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By Elliott Brack:
Most Americans probably don’t realize how unique are their individual rights, compared to people living under other governments.
Our Founding Fathers, in all their inspired wisdom, gave early Americans more rights than previously had any government anywhere in the world. Those same rights, often multiplied in some ways, remain a cornerstone of living in the United States and go a long way in defining what it is to be an American.
They are easily identified in our Bill of Rights.
Though it’s not stated in the U.S. Constitution, the quality of fairness is embodied in our government. After all, we are a nation of laws, and that alone speaks to reason and decorum in deliberations. Throw out fairness and you move toward chaos. Without fairness, you raise questions of trust and partiality and bias, and even decorum. This basis of fairness in our everyday lives extends to relationships and commerce…
Returning from South Georgia after attending a funeral this week, we got off the Interstates for a while, and enjoyed the less stressful driving on the back roads. All in all, it‘s much more enjoyable, too, as you see how the crops are doing (the Vidalias are green topped and ready for harvest), check out the small communities, and see Georgia in a way as it was in the past.
This time one particular element struck me: in much of rural Georgia, there are many, many homes, barns, and other outbuildings that are no longer in service, abandoned, deteriorating, and wasting away…
“Late in 1788, just after Virginia voted to ratify the Constitution and join the union, former Governor Patrick Henry persuaded the state legislature to remake the Fifth Congressional District, forcing Henry’s political enemy James Madison to run against the formidable James Monroe. The ploy failed and Madison won anyway, eventually becoming the nation’s fourth president. Monroe’s career wasn’t over, though: He succeeded Madison as president.” (Library of Congress.)
Thinking back politically into the middle of 2016, I must admit that I began to wonder if the GOP challenger Donald Trump might be moving the United States toward a seminal and decisive change.
The question came into my mind, “Will Trump be a person who will have a transformative moment to the political system similar to the way Ronald Reagan changed the Republican Party?”
red and black publishing
It’s best to have all types of people making up a nonprofit board.
A good board consists of people coming at problems from several different angles, creating a board of advisers who can successfully lead the institution toward a good path. You want full and fair discussion, and not people who are essentially “Yes” persons who go along with whatever someone proposes.
Every idea that comes up doesn’t need to see the continual light of day.
his ordinary decency
A sports author has done the state of Georgia and Ty Cobb, in particular, a major service. Author Charles Leerhsen of Brooklyn, N. Y. has published an authoritative biography: Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty. The book enhances and clarifies the reputation of Georgia’s “Big Peach,” who was maybe the most controversial player in baseball. The book won the 2015 Casey Award for the best baseball book of the year.
Ty Cobb was the greatest batsman in baseball history, an average of .366, the highest lifetime average of any baseball player.
keeping our kids safe
Vehicles passing stopped school buses is much more of a problem than most of us realize. At least where I live, Gwinnett’s school system is taking steps to address this situation, at no cost to your school tax bill. But only about 10 school systems in Georgia are participating in a new technology which improves school bus safety.
Gwinnett is partnering with Redflex Traffic Systems of Phoenix, Ariz. in having traffic cameras on its buses.
brought it on ourselves
You must admit that social media has been a mighty contributor to this 2016 political season.
In another way of saying this: look what we have done to ourselves.
We couldn’t get enough of Trump, or Bernie, and every so often, some of the other presidential candidates. So we turned inward, creating more bizarre buzzing for the political year.
Eventually, if you elect enough kooks and weirdos to the General Assembly, don’t you figure by the time they find their way around the State Capitol, that they might, just might, introduce some crazy legislation?
It’s impossible to lay blame at any one door. However, these days in Georgia we have many more Republican legislators than Democrats in the 2016 session. (The GOP dominates the Senate 39-17; in the House, there are 118 Republicans; 60 Democrats; one independent; and one vacancy.) When we had Democrats in charge in Georgia, there were more oddball and woeful legislators in the Democratic Party. Today it is just reversed.
we know who we are
We in Georgia may think we have our problems. Yet recent action by the Legislature in North Carolina puts that state in the ranks of those with reactionary actions flying in the face of reasonableness.
The North Carolina situation particularly vexes us, in that its action made no sense. Legislators there quickly passed an act, their Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, which will force public colleges and universities (as well as other public venues and government buildings) to require their restrooms be used only by people whose biological sex at birth matches the sign on the door.
While Americans are somewhat thunderstruck by an independently wealthy person, like Donald Trump jumping headlong into the presidential race, and gaining traction, it’s happened in other places in the world.
One recent ego-centered and financially independent figure on the world scene to seek political power was mightily successful. We refer to former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi, who led Italy for nine years through four cabinets, often embarrassing that country with his escapades and outright peccadilloes, and was eventually forced to resign.
last white man standing
This year you may be seeing right before your eyes the death of the Republican Party in national politics. If it happens, we lament it. (We feel that our country benefits by have a strong two party system.) It appears that the GOP could find itself threatened in this crazy political year. Here’s how this might turn out, outlined in a shortened step-by-step process.
reverse robin hood
The casino gambling industry is playing hardball, in a sneaky, unethical and vile manner, as it seeks to compel the Georgia legislature to allow this industry in Georgia.
We don’t want the gambling industry in Georgia. To begin with, just look at tactics. The industry is preying on Georgia’s children to get this sinister racket to become legal in our state. Here’s how…
Have you made up your mind which presidential candidate you’ll be voting for? If you haven’t, the presidential preference primary is just one week off, on March 1. So think speedily. You must decide soon!
At least what seemed like innumerable Republican candidates has been thinned seriously, with former Florida governor, Jeb Bush, exiting last week…
profiting on suffering
People shower lots of attention on military veterans today.
Perhaps it’s because we now have an all-volunteer military. Maybe it’s because with the proliferation of media now, the average American knows more about our troops engaged in military activity all over the world. Perhaps it’s the new patriotism since 9/11. Whatever the reason, people in our country shower a lot of attention on helping veterans of the military service.
they did what?
Oh, the frustration of fighting a bureaucracy, any bureaucracy!
It started out with AT&T installing high-speed fiber optics in our office building. Eventually came a call from AT&T, suggesting that this faster Internet service would be the cat’s meow for me. After several calls, I relented in late November, hearing that I could keep my same business land line telephone numbers. Previously, I had my telephone and Internet service with Windstream Business, and had been happy with that service for about five years or more…
With the Georgia (and Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia) presidential primaries just about a month away, political antics have been far flung this presidential cycle! No telling what will happen next. This topsy-turvy political year, when matters were not always going as anticipated, now has a new name possibly seeking the office of president: former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Many will welcome Bloomberg’s consideration of a Third Party candidacy…
bubba still rules
For years, people in Georgia have been concerned that by having 159 counties, many of them small ones, government is too costly and inefficient.
Meanwhile, the people who control those counties, the big landowners and the timber companies, are pleased as punch about owning property in smaller counties. After all, it’s a whole lot easier to control government when you have just a few voters than it is in the larger counties, where a diverse and educated population sometimes votes slackard politicians out of office. You don’t see that happening often in the smaller counties.
Local government once was worse.
a masterful performance
During the holiday season, we hope you (and I) get to hear and sing one of our favorite hymns, “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.” Somehow it reminds me of Christmas.
The stirring hymn was written in 1907 by Henry Van Dyke, a Princeton University professor of English, who was also a Presbyterian minister. His inspiration was two-fold: the beautiful Berkshire Mountains of Western Massachusetts, and the fourth stanza of Ludwig Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
school cheating scandal
Every now and then a big-time civil settlement makes sense and is good for our country. Recently the government brought suit against Education Management Corporation, based in Pittsburgh, Pa., which operated several for-profit colleges. The government maintained that the company was violating rules on paying incentives to employees for signing up unqualified students for Pell grant assistance to attend their schools. One story said all the low-income students needed was “a pulse and a Pell (grant)” for the colleges to enroll them…
he'd never fall for it
This election season has produced a bumper crop of candidates for the Republican nomination, but just a few seeking the Democratic nomination. After some dropouts in both parties, the list now stands at 11 Republican and three Democrats still running.
While we question whether Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic nomination, she is moving closer to locking it up. And as we get closer to the first big test, the Iowa caucuses on February l, those 11 Republicans still running…
don’t bet on it
For years now, the gambling business has had its eye on Georgia. It recognizes Georgia as a state with a growing population, and therefore, one they see as a target. They aim at establishing gambling in Georgia, to enrich, of course, their own coffers, while promoting that it will bring in more state revenue.
What this gambling group may not recognize is that Georgia is basically made up of solid, conservative, faith-based families who cast an askance glance at such sins as gambling.
let freedom ring
Every now and then something comes down the pike that you know immediately it’s the proper thing to do, and that it just plains makes sense. You also wonder why no one has come up with this obvious idea before.
We refer to the story of this week that the Stone Mountain Memorial Association is planning to build a memorial to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. atop the granite mountain. Not only that, but the Association has already earmarked monies to build it…
a national treasure
Planning a trip to Michigan, we had heard about the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, so that was our first stop in a week’s trip to Michigan. It is adjacent to Greenfield Village, which we strolled around one morning, then took in the Museum in the afternoon. Both are stellar places to visit. The Village was created by Henry Ford to showcase many of America’s original historic homes.
freedom to discriminate
It’s a natural law: a pendulum, once swinging, will always reverse its course.
Sometimes, it takes forever for that pendulum to move the other way. Look at the State of Georgia, Democratic always until 2002, when the Republicans finally won the governor’s office. Up until then, the statehouse had been slowly moving toward a more conservative, Republican bent, with the GOP finally gaining control of both houses in 2004.
free market vs. fair play
Sometimes communities get hung up over relatively trivial activities. Take what is happening in North Kansas City, Mo. This suburb, surrounded by the larger Midwest area, has a 2013 population of 4,319, smaller than most of the cities near me in Gwinnett County, Ga. It’s relatively small, only 4.63 square miles, and two miles from downtown Kansas City. There’s a casino in town, and the biggest employers is Cerner, a major health care giant founded in North Kansas City. The issue that has people in North Kansas City talking is food trucks…
easier than it looks
Americans anticipating a British driving vacation face two problems: driving on the “wrong” (left) side of the road… and British roundabouts. Britain has more roundabouts as a proportion of roads than any other country. Many get confused at negotiating the roundabout, while driving in a left-side steering car gets a little more comfortable after a while.
Americans vacationing in France face only the roundabout problem, as the French drive on the “right” side of the road. Yet there are more roundabouts in France (30,000 as of 2008) than in any other nation.
Guns were the cause of three recent tragedies in the South, in Lafayette this week, Chattanooga last week, and recently in Charleston, S.C. You wonder where it will happen next. For it will.
What we can’t understand is the continual gun violence all across the country, almost every day in big cities, while the American public nonchalantly goes about its routine activities with little effort to curb these unfortunate incidents.
Does the American public not recognize what is causing all these problems?
Why do legislators think we need so much protection?
It seems that they are always modifying current law to protect us from that Boogerbear or that Devil? And the fact is that we often don’t need their help at being protected, for we already have more protection in our Bill of Rights and Constitution than most people in other countries of the world. Yet legislators feel that they can re-write the law to give us more protection that we certainly need…
fire the bums
It’s funny what makes you change your mind.
All these years I have been against term limits for elected officials. My reason: having old-timers around who knew the ropes made our government better by their insights. But one incident recently made me change my mind on the subject. Now I feel comfortable for being positive on limiting public officials’ terms of office.
Until recently, there were other reasons I had been against limiting the time a public official could serve. First, there is an automatic term limit, that is, an election every few years, with the voters deciding whether to keep (or limit) the public servants in office. Yes, it’s an unofficial limit.
Not only that, but that this move to bring the Confederate flag into the discussion would be one that reverberates all across our country, making that symbol of the Old South a new rallying cry for all sorts of people of this country? Who would have thought?
In effect, it was the human heart speaking to our country, recognizing the sufferings of the people of Charleston, and in particular, the suffering of black people. We remember how our country has itself suffered from those who won’t give up a lost cause….one that brings division, not union, to our nation.
Though many have virtually already elected Hillary Rodham Clinton as the next president, somehow…..somehow we don’t think she will even get the nomination.
That would be a major shift in what the experts think will happen. It’s to the point that we even heard a stockbroker making stock-buying decisions based on his thinking that Ms. Clinton will in 2017 become the 45th president of the United States. Others who watch politics closely have told us that they don’t feel that Ms. Clinton will be the nominee.
Word got out last week that the best barbecue in the nation, says TripAdvisor, is at Joe’s BBQ in Blue Ridge, Ga. Ironically, TripAdvisor said the second best place for barbecue was at another Joe’s Barbecue, this one was in Kansas City, Kan. The two eateries are not related.
Since we were in the Georgia mountains, why not try out the Blue Ridge place? So we arrived at 11:45 a.m., saw this relatively small restaurant on East First Street, and found there were 33 people in line ahead of us.
There’s always a big time gap between conception of an idea and its completion. That’s true in social interactions in getting people to agree, in marketing of a new product, and certainly in construction projects. An old idea is getting more attention in Gwinnett, Ga. More people are recognizing the need for the county to have a modern transit system, that is, to include some sort of rail system, whether it be light rail, perhaps street cars, or heavy rail, either connecting to the MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) system, or even an extension of MARTA itself.
The tragic vehicular pile-up on Interstate 16 near Savannah where five Georgia Southern University nursing students were killed has shocked our state, and has caused concern on the national stage. It may even lead to new legislation regulating heavy transport rigs to push safer highways.
The nursing students were driving from college in Statesboro to Savannah (roughly 55 miles) to continue their clinical “rotational” training in order to become nurses…
upstairs closet box
There may be treasures in your attic or in some seldom-visited closet. You can never tell. We stumbled upon quite a treasure the other day, something we did not know was there. It was a large-format book, in a box of textbooks and other literature, probably from one of our children. Going through this box to help re-stock our Little Free Library, here was this older book with 86 stunning black-and-white photographs. The book was titled Say Is This The U.S.A. and the authors were Novelist Erskine Caldwell (born in Moreland, Ga.) and Margaret Bourke-White, the famous photographer.
Who would have thought that years in corporate America would be the business background of a newly-published Gwinnett author?
Michael Brown, a Loganville, Ga resident, has now had two books published. We read his Somewhere a River, a 268 page novel from Deeds Publishing of Atlanta, and found it most enthralling. It is set in Alabama, the story turning around growing up in the South, high school and college football, and the entanglements we can get ourselves in both when younger and afterward.
religious intolerance act
For years, you have heard people in the South say: “Thank God for Mississippi!”
They meant that were it not for that state, their own state might rank 50th out of 50 states in some category. Mississippi has traditionally ranked 50th in educational attainment, family income, education and other indices. These other states of the South were mighty pleased that their own state didn’t rank below Mississippi. Of course, their state might rank close to Mississippi, but not dead last.
down on the farm
The premise is simple: pigs raised on the ground instead of concrete pens are happier pigs and produce better and tastier meat. That’s the theory at Thompson Farms here in Dixie, Ga., where Andrew Thompson produces pork, selling almost all his production to Whole Foods stores throughout most of the South. There’s a local connection: he is the brother of Mike Thompson, an attorney in Technology Park/Atlanta at Peachtree Corners.
Some of my readers at Gwinnett Forum have asked if I was serious about requiring that the Georgia General Assembly meet only once in every two years.
In short, you betcha! Why? Because most Georgians will tell you that nothing is safe when the Georgia Legislature meets, as members introduce all sorts of measures that negatively impacts its citizens, most bills only benefiting some local constituent.
all the way
Pardon me for a personal reflection today. Those of us who grew up in Middle Georgia, and in particular in Macon, are saddened today. You see, an institution which succored us from our earliest memories as a kid, burned down Friday morning. It was the Cotton Avenue location of Nu-Way Weiners, a Macon institution for 99 years, and second oldest hot dog stand in the nation…
If George Sparks shepherded Georgia State University in its middle years, the major figure propelling the university into the future was no doubt Noah Langdale. He was president from 1957 until 1988, seeing it grow from two buildings with $1.9 million budget and 5,200 students, and offering one degree, to 22,000 students and 20 buildings, a budget of $118 million and with 50 degrees in more than 200 fields. Today GSU could soon have more than 50,000 students, as Georgia Perimeter College is to merge with GSU.
Back when states were planting institutions of higher learning, these universities were not always located in what became the state’s major city. As a result, problems have arisen between forces in the major city wanting a state university and the major university located in a smaller town wanting to enhance their school’s prestige.
It’s that same old story of jealously, while seeking to keep the state’s university as the major campus of the state.
Now that the Board of Regents have decided to merge Georgia State University with Georgia Perimeter College, GSU will soon total more than 50,000 students, and will be the largest unit of the University System of Georgia.
Not only that, but it is an urban university, as well as a research university, bringing in $58 million in 2011 in grants for study. It has conferred 192,785 degrees since its founding.
If you were Georgia’s governor, what would you want your legacy to be? Most would want a spotless legacy, we would think, with several key points paramount on ways they would have improved the lives of the governed.
We think back to the way Carl Sanders is thought of as an “education governor,” in that he greatly improved public education for our state at all levels. (He might also be called the “airport governor, ” as he established many local airports, using this as a tool for economic development.)
great binge watching
It may be the best dramatic show, though low-key and without much explosive special effects, on television. But now we hear its run is ending.
We’re talking about Foyle’s War, the British series that many see on Public Broadcasting stations, and is also available through streaming on Netflix.
the business of death
Have you noticed the changes that are taking place at funerals these days?
There are several ways that the funerals are not what they once were. The first I noticed it was about 15 years ago, when I was at a graveside funeral for a former boss of mine at Riverside Cemetery in Macon. I arrived just as the service began. The funeral home had set perhaps 50 chairs about, and the minister had just started the service.
stop going backwards
Georgia’s General Assembly began Monday. Watch out! Few of us are safe from its machinations!
You can be sure with the super majority that the Republican Party now has in the Legislature, we will see many proposals aimed at reducing taxes, that will give the rich more power, and forget the underprivileged. In other words, more of the same.
a stain on values
Those are some of the emotions I feel after hearing of the way the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States has treated people in detention in the War on Terror. For this to be happening in a nation that says that all individuals have certain human rights, no matter what their station, the CIA actions are the highest of hypocrisy, which also goes against the basic principles that the American people hold high.
My-my-my, how times have changed in your and my lifetime! Back when I was young, our home was in a tiny, small town. To drive to our church on Sunday, about eight miles, we were riding in a model 1940 automobile, and past a grist mill. Most of the time, the drive was easy with no complications. However, after any sort of rain, first going down one Middle Georgia red clay hill, then crossing a creek where the mill was, then seeking to go up the next hill, a distance of about a mile altogether, was not necessarily a joy ride.
How do you enrich any community in its arts and culture and transform it into a vibrant and caring area?
Traditionally in this country, with its tax laws, it’s been some individual making a lot of money in private business, then recognizing that he owes something to give back to the community. Based on the tax laws, this has usually meant the creation of a foundation to oversee the accumulated wealth of this individual, and determine how best to give his assets to improve his interests in philanthropic activities.
It was a relatively young (37 year old) senator from Augusta with modern ideas who brought Georgia out from under the influences of the Talmadge machine, when he became governor in 1963. Carl Sanders brought modern politics to the state, moved the state to new heights and set the tone for forwardness and moderation that, indeed, made Georgia the capitol of the New South.
He ran against a key Talmadge protégé, and former governor, Marvin Griffin, a staunch segregationist. We remember it well.
sugar creek plantation
Back in 1937 when Gene Talmadge was finishing his second two-year term as governor of Georgia, he took a big step. For Miss Mitt (his wife), he built a new home on U.S. Highway 341, between McRae and Lumber City, in his home county of Telfair. In today’s world, this residence looks much like a Southern 5-4-and-a-door, with two-story white columns, red brick, and set about 100 yards back from the highway in a grove of pine trees. But it wasn’t built in today’s world, but constructed 77 years ago when most people in Telfair County probably didn’t have running water…
Why the Republican sweep in Georgia? Mainly, the voting in our state, and seemingly all across the nation, was purely anti-Obama in nature, as the Republican political operatives clearly convinced the electorate that the leadership by the President is missing. In Georgia, the Democrats had charged ahead with two well-known names to run for the top offices, and many were thinking this showed a stronger Democratic Party rebounding from its previous meager showings. This perceived strength held throughout the race at the polls with neck-and-neck results causing eyebrows to be raised.
Next Tuesday, when you go to vote, you’ll be faced with two constitutional amendments on the ballot, plus one resolution. Today let’s examine what they are, and comment on them. But first, realize that you may be like many Georgians: complaining on why you are being asked to decide such complicated measures. We feel it’s because of two reasons.
problems, not targets
Six years ago, President Obama was all for bringing our troops home from far-off wars. Much of that has happened. Now new threats to world peace are prompting some war hawks to push for “sending in the troops,” no matter where the trouble is brewing.
Good thing our military is controlled by a civilian Secretary of Defense. The military men will always advise on sending in the troops. They are trained to recommend no other way.
capitalism at work
The birthing of several new suburban towns around Atlanta has had an impact on Gwinnett, something you might call an “unintended consequence.” One of these has been the hiring by these new towns of members of the Gwinnett County police force, taking officers trained by the Gwinnett Police Academy to fill the ranks of the newly-formed police departments. Other areas big enough to have their own police academies, Atlanta, DeKalb, and Cobb counties have also been targeted as place to hire fully-trained officers.
For today, a different perspective, learning from history. Reading Winston Churchill’s massive six-book history of World War II gives new insights into that war, at least for me. For instance, it appears that my main interest was the fight against the Germans, by the English, Russian, French and Allied forces. Perhaps others had more interest in the war in the Pacific Theatre. Even I, as one alive during World War II, remember the massive fighting emanating out of the Philippines, in the Coral Sea area, Okinawa and Iwo Jima,…
There’s a simple reason why small turnouts at elections bother me. Simply put: Low turnouts run the risk of having a small pinch of the electorate choosing our public officials. With a small number of people voting, splinter and fringe groups can dominate the election. This can produce elected officials representing these way-out views, often not in step with the main-line, middle-of-the-road process it takes to let our government function best. It doesn’t matter is the electorate if one third right, one-third left, and one-third in the middle or independent.
“Clean your plate!” Sound familiar?
It was for me when growing up. Perhaps originally my folks wanted me, as a youth, to eat enough food to be healthy. Later on, when I started spooning my own portions, out came again the admonition when I slacked off: “Clean your plate!” Some of this may have reflected my parents experiencing the Great Depression.
states have choice
The politics surrounding climate change is getting warmer.
President Obama has caused quite a ripple in this arena with his proposals to cut carbon emissions by 20 percent. He has taken a back door step to remove this issue from the do-nothing Congress, and exercised his executive power under the Clean Air Act to move toward fewer carbon emissions.