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Opinion Blogs

    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!
  • This is not one to play around with,' said Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, during a September 2nd press conference ordering the partial evacuation of 6-coastal counties during the approach of then Hurricane Dorian. With the heat of summer still baking our great state, it's hard to believe that a week ago thousands were battening the hatches, boarding up doors and windows and preparing for Mother Nature's worst, before heading north on Interstate 16 and evacuating the region. Thankfully, unlike the Bahamas and large swaths of North Carolina, the South Carolina low-country and coast -- Georgia's coast and Golden Isles largely dodged this once maelstrom storm bullet unscathed. However hurricane season is far from over, and indications are that with this summer heat lingering, in the atmosphere and across the Carribean, there may be a few more like Dorian yet to come.  Thousands of home, business and property owners did choose to ignore the evacuation orders, stay and ride out the storm. Though evacuations were only mandated for residents and property owners east of I-95, most everyone took precautions and prepared for the storm. Signs of that were everywhere, from boats moved to dry dock, to grocery shelves emptied of staple items and bottled water.  The primary evacuation route also functioned as it should have, I-16 traffic became one-way heading north and traffic flow north surged overnight by 30 percent. Some admittedly grousing that the National Weather Service and Georgia Emergency Management (GEMA) were being overly cautious, would certainly be kicking themselves if Dorian had made a decisive left-hand turn.  Kemp's predecessor, Governor Nathan Deal, and Atlanta's then Mayor Kasim Reed, each learned the downside of not listening in full earnest to dangerous weather forecasts. The two were both being honored at a Georgia Trend magazine luncheon recognizing Outstanding Georgians on the morning of January 28, 2014, an unusually strong snow and ice storm was looming for most all of north Georgia, and as far south as Macon. Deal and Reed were having their photos taken and enjoying the company of many of Georgia's community and business leaders, as the first sleet and frost started landing and sticking on Georgia streets and highways outside around noontime.  Before the salt trucks could be mobilized, the ice froze and was then joined by 2-6 inches of snow, as the onset of metro Atlanta's infamous rush hour became the now historic Snowmaggedon. Thousands were trapped on metro interstates which had become practically solid sheets of ice, and many simply abandoned their vehicles and walked home. School buses were similarly delayed 8-10 hours, many idling on the roadside until they ran out of fuel. No significant injuries or loss of life were attributed to the snow, sleet and ice storm, but the north side of the state was practically paralyzed for several days.  Deal and north Georgia Mayors, county commissions, school boards and superintendents became decidedly more cautious after that. Snow days were added to the state school calendar of 180 school days. Even the hint of an inch of frozen precipitation would cause full school system closures. Erring to the side of caution since 2014 has become our rightful norm. Yes, meteorology is a science, but so is geology and the prediction of earthquakes. Both include a margin of error, as well as the very real change in temperament of winds, rain and the occasionally mercurial shift of storm fronts. Dorian stalling and sitting atop the Bahamas for several days was also something quite difficult to pre-forecast.  Having been on Jekyll Island a few times in my childhood and teen years during tropical storms, a downed tree on a home, car or family pet is a quite significant challenge moving forward just the same. Perhaps the happiest folks in reaction to the evacuation call were hoteliers, restaurant and gas station owners in points north like Dublin, Macon and Atlanta. Reports of price-gouging were thankfully minimal and multiple Georgia cities and households welcomed the evacuees into their homes and shelters with open arms. Our state and coastal citizenry have their lives largely returned to normal and thankfully, a few million are largely none the worse off after taking a course and path of taking heed, playing it safe and being better safe than sorry.  And perhaps most thankful of all are our neighbors in lower Alabama and along the Gulf coast, hammered hard a year ago by Hurricane Michael, but now also spared, thanks to the magical power of a Presidential Sharpie, from any injury or further harm.
  • Not even a decade out of the University of Georgia (Class of 1966), Johnny Isakson was first elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1976, in the aftermath and GOP wreckage of Watergate. Most Americans were still running from the party of Nixon, while Isakson and a handful of others in Georgia were instead trying to build out a two-party system. Throughout the remaining 70s and 80s, Isakson, soon the Georgia House Minority Leader, would join his State Senate counter-part Paul Coverdell, along with DeKalb GOP Senator Bob Bell, in building a party calling for smaller, more efficient government, free markets, individual responsibility and the fiscal conservatism which would long define the Georgia Republican Party. Isakson, Bell and Coverdell were a strong trio, raising funds, credibility and visibility, traveling the state and particularly seeking support from Georgia's fast growing business community. Then Congressman Newt Gingrich would arrive later on the scene, create GOPAC and begin building out the machinery which would result in the GOP take-over of the U.S. Congress in 1994 (as well the Georgia Congressional delegation majority which it has held since). But while Gingrich was a grenade thrower always seeking the spotlight and attention, the man who would later hold his congressional seat (Isakson), was instead focused on building consensus and getting results. Thank you Johnny.  Isakson would carry the mantle for a GOP contest for Governor in 1990, losing to then Lieutenant Governor Zell Miller. Miller thought enough of his opponent that he would later appoint him chair of the State School Board. Isakson would serve as State GOP Party Chair, a member of the State Senate and all the while continuing to build out the family business, Northside Realty, which would go on to become one of the largest independent realtors in the southeast. Through the Reagan/Bush and later Bush again years, Isakson was continually seen as a voice of consensus and moderation, reaching across the aisle whether from the minority or majority position.  'I've been in the Minority and the Majority. The majority is better (pause, wink and smile), but you still need the other side to reach a solution, pass laws and solve the problems facing our nation. Compromise may seem to some a dirty word, but it is necessary to the infrastructure of building legislation,' Isakson said. This moderation would be viewed by some critics as weakness and caused a few election nights to last longer than they otherwise might have for Isakson. But thankfully, in part due to a loyal core of support in metro Atlanta, as well as a healthy percentage of moderates and independents who long followed and supported him, he only lost the one political contest in 1990. Isakson is the only Georgian to have served in both chambers of the Georgia General Assembly, as well as in the U.S. House and Senate. He is also the only GOP U.S. Senator to win three terms and the only current member of our Senate to chair two committees, Veterans Affairs and Ethics. Thank you Johnny.  Slowed by the onset of Parkinson's Disease, which Isakson took public in 2013, Georgia's senior senator was still walking 10 miles each day on his home treadmill to maintain muscle strength and coordination. Though his steps were smaller and slower, his mind remains sharp as ever. His recall for detail, names and faces, figures to the decimal point as well as minor amendments made to legislation is legendary. And though some of his critics would occasionally forget his role as architect and builder of the Georgia GOP, calling him a RINO, moderate or worse...Isakson was never one to exchange that kind of fire. His political campaigns and commercials would remain positive and focused on GOP priorities and his vision for Georgia and our nation. I will miss those jingles and upbeat ads as well. Thank you Johnny.  The bumper of my late model Jeep Liberty proudly holds a bumper sticker in its right hand corner, touting Isakson's last statewide contest, it says simply 'Johnny 2016.' It definitely says something about the place you have reached in life when one word clearly tells folks who you are and what you are asking about... Cher, Farrah, Prince...Johnny. We now know that Johnny won't be seeking our votes again, though he will always have mine. They don't make'em like that anymore. And that sticker isn't coming off the Jeep. Again...thank you Johnny.
  • I'm outraged, and you should be too. This entire nation should be outraged,' said El Paso, Sheriff Richard Wiles in the wake of a mass shooting at a Walmart ending more than 20 lives.  I suspect like many Americans, I am still a bit numb with the horrific news of the latest two back to back mass shootings, still ringing in the ears of local law enforcement in the border town of El Paso, Texas as well as in the heart of Ohio, Dayton. And as advocates on both sides of the gun control debate line up and open fire on each other across online spaces...I sit and wonder if this too isn't part of the division these shooters want to foment? A race war? A new civil war?  Another young white male, another 'manifesto,' more than 30 innocent lives lost, dozens more injured...and where/when does it end? No one really has an answer for that, so perhaps we should try harder to determine where this is all beginning.  I have spent in my volunteer life, much of the past few decades remaining engaged with college students, both through my alma mater, the Grady School of Journalism at the University of Georgia, as well as through my college fraternity, Phi Kappa Tau, at both the local and national levels. Where much of college life remains the same, as campus culture and society evolve, I've noted a significantly general softening among my younger male counter-parts on most college campuses today, which has at times caused me both pause and concern.  Alienation, non-socialization and remaining a virgin against one's will or life plans are powerful seeds planted towards building resentment and hatred. Who is to blame? How to reassert or change one's status? It's not difficult to see a pattern to fame and glory and even some degree of notoriety playing out an afternoon of Fortnite in the real world. For those unfamiliar, Fortnite (created in 2017) is an online video gaming platform with three separate games, each played by millions. Fortnite Battle Royale, which can be played simultaneously by as many as 100, pits player against player in a battle of survival of the fittest, ending when all but one player has been eliminated or killed. I have walked in on a few groups playing this game with great passion and enthusiasm, the gun play and swearing might only be louder at a convention among mercenaries of war.  There will again be talk of gun control reform. However, Chicago, Illinois, with some of the most stringent gun laws in the nation, and also one of the world's highest rates of murder and violent crime, experienced dozens of separate shootings and nearly 40 deaths the same horrific weekend. Yes, we can revisit the law, but isn't it time we also re-visit how we raise our young men?  I did not walk six miles to school, through the snow each day, barefooted...but household chores, mowing our lawn and part-time jobs became routine during what would have then been middle school years. Real life lessons of adversity, work ethic, dues paying, conflict resolution and accepting constructive criticism had all been learned well before the middle of high school.  As a late Baby Boomer, we were also towards the end of the Selective Service and potential draft, which I'm not suggesting be re-instated, however I can see great benefit in renewing discussions of a year or two of national service work just after high school. As with serving in our nation's military, the common duty, common mission and shared surroundings might help serve as a great equalizer.  We are yet entering fall of this year, and 125 Americans have already lost their lives in mass shootings. As schools start back, how many children are heading to their classrooms in fear, and how many parents are wondering if they have done enough to prepare their offspring for sudden attack?  Whether or not you agree with it taking the whole village to raise a child, I'll wager a majority of you can well remember when your neighbors almost all knew one and other, and at times came to assist without ever being asked. Conflict is a part of life, and building coping skills for such challenges are as important as developing coordination, balance and muscle strength for sport.  It is time for a national conversation and determining the root causes of this plague. If the Ebola virus or some other virulent strain attacked and killed a few hundred Americans in a period of months, we would fight back with all of our national will and unlimited resources. Finding this cure may take a bit longer, but certainly there are steps we can begin to take as soon as today to move us in a better and safer direction. Our sympathies and condolences to those grieving the lives lost. And prayers do matter as well.
  • Like, love or loathe him, it is clear that President Donald J. Trump's brand of politics is scorched earth. If you take a swing, he will swing back and probably harder. His blows don't always connect of course, and he often ends up damaging himself. A reasonably well-respected United Nations Ambassador, Nikki Haley, announces her own pending departure. Before this became an almost weekly event in the Trump White House, there was a significant amount of punditry around who might replace her, or become the 'face of America' on the floor of the U.N. Assembly Hall. Trumpster fire distraction...'I might appoint my daughter Ivanka.'  White House Chief of Staff, Defense Secretary and Director of Homeland Security depart in successive order, leaving a series of 'acting' Secretaries in place without Senate confirmation. Trumpster fire... 'I might appoint my son-in-law Jared.' I think I'm noting a pattern here.  The U.S. economy continues to perform as if on steroids. The month of June and second quarter, when many economists were forecasting a slowdown and 'cooling,' produced nearly a quarter million new jobs. President Trump and his trade representatives have negotiated the U.S./Mexico/Canada, Trade Agreement to replace NAFTA, however the new treaty has not begun the confirmation process required in the U.S. Senate...and though brinksmanship and threatening massive tariffs may de-stabilize the financial markets, it has, so far, been a successful brokering tool for getting China back to the negotiating table.  As with President Trump's recent desire for a massive spectacle and salute to the military on the Fourth of July, the devil is in the details. His speech was reasonably high-minded and patriotic, without devolving into jingoism or becoming a campaign platform. The President stuck largely to script and teleprompter, and he stayed until the end despite some pretty heavy rainfall (which he despises) and which somewhat made he and his First Lady appear a bit wilted before they were able to make a speedy exit.  And yet this platform also provided the perfect stage for another missed opportunity.  For nearing a quarter century, during Democratic and Republican administrations alike, Congress and the White House have been wrestling with a gaffe and glitch in federal law which has diminished survivor death benefits for widows of service personnel. This glitch is known as “The Widow’s Tax.” A long standing V.A. death benefit is a roughly $15,000 annual payment, paid monthly, to the survivors of uniformed service personnel killed in the line of duty.  A second program, offered by the Department of Defense, the Survivor Benefits plan, is funded out of potential retirement benefits of the enlisted, via payroll deduction and subsidized by the DOD, providing survivors up to 55% of the salary of the departed soldier. As a cost-saving measure, post-Vietnam and prior to the first Persian Gulf conflict, the DOD introduced a funding cut offset. For every dollar paid out by the V.A. death benefit, up to $15,000 per year, the pay-out from the DOD survivor benefits plan is REDUCED by matching dollar amount paid to widows. Many families figured this out and changed the beneficiary on the second policy to their children, versus the widowed parent. This saved families suffering great loss more than $1,000 a month. Until the 2018 Tax Law went into effect...the new law ended the benefit of passing this benefit through to surviving children, and subjects that income to an income tax of up to 35%.  The latest Congressional bill to 'fix' this mess has 324 U.S. House and 72 U.S. Senate co-sponsors. Bi-partisan with greased skids anyone? The President should have challenged Congress to have this bill on his desk, ready for signature prior to Labor Day, while celebrating the Fourth with veteran families at the same time.  This would have been wedding the President's stated priorities with his actions, and not just symbolism, Tweets or commanding attention. The cost of this change is estimated to be about $5.6 billion, and will immediately impact roughly 65,000 survivor families. And with that type of substantive 'real news' in his remarks, several attending members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, might have appeared a bit happier to be there.  So Mr. President, though I know you are not one greatly prone to taking advice and counsel from others...more action, less distraction. Communicate, complete and deliver more of your agenda...less million shots a day, more laser beam, less shotgun style. Fewer Trumpster fires, more solutions that matter. You'll be glad you did.
  • Among the many benefits of somewhat late in life, re-boot parenting, I was 46 when my youngest was born, are the extended opportunities to experience the joys and wonderment often still found in this world of ours, seen through the eyes of a child. My first born is now 26, and will be teaching 4th graders this fall in Gwinnett county, her half-sister and my youngest, Olivia, will be entering 5th grade in DeKalb county schools this fall. Heading out on summer vacation, Olivia, her best friend Alexus and I headed south and west to LaGrange, Georgia and the new Great Wolf Lodge and Water Park. Great Wolf is part of a mid-western chain of now 12 family resorts, based in Chicago, but with locations all across the country. The Great Wolf Lodge, Atlanta/LaGrange opened Memorial Day weekend of 2018. Just off I-85 south, the Lodge sits freshly painted and nestled, baying at the moon one exit north of the Kia Sorrento manufacturing plant.  At roughly half the cost of a Disney or Universal stay and much lower costs of travel, a family suite or similar large room, with fridge and microwave (including the water park and a large number of other free kid-friendly amenities) is offered in a much more protected, secluded and safe family setting, seemingly most ideal from the toddler to pre-teen sets.  This Great Wolf Lodge smartly operates at least three to four business lines and revenue streams simultaneously...a summer camp (day-side), a conference center, season passes for nearby area residents and the full-service family lodge and resort. There are ten restaurants on property from a Dunkin Donuts and Ben & Jerry's to a sit down dining room with linens and a full-service menu.  The center-piece of the resort is an enclosed 100,000 square foot water park, with the water temperature at a surprisingly constant 74 degrees. The outdoor resort pool, with cabanas and a huge jacuzzi is even warmer. Kids who can swim at most any level are as a result safer and trained life-guards are omni-present at all times. The pool and water park close at 8 p.m., minimizing noise and late night teen or older high-jinks, sometimes a challenge for other family resorts. The clean-cut, well trained staff were another highlight, and judging from the accents highly dependent on the local labor pool, but all also apparently graduates of the Chick Fil A school of guest courtesy and deference.  Olivia has blossomed into a strong swimmer, but that took some patience and a few years of instruction by a gifted swim teacher, Miss Amanda. Conquering fears can take some time, and though this was far from our first water park or rodeo, Olivia was still largely clinging to the kiddie slides, or the almost ubiquitous Lazy River nearby. This trip was complicated by a blister tear under the big toe after one too many trips around the Lazy River sans swim shoes on day one.   Thank God for good friends with big smiles and some prior experience at the resort. By day two, there was no water slide we were unwilling to conquer. Triple Thunder, Otter Run racing and the River Canyon Run were each another conquest to be had. From clinging hands and slow steps of trepidation up the four floors of stairs to, '...Can we do that again?' followed by a dead sprint up the same staircase. Ol' dad's legs were going to give out long before the enthusiasm to climb every mountain. And we did.  The last two challenges were single rides, flume style. The more visually intimidating is called The Wolf Tail. Though the font and visual of this ride name looks more like Wolf Pile, my youngest calls it the 'Green Pooper,' as the rider appears to get flushed. You load in what appears to be a glass casket, in a standing position. The ride operator instructs you to fold your arms across your chest, or perhaps to pinch your nose if water shooting up same bothers you in any way. Further instructions to cross your legs at the ankle and lock your knees straight. Listen well and take heed.  After a brief count-down of 3-2-1, the bottom of the casket drops away and the rider takes a direct vertical plunge of 75-100 feet, before exiting the building into a loop to slow your descent, and soon after depositing you into a long shoot flume at the bottom of this slide. IF not for the leg cross and knees lock, you might also exit the ride with another memory, reminiscent of the Great Wolf out front baying at the moon...with a certain Ow-Ow--ow-woohoo sensation from all that water paying a call reminiscent of a high colonic. Great memories, Great Wolf, great fun. We'll be back.
  • By now, corporate medicine has milked about all the 'efficiency' it can out of the system. With mergers and streamlining, it has pushed the productivity numbers about as far as they can go. But one resource that seems endless-and free-is the professional ethic of medical staff members,' said Dr. Danielle Ofri, an author and physician at Bellevue Hospital and New York University, from a New York Times guest editorial on June 9, 2019, 'Is Exploiting Doctors the Business Plan?' We are fortunate, within my immediate and extended family, to have the benefit of several medical professionals. My sister, Tanya, is a Nurse Practitioner, my god-daughter, Dr. Martha Cohen-Slade is an ObGyn and a close family cousin has not only been a career long operating room nurse, but also served as Chair of its global professional association, the Association of peri-Operative Registered Nurses, AORN. Their career experience and insights have helped form my opinions on the status of the industry.  My god-daughter, herself also recently a new mother, delivered five babies the same day her own labor was later induced before giving birth to her first son. My sister, who has worked all over the country, while continuing her own medical studies as well as serving as an educator and nursing faculty member, routinely works through holiday weekends, continuous 30-hour shifts and in both private and hospital based practices, always delivering beyond the call and assigned 'hours' of her paycheck.  As I have also often seen these behaviors in many of my own medical advisers and professionals, I can only assume it to be part of the work ethic and 'patient needs first' ingrained during years of study and preparation for a career in health care. Hopefully, this aspect of the profession will continue forward, but not to the long term detriment of the practitioners.  Patients, particularly in an in-patient setting, are generally sicker these days. Greater severity and complexity of chronic conditions, more over-lapping illnesses or infections to treat, as well as more medications to handle, manage and assess for side-effects or treating at cross-purposes. And yet the average length of time treatment spent with each patient is expected to be shrinking, or remain the same, aided by technology and that particularly vexing plus/minus of the Electronic Medical Record (EMR). The EMR is now omni-present and 'tunneled-in' to nearly every aspect of the medical system, and though few would wish a return to the pounds-heavy paper charts and copies, the EMR is now remotely accessible 24/7, awaiting updates, notes and provider input, and many providers are now doing just that, using evening, weekend and sleep-hours, off the clock, to update and re-check EMR charts. The average provider/physician spends roughly two-hours of EMR maintenance/updates time per each hour of actual face to face patient care.  Hospitals and provider employers also know this, and in effect consider this a benefit of employing well-paid and ethically driven professionals. But all of this 'no-down time' doesn't add up to everything remaining just fine. Health care professional burn-out is an increasingly real threat to their own health as well as ongoing performance. And despite doctor and nursing shortages nationwide, which increasingly require HB1 Visas and U.S. health care employers to recruit and import medical professionals from other nations, domestic medical and nursing school slots remain in tight supply, while a significant number of Baby Boomer era providers are fast approaching retirement. In addition to the higher error levels one might associate with long-term fatigue, clinical depression and suicide rates among physicians and nurses are now also significantly surpassing those of the general population they care for.  I am no fan of a single payer, government-based health care system. I don't have to look any further than our troubled Veteran's Administration system to see what happens when a bureaucracy manages all the keys to the kingdom, but with all the great minds and innovation present in American health care, still considered the world leader in numerous arenas, there simply has to be a better way.  From 1975 to 2010, the number of health care 'administrators' within both the for profit and non-profit medical sectors, has increased by 3200 percent. If we considered converting back less than half that personnel hike towards clinical care and more direct patient support, we might be well on our way to closing the provider service gap, as well as better recognizing that the priority should remain getting and keeping patients well, versus processing piles and piles of electronic records and yes, still more paperwork. Hospitals...heal thyself.
  • When I think of Georgia football I immediately think of Coach Dooley...,” Most people think of him as a coach, but he was also a great Athletic Director who brought life to all the sports at Georgia. It wasn’t just about football, he had a great influence on the whole university. I think everyone involved with Georgia would be proud to have the field named after Coach Dooley.” said Kevin Butler, former UGA Bulldog kicker and member of Super Bowl winning Chicago Bears in 1985, now a post-game radio host for the Georgia Bulldogs. Sanford Stadium in Athens was named for a great gentleman and scholar, Dr. Steadman Vincent Sanford, who first arrived at UGA as an English professor, before taking on leadership roles on the faculty and athletics committees. Sanford would become UGA President and later Chancellor of the entire University system, and in 1911, he moved UGA's football venue from the small and cramped, but scenic Herty Field in the old north campus, to a valley and the stadium’s current location.  The original stands only sat 30,000, and the field sat atop Tanyard Creek, now encased in a cement culvert under the stadium running east to the Oconee River. A reasonably complex drainage and irrigation system on that natural turf field helps to maintain the grass as well as that historic, football shaped hedge.  Vince Dooley arrived as a young head football coach in 1963, and went on to win the NCAA National Championship in 1980 as well as six SEC Championships. Dooley is still Georgia's winning-est football coach (1963-1989), also serving an over-lapping tenure as Athletic Director, and then continuing in that role through 2004, with Georgia teams in a variety of sports winning 23 national championships and 78 SEC titles during his time as A.D.  Vince and his wife Barbara Dooley have also become generous donors to UGA academic and scholarship pursuits. There are now a Dooley Library Endowment Fund and a Dooley Professorship in Horticulture, both made possible by their generosity. And the only subject that Coach Dooley will talk longer on than football is gardening...  Both Dooley’s call Athens their adopted home, raising their son and two daughters there, son Derek is now a college football coach as well, and the charmed couple have become walking icons for Bulldog Nation, both known for their southern charm, hospitality and enduring love for all things Georgia football.  Recognizing these and so many other contributions to the University, both in the academic and athletic arenas as well as becoming true pillars of the Athens community, UGA President Jere Morehead and Athletic Director Greg McGarity (whom Dooley first hired), recently informed a surprised Coach that the field he spent a quarter century coaching atop would soon be named in his honor.  Coach is now 86, and remains active on more boards and non-profits than most folks half his age. I have the pleasure of serving on the Board of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia with Coach. He attends most every meeting, often offering insightful guidance and advice, and then hops in his Kia and drives himself back to Athens. Vince and Barbara introduced me to Bulldog Kia in Athens, and that's Barbara's face saying 'See y’all at Bulldog Kia' to a few hundred thousand Bulldog fans on billboards around Athens each fall.  The Dooleys are both warm, genuine and class acts devoted to UGA. And another one like them, UGA's current President Jere Morehead said as much when he responded to efforts by more than 450 former Bulldog players calling for naming Sanford Stadium's field in honor of Coach Dooley. Current Dawgs Coach Kirby Smart played for Coach Dooley, as did former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue and hundreds of other NCAA and later NFL stand-outs.  The Athletic Association and University System Board of Regents are adding their voices to that chorus, singing a tune now long over-due. Normally each fall UGA home opener tends to be a light schedule game, and sometimes the stands don't even fill, into the now 92,000+ seats which expanded around that field during Dooley's tenures.  But I expect for this year's opener, on Saturday, September 7th against Murray State, there will be a packed house, and a later standing ovation and applause perhaps not equaled since that national championship season, when that 100-yard stretch of privet and Georgia green officially becomes Dooley Field, an honor truly and duly long over-due. The Dooley’s and their family are expected to be there for the honor and a special half-time tribute. Congratulations Coach! Go Dawgs!!