Monthly Archives: April 2009

My Favorite Republican is now a Dem

arlen_221x300Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania announced today that he was switching parties and will become the newest Senate Democrat. Essentially stating that the Democrats have now moved far enough right to make him more comfortable on their side of the aisle (click here to read what he really said). With the polls closed in Minnesota and only a few more months of the marathon court version of the Last Comic Standing, Al Franken is likely to give the Dems the 60 votes needed for a filibuster-proof majority. No real celebration, of course, as that count includes Joe Lieberman.

The truth behind the spin for Specter’s switch is the more than competitive primary challenge by conservative, Pat Toomey and the Republican payback for his vote with the Maine Senators Collins and Snowe to pass the Democrats’ stimulus bill.

In case you missed my February 18th blog, I’ll repeat it here:

My Favorite Republican.

Not for what his career (can’t really forgive him for that), but for what he did last week. Cancer survivor Arlen Specter (rhymes with Lector) of Pennsylvania traded his stimulus vote to the Dems for $10 billion in increased funding to the NIH (which had been starved of funding during recent years) most of which will go toward funding 15,000 additional research grants (34% increase). Specter, who has been publicly threatened by Republicans with a primary challenge for doing so, was unapologetic when he said, “I think it’s scandalous that we haven’t done more to cure cancer.”

Bravo. Way to go Arlen. This is a big deal. Doing something of tremendous importance toward curing the diseases that are truly non-partisan. As a reward, I promise to try and quit pronouncing your name “Sphincter.”

White House calls on Military to Stop Swine and Swine Flu Panic

nycrowdFaced with the potential double swine panic in New York City yesterday, the White House sent two F-16s and Air Force One lookalike in a daring preemptive strike to blow the air out of the media cycle. The precision photo-op decimated expected media coverage of Wall Street quarterly non-earnings and the St. Francis Prep post-spring break flu outbreak.

Office workers fled towers throughout Midtown worried that 4/27 would turn into a repeat of 9/11.

Fully informed in advance, but still “furious” Mayor Bloomberg, put a positive spin on the day to the media, saying, “The good news is it was nothing more than an inconsiderate, badly conceived and insensitive photo op with the taxpayers’ money.”

flyby2There were no immediate reports of fatalities, but Keith Mercantine of Jersey City reported seeing a pregnant woman in an ambulance. Late in the day, the Director of the White House Military Office, Louis Caldera, became the only victim of the strike as he fell on his sword and took full blame.

We Need to Talk

redblueballons No matter how passionate we are, we need to keep talking. No matter how loudly the speech or how colorful the words, we need to listen. No matter the differences, we need the conversation. It is not about winning the debate. It is about having the debate. The respect of conversation. The dignity of patient dialogue. The appreciation of the diversity of belief. Talk long enough and you’ll find common ground. Find common ground and you’ll discover trust. Find trust and you’ll have a friend. And while friends are hard to come by, they are precious.

Some of my dearest friends disagree with me on most everything, but our common ground is solid. Our love for our family. Our fundamental belief in doing and being good. Our appreciation for the life experience that made each of us who we are – and the respect that not all of it was easy. While we are each misguided, we are each well-intended. While we each may come to a seemingly idiotic conclusion, we were thoughtful in our approach to becoming so totally lost and out of touch. While we each are stubborn and dense – at times outlandishly stupid – we are or were once good enough to be loved by our mothers.  And while they often sound selfish or controlling or arrogant or incomprehensibly self-deceived or just puppeting spin, I recognize that they probably hear me that way, as well, and, yet, we are both honest, hard-working and our lives are guided by our beliefs and moral values.

They may hate my politics, but we can laugh together at a good joke. They may hate my hair like I hate their guns, but I know deep, way deep, really really deep down, there is something redeeming about them and it is worth trying to understand and love. They may hate that I can make them mad as hell, but they know they can make me mad, too, and that we’ll get beyond it. And what provokes thought, often evokes understanding. They might prefer I have a different color skin or different color eyes or different sounding last name or go to a different place to worship if I did, but they also know that if I were just like them or they were just like me, we’d be bored to death. That, and talking to yourself is crazy.

As my then three year old grandson once said to me during a tense moment, “it’s just game.”

Giving God the benefit of the doubt

god2-sistine_chapelr Taking on faith that God is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. And that His or Her perfection and mercy are beyond our understanding, it seems like it might be a good idea these days to take a look at some trends that might just indicate His or Her current favorites and those that seem to be on a list for some form of punishment for Whatever reason. All time Favorites

  1. Tyrants, monarchs and unelected leaders.
  2. Oil companies.
  3. Utility companies.
  4. Pharmaceutical companies.
  5. Munitions companies.
  6. Political incumbents.
  7. Lobbyists and pundits.
  8. Highway construction companies.
  9. Factory farms and food commodity conglomerates.
  10. Junk food companies.
  11. Cable TV companies.
  12. Health care workers.
  13. Hollywood.
  14. Organized religion.
  15. The prison industry.

New to the Favorites List

  1. Barack Obama.
  2. Federal employees.
  3. Hybrid and alternative fuel cars.
  4. Health care researchers.
  5. Scientists.
  6. Apple Computer.
  7. Collection companies.
  8. Bankruptcy attorneys.
  9. Pawn brokers and pay check lenders.
  10. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Up and coming

  1. Alternative energy companies.
  2. Pirates.
  3. Auditors.
  4. White collar crime investigators.

All time Non-Favorites

  1. The poor, the aged and the infirmed.
  2. Under- and uneducated.
  3. Unemployed.
  4. The addicted.
  5. Anyone in a single parent household.
  6. People exposed to toxic chemicals.
  7. People without clean water, food or shelter.
  8. People without access to basic health care.
  9. Anyone living in Africa not currently head of an oil producing country.
  10. Anyone living in Central or South America not engaged in the drug trafficking.
  11. Most everyone in Asia or SE Asia not working for American call centers.
  12. Anyone living in Eastern Europe not involved in organized crime.
  13. Those most likely to vote Democrat.
  14. House painters.
  15. Poets.
  16. Municipal workers.
  17. Teachers.
  18. Union workers.
  19. Textile workers.
  20. Those living in trailers and temporary housing.

New to the Non-Favorites List

  1. Investors, home owners and pensioners.
  2. Republican Party.
  3. Wall Street, except for short traders.
  4. Employee recruiters.
  5. Commercial and residential real estate industries.
  6. Bankers.
  7. Attorneys.
  8. Microsoft.
  9. Ponzi-schemers.
  10. Recycling industry.
  11. Peanuts.
  12. Fishing industry.
  13. Airline industry.
  14. Hospitality industry.
  15. Trucking and non-oil shipping companies.
  16. Newspaper industry and most media companies.
  17. Publishing industry.
  18. Auto industry.
  19. Printing industry.
  20. Construction industry.
  21. Anyone self-employed.
  22. Middle classers who have not yet declared bankruptcy.

Down and Going

  1. Clean coal industry.
  2. Domestic cigarette industry.
  3. People who live near sea level.
  5. Well intended bloggers who use people’s sincere faith as a lead to provoke thought and discussion and include broad generalizations and labels to categorize groups without giving proper respect to the individual.

I leave you to draw your own conclusions, and, yes, it passes understanding that one can be on more than one list. Please share your comments and other trends that you have observed.

Chrysler Rejects Bailout

newdummyChrysler CEO “Test Dummy Bob” Nardelli (formerly known as Home Depot CEO “Builder Bob”) has signaled bold new initiatives to save the deeply troubled company. With sales even lower than forecast, Chrysler announced it would reject additional Federal TARP money as they don’t need to make or finance any new cars.

Rumors at Chrysler, suggest that may not be the only reason. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, insiders say Nardelli has signed an exclusive deal with the Republican party to sell a new, and potentially, brand-saving car to be named the “Tea Bag”. “The 2010 Chrysler Tea Bag is the perfect family car to push off a cliff (sic: or dump in a local bay),” said industry analysts on last night’s Fox news, “plus, it will have zero air pollution and get unlimited mileage while falling and that ought to please the liberal media.”

car_over_cliffTechnically, the Tea Bag will only require putting a new logo on already manufactured Chryslers. Restructuring plans call for firing remaining union workers and use executives to put the new Tea Bag logos on their existing inventory of cars.

In a conflicting report, The Washington Post reported today that Chrysler is rejecting the bailout because its top executives refused to sign an agreement limiting executive compensation as they prepare to negotiate union concessions.

Email Us Your Postcards of the South

From your phone or computer, you can now share photos and comments – postcards of the South (or places of interest to the South). With one click, you can send us news, travel, scenes and events. Use the subject line for the photo title, attach the photo and then add descriptive copy in the body of your email (please include your name or email in your description). The photo will publish in our Flickr Gallery and here at Here’s the address: [email protected]

Keep it clean, please.

Atlanta Dogwood Festival This Weekend

lapelpinThe 73rd Annual Atlanta Dogwood Festival returns to Piedmont Park this weekend, April 17, 18 & 19.

Join the fun at Piedmont Park during this annual weekend celebration of Spring. Usually scheduled for the first or second week in April, this event features a spectacular children’s parade along with an International Village of artists and performers. Art shows are held both days. Activities include arts and crafts exhibits, concerts, competitions, dance demonstrations, and lots of goodies to munch on. After the festival, jump on a bike and take a scenic tour through beautiful Midtown, one of Atlanta’s most diverse neighborhoods. Admission is free.

Special Events

Preview Party
Thursday, April 16: 6:30 – 8:30 PM
For Dogwood lovers who just can’t wait for the festival to start, the Thursday night Preview Party will grant them early access. On Thursday, April 16 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., guests can get an artist preview, sip cocktails and enjoy the delightful crooning of Michel Innocent. The Preview Party takes place in the Pavilion and are $12 in advance or $15 at the door.

Open Air Comedy Club – Lake Clara Meer Dock Stage
Friday, April 17: 8:00 PM
Friday is comedy night at the Dogwood Festival’s Open Air Comedy Club at the dock stage on Lake Clara Meer. The fun begins at 8:03 p.m. with a half-hour stand-up comedy show by Jeff Justice’s Comedy Workshoppe Graduates, followed by a full hour of improv from Dad’s Garage Theatre Company. Guests can enjoy cocktails in the ZonePerfect Art Bar before the show. A limited amount of tickets for comedy night are $12 in advance or $15 at the door.

Friends of Dogwood – Pavilion
Saturday, April 18 & Sunday, April 19: 1-5 PM
It’s a new tradition at a 73-year-old festival, and the “Friends of Dogwood Pavilion” could be the best way to enjoy the Atlanta Dogwood Festival. This ticketed event that became part of the Dogwood Festival in 2008 will offer a special area on Saturday and Sunday featuring some of the neighborhood’s favorite restaurants combined with specialty beverages. Participating restaurants include South City Kitchen, Babette’s Cafe, 4th & Swift, Genki, Metrotainment Bakery, Fritti, Twisted Taco and others to be announced soon! This ticket includes FREE ADMISSION to the Thursday Night Preview Party!

Saturday Restaurants
Metrotainment Bakery
Babette’s Cafe
Twisted Taco
South City Kitchen Midtown
Eclipse de Luna
The Nook
Six Feet Under

Wine Companies-
International Society of Africans in WIne (ISAW)
Total WInes
Catamarca Imports
Bacco Fine Wine
Sunday Restaurants-
Metrotainment Bakery
4th and Swift
Twisted Taco
Gordon Biersch
Chow Baby

Wine Companies-
International Society of Africans in WIne (ISAW)
Total WInes
Bacco Fine Wine

The Midtown Neighbors’ Association Tour of Homes
This year’s tour features ten homes in eight locations. The Midtown Neighbors’ Association will showcase homes featured on HGTV as well as in home improvement magazines. The homes are located from Myrtle to Peachtree, 5th to 9th streets.

2009 ENTERTAINMENT SCHEDULE (subject to change)

Friday, April 17, 2009
5:00 – 6:00 pm    Lindsay Rakers Band
6:30 – 7:30 pm    Golden
8:00 – 9:00 pm    Yacht Rock Revue

Saturday, April 18, 2009
10:45am – 12:00pm    Atlanta Freedom Band
12:30 – 1:15 pm    Daysahead
1:45 – 2:30 pm    4th Ward Afro Klezmer Orchestra
2:45 – 3:30 pm    Stratogeezer  
4:00 – 4:45 pm    Black Top Rockets  
5:15 – 6:00 pm    Young Antiques  
6:30 – 7:15 pm    Connor Christian & Southern Gothic  
7:45 – 9:00 pm    Heather Luttrell

Sunday, April 19, 2009
12:00pm – 3:00pm    National Black Arts Festival presents Gospel
3:30 – 4:15pm    Batata Doce   
4:45 – 5:30pm    Hoots & Hellmouth  
5:45 – 6:30pm    Breeze Kings 

Community and International Stage at Lake Clara Meer Dock
Friday,  April 17th:  start time 8:03 pm  Open Air Comedy Club featuring the Jeff justice Comedy Workshoppe Grads and Dad’s Garage Theater!  Limited tickets may be purchased on the special events page of this website

Saturday, April 18
10:00am – 11:45am    After School All Star Kids – school group
12:00pm – 12:45pm    Ryuku Arts – Festival of Drum dance, Karate Dance
1:00pm – 1:45pm    Royal Scottish Country Dancers
2:00pm – 2:45pm    Village Theatre – Improv Comedy
3:00pm – 3:20pm    Rajen Raval and Nritya Natya Kala Bharti Academy
3:20pm – 3:45pm    Chinese-American Cultural Performing Group; Shufang Zither Studio – GuZheng Music; Lion Dance, Kung Fu Dance, Chinese Violin
4:00pm – 4:45pm    Arjho C. Turner – Blaan Tribe Dance; Faith Ward – Philippine Traditional Songs; Galing Pinoy – Philippine Traditional Songs; Soli Nicolson & Chris Rockett- Philippine songs
5:00pm – 5:45pm    Richard Omar & the Prodigal Sun Band – Caribbean
6:00pm – 6:45pm   SALSAtlanta – Salsa Dancers
7:00pm – 8:30pm    Rouzbeh Hoshmondy, Flamenco Guitar

Sunday, April 19
1:00pm – 1:45pm   Our Kids Atlanta – School Group
2:00pm – 2:20pm    The King O’Sullivan School of Irish Dance
2:30pm – 2:55pm    Atlanta International School Choir
3:00 p.m. – 3:45 p.m    Okinawa Kengin Kai, Taiko group; International Mai no Kai; Drum Dance; Japanese Traditional Dance; Okinawa Sahshin
4:15pm – 4:45pm   Turkish Folk Dance Troupe of Atlanta
5:00pm – 5:15pm    Taiwanese School of Georgia
5:30pm – 6:15pm    Festival de las Americas presents: 24 Horas & Fernada Cornejo
Visit the Drum Tent Saturday and Sunday near the Community Center for Interactive Drumming Sessions

Eating Dog is Bad for You

dogs_in_cageThis is especially true if the dog is eating you at the same time. Yet, the canine-ibalistic metaphor, dog eat dog, is the basis of our modern form of capitalism. Devour or be devoured.

On paper, some mergers may seem sufficiently benign as to benefit society. For example, it might be argued that the consolidation of our cell phone industry so that we can talk anywhere, is a good thing even though the costs are not going down. It might be argued that allowing media companies to buy other media companies created a scale of business which could simultaneously improve service, choice and lower cost, and that’s a good thing, if it happened that way. It might be argued that allowing Arthur Daniels Midland to gobble up the grains and seed producers has led to increased yield, more efficiency and a more dependable food supply, if we hadn’t let them corner the markets, drive up costs and wipe out most of the small farms around the world. Ditto oil companies. Ditto consumer products companies. Ditto the retailers. It might be argued that allowing our banks to merge across state lines and offer sophisticated financial products allowed them to compete in global markets and that was a good thing. Okay, you get the point, we’ve lived through consolidation of virtually every American industry.

What were the downsides to the chien du jour? When an acquisition or merger is pending, there is a lot at stake: stock prices and option value, interest rates on the borrowed money, poison pill benefits for management, risk of a bidding war, commissions on the transaction, etc. Most companies hire public relations counsel and equip lobbyists with unlimited campaign contributions to ensure the spin stays positive and the deals always are approved by the regulators. This results in a minimum of downside discussion. But let us look back at just one.

Banks. Once upon a time, there were state and federally charter banks in most every city in the country. Locally owned and managed. The people who ran these banks, your neighbors, made their own decisions and that made them powerful and important citizens in our little worlds. They were active in local boards and charities and were dependable contributors. They provided advice to small business. Acted as community leaders. They ran ads in their local newspapers and on their local broadcast stations. Hired local ad agencies, accountants and lawyers. Used local florist and caterers. Local printers and mailing houses. Local maintenance and janitorial firms. These banks managed their risks by lending to people they knew. This was not always fair, but it was the way it was. Each of these banks were subject to frequent audit to ensure the risks were sound.

Then along came the deregulation movement led by lobbyists for the biggest banks (more than $300 million was spent on lobbyists during the 20-years to deregulate banks) and the Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act of 1980 which, among other things, began the phased-repeal of the post-depression law (Glass-Steagall) that controlled speculation, forced state banks to follow the Federal rules, allowed banks to merge, cross state lines, gave all of them access to the Fed Discount Window, deregulated deposit interest, created the new rules for the second mortgages most of us have, and blurred the lines with the Savings & Loans. In 1987, overriding Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, the Federal Reserve Board voted to allow banks to join Wall Street in the securities and underwriting business. Subsequently, Reagan appointed JP Morgan director and pro-deregulation advocate Alan Greenspan as the new chairman. Add a few Bush years and a Republican Congress with a weak President Clinton and let the mergers begin.

So how’d all this turn out? Except for sign companies, not so good. The Savings & Loan industry was destroyed early on at a taxpayer cost of $160 billion. Largely as a result of mergers, the number of banks went from 15,084 in 1984 to 8,256 today. With each merger, many bank employees were either laid off or transferred. Operations centers were shuttered. 80 banks have failed. The cost to bailout troubled banks is expected to be some $4 trillion. Bank layoffs may total more than 160,000. Charity giving by banks has dried up. Bank presidents have been replaced by assistant vice-presidents on community boards. There is no local advertising to help keep the newspapers and local ad agencies afloat. Accountants, lawyers, caterers, janitors, all gone. Bank stock received in mergers is now trading in the single digits wiping out retirement and community wealth. No, not so good.

Maybe it is time we had a new leash law.

Southern Rankings

Here are the current Southern (as defined by the Southern Governors Association) rankings for population, unemployment, percent of population in prison, median income, population receiving welfare or foodstamps and percentage of population without healthcare insurance.

Click on the label in the top row to sort by each category.

States Population Unemployed Prison
AL 23 34 06 47 31 12 29
AK 32 16 22 49 39 10 41
DC 50 44 51 20 01 05 16
FL 04 41 07 36 45 28 49
GA 09 40 02 22 49 16 42
KY 26 39 17 48 19 07 27
LA 25 10 01 50 48 06 47
MD 19 18 26 02 29 40 24
MS 31 37 04 51 37 01 46
MO 18 33 18 37 12 02 22
NC 10 48 28 43 41 20 37
OK 28 09 05 44 42 15 44
SC 24 50 08 42 32 08 36
TN 17 37 15 45 04 03 28
TX 02 14 03 38 46 21 51
VA 12 16 13 08 34 38 25
WV 37 12 41 46 22 04 32

The chart is based on the most current figures available from the following sources:

Here are the raw numbers:

AL: 4,661,900
AK: 2,855,390
DC: 5,918,333
FL: 18,328,340
GA: 9,685,744
KY: 4,269,245
LA: 4,410,796
MD: 5,633,597
MS: 2,938,618
MO: 5,911,605
NC: 9,222,414
OK: 3,642,361
SC: 4,479,800
TN: 6,214,888
TX: 24,326,974
VA: 7,769,089
WV: 1,814,468

Unemployment Rate:
AL: 8.4%
AK: 6.6%
DC: 9.9%
FL: 9.4%
GA: 9.3%
KY: 9.3%
LA: 5.7%
MD: 6.7%
MS: 9.1%
MO: 8.3%
NC: 10.7%
OK: 5.5%
SC: 11.0%
TN: 9.1%
TX: 6.5%
VA: 6.6%
WV: 6.0%

Prison Population:
AL: 40,561 (0.87%)
AK: 47,974 (1.68%)
DC: 3,552 (0.06%)
FL: 148,521 (0.81%)
GA: 92,647 (0.96%)
KY: 30,034 (0.70%)
LA: 51,458 (1.17%)
MD: 35,601 (0.63%)
MS: 27,902 (0.95%)
MO: 41,461 (0.70%)
NC: 53,854 (0.58%)
OK: 32,593 (0.89%)
SC: 35,298 (0.79%)
TN: 43,678 (0.70%)
TX: 223,195 (0.92%)
VA: 57,444 (0.74%)
WV: 8,043 (0.44%)

Median Income:
AL: $49,901
AK: $39,452
DC: $50,318
FL: $46,383
GA: $49,692
KY: $40,029
LA: $39,418
MD: $63,552
MS: $36,499
MO: $45,924
NC: $42,219
OK: $41,578
SC: $42,477
TN: $41,521
TX: $58,950
VA: $57,178
WV: $40,800

Receiving State Welfare:
AL: 41,849
AK: 19,689
DC: 39,267
FL: 87,632
GA: 37,983
KY: 58,124
LA: 19,545
MD: 57,601
MS: 23,714
MO: 101,916
NC: 49,653
OK: 19,170
SC: 38,050
TN: 144,705
TX: 115,690
VA: 65,546
WV: 22,927

Receiving Federal Food Stamps:
AL: 61,377
AK: 387,956
DC: 92,288
FL: 1,694,649
GA: 1,139,309
KY: 663,591
LA: 687,571
MD: 402,892
MS: 472,537
MO: 949,404
NC: 1,012,481
OK: 432,642
SC: 636,698
TN: 977,109
TX: 2,651,370
VA: 582,494
WV: 285,242

People Without Health Insurance:
AL: 632,000
AK: 485,000
DC: 64,000
FL: 3,698,000
GA: 1,658,000
KY: 569,000
LA: 807,000
MD: 761,000
MS: 543,000
MO: 723,000
NC: 1,469,000
OK: 640,000
SC: 705,000
TN: 830,000
TX: 5,687,000
VA: 1,031,000
WV: 268,000

The Ritual of Life


The vernal equinox has passed in the Northern Hemisphere. There is a full moon. It is the weekend. It must be Easter. The end of Lent and March Madness. Passover. The season of Nowruz. The festival of Holi. And Major League Baseball. The time of the new year for many (Coptic, Asia, Baha’i).

Spring (an old Germanic word that means “to jump” and “to run”) is the time for planting. The snow to melt. The streams swell. The Florida citrus crops are first announced ruined from frost. Tornado and thunderstorms return. Rebirth. The hiding of painted eggs. The throwing of colored powder and water. The lighting of bonfires. Kite fighting. The time to for new wardrobe, to wear your best, to wear yellow or hats and walk in a parade.

Whether yours is a pilgrimage for spring break, the Temple in Jerusalem, Mount Gerizim, the Great Smoky Mountains, Natchez, Columbus, St. Francisville, Rome, or your city park.

Whether you commune with nature, each other or the saints. Receive communion from a priest or with your own hand, break Matza, are prayerful, indulge, deny or give. Whether you are celebrating the ritual of resurrection, the end of temptation or just the warmer weather. Have a great weekend and be reminded of all the wonderfully diverse reasons we have to celebrate (including Wikipedia) and enjoy the day.

Please comment on how you celebrate or celebrated