Georgia – Not Greek To Me

July 6, 2015 10:00 am

by Charlie · 10 comments

This week’s Courier Herald column:

As Georgians were celebrating our country’s 239th birthday this weekend, the people of Greece were voting in a referendum that will likely force the question if they will remain part of the European Union. The image of a country only slightly larger than our state deciding if it wants independence was a bit more interesting given that those on our side of the Atlantic have been having a very public grappling with our Southern history and the symbols of a former attempt at independence.

The truth is, it’s been 3 weeks of intense imagery and public discussion about who we are as Americans. We’ve had the Supreme Court decide cases on gay marriage and Obamacare that revealed and perhaps expanded divides between many of us. These cases came at a time when brutal murders in a Charleston church had many southerners no longer willing to defend the public display of the confederate battle flag.

For the most part, one can look at the relatively uniform surrender of the stars and bars on most government property as a sign of American unity. One that says we of different backgrounds are of one nation. There was a clear winner in the war between the states and it was us, America. The country we are now all a part of. The one that celebrated her birthday as a united country this weekend. [click to continue…]

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2016 presidential hopefuls Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee brought their campaigns to Rock Springs Church in Milner Sunday night. The pair spoke at an Independence Day celebration and picnic that also featured the Charlie Daniels Band and one of the Robertsons from Duck Dynasty.

The two were competing for the attention and votes of the 6,000 member congregation by pledging their support for traditional marriage, and opposing the Supreme Court’s decision calling same-sex marriage a fundamental right. Bill Barrow of the Associated Press has the story.

Huckabee, who enjoyed evangelical support on his way to winning eight states in his 2008 White House bid, called the ruling “radical” and “illegal.”

“I want to serve notice that the Supreme Court is just the supreme of the court system that is one of the three equal branches of government,” Huckabee told hundreds of members of Rock Springs Church in a rural area outside metro Atlanta. “It is not the supreme branch, and it most certainly is not the supreme being.”

Cruz, the Texas senator, said a five-justice majority “ignored the text of the Constitution” and said the cascade of judicial and public support for same-sex marriage threatens religious liberty in America. He said he hopes the ruling “serves as a spark, to start a fire that becomes a raging inferno as the body of Christ stands up to defend the values that have built America.”

Huckabee and Cruz, along with Bobby Jindal and Rick Santorum, have been the most vocal in opposing the Supreme Court’s opinion, with Cruz going as far as calling for retention elections of judges. Huckabee has promised to sign executive orders protecting the religious liberty of those opposing marriage equality. Evangelical voters, like those in the Rock Springs congregation, make up a large share of those expected to vote in the Iowa Caucuses, the South Carolina primary, and in Georgia, which will be part of the SEC Primary on March 1st.

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International
‘No’ vote by Greece shocks Europe
U.S. crushes Japan in World Cup

National
Christie downplays poll numbers, vows reforms
Bernie and Hillary’s holiday weekend

Local
‘Dukes of Hazzard’ DVDs, downloads soar
DeKalb company shoots for the moon … and Mars
The fight in Georgia for a new state flag
Georgia state workers, teachers pay more for health care
Red Cross seeks blood donations to offset seasonal decline

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The Georgia Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling on Tuesday holding that the state does, in fact, have the power to tell Georgia Vidalia onion farmers when they can pick their crops.

Previously, Troy Bland of Tattnall County’s Bland Farms sued Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black claiming he overstepping his authority after Black required onion farmers to wait until a state-set date to pick and ship their onions. In 2014, the date was April 21.

Commissioner Black claimed in his rebuttal to the court that Bland has hurt the brand of Vidalia onions because he ships poor-quality onions too early. Bland and his supporters opine that if the onions taste bad or are of poor quality, people would not purchase them – which has not happened. Bland also says his onions mature sooner because of the geographical location of his farm.

The court said Gary Black showed “that the packing date rule is reasonable in light of testimony and letters received by the Commissioner concerning the declining quality of the Vidalia onion and the threat to the industry.”

It appears the Georgia Court of Appeals has the same amount of testicular fortitude of as the U.S. Supreme Court. None.

Currently, Georgia is grows 11,000 acres of onions in 20 Georgia counties. That’s about 258 million pounds a year. In 1986, the Georgia General Assembly passed the “Vidalia Onion Act” trademarking and regulating the onions to ‘protect the brand.’

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Apparently the revulsion over the Confederate battle flag isn’t as strong as some had hoped. Or at least, that’s what Yahoo Canada says:

Fourth of July holidaymakers ignored a call to boycott Georgia’s Stone Mountain Park, known as the “Confederate Rushmore,” over its display of the contentious Confederate flag.

Hundreds of people had staked out spots at the 3,200-acre (1,295-hectare) privately run park by noon on Saturday for nighttime laser and fireworks shows. They shrugged off heavy rain on the park’s busiest day of the year as well as the boycott call.

Bobbie Smith of Fitzgerald, Georgia, who was camping at Stone Mountain with her family, called the boycott call “just stupid.”

“This whole park is a Confederate memorial. If you don’t have the flag here, where on Earth would you put it?” she said.

[Link added]

The park was full before 8 PM, and refused to admit additional visitors. Has the fever over confederate symbols broken, or is Georgia just part of the country that keeps the United States from being normal?

Maybe Tim Bryant has the right idea:

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Word tonight from Fayette County Commissioner Steve Brown that Pota Coston, the first Democrat to be elected to that county’s Board of Commissioners, passed away following a bout with cancer. According to the Fayette Citizen, she had been moved to hospice on Wednesday.

Erick and I wrote about Commissioner David Barlow’s less than enthusiastic welcome to the commission following her November, 2014 election.

Prayers for the family. May she rest in peace.

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Own The Night Like The 4th Of July

July 3, 2015 17:59 pm

by Teri · 2 comments

As of July 1, Georgians can celebrate Independence Day with legit fireworks. I have to admit, I’m kind of excited – I spent my formative years in Texas, where people celebrate July 4th by eating brisket and doing stuff like this with firecrackers. I appreciate a DIY fireworks show, even if it’s just sparklers and Roman candles in either the cul-de-sac or the back pasture.

There are really only a few things that the new Georgia law requires:

  • The person lighting the fireworks must be at least 18 years old and have a valid photo ID.
  • You can’t light them within 100 yards of a gas station or a nuclear power plant.
  • You’re liable for any damage caused by your fireworks.
  • You can only shoot them off between 10 AM and midnight, unless it’s New Year’s Eve or July 4, in which case you can celebrate freedom until 2 AM.

And that’s pretty much it. Want to shoot them off at a state park, or in the middle of a crowd? You can do that – it’s totally legal – but park officials advise you to be careful. From WSB:

Park officials are concerned that the new law does not allow them the flexibility to put in place restrictions on where the fireworks can be set off.

HB 110 expressly prohibits any government or municipality from creating local laws or ordinances that prohibit the sale or use of the fireworks in any area.

“We are hoping to work with lawmakers to help regulate crowded situations or state and public lands,” said Dwayne Garriss, Georgia’s State Fire Marshal.

Unlike Texas, where cities and counties can regulate whether fireworks are allowed within their borders (for instance, fireworks are allowed in Harris County, which includes Houston, but not within the Houston city limits), counties and municipalities in Georgia have no say at all in determining whether they want to enact local ordinances that deal with fireworks. We local elected folks can handle Sunday alcohol sales, we can – for now – determine whether we want to ban plastic bags, but fireworks? That’s state-level stuff, kids. [click to continue…]

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This 4th of July finds our nation awash in debates over flags and heritage. Like many of us in this region, my roots run deep in the south on both sides of my family. My mother’s grandfather ran off in his early teens from his middle Georgia family farm to join the Army of Northern Virginia. He became a scout, was captured, and spent the end of the war in a horrible Union prison camp in Point Lookout, Maryland. My father’s great grandfather fared better as a Confederate Colonel in the Calvary in northern Florida but saw action in the Battle of Olustee and in subsequent actions near Jacksonville. In March 1865, he and his men played a prominent role in the Battle of Natural Bridge.

independence day flagThere has been a lot of talk as to what led political leaders into succession and rebellion. As for my family members, the only written accounts that we have for their reasons for fighting focused on their homes and loved ones. After the war, neither man wallowed in the past but returned home and worked to rebuild their families and communities. J.J. Dennard returned to Wilcox County and his farm, had 16 children (my maternal grandfather being one of his youngest), and served in the Georgia General Assembly. Colonel George Washington Scott settled down first in Savannah and then Atlanta, became a successful businessman, and provided the money for a women’s college in Decatur which was named for his mother, Agnes Scott.

I am proud of the legacy and heritage that these men left my family and respect the tragedy and horrors they faced in war. I do not want our nation to ever forget the lessons and scars that the Civil War — or any war — left us. But the Battle Flag for the Army of Northern Virginia is not my flag. My flag is the one that still earlier relatives fought under to create this nation. My flag is the one that later family members and close friends fought under in Europe, the Pacific, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. My flag is the one that stands as a beacon for hope, liberty, and freedom in a troubled world.

This 4th of July and every other day of the year, the only flag I want to honor is the one young American men and women around the world wear on their uniforms today and keep silent vigil to protect us all.  My heritage and my flag has stars and stripes.

I hope everyone has a great 4th of July.

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Armageddon Day 3:

July 3, 2015 11:00 am

by Charlie · 39 comments

July 3, 2015 - Down 2 Cents

July 3, 2015 – Down 2 Cents

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Taking bets that very few will read this – hopefully you’re off with family/friends, whoopin’ it up for an Independence Day extended celebration. Be safe. Be patriotic. Especially if you’re shooting mortars off the dock at… oh wait, can I say that?

Random Silliness Everywhere:
– Like big fireworks? Here’s your list!
– Green peas? Really? This is almost as horrendous as peas in Brunswick Stew.
Shocked. A Capt. Renault kind of shocked.
Blah. Blah. Blah.
Everyone knows this.
Nooooooooooo.
– Party like it’s 1999.
Space retard. Hahahahaha. Oh, my.
Oops.
– That’s one way to do it.

and (drumroll, please)…
– Dude, it’s not iocaine powder. That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.

God Bless America!

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As measured by job announcements in the first quarter of the year, and it is all thanks to solar. AtlantaBizChron has this to say:

In Georgia, solar installation projects helped make it the No. 1 state for clean energy job announcements in Q1. Five projects, which will cumulatively produce 382 megawatts of power from solar cells across 3,500 acres in Taylor County, could create approximately 2,000 jobs.

Major electric utility Southern Company (NYSE: SO) will purchase power from at least one of the projects, and others are lining up for the rest, the group said.

The entire report is here, but it isn’t all that informative.

Now if we could just get Georgia Power to buy some of the home generated power at reasonable rates, we would really be able to harness the power of the sun and of Mike Dudgeon’s home solar financing bill this last term.

 

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Jessica linked to it in the Morning Reads and this was in this morning’s Peach Pundit Daily:

The Coming Battle Over Certificate Of Need. – Two Cartersville ob/gyns filed suit Tuesday to overturn the state’s health care regulatory process, saying it restricts competition and is unconstitutional. Drs. Hugo Ribot and Malcolm Barfield are challenging the Georgia Certificate of Need program, a complex set of regulations governing the creation and expansion of medical facilities. The Certificate of Need process has long been controversial because hospitals often use it to challenge competitors’ proposed projects. It has also pitted doctors against hospitals in battles over building surgery centers. The physicians’ lawsuit, filed in Fulton County Superior Court, is believed to be the first such litigation seeking to overturn the state’s entire Certificate of Need, or CON, program, said Glenn Delk, an Atlanta attorney for the physicians. This is one to watch.

According to the Department of Community Health website:

The Certificate of Need (CON) program is intended to achieve three goals: (1) to measure and define need, (2) to control costs, and (3) to guarantee access to healthcare services. Georgia began reviewing health care projects in 1975 under Section 1122 of the 1972 Social Security Act Amendments and Georgia’s CON program was established by the General Assembly in 1979 (O.C.G.A. Title 31, Chapter 6).

A report by the Mercatus Center takes a different view:

While CON programs were intended to limit the supply of health care services within a state, proponents claim that the limits were necessary to either control costs or increase the amount of charity care being provided. However, 40 years of evidence demonstrate that these programs do not achieve their intended outcomes, but rather decrease the supply and availability of health care services by limiting entry and competition. For policymakers in Georgia, this situation presents an opportunity to reverse course and open the market for greater entry, more competition, and ultimately more options for those seeking care.

Hopefully this lawsuit will encourage a discussion about Certificate of Need and whether or not changes to the system are needed. I would suggest changes are needed. Of course, if the Doctors win, change will come.

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Armageddon Day 2:

July 2, 2015 11:01 am

by Charlie · 7 comments

IMG_1612

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Georgia Power CEO and Georgia Chamber Board President Paul Bowers addressed Augusta business leaders earlier this week, and while talking up certain portions of the state’s educational system, lamented the fact that many prospective workers don’t have the education needed to enter the workforce.

According to the Augusta Chronicle, Bowers praised the educational programs offered at Georgia Regents University, along with programs offered at the state’s technical schools, noting that trained welders can make $80,000 per year working at one of the nuclear reactors under construction at Plant Vogtle. Despite these programs, Bowers said that not every prospective employee has what it takes to get a job at the company.

He pointed to recent Georgia Power hiring figures as an example of the state’s workforce being unequipped to fill those jobs. Out of several thousand applicants, about 4,600 employees are hired each year at the company, Bowers said.

“When they go through the basic employment test at Georgia Power, 50 percent of them fail,” he said. “That says we’ve got to be engaged. We’ve got to have leaders in the community, business leaders, that say, ‘I want to do something about this. I want to get engaged in the education system. I want to be in the classroom to give some type of mentoring or helping the kids understand.’ ”

As a Gwinnett County resident, I’ve seen how cooperation between the business community, county government, the elementary and secondary school system, the technical college system and the Board of Regents led to the development of programs in health care and bioscience viewed as promising careers. The state’s economic and workforce development divisions are also trying to bridge that gap.

How much should the business community get involved in ensuring that the new workers they hire tomorrow will possess the skills needed to succeed?

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On this date in 1964, President Johnson signed the “Civil Rights Act of 1964″ into law. The act made it illegal to discriminate against others because of their race

Peaches

Jimmy Carter

Sweet Tea

Liberty Drum

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