in mind that we're not talking about Christianity in a general sense, but one narrow interpretation of the faith that is hostile to Jesus' message of compassion and advocacy for the downtrodden. Indeed, the Coalition's grande dame, Sadie Fields, hangs out with the leaders of the most radical of the ultra-right theocrats, the Christian Reconstructionists. She is close friends with several Reconstruction leaders, such as Gary DeMar of Powder Springs. Among other things, Reconstruction favors reinstituting slavery and segregating the races Ñ because such institutions were condoned in the Old Testament. Which, perhaps, is one reason you seldom see a black or brown face at Christian Coalition meetings.
If there was any doubt about Fields' delusional beliefs, that doubt was dispelled at a Feb. 22 town hall meeting on immigration reform held at Clark Atlanta University. Fields and two Republican state Senate champions of punish-the-undocumented-immigrants legislation, Chip Rogers and Eric Johnson, were clearly uncomfortable in a setting where most of the audience was African-American and Hispanic.
Rogers, for example, lashed out when a Methodist minister challenged whether the proposed Senate Bill 529 reflected Christian values. Rogers railed that a person's beliefs are between that person and God. What, then, are the Republicans doing trying to enforce their twisted Christianity on the rest of the nation?
The high Ñ or low Ñ point of the evening belonged to Fields. After one speaker noted that when politicians target ethnic groups as scapegoats Ñ as Hispanics are in the GOP's legislation Ñ what often results is a rise in hate crimes.
Fields, who gets her religion from the Old Testament and not from Jesus' words, immediately proclaimed Ñ and I'm not making this up Ñ that: "The majority of hate crimes are against young, white males." She claimed she was quoting FBI statistics.
The audience of about 200 people sat in stunned, disbelieving silence for a minute at the absolute absurdity. Then the jeers and boos began.
Actually, the FBI reported recently that 68 percent of the race-based hate crimes were against African-Americans. Most of the rest were against Hispanics.
For the vast racism reflected in her outburst, Fields wins my nomination for the Pharisee Award.
By Doug Monroe
One of Georgia's top political blogs -- Peach Pundit -- picked up on a controversy around Creative Loafing's Book of Ralph cartoon cover story this week. It seems a lot of people believe CL made up Reed spokeswoman Lisa BaronÕs quote about her vagina.
It just ainÕt so, folks! Everything in the cartoon is sourced. You can even link directly to LisaÕs column about her vagina -- which she calls Òmy big cavernous pit of love." This is one of LisaÕs regular gigs Ñ writing the "Committed" column about her marriage to Jimmy Baron, one of the morning hosts on AtlantaÕs 99X radio station.
The thing thatÕs so amazing is that Reed decided to use Lisa as his spokesperson knowing full well that she writes about extremely personal issues in that column despite his conservative religious base. He cast aside Bill Crane, a respected PR professional in Atlanta for several decades, to have Lisa run the media show. If Reed werenÕt such a staunch Christian, we would wonder what he is smoking.
Join CL Editor Ken Edelstein as he hosts two leading Georgia Legislative watchdogs Saturday February 18, 2006 on AirLoaf.
First up: Danny Orrock, legislative coordinator for Georgia Watch, the state's leading consumer advocacy group. Georgia Watch is a nonprofit that works to address the true needs of ordinary citizens, focusing on insurance reform, patient safety, and curbing predatory lending.
Then comes Alan Essig, director of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, which tracks analyzes our state governmentÕs taxes and spending.
Listen to AirLoaf every Saturday, 10 a.m. to noon, on 1690 AM Air Atlanta. And call our listener line during the show at 404-633-1690 with your questions and comments.
Listen to the show:
By Scott Henry
There's no more excruciating feeling than to draw icy stares at a small dinner party after telling a tasteless joke. Oh, wait, we can think of one: being called on to stand up before the entire Georgia House of Representatives, legislative aides, reporters and dozens of spectators to explain what you were thinking when you handed out T-shirts with a politically incorrect slogan.
On Tuesday, that unenviable position was occupied by Democratic state Rep. Bobby Parham, who, earlier in the day, had placed "Crazy about Milledgeville" shirts on the desks of all 179 fellow House members to remind them about a promotional party for his hometown that evening.
Apart from having served as Georgia's pre-Civil War capitol, Milledgeville, is best known as the longtime home of the state's oldest and largest mental hospital.
Apparently, ill feelings over the shirts had been building in the chamber all day Ñ even during a contentious debate about a new tax on illegal immigrants. Just before adjournment, state Rep. Joe Heckstall, D-East Point, rose to complain that the slogan was offensive to those with sensitivity toward mental illness.
Parham, then called on the carpet by Speaker Glenn Richardson, R-Douglasville, sheepishly acknowledged that, yes, the shirts may not have been in the best taste.
Overlooked in the shuffle, however, was the fact that "Crazy about Milledgeville" beats "Every day is an opening day" hands down.
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