Snow hath descended upon Atlanta. And it's wreaking havoc on the city, which has fallen further and further into chaos with each passing snowflake. Stay inside, be safe, and view below how Mother Nature has turned your beloved town into a state of sheer anarchy:
"Snow, y'all" in Atlanta Still good to go here on the GA coast! #cyclingweather pic.twitter.com/WInfbU05Aq
- Crash MacDuff【ツ】 (@Crash_MacDuff) January 28, 2014
Repeat after me: "Snow!"
ITS SNOWING HERE IN ATLANTA. #SNOWDAY #ATLANTASNOW pic.twitter.com/u3fcjsJN1X
- Jeffrey St.Louis (@haitianboyjeff) January 28, 2014
Atlanta getting snow (heavy at times) that is coming our way! #SCSnowDay pic.twitter.com/5yTHjiDvP9
- Von Gaskin WIS (@VonGaskin) January 28, 2014
Yes, #Hothlanta hath returned.
Ok #Atlanta we're ready for our inch of #snow this time! Bring it! pic.twitter.com/5Jwp6b0KZd
- Ivan Cabrera (@IvanCabreraTV) January 28, 2014
Population: 4,717,397. Snow plows: 10.
My point exactly! Everyone knows I love #Atlanta but when snow is mention, I'm ok in #Jacksonville FL. #ihatesnow pic.twitter.com/nd429PfnHy
- Thomas D Bradley (@ThomasDBradley) January 28, 2014
MARTA buses struggle in the show. If you're riding one, you might be forced to walk.
Marta Bus stuck on the 5C exit ramp off 400 South. #StormWatchOn2 Passengers had to walk to the train station. pic.twitter.com/jSx29QxwOn
- Justin Crate (@WSBTVCameraMan) January 28, 2014
This past Saturday, on what would have been Adolf Hitler's 124th birthday, members of the National Socialist Movement, considered the largest Neo-Nazi group in the country, held a rally in front of the Georgia State Capitol.
A predominantly male crowd of about 40 NSM members - some of whom were dressed in solid black with their heads shaved and others dressed in what appeared to be Ku Klux Klan type garb - stood in front of the Gold Dome holding large KKK flags, confederate emblems, and large swastikas.
"The US Constitution," said speaker Ron Olson," was written by white men for white men."
Neil deMause, a New York-based journalist who's considered an expert on stadium financing, today focuses on Georgia's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, program for Slate. The piece is filled with great details, but here's a segment:
What's Georgia's secret? According to government documents, interviews with poor Georgians, and those who work with them, it's a simple one: Combine an all-Republican state government out to make a name for itself as tough on freeloaders; a state welfare commissioner so zealous about slashing the rolls that workers say she handed out Zero candy bars to emphasize her goal of zero welfare; and federal rules that, regardless of who's in the White House, give states the leeway to use the 1996 law's requirement for "work activities" - the same provision that Republicans have charged President Obama wants to unfairly water down - to slam the door in the face of the state's neediest.
What this has created is a land that welfare forgot, where a collection of private charities struggle to fill the resulting holes. For the Atlanta Community Food Bank, that means sending out more than 3 million pounds of canned goods, bread, and other groceries each month to churches in and around Atlanta to help feed the state's growing number of poor and near-poor. The food bank's staff also helps arrange for free tax prep services, and helps the city's poor apply for food stamps and Medicaid. One thing they don't discuss, though, is welfare. "We don't talk about TANF anymore," says food bank advocacy and education director Laura Lester. "We don't even send anybody in to apply, because there's just no point."
But other measures — like subscribing to ESPN to expand bedside viewing options or revamping menus to include delicious, premium choices such as wild salmon — seem a bit outside what's expected from a typical trip to the hospital.
Considering Grady's history of financial struggles, avoiding additional costs associated with these amenities might seem like the way to go. But according to The Wall Street Journal's new report, these changes are largely in response to a recently-enacted portion of President Barack Obama's health-care reform. As a part of the system's overhaul, the federal government has changed how they pay hospitals who treat Medicare users — relying in part on a 27-question survey given to patients. If hospitals receive a high enough evaluation, they may receive a slice of an estimated $1 billion in payments allocated to satisfaction-based performance.
"I don't know anybody in my field who isn't totally preoccupied with it," Grady CEO John M. Haupert told the WSJ.
Medicare will decrease payments to all hospitals by 1 percent this fiscal year, redistributing an estimated $963 million to standout performers. That amount will double to 2 percent by 2017. These surveys will comprise up to 30 percent of hospital's evaluations — which also take into account conventional statistics, such as how hospitals perform rather than patients' perspectives.
The federal government has circulated these surveys dating back to 2006, but it wasn't until last July that their results became tied to funding incentives. Starting on Oct. 1, hospitals began to receive performance bonuses based on these results.
Oh, look here! Someone did.
Here's the deal: It's not only OK for you to buy a lottery ticket today, it's probably a good thing. Buying a lottery ticket does not mean you or I actually think we're going to win. It is a wish-fulfillment exercise, one for which I'm spending $1, or $3, or $5, or whatever. Is that too much? I have spent more money than that on iPhone apps to make my shitty pictures look artfully shitty. I think it's OK that I plop down a few bones for this.
Again, I don't do this because I really think I'm going to win — I understand math. I do this for what comes next: the dreaming.
I think it's a very healthy thing to imagine exactly what you would do if you won. Starting with, would your really quit your job? The answer is some variation of "of course!" — but in what way? Would you agree to consult, freelance, find your replacement? I think this tells you something about why you do your job, and how attached (or not) you are to it. I think that's healthy. You also do this with other life choices: Would I move? Where to? Why? If that's where I want to be, then why don't I start taking steps today to someday get there? Would I tell anyone? Would I start life over as my alter ego, Reece Hawks, continental badass?
Then, the not-as-fun but necessary part: dividing up the money.
A little more than a year ago, longtime business journalist Maria Saporta took her former employer to task in a blog post titled, "Gift of building does not absolve the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s downtown departure." Saporta zeroed in on the paper's treatment of the news that Atlanta had won a federal grant to help build a proposed downtown streetcar to boost the long-neglected Auburn Avenue corridor:
Look at how the AJC has covered Atlanta’s significant win of $47.6 million for a $72 million streetcar project to connect Centennial Olympic Park with the King District.
“Pricey streetcar won’t ease traffic” — the 1A Sunday headline blared. One had to read way down in the story to find out that the project was not aimed at easing traffic. It is part of a growing understanding that transportation and land-use investments must be linked to create communities that are not dependent on automobiles.
Saporta, who toiled at the paper for 27 years, cited the article as emblematic of the AJC's new, anti-boosterism stance where Atlanta is concerned (which I also detail at length in this cover story).
That's a long-winded set-up for the paper's latest — and, I think, more egregious — slap at the streetcar project. After U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood came to town to help break ground for the project on Wednesday, the AJC ran a story titled, "Streetcar work begins, total cost rises."
Slightly back-handed, perhaps, but factual — even though the headline arguably gives the impression that the extra cost will be borne by taxpayers. It will actually be covered largely by private-sector grants, including more than $18 million pledged by the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District.
But the real problem with the story is in its prominent references to project critics, as in, "Critics, however, say the project will not draw enough traffic to justify its cost."
So, who are these critics? Well, if you read all the way to the last few paragraphs, you'll find these gems:
“I don’t believe it’s going to improve mass transit,” said Benita Dodd, vice president at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation and a consistent critic of the project. “If anything, it’s diverting needed funds from transit that is needed. It’s more a tourist attraction than a transit solution.”
Randal O’Toole, a senior fellow with the Washington-based, libertarian-leaning Cato Institute and a critic of streetcar projects, said cities routinely overestimate the economic development impact. He said “all kinds of cities are building streetcars because the [federal] money is there and if you don’t do it, someone else will.”
You've gotta be kidding. For local criticism, you ask the GPPF, a conservative think-tank that's reliably pro-road and anti-transit? That's like calling the Grand Wizard to get a quote about the MLK Day parade. And then you ring up the anti-government Cato Institute to solicit a disparaging comment about streetcar projects in general?
First, happy last day of Hanukkah!
Second, some jerk-offs are terrorizing members of Atlanta's Jewish community by pelting and pranking them with eggs and bagels.
Rabbi Ilan Feldman of Congregation Beth Jacob on Lavista Road says that several members have reported being attacked with eggs, having bagels left on their lawns and hung from their trees at home, and even that their cars have been broken into and stolen from the synagogue's parking lot on the Sabbath.
As far as the eggings go, people are being targeted as they walk home from the synagogue; mostly, kids are being targeted as they walk to and from nearby Jewish boys-only high school Yeshiva Ohr Yisrael.
At the risk of stereotyping a group of people whose bad behavior likely stems from its own propensity toward stereotyping others, a big "doi" is that one of the eggers reportedly drives a pick-up truck.
DeKalb County Police are investigating.
And when the protesters voted (more or less) not to let Rep. John Lewis address them, the stars of the right-wing blogosphere — including Andrew Breitbart, Michelle Malkin and Fox Nation — pretended to get their collective panties in a wad over a "civil rights hero" not being allowed to speak. Personally, I thought the OA protesters' snubbing of Lewis was a little tacky and disrespectful, but Lewis himself seemed OK with it, so I can't get too worked up. But you cannot convince me that a rabid right-wing harpy like Malkin gives a rat's ass about Lewis or any other civil rights hero, living or dead.
I was going to use the post to make observation that, while the bill's supporters claim the motivation behind the measure isn't xenophobia or anti-immigrant sentiment, it's always a good idea to reconsider your position whenever you're on the same side of an issue as the Klan.
But I learned moments ago that the KKK rally has been called off. So I called Jerry Gonzales, executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, which had been planning its own counter-demonstration. As Gonzales explains: "The Habersham County sheriff told me that the Klan canceled because they'd heard the Black Panthers were coming and they didn't want to make the event into something racial."
I must confess that I should've called the Habersham sheriff myself, but was worried I wouldn't get as fabulous a quote about the KKK not wanting to "make it racial," and I really wanted to use it bad. And the Black Panthers were coming?!? From where — the '70s?
Anyway, Gonzales says, however, that his own group's rally had generated enough interested that it will be rescheduled for some time in May. You can visit the Facebook event page here.
As an aside, what is it with Habersham County, anyway? This is a gorgeous part of the state that nonetheless elected notorious Christian-extremist hate-monger Nancy Schaefer twice to the state Senate. Yeesh.
Check out CL's video from the KKK rally February 2010 in Nahunta, GA
That's all I can say upon hearing the news that Stephanie Ramage, ex-columnist for the now-defunct Sunday Paper and Mayor Kasim Reed's most vocal detractor of recent months, has joined the City Hall payroll. Her job? The title is "Citizens Advocate" and I'll let her describe her duties, via her previously mayor-bashing blog:
Every city department has a resolution process in place in terms of customer service or professional standards. In those cases where problems have proven resistant to the city’s traditional channels of resolution, it will be my job to investigate what went wrong, identify those policies, procedures or personnel that have proven to be roadblocks to resolution, and present a report of my findings to the administration.
Fair enough. News reporters often are called upon to analyze government processes and explain where and how they failed, so I can see how one might argue that Ramage is qualified for such a role. But, even if it was decided that the best fit for this new position would be a reporter, why pick the one who called the mayor a "classic tax-and-spend liberal," frequently blasted his "outrageously inept policies" and accused Reed of "squeez[ing] money out of his residents and businesses to meet the expenses he sets?"
It's enough to make you wonder if Ramage's hiring was an effort to shut her up. Which is ironic, because she wondered something similar — publicly, of course — in February, after one of her own readers supposedly warned that people would dismiss her as a crank if she didn't ease up on the mayor.
Responding through a blog post, she rejected the advice, promised to continue to fight the power and offered this self-righteous coda:
But to those whose ill-disguised purpose is to intimidate me into silence or discourage me into accommodation, I will say this: I went through hell long before you ever knew my name and what it taught me was that in the end all I have is myself, however imperfect I may be. If I sell out who I am, then I will have nothing no matter how big a price I bring. And what would be my worth to anyone then?
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