Tom Baxter

Georgia — where even the crooks are broke

There are some obvious parallels between the case of former DeKalb County Commissioner Elaine Boyer, who resigned her office and pleaded guilty to a kickback scheme last week in federal court, and former Gwinnett County Commissioner Shirley Lasseter, who was sentenced to federal prison along with her son a couple of years ago after pleading guilty to bribery in an FBI sting operation.

Both were respected local leaders whose reputations were based on years of service. Both were Republicans representing affluent neighborhoods. These are the stock details of mighty-have-fallen stories, however.

The most striking parallel between these fallen public servants is that from all appearances, both were pretty hard up.
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A shooting in August, and the horizontal spread of urban blight

These days some of our most important stories find their way to the top of the news cycle for incidental reasons, and such is the case with the unrest in Ferguson, Mo.

As Kareem Abdul-Jabbar notes in a searing essay in Time, three other unarmed black men were shot by police in the United States within the same month as Michael Brown. The Albuquerque, N.M. police department has been involved in the shooting of 37 people in the past four years, and killed 23. Even cases which sparked widespread protests and rioting, such as Cincinnati in 2001 and Anaheim in 2012, attracted far less national media attention than Ferguson.

As important as the issues it raises may be, what caused the ever-restless eye of the national media to focus on Ferguson was that this young man was shot in August, when Washington and the world’s other power centers are quiet, and his body lay on the ground for four hours, an image broadcast nationally by the end of that news cycle.
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Politics and the rise of faux

Did you hear that Michelle Bachman got high out in Colorado and was stopped for driving under the influence? How about the liberal economist Paul Krugman filing for bankruptcy? And did you know Sarah Palin has taken an on-air job with Al Jazeera?

Stories like these are almost unbelievable, which means they are, just barely, believable. None of these stories are true, but they’ve fooled quite a few people who have passed them along as fact in social media. They’re the product of a satirical website which produces faux news.

As the latest hit on the perennially embattled John Barrow shows, faux has also become a political tactic. Continue reading

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Two twists in the struggle over energy production

Last week there were a couple of stories from around the region that veered far enough from the conventional story line to bear watching as possible signs of things to come.

For six years, the Mississippi chapter of the Sierra Club has waged a legal battle against Mississippi Power’s plans for a massive coal-gasification plant in Kemper County, which runs along the Alabama state line north of Meridian. As discussed before, it has been a fight which drew the environmentalists into alliance with conservative libertarians who view the plant as a boondoggle.

The Sierra Club announced last week that it had reached a settlement with Mississippi Power and would be dropping its suit in exchange for a number of concessions on the part of the utility.
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Prayer meeting fervor obscures the difficult questions about coal

If you sensed a sanctified aura emanating from the Omni Hotel last week, it’s because a very sacred subject was being discussed inside.

Coal.

“I hope all the citizens of Alabama will be in prayer that the right thing will be done,” Alabama Public Service Commission chair Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh said at a press conference in Birmingham, before heading to Atlanta for an EPA field hearing Tuesday.

“Who has the right to take what God’s given a state?” asked Alabama Public Service Commissioner-elect Chip Beeker.
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African-American women candidates could be big part of ground game

We’re in the year of the ground game. Campaigns still spend tons of money flailing at each other on television, but it was the ground game that ambushed Eric Cantor in Virginia, and saved the day for Thad Cochran in Mississippi.

And in Georgia, it was the strength of David Perdue’s ground game which gave him the winning edge in the U.S. Senate primary runoff.

With the ground game’s importance in mind, perhaps the biggest story that didn’t get a lot of attention last week was the consolidation of a Democratic ticket which is a first in the nation’s history.

The names of Connie Stokes, Valarie Wilson, Doreen Carter, Liz Johnson and Robbin Shipp haven’t generated as many headlines, combined, as the sixth Democratic woman on the ticket, Michelle Nunn. But these five African-American women candidates could potentially have a big impact on Nunn’s race, as well as Jason Carter’s bid for governor.
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Steady drip of bad news prompts Deal to circle the wagons

Polls are like drops in a bucket. A single poll, like the one last week which showed challenger Jason Carter leading Gov. Nathan Deal by eight percentage points, is only a solitary ker-plunk. It’s what accumulates in the bucket that can reveal where a race is headed.

The Real Clear Politics chart on this race shows 13 publicly released polls so far this year, and Deal has led in 10 of them. Interestingly, the three polls in which Carter has led — an InsiderAdvantage poll in early March, a Rasmussen poll in late May, and the Landmark Communications poll last week — all were conducted by polling firms which are Republican in their leanings.
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Senate debate hints at a steamy finish

For a few minutes during Sunday night’s U.S. Senate primary runoff debate between David Perdue and U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, the air got about as thick as it has in this entire, long and nasty contest. This was their only televised face-to-face encounter, but it’s possible that in these last humid July days before the vote, things could get hotter still.

“I would have expected a little bit more of you,” Kingston said after Perdue had declared that stories about a problem donor showed the congressman was “open for business.”

But Kingston then proceeded to give as good as he got, accusing his opponent of a “sweetheart deal” when Perdue’s cousin, the governor, named him to the Georgia Ports Authority board while a trucking company he co-owned did business at the facility.
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The recovery, and the president, struggle against a skeptical tide

A few minutes before the June jobs report was released last Thursday morning, the wise guys on “Squawk Box” went around the table predicting what job growth would be. Even the optimist on this panel was far short of the 288,000 new jobs reported by the Labor Department. Later that day, as the nation prepared for Independence Day, the Dow-Jones Industrial Average passed 17,000 for the first time in history.

Also last week, a Quinnipiac University poll showed a plurality of Americans thought Barack Obama was the worst president since World War II.

What is wrong with this picture?
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Putting MARTA on Clayton ballot could help Democrats this fall

Maria Saporta’s column gives a good sense of what’s at stake for transportation policy in Tuesday night’s Clayton County Commission vote on putting a full-penny MARTA sales tax on the the ballot in November.

The commission’s vote could mean a lot to statewide Democratic candidates on the ballot this fall, as well.

In 2010, when Gov. Nathan Deal was elected, voter turnout in Clayton County totaled 61,339. In the presidential election year of 2012, turnout in the county was 92,748. So that’s about 31,000 votes that spell the difference between voter enthusiasm in Clayton and the lack of it. In a close statewide race that could also spell the difference between victory and defeat.
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