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Opinion Blogs

    For every dollar donated, FODAC provides $10.00 in medical items. Since 1986, FODAC has collected, repaired and distributed more than 50,000 wheelchairs,' from brochure of Friends of Disabled Adults & Children (FODAC). Whether or not you are a believer, the spirit of Christmas and the holiday season is quite real, and thankfully it continues to manifest itself in many ways, discernible to the senses and as real as you or me. Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, Santa Claus and other names and legends are based in the history and tradition of giving and doing for others, selflessly and in honor of Christ and others whom we worship.  In 1986, an aging Vietnam era veteran started to repair wheelchairs in his garage. First as a hobby and then as a calling, as he realized more and more veterans were surviving the variously defined engagements and wars, some minus a limb, some with serious head trauma, but many returning home with immediate needs, and not always finding a V.A. and medical network ready to help them. Ed Butchart and his wife Annie humbly began the organization, FODAC, Friends of Disabled Adults and Children, giving away repaired wheelchairs and used mobility assistance equipment, now a non-profit serving 20 states, 94 Georgia counties and filling nearly 9,000 equipment requests last year, with an annual budget approaching $9-million. Ed supplemented his income in retirement, as well as his giving mission, by being Santa Claus during the holiday season, at Stone Mountain Park and other venues and holiday gatherings. Friends of FODAC helped launch a modest thrift store to support this work and Ed launched a holiday fundraiser, with supporters at the Stone Mountain Memorial Association and Herschend Family Entertainment, to hold a Santa Breakfast at the park, focused on their pediatric clients. Disabled children who might have felt left out of some of the joys of the holiday season had their own day with Santa, Mrs. Claus and the elves, a bountiful breakfast buffet and day at Stone Mountain Park, donated by the SMMA, as well as area retailers gifting toys and gifts for each child.  We began our connection with FODAC this way in 1994, with our then two-year old daughter Barclay, at the invitation of then WSB Radio Money Editor, Mike Kavanaugh. Mike would interview Santa (Butchart) each fall around Thanksgiving on WSB, and the pair would plug the modestly priced Santa breakfast, still FODAC's largest annual event fundraiser. This year at the Stone Mountain Evergreen Marriott Conference Center, the Summit Ballroom was filled to overflow, and FODAC's first Santa sell-out. Next year we move to the bigger ballroom.  Mike Kavanaugh left the stage early with his spirit of Christmas and Hanukkah, but not before recruiting WSB-Radio and Traffic Reporting legend, Captain Herb Emory to co-emcee. Emory brought good humor and cutting up with the kids to the event, and began a tradition of the children singing Christmas carols to wrap up the celebration. At this stage, I moved from an attendee to playing elf to Captain Herb, as he often had to leave a bit early to head on to a Toys for Tots event often scheduled on that same mid-December Saturday.  But unlike applying for disability benefits from the VA or Social Security, FODAC's application process is ONE-PAGE and it's lifetime membership fee is $25.00. After that if you, a family member or close friend are impaired or in need of mobility equipment, you simply go to FODAC's headquarters in Tucker, Georgia, or arrange for the durable medical equipment to be delivered to you, often at no cost. There is no charge for the use of the equipment. FODAC only asks that when there is no longer any need for the equipment, it is returned to them for repair and re-use.  After Mike Kavanaugh and Captain Herb also left us all too early, our friend and colleague Glenn Burns, Chief Meteorologist for WSB-TV's Action News took over as Emcee. Glenn has a warm and engaging manner with FODAC's clients, sponsors, families and guests, and I think he is part of the draw which made this year's breakfast a sell-out. As this was our family's 25th FODAC Santa Breakfast, and it is the season of giving, also know that you can still contribute online as well at FODAC.org. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Kwanza and all the best wishes for this holiday season and New Year to you and yours.
  • Lead, follow or get out of the way,' said Ted Turner, entrepreneur, media mogul and philanthropist. One of the highlights of the 2019 Georgia Bulldog football season, was the naming of Dooley Field in Sanford Stadium in Athens to honor legendary former UGA football coach and Athletic Director, Vince Dooley. The honor was well over-due.  I think Georgia, and our capital city of Atlanta, should do more, and sooner than later to recognize two other individuals, as well as two families who have made many historic and lasting contributions to Atlanta and to Georgia. I'm speaking specifically of former Ohio Governor James Cox and the Cox family and media mogul and environmental philanthropist Ted Turner.  Cox was a former three-term Governor of Ohio before he ran for President in 1920, with Franklin Delano Roosevelt as his unsuccessful running mate. Traveling the country by rail, F.D.R. introduced Cox to Warm Springs, southern hospitality and the people of Georgia. Though Dayton, Ohio remained the Governor's home, he would move much of his family and business holdings to Atlanta, initially purchasing The Atlanta Journal & Georgian in 1938, and eventually growing those properties into Cox Enterprises and the Cox Media Group.  Turner turned a modest billboard company into the nation's first cable Super-Station, investing in cable networks and programming in their infancy, as well as serving as a longtime owner of the Atlanta Braves. Turner became a billionaire before selling his many media holdings to Time Warner, later getting into the restaurant business, in part to restore the species of Buffalo to the plains of North America.  When the Atlanta Braves, under new ownership, left for the suburbs of Cobb County and the likely soon to be renamed SunTrust Park, that ended the name of Turner Field and the life of a baseball stadium just over 20 years old. Though it was assumed that the name came as Turner's Braves were the 'home team' at the converted baseball park, retro-fitted from the Centennial Olympic Stadium after those games in 1996, it is seldom shared or publicized that Turner spent more than $40-million stabilizing and retro-fitting that structure for baseball and the fans, without seeking tax-payer assistance, subsidies or tax breaks.  Jim Cox Kennedy, grandson of Governor Cox and still the Chairman of Cox Enterprises, earlier developed a passion for bike riding which would grow into the creation of the PATH Foundation. PATH's first trail connected Stone Mountain Park to downtown Atlanta and Centennial Park and over the past 25 years has constructed more than 300 miles of pedestrian and biking trails all across Georgia. The Cox Foundation recently co-funded a pedestrian bridge with the City of Atlanta, named for former Mayor Ivan Allen, Jr., which connects the Atlanta Beltline to those PATH trails at Marietta Street downtown, not far from the former AJC headquarters, and reconnects the downtown Eastside and Westside, straddling the massive and exiting railroad tracks of CSX and Norfolk Southern.  The Cox family through another gift to the PATH Foundation, are funding an extension of the Atlanta Beltline and PATH, connecting to the Silver Comet Trail in Cobb County. When completed, this trail will reach from Stone Mountain Park to Anniston, Alabama and become the longest continuous trail path in the United States.  Those who have previously blocked more substantial recognition for the Cox or Turner families have focused on their personal politics or others flaws and foibles. None of us are perfect and we should stop expecting perfection among our community and business leaders.  The Cox family still owns the Atlanta Journal & Constitution, and the new owners of Cox Media Group plan to keep that name, And while Turner's name continues to adorn a several blocks of Spring Street in downtown Atlanta, and parts of his former corporate campus now owned by Time-Warner Media, more significant and visible honors are well overdue both families.  Some students at Georgia State University have recently called on Atlanta’s Mayor to remove the downtown statue of another newspaper giant, Henry W. Grady, another impactful but flawed leader of the post-Civil War ‘New South.’ Grady’s name adorns Grady Hospital, Grady High School and the Grady College of Journalism at the University of Georgia. I don’t support his name or statue coming down, but those are a few fine examples worthy of like consideration for Ted Turner as well as Ohio Governor Jim Cox and the Cox family.
  • For roughly two weeks, Atlanta was the center of the three ring circus which is currently the Democratic National Committee...though the DNC had some major competition for the Presidential contest and debate here, versus the public Impeachment hearings underway in our nation's Capitol. And though Atlanta was a brief stand-in for Des Moines, Iowa as the temporary nexus and meeting point for Democratic White House contenders of all stripe, both the debate, which aired live from the former Fort McPherson and current Tyler Perry Studios, was the lowest rated of this campaign season, and by the fifth day of impeachment hearings, despite some riveting testimony, the proceedings were only being telecast live and without interruption on C-SPAN3. But all over Atlanta, and certainly for days prior to the Big Show, there was evidence of side shows, fundraisers, news conferences and photo ops by candidates beyond the field of ten who made the main stage, and though an intown urban location hosted the Big Show, the many side shows demonstrated that at least the metro Atlanta suburbs are in play.  Successful entrepreneur and non-traditional candidate, Andrew Yang, held an unconventional media event, shooting hoops in an over-matched game of pick-up basketball, with other entrepreneurs, including NBA icon and longtime Atlanta Hawk, Dominique Wilkins. Yang runs a non-profit, focused on job creation in the inner cities, and he was hosting many start-up and technology CEOs, in part making his pitch about making unconventional hires and 'sharing the wealth' of the new economy.  He found a receptive audience, among them, Don Barden, CEO of GAXtracts, a key player in the burgeoning industrial hemp industry in Georgia. Barden has successfully built and grown several other enterprises, having won the experienced entrepreneur of the year award, for his work leading 3Ci , during 2018 from the Atlanta Business Chronicle and Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. Barden shot hoops with Yang one night at the Epic Center in Austell, adjacent to Six Flags, and later met South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg in a tony Buckhead home the same week. And scenes like that were playing out all across metro Atlanta.  Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, who did not make the cut for the debate stage, hosted the sons and daughters of Atlanta's Civil Rights stalwarts for a dinner at Paschal's near the Atlanta University Center, to discuss options for solving the nation's affordable housing crisis.  Former President Barack Obama made two Atlanta appearances in the same week, one on the same day as the debate, with remarks including not so subtle references to the candidate field to not move the Democratic party too far to the left. Non-candidate (so far) and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton brought her book-signing tour to Atlanta the evening prior to the debate, coincidentally to Dunwoody, Georgia, which a few weeks prior elected its first Democrat as Mayor.  And yes, while the debate and impeachment hearings still matter, they were in a way trumped, no pun intended, by dozens of more intimate and smaller opportunities to actually meet, hear and speak to candidates for the White House, one on one.  President Donald Trump did hold his own side show the prior week, attempting to launch his own minority voter outreach, Black Voices for Trump. Though it is easy to understand why many are skeptical, the President does have a good economic story to tell minority voters, record employment, record business ownership and even record income growth among Asian, African American and Hispanic populations across the country.  But back to team blue. Millions were spent turning three hangers at Fort Mac into beautiful and high tech sound stages, custom designed and constructed for this Big Show. Millions were collected for campaign and Democratic aligned PACs and 527’s at events across north Georgia. I will go ahead and wager, that the impact of the many side shows will outweigh the temporary bump to Georgia of the Big Show.  Voters and donors made connections, some made decisions and even those still straddling the fence waiting for late arrivals, like former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg or former Massachusetts Governor Patrick Duvall, are now feeling more compelled to pick a horse and start riding.  Early money is like yeast in Presidential as well as all other campaigns. Candidates cannot remember EVERY voter they meet, but the early donors and supporters do have a tendency to resonate more. And those who have been playing this game for awhile also know that. The smart money always goes to the side shows.
  • Georgia currently has more than 7-million registered voters, a record number. Minority voter registration and turn-out also hit record highs during the 2018 election cycle and Governor's race. Democratic gubernatorial nominee, former State House Minority Leader, Stacey Abrams received more General Election votes than any Democrat for Governor in Georgia history. All facts. We all have a right to our own opinion, life priorities and the conclusions which we draw, but we don't have the option of simply hypothesizing from different facts. Minority voter registration not only spiked, but now exceeds its percentage of the state's population. Voter registration does not always translate into turnout though. In metro Atlanta suburbs, and the centers of several of Georgia's secondary population centers, though there is NO party registration in Georgia, the Democratic Party and its nominees won numerous counties, precincts and local as well as state elected offices during the 2018 election cycle. Again, facts. Though I look forward to a day when race is not a major driving force in Georgia or national politics, we remain a far cry away from there as yet. With all that stage setting, and my revulsion of conspiracy theories generally clear, I'd like to challenge one more. There IS NO ONGOING ORCHESTRATED effort to reduce voter participation, registration or voting by minority or Democratic voters in Georgia. It is county and municipal election superintendents across Georgia, and their oversight boards of election, who determine precinct boundaries, polling locations and hours of operation as well as oversee the tabulation of absentee, early/advance votes and all ballots cast on election day, after all polls have closed.   Much is being made of the potential removal and purge of more than 330,000 voter names from current voter rolls across our state. Georgia has nearly 10-million residents and more than 7-million registered voters. Purging every two years, as required by state and federal law, typically removes the dead, those who have left a particular county, duplicates, non-citizens as well as those who choose, for whatever reason they have to simply NOT vote for a full four year period, and then not respond for an additional two year period when local election officials attempt to confirm their residency and interest in remaining a registered voter. Ten percent of registered voters would be well in excess of 700,000. Five percent exceeds 350,000. The prospective purge list is public and available for searching, as well as updating online.   Consider your own circle, and how many family and friends you have lost or who have moved from your community within any six year window of time. Voter registration is tied to your legal residence and domicile and is not automatic when you change addresses, however ANY Georgia voter can now go to the Secretary of State's My Voter Page and update their registration and address information online and for free. That website, created by then Secretary of State Brian Kemp (now Georgia’s Governor) is second only to the automatic Motor Voter process when you receive or renew a Georgia Driver’s License in adding voters to Georgia voter rolls. Georgia also set records in 2018 for early voting and absentee voting. Another fun fact is that the absentee ballot application have no space to indicate race or political party preference. The only opportunity to even draw such a conclusion is to select a ballot in a Democratic Primary or run-off OR for the election employee to conduct a manual/electronic cross reference search of their voter registration data base. That action leaves an electronic trail. As some have pointed out a disproportionate number of minority voters are on the proposed purge list, several demographers also acknowledge that minority populations tend to be more transient and more likely to move, changing residences as well as voting jurisdictions. Yet with this proposed purge list up and available for several weeks now, there is only a trickle of activity, being reported by Georgia’s election superintendents, or coming in via the Georgia SOS My Voter Page via voter address updates. Where are the masses being intentionally removed, disenfranchised or somehow disabled from voting? I will admit though, I still have my doubts about Jeffrey Epstein committing suicide, and I’m not clear as a convicted sex offender in Florida if he still had voting privileges in New York, but he did complete the requirements of his plea agreement, so he may have had those voting rights restored. Either way, I still expect him to be on the Democratic Secretary of State's voter registration purge list for the 2020 election cycle. And we all know he was already on Hillary's list, right?
  • President Donald Trump is of course a man whose words and deeds frequently command our headlines and attention. We should of course pay attention to both. On the subject of veterans, he typically speaks with great reverence. He attempted to turn the Fourth of July in Washington, D.C. into a celebration of our veterans and the nation's military might. He hired many multi-star Generals into his original Cabinet, though he has since fired the bulk of them as well. The longer he is in the White House, and with the way Democrats appear intent on making these Impeachment proceedings almost as partisan as possible, their words versus deeds can also use some measurement and scrutiny. And as we look forward to the elections of 2020, we should also look back, as with veterans and others, this president often takes a public posture and position, which are often not supported later by his actions or the facts.  On the eve of the Iowa Presidential Caucus, in Des Moines on January 28, 2016, then candidate Trump chose to decline participation in a Presidential Candidate Debate, and instead host his own Trump for Veterans Rally and fundraiser just down the street. According to the Trump campaign, this rally, put together in just a few days, would set Iowa event attendance records and raise a projected $6-million for veteran causes and charities.  Though plenty of veterans were in attendance, they were not consulted, nor meaningfully included in event planning. The Trump Foundation accepted all donations, including several large checks from friends and supporters of the businessman candidate. The event netted $2.8 million, a tidy sum, but roughly half what the President had boasted.  Days later, Senator Ted Cruz won the Iowa Caucus, with Trump a very close second place finisher in a large field. Months after the fundraiser, The Washington Post, began asking which veterans organizations had received how much from the event or the Trump Foundation, as the President had earlier discussed and his campaign had released a list of veteran charities which Trump or his foundation had previously supported. Research by the Post and later the New York Office of Attorney General would find that Trump used the foundation more as a personal piggy back, for personal expenses, campaign expenses and other disallowed uses. The Trump Foundation was later disbanded in December of 2018.  On the anniversary of his election week, Trump signed a settlement agreement with a New York Judge presiding, to pay a settlement of $2-million. In the settlement agreement, Mr. Trump acknowledged, with the legal protection of non-profit status, that Trump and his family frequently used the foundation for personal expenses, ranging from $10,000 for a portrait of the President, now hanging in one of his hotels, to a variety of lesser campaign expenses.  The funds which did eventually pass through to veterans were predominantly direct gifts by Trump friends and supporters, and only a tiny fraction of the announced event gate of the Veterans Salute in Iowa. And while admitting guilt, violations of state and federal tax law and misstating the benefit and proceeds to veteran causes, the President again views himself as the victim of these proceedings:  'I am the only person I know, perhaps the only person in history, who can give money to charity ($19-million), charge no expense, and be attacked by the political hacks in New York State,' tweeted by President Trump the evening that the settlement was reached.  Perhaps coincidentally, the President announced he would be changing his legal residence to Florida the very same week. And though the veterans event would have had expenses, the foundation had no employees, no offices and a board which only rarely met, which would tend to tamp down expenses. The President has since characterized the $2-million in damages he is paying as a contribution which he is now all too happy to donate to worthy groups. I will also note here that the President donates his Presidential salary to a wide array of charitable causes on a quarterly basis.  Veterans and their families are quite accustomed to broken promises, from the VA to other areas of promised government support. Yet as we recognize and salute their commitment and sacrifice, we should also hold ourselves and others accountable for honoring those promises. Perhaps Trump's opponents should try running this one up the flagpole and see how the public and veteran communities salute or react to that.
  • Only you can prevent forest fires,' a longtime message from the U.S. Ad Council and Smokey the Bear. With apologies to Smokey the Bear, and my many friends in California, some reading this in darkened homes with no power, there really ARE good forest fires, purposefully set by people, which could have and likely would have saved them this current nightmare.  'Controlled or prescribed burnings' are a key forestry and timberland management tool, largely begun and standardized as an industry best practice in the state of Georgia since the 1950s. Droughts, long, hot summers and fast growing and vulnerable pine and other evergreen trees often die, fall and litter the forest floor, along with pine straw, broken limbs and bark as well as other small shrubs and vegetation, each drying into a fuel source akin to the tinder you would seek out to begin a campfire.  So imagine thousands of acre of that tinder, piled up from decades of non-forest management and a nearly 20-year prohibition on controlled burns or even the use of the BIG rakes referred to previously by President Trump to cull out dead plants, broken limbs and dry underbrush...and you have the makings for massive fires, aided and abetted by the infamous Santa Anna Winds and other natural weather phenomenon, now annually visiting northern and southern California.  I in no way mean to be flippant. We have friends who have lost everything in these fires and last year's...their homes, place of business...entire communities. And yes, perhaps some of the communities were developed in vulnerable areas and may not be re-built, despite their beauty and natural surroundings, but when we DO make the choice to build a community, it also only makes sense to take the steps necessary to protect it.  Working in Middle Georgia as a television reporter in the mid-80s, I became quite familiar with the timber industry practice of controlled burns and fires. Hundreds of acres would be torched, in low wind conditions, sometimes even using accelerants, along with fire breaks (long ditches or natural bodies of water which would break or end the fire as it ran out of fuel). Yes, there was smoke, and sometimes blinding conditions, but rarely did any of those fires get out of control.  The Georgia Forestry Commission permits 'prescribed burns' as well as offering other resources including onsite assistance for larger burns. The state has multiple statutes regulating the process including:  Georgia Burn Permit Law O.C.G.A. 12-6-90  Georgia Prescribed Burning Act O.C.G.A. 12-6-145 to O.C.G.A. 12-6-149  O.C.G.A. 12-6-145  O.C.G.A. 12-6-146  O.C.G.A. 12-6-147  O.C.G.A. 12-6-148  O.C.G.A. 12-6-149  Controlled and prescribed burns fell out of favor in the western states a few decades ago, as these fires do release carbon into the atmosphere, and can add to smog and air pollution. But the difference is typically hundreds or a few thousand acres, and a comparatively brief and defined fire...or the current situation with millions of acres burning or at risk, turned from tinderbox to inferno by a lightning strike or an errant lit cigarette butt, aided and abetted by ill-timed but annual high winds.  After last year's record breaking fires, causing massive property loss, power loss and deaths, California was at the heart of a national debate to expand the use of controlled and prescribed burns...and here we are a year later, with a whole new set of communities evacuating and at risk, and millions now temporarily without electricity due to the aging and vulnerable electrical grid in California, and its potential to spark or spread a fire due to the ongoing drought conditions. If millions sitting in the dark or millions of acres and dozens of communities literally running hoses on their rooftops to save their homes isn't cause for an Emergency Legislative Session, I'm not sure what is.  People are losing their homes, entire towns are burning, dozens of thousands on both ends of the state have faced forced and mandatory evacuations and still may not return home. When winter and the potential rainy season finally arrive, break out the rakes and the backhoes and let's dig some fire breaks and plan prescribed burns well into springtime. If the current NON-action pattern continues, it is only a matter of time before these fires move further north into the Pacific northwest and endanger those old growth hardwood forests, including our national parks and the Great Redwoods. This time next year may be too late to protect them. ONLY YOU California can prevent your own forest fires. Just ask Smokey.
  • I thought I was doing something very good for our Country by using Trump National Doral, in Miami, for hosting the G-7 leaders. It is big and grand, on hundreds of acres next to Miami International Airport, has tremendous ballrooms & meeting rooms and each delegation would have its own 50 to 70 unit building. Would set up better than other alternatives. I announced that I would be willing to do it at NO PROFIT or, if legally permissible, at ZERO COST to the USA. But as usual the Hostile Media & their Democratic Partners went CRAZY!' Tweeted by President Donald Trump over the past weekend in a rare back-tracking to withdraw plans to host the 2020 G-7 Summit at his Trump-owned Doral Golf Resort in Miami, Florida. Reversing course and stopping a problematic no-bid contract worth several millions to any hotel or property, as well as a major reputation enhancement, is a good idea. Making the selection in the first place on many fronts, and particularly given his timing, was a very bad one. I will give the President credit however again, in that he is often a master of distraction. All this chatter and absorption of the 24-hour news cycle for a few days did shift to this story and away from the Ukraine, Kurds in North Syria and the impeachment inquiry.  Though as the original G-7 site announcement came from at least still now Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney (as of this writing), it was also Mulvaney who let slip a boo-boo regarding the President's earlier phone call with the President of the Ukraine in the same briefing. I would not be taking bets on Mr. Mulvaney's long term job security.  The Doral is a beautiful hotel, as is Mar-a-Lago, the Trump National Hotel in Washington, D.C. and many other Trump resorts, both foreign and domestic, but even if offered at cost, with no public bidding or public contracts from a private company, the revenue to the host property would be in the millions of dollars, as well as the additional global media exposure. The last then G-8 Summit on American soil was in June of 2004 at The Cloister on Sea Island, hosted by President George W. Bush. That visit by the eight heads of state was deemed important enough to custom order a hand-made conference table utilizing old growth hardwoods and repurposed timber at a reported cost of nearly $100,000. If the table was that pricey, imagine the costs for security, catering and lodging. And presidents, prime ministers and the like typically travel with rather large posses, not to mention the several hundred news media outlets and reporters staged and present nearby.  This President should be, and likely has already been made well aware of the downsides of his hotels doing business with foreign governments, as his private lawyers have been litigating multiple lawsuits siting the Domestic Emoluments Clause, which prohibits U.S. Presidents from directly or indirectly receiving income from foreign governments while in office. President Trump chose not to place his various enterprises in a blind-trust or to completely separate himself from his many business holdings. While his corporate and real estate holdings remain privately-owned and generally managed at present by his two sons, many acknowledge the President remains apprised of, if not directly engaged in the day to day affairs of various Trump enterprises.  As candidate Trump, the entrepreneur often Tweeted and stated at campaign rallies that he might become the first President to actually make money on his campaign, as well as while being in office. The Trump 2020 re-election campaign theme is Promises Made, Promises Kept. It appears we may have two more of those to add to that list.  At G-8 Summit 30, on Sea Island, an additional wrinkle was the passing of former President Ronald Reagan, and his funeral which occurred on June 9, on the second day of the summit, and caused several heads of state to extend their stays stateside. The Doral would pass muster on similar access to military installations, but so for that matter would the Eden Roc or the Fontainebleu Resorts in Miami Beach. And closer to D.C., both the Greenbrier in West Virginia, or the Homestead in Virginia, would also easily fit the bill, and have previously hosted foreign heads of state.  If the Doral's selection had become reality, Congressional Democrats were all but stating that this action would have created its own separate Article of Impeachment, and even many of the Presidents typical allies and defenders on Capitol Hill were more than lightly critical of both the timing and the choice.  Some supporters of this President have suggested that his likeness may later be added to the carvings on Mount Rushmore. Though his re-election may well still be possible, driven largely by the hard rush left by the most likely candidates still standing in the Democratic field, it would seem right now that he may be more strongly remembered for having too many thumbs instead. Two.
  • Impeachment was designed by our founders as a fail-safe, not simply for over-turning election results, and although admittedly a political versus judicial process, it was not intended to be partisan. President George Washington was a major opponent of political parties, and believed strongly that their evolution and expansion would be to the detriment of our nation. Impeachment, originating in the British House of Commons, and then tried by the House of Lords, is the process for legislative body to investigate wrongdoing by the Executive branch. In Britain, the last impeachment by Parliament was in 1805. The first U.S. impeachment came much later, for President Andrew Johnson in 1868.  In the waning days of the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln began to shift his focus to re-uniting the Union. He formed a National Union Party (having been elected as GOP nominee in 1860) and ticket to seek his second term, reaching out to the lone Democrat and U.S. Senator from the south who did not secede with his state from the Union, Senator Andrew Johnson of Tennessee. .  Lincoln's assassination, six week's after his second Inauguration thrust Johnson into a role for which he was likely unprepared. As President, Johnson began a series of vetoes of legislation from the Republican Congress, aimed at both heavily structured southern Reconstruction and improved civil rights for millions of now freed slaves. Johnson publicly opposed the 14th amendment which extended citizenship to those formerly enslaved.  As differences between the Executive Branch and Congress grew, Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act, to restrict Johnson's ability to hire and fire members of his Cabinet. Johnson persisted and sought to fire Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, a Lincoln confidante. In early 1868, the House voted out articles of impeachment, but he was acquitted by one vote in the U.S. Senate. His primary accomplishment as president was the purchase of Alaska from Russia. He sought the Democratic Party nomination in 1868, was not successful and left office in 1869.  Without re-hashing all that was Watergate or the Nixon administrations, a once popular president, re-elected in a landslide, was irreparably harmed by his own paranoia and displays of a private side which broke demonstrably from the Richard Nixon which the public thought it knew. Despite his many accomplishments, Nixon's actions caused him to lose support among the U.S. Senate, as well as Nixon protege and then Chair of the Republican National Committee, George H.W. Bush, who suggested first privately and then publicly that the president should resign for the good of the nation. As both chambers of Congress had heavy Democratic majorities and Republican Senators began breaking publicly from the President, Nixon resigned from office August 8, 1974. He was later pardoned by his successor, President Gerald Ford, and that pardon likely cost Ford re-election in 1976.  President Bill Clinton's flawed personal behavior was hardly a secret in Arkansas, Washington or to his family, but the President chose to lie to Congress about some of that behavior. A newly elected Republican Congressional majority, led by an aggressive House Speaker with his own skeletons and agenda began impeachment proceedings against Clinton in October 1998. By majority vote, the House approved two articles of impeachment, named prosecutors and a trial went underway in the U.S. Senate on December 19, 1988. There were two counts being decided, the first was a 45 to 55 vote of guilty, and the second count was a vote of 50/50...with neither charge receiving the required two-thirds vote to convict. President Clinton was acquitted and completed his second term in office.  Other columns will be written on these currently pending impeachment precedings and the merits of those charges, but it is also worth noting to those screaming 'lock him up,' that a guilty verdict in the U.S. Senate simply removes the impeached party from office, it carries no other financial or criminal penalties.  As there appear to be so few remaining unimpeachable sources in the eyes of the American public, our widening divide will most likely simply roll forward into the 2020 election cycle. Though I was only in grade school during Watergate, I have much more recently watched the Democratic Party, in its eagerness to win the day, snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, while tripping down memory lane through the high school yearbooks of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Over-reach in politics can be the most certain guarantee of backfire. Proceed with caution, let the facts fall where they may, and I strongly recommend against dancing on anyone's political grave just yet.
  • You need to have a market, and that's what we lost with China,' said Anne Germain, VP of Technical and Regulatory Affairs for the National Waste and Recycling Association, as reported September 9, 2019 in The Wall Street Journal.  Began recycling first with newspapers, during elementary school paper drives, made sense as our family was also in the newspaper business, and public pressure was growing on publishers to use recycled stock. By college, I had added collecting empty aluminum cans to my recycling habits, I was a broke college kid, and at peak recycling centers were paying around 33 cents a pound.  Those realities have shifted substantially though, and just the past two years, markets for the bulk of recyclable commodities have all but collapsed. You may still be sorting, separating and placing recyclables in your blue bin at home, but there is a more than decent chance that a healthy portion of that once recyclable waste stream is now heading straight to a landfill.  More than a generation ago, China was a fast developing country, in need of multiple types of raw materials which it was unable to manufacture in sufficient supply on its own. Already a massive net exporter, the Chinese government and shippers realized that they had thousands of empty cargo containers in the United States and elsewhere in the western world about to be shipped back to China. Buying discarded metals, plastics, paper and glass for a pittance and filling those empty containers that had to be shipped back anyway was an inexpensive solution to producing more raw materials.  As late at 2017, the U.S. exported roughly 14.5 million metric tons of recycled waste to China. China announced in 2017 that beginning in 2018 it would no longer accept many kinds of waste. During the phase-down in 2018, China still accepted 9.4 million metric tons, and only a fraction of that tonnage so far in 2019. Recycled commodity markets have collapsed. Mixed paper was going for $67.00 a metric ton as late as August of 2017. The current price is for the city, county or state government seeking to dispose of the paper is -$2.00 a metric ton.  And while many municipalities here and elsewhere consider banning single use plastics altogether, consider your community without pooper scoop baggies, your local newspaper sitting on the lawn soaked in a light rain without a bag delivery or remembering to carry bags/boxes on every shopping trip. And a good bit of single use plastics came about for product safety reasons, the interior lid/sealant on most all food products, the plastic wrap around virtually every over-the counter drug (a result of the Tylenol tampering scare of the 1980s), these plastics can be removed, but are we willing to sacrifice those protections and assurances of some degree of product safety?  Illegal dumping also remains a problem, particularly and often in lower income communities. The ingenuity of American industry should be incentivized here to do more. Most tire rubber can be granualized into rubber, used for playground and other recreational surfaces, or perhaps as a roadway substrate. Coal ash, a by-product of burning coal for energy, is toxic and filled with heavy metals like mercury, but could potentially be used as a low cost road patching material, as well as mixed with traditional asphalt (a petroleum based product), and if a rubber liner (from tires) was under that same road bed, there would be much less opportunity for leaching into any nearby underground aquifer.  The Chinese still incinerate our old unusable trash as a fuel source, but there are plenty of air quality concerns with that approach. As it continues to reduce its waste product footprint, the Coca-Cola Company developed a partnership a couple of decades ago, to turn its waste plastic bottles into carpet fiber. More carpet is now produced with polyesters and similar recycled plastic fibers than wool. However only about 9 percent of all plastics are currently being recycled . Nearly eight million metric tons of plastic waste are seeping and creeping into the world's oceans every year. Depending on where your fish and shellfish are caught, you are probably now occasionally eating some micro-bits of that plastic waste.  Not exactly an appetizing thought, but choking on our own waste never is. We can’t look the other way anymore, with China out of the mix, are trash is here to stay…so let’s figure out more ways to again turn that trash back into treasure.
  • Since then President Bill Clinton was unable to keep Georgia in his win column during his 1996 re-election campaign, Georgia has been viewed as a reliably red, and safe GOP state. The state's congressional delegation made the shift to red and right in 1994, the Governor's office eventually fell in a surprise upset win in 2002 by Sonny Perdue, shortly followed by majority wins in the State Senate and State House. Since the middle of the 2000 decade, the Georgia GOP has controlled or held virtually all levers of power at state and federal government levels. The 2020 election cycle offers the most realistic potential that Georgia will move to the top of Democratic Party target lists for several reasons in a changing political landscape. The close victory for the Governor's office by Governor Brian Kemp is being misread by some as placing the Georgia Democratic Party at the cusp of multiple victories. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the GOP Republicans will be defending 23 seats, including McConnell's as well as both Georgia's Senate seats. Senator David Perdue is seeking his second term, and by January of 2020, Governor Kemp will have named another Republican as the Interim Senator to seek the seat in a November Special Election, to replace retiring Senator Johnny Isakson. Though also held on General Election day, that contest will take all-comers from both parties, and quite possibly result in a run-off contest, the first Tuesday in January of 2021.  As of the September 12 Democratic Presidential candidate debate, the primary field of candidates, following several withdrawals and shifts to other races has essentially been winnowed to 10, versus the more than two dozen a month ago. The focus will stay on what is shaping up to be a consistently top five in polling, fundraising and among party activists - former Vice-President Joe Biden, U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigeg. New Jersey Senator Corey Booker cracks this circle in some polls as well.  Back to our U.S. Senate contests, the GOP is defending 23 seats, while Democrats only have 11 incumbent or existing seats in contest. If Democrats win the White House, the party will only need a net pick-up of three seats to take Senate majority, and four seats if Trump wins re-election. Georgia will be the only state in the nation, and for the first time in our state's history, with both Senate seats on the ballot at the same time.  Senator Perdue will have a real campaign and contest, but it is always difficult to oust an incumbent U.S. Senator, and the current four announced Democratic challengers combined have yet to match Perdue's fundraising or polling numbers. An essentially 'open' seat, with only an interim incumbent of less than a year, is a much easier target. Expect renewed pressure on former State House Minority Leader Stacy Abrams, to consider entering that second Senate seat contest.  The White House race, particularly with Trump as its nominee, will cause the GOP to focus its finances on retaining the White House first, with the Senate a secondary priority. Candidates and the Republican National Senatorial Committee will raise and expend dozens of millions across 34 states, and it will be quite difficult for the RNSC to be a primary funding source for two Georgia Senate contests. Perdue, as a close ally of President Trump, and as an incumbent, will be the priority among the two. Georgia's demographic shifts, Trumps fallibility among metro area voters and the two Senate contests will move our state to the top of the target list for Team Blue pick-up. And as Georgia voters have pretty consistently split party votes in recent elections in consistent percentages from the top to the bottom of the ballot, a close or successful U.S. Senate contest for Democrats would also have substantial down ballot impact on the Georgia State House and Senate, just as Ms. Abrams candidacy impacted dozens of other state and local races in 2018.  All this adds up to Team Blue moving in campaign staffers, non-aligned 527 PAC endorsements and dollars and a record amount of green into this once reliably red state, starting almost as soon as the ink is dry on Governor Kemp's interim U.S. Senate appointment in January. Among the biggest guaranteed winners of these contests will Georgia broadcasters who will also likely also see record political spending before the end of 2020. It's off to the races!