Circa 2006.

Let’s see a show of hands from all the readers who are using the same cell phone or laptop they used in 2006!

Anyone? Bueller…?

A recent report from the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law details the technological shortcomings of the nation’s current fleet of electronic voting machines. The report’s authors interviewed election officials in every state, including Georgia. Of note:

  • Every voting machine in Georgia was manufactured prior to 2006, and was designed and engineered in the 1990s.
  • Every Georgia voter casts their ballot on the same discontinued machine.
  • All of Georgia’s voting machines rely on Windows 2000 (Microsoft ended support for Windows 2000 in 2010).
  • According to the report, no jurisdiction in Georgia is looking for new machines.

Citylab breaks down the essence of the report (links are theirs), and also makes this point:

Meanwhile, states are paying out hundreds of thousands of dollars to roll out new voter ID laws in the name of “election integrity.” Some have paid even more, into the millions, to defend voter ID in court, even though the problem it purports to resolve is middling—and that’s being generous. Many of those states have not coughed up money to solve their voting machine problem, which is far more crippling to election integrity.

Following a summer of special elections, many Georgians will vote in municipal and other elections on November 3, and 2016 will start strong with the SEC Primary in March. Have you heard of any Georgia jurisdictions that are looking to update their equipment? Are you confident in Georgia’s voting machines, or do you worry that Election Day will be – not unlike the #1 hit song of 2006 – a bad day? Discuss in the comments.


Rumor Du Jour of the Day…

October 6, 2015 9:45 am

by Mike Hassinger · 1 comment

UPDATE: Kristina Torres of the AJC has the sad confirmation that Senator Tolleson has been diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Tolleson remains determined: “Serving the place your family has called home for generations is an incredible experience and there wasn’t a day I didn’t give thanks for the opportunity to strengthen our state and change lives for the better. This diagnosis was a disappointment, but I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge and will meet it head on,” he said.

Word is being passed around that State Senator Ross Tolleson (R-Perry) may be resigning his seat this week, possibly due to health reasons. (If that is indeed the reason, we wish him well and hope for his speedy recovery.)

Since no rumored impending vacancy in Georgia politics is complete without a list of potential replacements, here’s what we’re hearing: Larry Walker (who just lost a special election) might jump in, along with Kelly Burke, (who also lost in that same special election,) and Laurens County Commissioner Jon Martin, is also expected to announce a long-planned campaign. 

That’s three. Who else? Special Elections to the State Senate are pretty rare, and most anyone with any kind of political ambition would jump at the opportunity. Feel free to post your own rumors in the comments.

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We all know Donald Trump is trying to buy the free world. Yet, despite Donald Trump’s liberal record of supporting abortion; donating to Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid; and endorsing other liberal policies; he has secured an endorsement from an (my) elected official: State Senator Michael Williams (R-Cumming).

First reported by the AJC, Senator Michael Williams confirmed on Facebook he is supporting Trump. It should be noted that his political consultant, Seth Weathers, is heading up Donald Trump’s Georgia team.

Trump Endorsement

My hope is Senator Williams remains the only Gold Dome endorsement of Trump. We’ll see.


GOP Logo courtesy of Wikipedia.Jon told you about last night’s Georgia Republican Party dinner featuring Frank Luntz. This morning the GAGOP released a statement saying they had exceeded the fundraising goal for the event. From a press release:

Last night, Georgia Republicans from throughout the state gathered at the Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center in Atlanta for the 2015 Chairman’s Dinner, which featured Republican pollster and “public opinion guru” Frank Luntz as the keynote speaker and many of Georgia’s top Republican elected officials and grassroots leaders. While contributions are still being collected, the event exceeded the Party’s fundraising goal of $150,000.

“The Georgia Republican Party is fortunate to have strong supporters who are committed to growing the base and earning victory for our nominees at the ballot box,” said Georgia Republican Party Foundation Chairman Jack Kingston. “I am confident that we will have the funds in place to launch an aggressive, comprehensive, data-driven victory program that protects our U.S. Senate seat and helps Republicans win back the White House in 2016!”

“Thanks to the outpouring of support from hardworking Republicans throughout the state, the Georgia Republican Party is equipped for battle,” said Georgia Republican Party Chairman John Padgett. “With our pro-growth, pro-freedom message, we can keep Georgia red and ensure that America’s best and brightest days are still to come.”

You too can donate to the Georgia Republican Party and help build a warchest for the 2016 elections.


The bridge required by the new Braves Stadium, sorry, Suntrust Park, to ferry fans across the Perimeter from the Galleria area to the stadium has reached the stage where you have to punch new holes at the end of the belt in order to make it stay on.

Yes, the $9 million dollar bridge that was supposed to cost taxpayers $0, has recently begun to tip the scales at, well let’s add it up.

Let’s turn to the AJC to get us up to speed:

The AJC has previously reported on other costs associated with the bridge project that are not included in the county’s $9 million estimate — including the county’s $2 million estimate for land purchase; an estimated $3.5 million to reinforce a parking deck into which the bridge would tie; and approximately $800,000 to the bridge engineers.

Add to that what the AJC has more recently found: $500k to move (yet another) pipeline, and $2.2 million to get people over some sort of lake it looks like, bring the total up to a cool $17 million.

In case you were curious, that’s 2,720,000 slices of Oreo Cheesecake.

And there is no plan on the table that is anything but 100% public money.

Must be a cheat meal.

This may be a surprise to Cobb County Commission Chairman Tim Lee, as he has reassured us time and time again that no public money would be used. But then again, he probably knew that was never true, as our story from November of last year indicated:

Cobb County let the Atlanta Regional Commission, which specifically stated that the traffic plans the County submitted would not work at all without people circulators (read as trolleys, trams, or buses), that they would be tapping Cobb’s share of federal transit funds to fund 50% of the construction cost. Cobb County taxpayers would be responsible for the other half. That was in June.

But in July when asked if tax money would go toward the bridge construction, Tim Lee responded “Probably not. No. I doubt it,” Lee responded. “I doubt it seriously.”

We are getting closer and closer to the reality that is the Cheesecake Factory Bus Jump.



On this day in 1979, Pope John Paul II became the first Pope to visit the White House. Anwar Sadat was assassinated on this date in 1981. Robert Bork’s nomination was voted down in the Senate Judiciary, which, sadly, is why we never had Supreme Court Justice Richard Posner. Discuss.

  • Children of the Yuan Percent: Everyone Hates China’s Rich Kids (Bloomberg)
  • Inside The Epic Fantasy That’s Driven Donald Trump For 33 Years (Forbes)
  • How Prescription Drugs Get So Wildly Expensive (Wired)
  • A Brief History of the Corporation: 1600 to 2100 (Ribbon Farm)
  • A Country Is Not a Company (Harvard Business Review)
  • The Politics of Star Trek (Claremont Institute)
  • Can Surfing Reprogram the Veteran’s Brain? There’s no quick fix for post-traumatic stress disorder, but research has shown that surfing’s physicality and flow can give victims some relief and a way forward. (Outside)
  • In Unit Stalked by Suicide, Veterans Try to Save One Another (NYT)
  • How the Church of Scientology fought the Internet—and why it lost (Kernal)
  • Sneaker Wars: Inside the Battle Between Nike and Adidas (GQ)
  • Wonks for Hire: Elizabeth Warren challenged a think tank over iffy, industry-backed research. There’s a lot more where that came from. (Slate)
  • The Troubles of “Bitcoin’s PayPal” Show Why the Cryptocurrency Is Not a Good Payment Mechanism (MIT Technology Review)
  • Utz review the competing Dekalb city proposals (Decaturish)
  • Comcast’s plan to cap unlimited data. Remember when words had meanings? (AJC)

Oh, and for your listening pleasure, Tim Keane, Atlanta’s new design czar:



Pollster Frank Luntz was the keynote speaker at the Georgia GOP Fall Banquet. Photo: Jon Richards

Pollster Frank Luntz was the keynote speaker at the Georgia GOP Fall Banquet. Photo: Jon Richards

Speaking to an audience of around 300 people at an Atlanta fundraiser for the Georgia Republican Party, pollster Frank Luntz said that the thinks Florida’s Marco Rubio has the best shot at winning the Republican presidential primary. That’s a change from late August, when Luntz told a gathering of the Georgia Chamber that Donald Trump might be impossible to take down.

Yet, Luntz spent plenty of time in his talk discussing the leading Republican candidate, first showing a “best of” video of Donald Trump insulting the other Republican in the race, and following up with another video showing many of the insults Trump directed towards women. He made the point that the way candidates (and by extension the party) treat people matters in a presidential campaign, and that Trump’s misogynistic remarks were probably costing the GOP ten points in the polls.

When asked why Donald Trump continued to rank highly with primary voters, Luntz pointed to the intense dislike voters have with politicians in Washington. As a result, Trump becomes the favorite of those most opposed to DC because he is least like what they see there. The way to combat Trump, Luntz said, was to have the other candidates be less formal, to get off of their podiums, and lose their talking points.

Luntz talked about more than the Republican races. For the Democratic presidential primary, the candidate he fears most is Hillary Clinton. He played a video showing a series of quotes used by former president Bill Clinton in this campaigns, followed by Hillary using almost the exact same wording in her campaign; wording that focus group participants using Luntz’s trademark approval / disapproval meter liked very much. Luntz stressed that if Republicans used anger against Hillary, the effort would likely backfire. Instead, he said the GOP should express disappointment and regret about her activities while Secretary of State if they want to convince those on the fence to vote Republican.

While Luntz thinks Hillary is the candidate most likely to win the Democratic nomination, he pointed to the possibility of a strong campaign by Joe Biden, especially if Vice President Biden could appear side by side with Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Senator that many of the more progressive wing of the Democratic Party wishes would run.

During a question and answer session at the end of his talk, Luntz was asked whether he thought Georgia might turn blue during the 2016 election cycle. Not 2016, he said, but 2020 was a possibility. To prevent that, Luntz pointed to diversity, saying the Georgia GOP had to find voters who were different from those attending the banquet. He lauded the strong values held by Republicans in the Peach State compared to what he saw in the northeast. But, he reminded everyone, Georgia can’t take it for granted that there would always be a Republican governor, Republican Senators and Republican Representatives, even though right now the GOP has those seats in its control.


The Washington soap opera continues — intra party political brawling, back and forth taunts up and down Pennsylvania Avenue, and screams for ideological purity from special interest groups are the order of the day. Tragedies, crises, and dangers — abroad and at home — are not problems to be solved but weapons to be used to bludgeon political opponents. Caught in the middle are the American people who are viewed by too many inside the Washington Beltway not as citizens to be served but as mere pawns to be manipulated in attempts to hold or gain influence and power.

In response, is it any wonder that in this political season many Americans are being drawn to questionable prophets on the left and right, who in the past would have been laughed off the presidential stage if they had had the audacity to claim the mantle of national political leadership?

A look back to how we got here may be instructive. The respected Pew Research Center has tracked public trust and confidence in our federal government since 1958. Public trust in Washington peaked in 1964 at 77%. Even through the tumultuous 1960’s and early 70’s with the upheavals caused by the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights struggle public confidence stayed above 50%.  It was not until the combined impact of the Watergate era, the economic turmoil of the mid and late 1970’s, and the taking of American hostages in Iran that a sharp sustained slide in public trust occurred, bottoming out at 25% in the spring of 1980.

Interestingly but not surprisingly, public trust rose during two periods of divided government — in the 1980’s under President Reagan and a Democratic controlled House, and in the second half of the 1990’s with President Clinton and a Republican Congress.  Both periods saw more than just steady economic growth. During the Reagan years the two political parties managed to come together to fix social security, strengthen our nation’s defenses, and helped put the final nail in the coffin of the Soviet Union. During the last six years of the Clinton Administration, bi-partisan efforts resulted in a balanced budget and welfare reform.

After a brief spike following 9/11, public trust, however, has steadily declined settling into an abysmal level between the low 20’s and high teens over the past four years – and there is little wonder why.

[click to continue…]


Coming To A State or County Near You? Credit: Lisa Brewster (CC BY-SA)

Coming To A County Near You?
Photo: Lisa Brewster (CC BY-SA)

There’s rumor of attracting a casino to Walker County. In responding to a caller to a local cable-access show on September 23rd, Commissioner Bebe Heiskell responded to a caller who posed the question. From the Chattanooga Times-Free Press:

“I’d rather it go in Walker County, and I hope that doesn’t make me a hypocrite Christian,” she said. “But they’re going to go somewhere and do it. And we have to have some way — besides property tax — to raise money around here.”

Sunday sales failed when it was on the ballot last year, so getting this on the ballot and passing in a very socially conservative area would be an amazing feat. 53% of people pulling a Republican primary ballot in Walker County opposed the question posed by the state GOP of casino gambling with revenues going to education. In spite of the outcome of the question, I believe the merits of casino gambling should be debated. I personally wouldn’t object to a casino resort if it would help mitigate additional increases in property tax (which rose from 4.705 to 8.725 in the past couple of years in part to securing some of the debt that our local hospital, Hutcheson Medical Center, has accrued). However, depending on how the proposal is stated, I don’t believe we would be getting a lot of cash from the revenues of the casino.

Our local commissioner elections will, I suspect, be highly contested. Commissioner Heiskell sounds to be mounting a re-election campaign, but I know of a couple of people who have said they would consider a challenge against her in the 2016 Republican Primary. Whether or not those people actually qualify is a different story. She won the 2012 primary by around 200 votes. I suspect it will be a bit tougher this go around if the casino idea is still being floated along with the recent increase in property tax.

Our county is trying to draw in tourist dollars, and with being so close to Chattanooga it’s hard to blame them. It seems to me though that our county is more industrial-minded, but those factories are shutting down and moving…although, we are seeing a large plastics manufacturer building a plant in Rock Spring.

I have no doubt that talks of a casino stems from the fact that there is talk across the state about expanding the gambling industry in our state. Whether or not proponents of gambling can convince a statewide electorate and garner support of locals remains to be seen.


This week’s Courier Herald column:

Two weeks ago I traveled to Savannah to attend the annual State of the Port address and tour Savannah’s Garden City terminal. The Port has been a political success story for years. Most of the recent narrative has been focused on the 15-year journey to secure permits and funding to dredge and deepen the Savannah River. This is necessary to accommodate bigger ships that will soon be able to pass through an upgraded Panama Canal. Perhaps lost in this story has been the rapid growth the port has already experienced on its ascension to becoming a world-class player.

I frankly was expecting to hear a lot about the deepening and how this would eventually lead to a payoff for the port, and thus, to the rest of Georgia. The forty-five minute presentation by Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Curtis Foltz had consumed forty minutes before dredging was mentioned. There’s a lot more going on down there. And Georgia is already benefitting.

In 2000, the Port of Savannah wasn’t among the country’s top 10 ports. Today, it’s number 4 and remains the fastest growing port in the U.S. We’re now the largest container port in the country, and our container volume is still growing faster than any other port. Traffic grew more than three times the average port’s container volume last year. [click to continue…]


Paul Broun campaigns to become the GOP Senate  nominee in a May, 2014 stop in Gwinnett County.  Photo: Jon Richards

Paul Broun campaigns to become the GOP Senate nominee in a May, 2014 stop in Gwinnett County.
Photo: Jon Richards

Following last week’s news that former 10th District Representative Paul Broun was one3 of the leaders behind an effort to discredit Kevin McCarthy in his run for Speaker of the House, Jim Thompson of the Athens Banner-Herald caught up with the Watkinsville doctor, and got him to admit he could consider another run at political office.

“Both political parties are responsible” for the country’s drift away from constitutional governance, Broun said, adding that America has “got to return to a policy of individual responsibility and accountability.”

Broun, whose bedrock conservative Christian faith has figured prominently in his public life, said Thursday his continuing interest in the political scene is now informed by a biblical verse, as he recited the third verse of Psalm 11, which reads, “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?”

Broun added he believes he has “a calling to restore the foundational principles of this country.” Asked if that meant he might consider another run at public office, Broun said he would “prayerfully consider” any opportunities the might come his way to again run for office.

One possibile impediment to another run for public office could be an investigation by the U.S. House Ethics Committee over whether Broun used congressional staff to work on his Senate campaign. Broun left office before the investigation could be completed, although his former communications consultant pleaded guilty last month to making false statements in an ethics investigation. For his part, Broun told the Banner-Herald that he felt he would be exonerated in any federal investigation into the use of congressional funds for campaign purposes.


More than 40 people will rappel off United Way Atlanta’s 17-story building on Tuesday to raise awareness of addictions and its impact on families … 

Biden: GOP candidates are ‘homophobes’
Illegal immigrants could elect Hillary
A ‘thousand-year level of rain’ in South Carolina
103-year-old woman can return to Elberton church
Georgia airwoman killed in crash was to return home
UGA chokes in big game
NC overcomes deficit to whip Tech
GSU loses to Liberty Flames
but …
4-0 Falcons destroy Texans
and …
Braves end season on a winning note


This week Bill Torpy wrote a piece that chronicled his attempts to tell the story of brave Atlanta firefighters who went into a burning blaze to rescue children. Or he wrote a piece that’s part of a continuing series of attempting to chide the Mayor of Atlanta. Or both. It works because he’s writing as a columnist and not a journalist. Readers should understand that’s his take on the news of the day. They also need the history of the relationship between the Mayor and the columnist.

There is an ongoing saga between some firefighters and the Mayor that stems from the pension reforms of 2011. Nearly everyone agrees that pension reform was needed or the city would have been in dire financial straits. The firefighters then sued, and now the Mayor won’t give them pay raises until the lawsuit is concluded.

It’s clear that Torpy wanted to play the pension dispute against the heroism of the firefighters (and possibly some scantily clad photos taken in the firehouse) but he was thwarted by his inability to interview the firefighters involved. You can’t interview city employees without the City’s permission, and here it was not given, and the reasons why not were set forth in the City’s response. Both the column and the response are worth reading.

But is clear that the history is even more important than the present in evaluating what’s going on here. Cast your mind back to this spring, when the City was trying to hold absentee landlords accountable for the deplorable conditions of their property holdings (read burned out vacant homes) in Vine City and English Avenue (two impoverished neighborhoods near the new Falcons stadium). Rick Warren, no not the minister, held a ton of these properties, or maybe did, but the maze of shell corporations made that difficult to prove. He was on trial in municipal court in May and the Mayor took the afternoon (at least twice) to sit in the audience and watch the proceedings. (I’ve sat in those benches and they are none too comfortable). Torpy wrote a column on the proceedings, and though he accurately described the problem, he left the impression that the Mayor’s presence was there not to emphasize the importance of the case, but to affect its outcome.

Torpy’s columns carry weight in this city. And when he decides that the Mayor has overstepped his bounds, he is right to point that out (as he did in both columns). But the problem is that more people read Torpy than the actual news, so the characterization he gives becomes the truth, rather than an opinion. And in the case of Rick Warren and Vine City, he may well be wrong.

The article that really tells the tale of Rick Warren and English Avenue is elsewhere on the AJC’s website. It reveals Warren’s ownership of derelict properties that he refuses to fix and instead they become sites of prostitution and drugs. Neighbors trying to clean up the neighborhood hit a roadblock when they got to his houses. He owns 10% of the neighborhood. Consider that for a moment.

So Mayor Reed wanted the world to know that this day of code violations in municipal court was different than all other days. And instead he took the blame of subverting justice.

So when you read both pieces, Torpy’s and the Mayor’s keep in mind the historical context of that relationship.




Rep. Rob Woodall addresses the Southwest Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce.

Rep. Rob Woodall addresses the Southwest Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce.

7th District Representative Rob Woodall talked about the resignation of Speaker John Boehner, the passage of the Continuing Resolution that funds the government through mid-December, and the atmosphere in Washington, DC when he spoke to members and guests of the Southwest Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce Friday morning.

Because the House and Senate failed to pass this year’s appropriation bills, Congress was forced to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government funded past September 30th. Leading up to Wednesday’s vote, much of the debate on the bill concerned the possible defunding of Planned Parenthood. The organization has come under fire in recent weeks following a series of videos showing the organization allegedly selling fetal tissue.

Woodall pointed out that Planned Parenthood receives funding from the government two ways. A portion is received from state Medicaid programs that pay the organization for providing healthcare services. These reimbursements are not subject to the appropriations process. The remainder comes from annual grants that were previously approved in March, none of which are paid out during the ten week period covered by the continuing resolution.

The congressman pointed out that even though there was no Planned Parenthood funding in the bill, those who opposed the organization felt it was more important to make a statement than it was to keep the government running past September 30th. Those supporting Planned Parenthood refused to allow the symbolic vote on funding, even though it would not have made any difference to the organization’s revenues.

Congressman Woodall summarized the situation this way: “If we can’t keep the doors open because we can’t get together on something that’s not going to happen anyway, 13 months away from an election, that’s not a Republican problem or a Democratic problem, it’s self governance problem.” [click to continue…]


WGST Peach Pundit Radio –

October 2, 2015 10:00 am

by Charlie · 0 comments

It’s Friday. You should know the drill by now.

Radio. High noon. 640AM WGST.

Today Jon Richards, Stefan Turkheimer, and Mike Hassinger will join me and Rich Sullivan to talk a little politics. What are we going to talk about…..Here’s the plan, subject to change.

I wrote a column this week saying that Georgia needs to hold firm on thorough teachers evaluations. I’ll let Jon Richards ask me why I hate teachers. (spoiler alert, I don’t)

The Mayor of Atlanta has engaged yet another Atlanta Journalist – This time the AJC’s Bill Torpy – in a public flame war. I don’t get it. Luckily, we have a Democratic Politics Editor. Hopefully Stefan Turkheimer can explain it to us.

We got the news of a new Speaker just before air last week and went pretty far down that road. A week later, we’ll look at Tom Price’s race for Majority Leader, and talk Congressional politics on the CR that kept the government open this week.

With a little extra time, we’ll probably talk some Presidential Politics, rant about DeKalb county DeKalbing, and maybe discuss if tomorrow in Athens will be a Tide or the great flood.

Listen live at noon on 640AM WGST, or perhaps at this link.