Author: Chet Martin

Governor Deal to Block Syrian Refugees

Joining 11 other Republican governors today, Governor Nathan Deal has issued a statement indicating he will prevent the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Georgia. From the governor’s press release:

In light of the terror attacks in Paris, I’ve issued an executive order directing state agency heads to prevent the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Georgia,” said Deal. “Further, I call upon the Obama administration to work with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security to confirm the backgrounds of the 59 Syrian refugees recently resettled to ensure they do not pose a security threat to our citizens. Until the federal government and Congress conducts a thorough review of current screening procedures and background checks, we will take every measure available to us at the state level to ensure the safety of Georgians.

Governor Deal’s letter to President Obama references the as-yet-unverified claim that one of the terrorists who attacked Paris on Friday entered the European Union as a Syrian refugee.

Last year Georgia resettled 2,694 refugees, 6 of whom hailed from Syria.

Isakson Calls for New VA Leaders

While presidential candidates make noise about the Veterans Administration to curry favor, Chairmen of the Veterans Affairs Committee Johnny Isakson continues his workmanlike effort to improve the system. Below is his statement on the resignation of Under Secretary for Benefits Allison Hickey, who was accused of “negligent oversight” and called to appear before the House committee on October 21. Hickey is one of the last holdovers from the administration of former Secretary for Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki.

Recent findings by the Inspector General clearly show that the Veterans Benefits Administration desperately needs new leadership. The systemic culture of fraud, waste and gross misuse of taxpayer money by VA executives for their own personal gain ‎while veterans benefits claims have been backlogged for years is appalling and must end. While I thank Under Secretary Hickey for her military service, this is an opportunity for Secretary McDonald to nominate someone who will hold bad actors within the VA accountable and reform the Veterans Benefits Administration. I strongly urge Secretary McDonald to nominate someone as quickly as possible – this is not a position that the VBA can afford to have vacant for long.

Jack Kingston to Chair GA GOP Foundation

Former Congressman Jack Kingston has been named Chairman of the Georgia Republican Party Foundation, according to a Republican Party press release. The once and perhaps future statewide candidate will be the party’s chief fundraiser for the 2016 cycle. From the press release:

Former Georgia Republican Congressman Jack Kingston has been named Chairman of the Georgia Republican Party Foundation. The volunteer position is responsible for assisting with the fundraising efforts of the State Republican Party. Kingston brings a wealth of fundraising experience, a rolodex like few others, and a well-known penchant for frugality. Jack has raised tens of millions of dollars for Republican campaigns and conservative causes.
‘It is an honor to be asked to serve in this role and to help grow our Georgia Republican Party. Given the disastrous results we’ve seen under 6 years of the current administration, Republicans have to win the White House in 2016. To do this successfully we have to field the largest grassroots effort this state has ever seen and raise the necessary resources to make this possible. I am committed to doing just that,’ said Kingston.
The Savannah Congressman will have a mountain to climb based on the GOP’s last reported earnings (though not as bad as you might think, per Peach Pundit’s own Jon Richards.)

In his campaign for U.S. Senate (which I enthusiastically supported), Kingston  was dinged as an insider. That access should serve him well in a role like this one which requires a delicate touch to bridge the party’s various interests. His decades-long relationship with Senator Johnny Isakson should also help secure the GOP through a presidential year in an increasingly purple state.

As blue ribbon appointments go, it’s hard to imagine a better choice than Jack Kingston.

Morning Reads for Monday, August 3rd

Today’s Georgia music brought to you by Obergefell v. Hodges and free tickets from Teri ‘N Chris.

Georgia

Lesser Places

We are a month away from a month containing UGA football. Updates on the quarterback competition and your hopes and dreams.

Rep. Jones Calls for July 4th Boycott of Stone Mountain

In a new front in the “Conflagration,” State Representative LaDawn Jones (D-62) has called for Georgians to avoid the state-owned Stone Mountain Park over the 4th of July weekend until the Confederate battle flag that flies near its entrance is removed. From her press release:

State Representative Jones believes that Georgians can show their demands by keeping their money away from the park during the Fourth of July Festivities at Stone Mountain Park including the Laser Show Spectacular. “Due to the large carving, Stone Mountain will always be a memorial to the Confederate soldiers and the Civil War. We can never change the fact that Stone Mountain was where the KKK was reformed in 1915 and grew from dormancy to millions of members. However, we can stop giving credence to this type of hate by removing the flags that fly at the bottom,” says Representative Jones.

The location is filled with a history of being closely related to the Ku Klux Klan and continues to fly several versions of the Confederate Flag at the entrance of the walking trail for the mountain. “I support an individual’s rights to self-identify with the history of the flag but I find it inappropriate that the State continue to allow this flag to fly over any building, park or property that is in anyway supported by the State.” Stone Mountain Memorial Association, which is a State of Georgia authority operates and is responsible for Stone Mountain Park which is operated by the Herschend Family Entertainment Group. Jones took a photo of the flags as she walked through the park and educated her nieces and nephews of the park’s history back in April. It was not until the recent events in Charleston that she saw growing support for an issue that has long caused her concern.

“Residents don’t need to hold mass picketing, we simply need to not participate at all in the celebration at the Mountain. It is that simple. Just don’t go. Our absence will be felt if all the black and brown faces along with those who do not tolerate hate of any kind stay away from Stone Mountain,” says Jones. There are a number of other firework shows throughout the metro area. Jones sent letters to the Hershend Family and the Stone Mountain Memorial Association. The Herschend Family quickly responded and directed Jones to the SMMA who has yet to respond to her inquiries. Jones says she avoided the park for years but by the urging of friends she exercised at the park but she was always bothered by the flags. “The Charleston shooting immediately reignited my distain for the Confederate Flag and all places that flies over. The Charleston murderer and others like him are empowered every time they go somewhere where the State endorses the hateful message that the flag displays. Conversely, hardworking, taxpaying citizens are consistently embarrassed by the lack of respect given when that flag that represents the likes of the KKK on State Property.” Jones often speaks to Georgia residents who are new to the south that do not know the history of Stone Mountain and are always shocked to learn the horrible history.

One wishes the Klan had been reformed, instead of re-formed, in 1915. Because it was not, one acknowledges Representative Jones’ distain.

Movements against the popular attraction, which boasts the largest bas-relief carving in the world (a depiction of Confederate Generals Lee and Jackson and President Davis), is not new. In 2013, a petition was launched to remove the sculpture from the mountain face. Before the 1996 Olympic Games, Rep. Tyrone Brooks pointed to the mountain as a symbol of the hollow promise of “The City Too Busy to Hate” and Georgia’s New South image.

Fear not. As commentators on this site have pointed out, it is inconceivable that the sculpture, a genuine and magnificent work of art, will be sandblasted away. Georgia elected officials are not the Taliban. But flying the Confederate battle flag on state grounds, even as an acknowledgement of history in a place haunted by it, looks to be an increasingly testy proposition.

Governor Deal Seeks Confederate License Plate Redesign

On Tuesday June 23rd, Governor Deal expressed his long-standing position on the Sons of Confederate Veterans license plates. “I’m not going to ask them one way or another what to do,” said the governor regarding proposals that the General Assembly eliminate specialty plates featuring the Confederate battle flag.

Shortly thereafter, he called reporters back and noted that a redesign could proceed without any legislative approval. From the governor:

As I have said before, many interest groups in Georgia are able to express personal views on specialty plates, and I support the ability of these groups, including the Sons of Confederate Veterans, to express their views. I have tried to govern as a consensus builder, and I believe we can reach a resolution agreeable to all sides through a redesign of the plate.

Georgia has faced down this controversy before, has found solutions that brought people together instead of dividing them and has come through those debates a more united people. I know we can do that again. Georgia celebrates its diversity, its commitment to equality for all and its tolerance of all viewpoints.

By Friday, Commissioner of the Department of Revenue Lynne Riley ordered a re-design and a temporary suspension of the plates.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans plate, along with the Confederate battle flags that fly near the Alabama and South Carolina state capitols and the observance of Confederate Memorial Day in Georgia, has attracted controversy since white supremacist Dylann Roof murdered nine in Charleston’s historically-black AME Emmanuel Church. Eloquent voices have linked the celebration of our Confederate past and white supremacy (also this one.) The nature of history, the effects of continued remembrance, and the essence of American liberty have been thoughtfully and thoroughly debated.

But if anyone wants to know why Georgia will redesign its battle flag bumper tags, it’s probably this. Courtesy of Dalton:

[Warning: What follows is 4th-quarter-against-Auburn, Mama’s-washing-your-mouth-with-vinegar language]

(H/T The Blaze and Slate):

Our Southern Dead

150 years ago today, slavery ended in America. On June 19th, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger read the Emancipation Proclamation aloud to the slaves of Galveston Island, Texas, whose masters’ had lied and killed for two years to prevent news of abolition from reaching their captives. The anniversary, dubbed Juneteenth, has been celebrated ever since by African-Americans as a “second Independence Day.”

Two days ago, a terrorist spent an hour praying at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston before murdering nine people, including the church’s pastor and local state senator, Clementa C. Pickney. The oldest black church in the South, it has hosted Booker T. Washington, Martin Luther King, and Coretta Scott King.

Emanuel AME is famous as the home of Denmark Vesey, a free black man in Charleston who stayed devoted to his enslaved wife even as South Carolina law forced the children she bore into slavery. Through the Emanuel network, he planned a rebellion of 9,000 Lowcountry slaves who hoped to throw off their chains and sail to Haiti. When the plot failed and a judge sentenced Vesey to death, he was in awe of Vesey’s extraordinary Christian sacrifice: “You had much to lose and little to gain.”

That bravery, that noble strength in the face of oppression that anoints black history, scared the hell out of Dylann Roof. A 21-year-old facing felony charges, who’d been photographed wearing the emblems of apartheid Rhodesia and South Africa, Roof purposefully did not kill one of his hostages so that the story could be reported. “You are taking over our country”, he said, and he proposed to take it back. Roof said he was defending the white race, that he “wanted to start a civil war.” Read more

Georgia Delegation Reacts to TPA Defeat

President Obama wants a massive free trade bill spanning the Pacific Ocean with countries like Japan, Australia, and Chile: the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP. To do that, he has asked Congress to grant him broad authority to negotiate that deal without Congressional amendment or filibuster: Trade Promotion Authority, or TPA. The House gave him that authority, which had already been approved by the Senate,in a 219-211 vote today.

Yet, House Democrats effectively killed it by voting down a program designed to help American workers “displaced by global trade” that the Senate bundled with their passage of TPA. That decades-old policy is known as Trade Adjustment Assistance, or TAA. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has suggested the whole package is contingent upon passage of a federal highway funding bill. Like any good horror monster, TAA, and therefore TPA, and therefore TPP, is not dead yet. Expect another vote next week as early as Monday.

Exhale.

This controversial, conspiracy-inducing mess has put a spotlight on Georgia’s Congressional delegation and demanded difficult word-smithing from their communications offices. Enjoy. Read more

Prosecuting Abortion

Kenlissa Jones will not face murder charges for abortion in the fifth month of pregnancy. The Dougherty County woman took four doses of Cytotec, pills she ordered online that can induce non-surgical abortions. She delivered on the way to the hospital; her son died 30 minutes after arriving at the hospital.

From the New York Times:

The Dougherty County district attorney, Greg Edwards, dismissed a malice murder charge against the woman, Kenlissa Jones, 23, who spent about three days in jail after seeking help at a hospital. But he said she still faced a misdemeanor charge of possessing a dangerous drug, which Georgia defines as any drug requiring a prescription. Georgia has prohibited the prosecution of women for feticide or for performing illegal abortions in cases involving their own pregnancies. Mr. Edwards said that the arresting officers acted within their authority and used their “best understanding of the law,” but that their understanding was incorrect.

No one wants this case. Despite a few murmerings of Acela rage, this falls well outside the image that pro-choice groups wish to project. You can see it in the language: the Huffington Post mentions a “baby boy,” the National Association for Pregnant Women the awkward “pregnancy outcome,” and Slate defends an “attempted abortion.” Even in the eyes of pro-choice groups, there is something categorically different about a baby that is born, lives outside his mother’s womb, and dies as a result of chemicals she consumed. Discussing a similar (and better publicized) case in Indiana, Emily Bazelon acknowledges “if this case were only about a woman who clearly gave birth to a live baby and then killed her child, it would be clear cut.” What’s the medical definition of a clear birth?

Yet no one on the right is leaping to demonize Jones. The AP reports that “even abortion opponents figured the murder charge wouldn’t stick. ‘I have been involved in the pro-life movement for well over 20 years, and I’m not aware of a situation like this ever,’ said Genevieve Wilson, a director of Georgia Right to Life.” (Apparently the AP didn’t get the memo.) As mentioned above, Georgia law prohibits the prosecution of women who illegally abort, as do most states. Overzealous prosecutors occasionally discover a clever charge like felony child neglect, but legal immunity for the women who request abortions opposed by pro-life groups has long been a feature of the movement. Pity the foolish advocate who intends to prosecute a third of American women.

The pro-life movement has an important intellectual and moral advantage in its clarity. It opposes abortion and its legalization. The pro-choice movement, meanwhile, differs on whether abortion should be permitted in the first, second, or third trimester. Fox News will occasionally dig up some community college scholar arguing for the fifth. That’s why so much time in these debates gets sucked up in vanishingly small scenarios like rape and incest: if a door can be opened for what is ostensibly murder, it can be widened.

Hence the problem with nibbling at the edges of abortion jurisprudence. When legislators pass laws that prohibit those abortions to which a clear majority object, it risks establishing differences of kind between that which they oppose completely. It produces these horror stories of dead infants, bleeding and mistreated women, and red-state cruelty. It loses all clarity while begetting tragedy.

Thank God Greg Edwards knew better.

Bluestein Threat to Freedom/Equality Gathers Strength in Atlanta/Walton

Somewhere deep in a system of man-made caves in Atlanta, Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter and self-proclaimed “Political Insider” Greg Bluestein is plotting to capture the 10th District.

The writer announced his candidacy after receiving the support of a shadowy group, Run for America. Central to his campaign are hay bales, jobs, puppies, and jobs. While announcing his strongly conservative/progressive platform, the candidate boldly advertised his weak connection to the district:

Of Polish/South Carolinian extraction, this 10th District challenger has yet to produce a birth certificate. That hasn’t scared off powerful interest groups from forming Super PACS:

Thankfully, the bold people of the 10th District have already begun to question their would-be representative. The insurgent #StopBluestein campaign, already sporting a snazzy website, points out a few more problems: the candidate supports hip-hop culture, exhibits poor culinary taste, and associates with a perversion of God’s Will: RINOs.

Yet supporters assemble.

https://twitter.com/hashtag/trueblue?vertical=default&f=tweets

According to inside sources said to manage the #StopBluestein campaign, his favorite movies are The Phantom Menance and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. According to unconfirmed sources, he “hates the music” but “loves the personality” of rapper Kanye West. Rumors abound of stock owned in PepsiCo.

Rather than pick the obvious choice, many expect this campaign song to be announced soon:

God help us all.

Isakson Swaps NSA Fears for the IRS

Tuesday in a Senate Finance Committee meeting, Senator Johnny Isakson “highlighted the contrast” between the Senate’s ongoing USA PATRIOT Act debate and the ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ that greeted the news of 100,000 identities stolen from an IRS database. An excerpt of his statement:

We’re getting ready to take that authority away from [the NSA], yet here we have the commissioner of the IRS talking about 104,000 Americans that had their identity stolen. And yet when I file my tax return on April 15th each year, [the IRS] knows how much money I make, how much my wife makes, what church I go to, who I give the money to, whether or not I had a casualty loss, where I buy stocks, where I buy bonds and how much I owe on my house.

A few concerns for the argumentative: the NSA metadata collection program is seen by many as a gross violation of the 4th Amendment, while the IRS’s power to tax (and, presumably, collect the data that entails) is guaranteed by the 16th Amendment. The IRS would be better able to protect citizens’ data if they were better funded, which, while loathsome, is simply a good investment for the honest taxpayer.

Finally, the IRS or something like it is necessary for our modern democracy to function. Even under a Fair Tax system, some government functionary has to monitor that your corner QuikTrip isn’t hiding revenue.  There is no evidence to suggest that NSA spying has ever thwarted a terrorist attack.

None of which changes the central principle: the less the government knows about me, the better I feel.

Morning Reads for Friday, May 29

Like all great music about Alabama, this song was recorded by a band living in Georgia.

Georgia

Lesser Places

Did Rep. Clark Just Tweet the Return of RFRA?

Politics actually happens in two places- late-night bars and Twitter.

With that in mind, check out this Sine Die tweet from Rep. Heath Clark:

A legislative calendar on the laptop, an amendment form in the middle, and RFRA talking points on the right.

On the same day that Coca-Cola comes out against “legislation that discriminates,” is RFRA back?

Update: No. (H/T to Betteridge’s Law of Headlines.)

Rep. Clark addressed the issue around noon:

An Arkansas Preview

** Update ** Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he does not plan to sign the religious freedom bill that sits on his desk right now, instead asking state lawmakers to make changes so the bill mirrors federal law. It appears a consensus is forming.

After Indiana’s RFRA embroiled the state in national controversy, some of our Southern neighbors find themselves on the verge of the same controversy. Last night, HB 1228  passed both houses of the Arkansas legislature. It now sits on the desk of Governor Asa Hutchinson, “a pragmatic Republican who ran on a jobs platform.” That’s a type we know well.

As everyone knows and is tired of hearing, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was passed with overwhelming bi-partisan support in 1993 and signed by Arkansas’s favorite son. 20 states (including Indiana) have passed similar bills, which aim to prevent government from forcing citizens to violate their religious conscience absent a “compelling interest.”

Yet the recent bills passed in Indiana and Arkansas go further. They codify the federal RFRA’s ambiguous protection of corporate entities the Supreme Court interpreted in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores. Most threateningly, they allow religious defenses to be used in cases in which no government entity is a party– if, for example, a turned-away minority customer sues a restaurant for violating local civil rights statute.

Both Indiana and Arkansas lawmakers turned down amendments to add non-discrimination language to the bill of the kind proposed by Rep. Mike Jacobs. In Indiana, the executive director of the American Family Association of Indiana worried about “a capitulation that enshrines homosexual behavior as a special right in Indiana.” It’s difficult for either state to argue this legislation isn’t a rearguard action against the advance of gay rights, particularly with allies like Tony Perkins.

Important political figures and corporations (you know the one) have asked the Governor not to sign the bill. One imagines Governor Deal, in a similar situation, receiving a call from the ghost of Robert Woodruff.

Given the firestorm, Governor Hutchinson has hinted at support for a compromise that would add non-discrimination language to the state’s RFRA in conjunction with a state civil rights bill to define protected classes of race, religion, age, gender, and sexual identity. Jon Richards has proposed the same mechanism here. Perhaps, after a year of tribalism and lies, a way forward has been charted.