Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sign, Sign, Everywhere A Sign

Has anyone else noticed the veritable forest of new road signs that has sprung up along eastside thoroughfares? I’ve noticed them on Cherokee, Whit Davis, and Winterville Roads – they may be elsewhere around the county, but I travel these roads on a daily basis and this is where I have noticed them.

The new road signs (indicating stops, curves, speed limits, etc.) have been installed right next to identical existing signs; the only difference is that the new ones appear to be marginally taller. If the idea is to upgrade the signage by replacing old signs with new ones, I do not see the point as there was nothing wrong with the existing ones. Besides which, the original signs were left in place when the new ones were installed. That means that a crew of workers will have to revisit the same locations to take the original signs down.

Whatever the purpose, this process strikes me as a tremendous waste of tax dollars and workers’ time. Is there a rational explanation for this that I am missing?

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Answering the Obvious Question

Even though I still do not want presidential politics to dominate this blog, Xon posed a legitimate question–and one that I have been anticipating: given my self-professed libertarian leanings, why I am supporting Mike Huckabee for the Republican presidential nomination rather than Ron Paul.

I think that the Libertarians are so right on so many issues, especially concerning the proper role of government and the relationship between the individual and the state. So much so that, in fact, I was a dues-paying, card-carrying Libertarian (literally) back in the 1990s before I migrated to the libertarian wing of the GOP. I would love to see the LP evolve beyond a debating society, but it is not there yet (okay, that is just my opinion).

I think that a libertarian approach to policy is the proper one for the liberal democracies that, generally speaking, make up what we call "the West" (liberal in the Enlightenment sense of the word; government by law as opposed to government by men). Within and among liberal states, everyone is, ostensibly at least, operating by the same set of rules. Of course, such an approach is not possible within authoritarian or totalitarian regimes because power, as opposed to law, is the dominant factor regarding politics. Power is arbitrary, and therein lies the problem.

Thus, the Libertarian approach to international relations collapses because the different sides are playing by different rules; a couple of specific issues on which I disagree with the LP are border control and foreign policy. Ideological purists (i.e. Paul, even though he is running as a Republican – this time around) want what amounts to an open border and a non-interventionist foreign policy. This is all well and good within the realm of political theory, but I think that the realities of international relations (and not just concerning nation states) render such an approach hopelessly naive. At this point in history, I think that such national security issues are paramount, so I cannot in good conscience support Paul.

Nonetheless, I agree with Paul on many specific issues, just as I agree with Romney, Giuliani, Thompson, etc., on many specific issues. However, after careful consideration, I have reached the conclusion that Huckabee offers the best combination of policy positions and electoral possibilities for me. Some may find my reasoning questionable, to say the least, and that is okay.

But it is what it is.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Great Season Nonetheless

My alma mater Stephens County High School Indians lost to Chamblee by a score of 58-57 in overtime in the second round of the state AAA playoffs. Chamblee improves to 11-1 on the season and faces Westover in the third round. Stephens County finishes the season at 11-1. Just wait till next year.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Yes, I Like Mike

No, it is not very original. Nonetheless, as one can plainly tell from looking to the right, my wife and I are backing Mike Huckabee in the Georgia presidential primary. That said, I’m not interested in turning TOA into a fulltime Huckabee blog or arguing about the various GOP contenders, though I will post items of note as the campaign warrants. See the official Huckabee for President and the “unofficial” Georgia for Huckabee web sites for yourselves.

What follows is verbatim from the latter:

Shout About Mike Day
We are calling November 28th “Shout About Mike Day”. Teams through out Georgia will be marching around the state in numerous towns, spreading the word about Mike Huckabee. We will be handing out flyers, standing on corners, and promoting both Mike Huckabee and the CNN You Tube Debate. If you would like to join a team in your area, email event organizer Shelby Barker (

CNN You Tube Debate Party/Fundraiser
After we, “Shout About Mike” around the state, we will be meeting up at Xplayground, located in Peachtree City, to watch the CNN You Tube Debate. Xplayground will have food for purchase so come hungry!! We will also be raffling off signed Mike Huckabee books, and giving away some great Mike Huckabee items. This Debate party will act as a fundraiser for the Huckabee campaign, we expect 50-75 people there, so if you would like to attend please email Shelby.

Where: Xplayground 313 Dividend Dr.
Peachtree City, Ga 30269
When: November 28th 7:30 p.m.- 11:00 p.m.
Cost: A minimum $10.00 donation is appreciated.
(Please give more, it’s a fundraiser after all)

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The Mighty Mighty Indians

Okay, sports fans, its time for the weekly football update. My alma mater SCHS Indians (11-0) knocked off Cedartown 41-10 in the first round of the AAA state playoffs. Chamblee (10-1), coming off of a 47-34 win at Flowery Branch, travels to The Reservation in Toccoa this week.

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Raymond Aron and the Intellectuals

I know, I know – you are saying “Raymond who and the what?” The fine folks over at the Ludwig von Mises Institute are publishing an article by yours truly entitled “Raymond Aron and the Intellectuals: Arguments Supportive of Libertarianism” in the current issue of Journal of Libertarian Studies (vol. 21, no. 3, Fall 2007, pages 65-78). The hard copy of the journal is being printed even as I write this. The online PDF version should be available by the end of the calendar year.

The article is a revised version of a paper originally written for a graduate level historiography class under Dr. Edward J. Hagerty, taken as part of my MA program at American Public University.

The introductory paragraphs read:

Intellectuals . . . seek neither to understand the world nor to change it, but to denounce it.” So wrote Raymond Aron in a damning critique of those who were very much his intellectual kindred. Such a sentiment may at first seem surprising since Aron was, after all, a Marxist scholar and lifelong socialist who felt comfortable with the social welfare states prevalent in postwar Europe—welfare states that his fellow intellectuals strongly supported. This would lead some to believe that Aron’s take on politics and economics would be in opposition to that of libertarians who are, generally speaking, fierce advocates of less government intervention in social and economic matters. Aron’s philosophy, however, clearly reveals liberal underpinnings.

Given this apparent dichotomy, this paper will examine Aron’s liberal philosophy and compare it with modern American libertarianism. The first part of the paper explores the possible rationales underlying Aron’s liberal philosophy and details the major themes detectable in his writings. This will be followed by an examination of the primary tenets of libertarianism. In conclusion, an interpretation of the similarities between Aron’s philosophy and libertarianism will be offered in order to determine whether the former can be used to support the latter.

While I have had scads of letters to the editor published in the local press, penned a commentary posted by the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, and wrote opinion columns for the entire run of Athens Weekly News, this is my first peer-reviewed journal article. Kind of scary, huh?

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Paul Broun Out and About in Athens

The good doctor will be the featured guest at the Athens Bulldog Breakfast Club on Wednesday, 28 November. The breakfast takes place from 7:45 a.m. until 8:30 a.m. at the UGA Alumni Association Wray-Nicholson House, located at 298 South Hull Street.

That same day, there will be an open house at Broun’s new Athens district office from 2:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. The office is located at 3706 Atlanta Highway, Suite 3B. The telephone number is (706) 549-9588.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

I Like Bob Smith (and this is why)

State Representative Bob Smith of Watkinsville was quoted in today’s Banner-Herald, asking that the Unified Government’s total outdoor watering ban be modified so as to allow weekly watering of outdoor plants by hand for the expressed purpose of helping to keep the local green industry in business.

Though he mostly represents Oconee County, Smith’s District 113 includes all or portions of Athens-Clarke County precincts 1A, 1C, 1D, 6A, and 6C. Prior to the most recent House redistricting, precinct 1B (where I live) was in his district as well. Given that the green industry, in the form of nurseries and container growing, is a major factor in Smith’s district, especially in eastern Clarke County, I think that it is well within his purview to comment on local government actions that affect the residents and businesses located there. Fair enough - reasonable people can disagree over the desirability of any given policy.

Predictably, though, the ink on the newspaper was barely dry before the long knives came out all across the Athens area blogosphere. The problem with Smith is not that he tries to mandate how everyone else lives. Quite the contrary; the local left denigrates him precisely because Smith routinely admonishes the Unified Government not to engage in that very practice. And he represents many of the residents of Athens-Clarke County just as much as do the Mayor and Commissioners.

The real problem with Smith is that he has the temerity to say “NO” to our local politicians and their never-ending quests for more government and higher taxes. Through his position as a member of Athens-Clarke County’s legislative delegation in the General Assembly, he can periodically throw a wrench into the works – sometimes doing so with demonstrable glee. That is why I like him (in the political sense; I have known him for years and think that he is a good guy personally as well).

Smith’s supposed interference with local control irks the folks down at City Hall and their activist/progressive backers to no end. To them, though, "local control" seems to be nothing more than a euphemism for the continuing expansion of ordinances, restrictions, and fees concerning the homes, businesses, families, and now even the pets, of the county’s residents – and damn the costs in terms of our money or our freedoms.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Fleming on Richardson II

I attended the presentation State Representative and House Majority Whip Barry Fleming made on Monday evening to the Clarke County Republican Committee concerning the GREAT Plan (a.k.a the ”Glenn tax”).

This was my first opportunity to chat with Fleming; I found him to be a personable and inquisitive sort. He carried off his presentation well, making some valid points in favor of Richardson’s plan, which would eliminate property taxes by expanding the scope of the state’s sales tax (i.e., doing away with the 120 plus exemptions that currently exist). One of his points was that personal and family income were not keeping pace with the staggering increases in property taxes across the state. Another point was that, as the state’s economy had shifted away from a land-based one (agriculture) to an exchange-based one (services), the tax system had not been adjusted accordingly. So far, so good.

Even so, I find myself ambivalent about the plan. On the one hand, it appeals to me by virtue of being a consumption tax, which I find far more philosophically palatable than either income or property taxes. On the other hand, I am aware of some potential shortcomings of the plan, such as those brought up by my frequent partner in crime, John Marsh. He has serious concerns that fiddling with the particular method of tax collection will not affect the real problem inherent in governmental budgeting, namely the continued growth in spending. From an accountability standpoint, he also thinks it a bad idea to “decouple” those collecting the taxes (the state) from those spending them (local governments and school boards). Also, he thinks that taxing business to business transactions could put Georgia firms at a competitive disadvantage vis-à-vis their competitors in other states.

As one who has been a keen observer of government financing at the local and state levels, I think that John effectively counters some of the hype attached to the GREAT Plan. I fully support an overhaul of the state’s tax system, but remain to be convinced that this particular approach shold be it.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Impertinent Observations

Of course, had I won in District 1 last year, the reported water usage for my family, in both October 2006 and October 2007, would have been precisely zero. This is because, like those of so many other residents in the formerly unincorporated areas of the county, our home is not connected to the county’s water system. For us, the arguments over water usage, Plan F restrictions, and such are mostly academic in nature.

My hometown SCHS Indians (10-0, 6-0) defeated Elbert County 42-0 last Friday and start the playoffs by hosting Cedartown at The Reservation in Toccoa this week. The Indians are ranked #2 by the AP and #3 by the AJC. So far this season, SCHS has defeated six teams that made the playoffs: AA Dublin 28-27; AAA White County 30-7 (preseason), Apalachee 31-3, Oconee County 49-28, and Hart County 20-7; and AAAA Habersham Central 31-28.

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Thank A Veteran

We blogger types spout off on issues from all points of the political spectrum – and we do so without fear. We do not fear a knock at the door in the middle of the night; we do not fear losing our jobs; we do not fear having our families threatened. In many places around the world, though, people would not dare contemplate expressing their opinions in the manner that we routinely take for granted – just glance at the headlines.

I think that we, as a society, frequently forget that freedom such as this in not the norm in the world, nor has the freedom of political expression been the norm throughout history. Regardless of your politics, find a veteran and express your thanks for the freedom that we have.

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Friday, November 9, 2007

Cedar Shoals JROTC

Lest readers think that all I do is bitch about the Clarke County School District, I fully acknowledge that all is not doom and gloom. In a recent JROTC national competition held at Sandy Creek Park, the Cedar Shoals High School female team placed first, the mixed team placed fourth, and the male team placed tenth in their respective divisions. Congratulations to all of the students and faculty involved.

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Clarke County Charter School Dead?

I’m kind of ambivalent about this; not about the proposed charter school, which I strongly support, but about the manner in which the situation is unfolding. Since the DTAE denied the Clarke County School District’s grant application, the future of the proposed Athens Community Career Academy is in serious doubt.

The question that immediately sprang to my mind is “Why write a proposal for a charter school that is dependent on securing a specific grant?” On the other hand, I was not privy to the reasoning behind writing the proposal that way, so there may be a legitimate reason for it.

Is there a reason that a charter school should be dependent on DTAE funds? Given the profligate spending we have come to expect from the CCSD, not to mention its continuing series of budget amendments or the almost $12 million socked away earlier this year as contingency and reserve funds, why can’t the charter school be paid for out of the money we already have?

Also, I think that this particular OneAthens proposal is the one that showed the most promise for affecting real change on our community.

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Thursday, November 8, 2007

Paul Broun in the GuardDawg

Not much to say about this, other than that the editors of the Georgia GuardDawg chatted briefly with 10th District Congressman Paul Broun (also available as a PDF).

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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

CCSD Budget Amendments (again)

For the second month in a row, the Clarke County School District is poised to amend its 2007-2008 budget upward.

Readers may remember that last month, the CCSD spending plan increased by $694,870 (see Budget Amendments, the first item under New Business of the minutes adopted for 11 October) This month, the increase is an additional $117,700 (see item 2 under New Business).

To recap, the tentative budget proposed last May was $117,649,506 (plus another $10,940,264 in reserve and $750,000 in contingency funds). By the time the budget was actually adopted in June, it had increased to $118,290,754. With last month’s amendments, that total rose to $118,985,624. This month’s increase will bring the tally to $119,103,324 - almost a million and a half more dollars from where we started, and we are not even to Thanksgiving yet.

For what it is worth, the proposed increase for November includes $1500 for a “student poverty summit” being held by the Young Partners for a Prosperous Athens (YPPA); this comes on top of the $5000 approved last month to keep OneAthens, the successor organization to PPA, going until the end of the year (see Funding Support for OneAthens under New Business of the minutes adopted for 11 October).

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Impertinent Observations

Yes, I took the family to hear Boortz last night. If one is familiar with his positions on the issues of the day and conversant in the concept of the FairTax, his speech contained nothing new, but was fun nonetheless. See coverage here, here, and here.

Public Service Commission Chairman Bobby Baker recently won that civil suit challenging his residency. The victory comes as no surprise, as the suit seemed more of a nuisance action than a legitimate complaint.

My hometown SCHS Indians posted a 20-7 win over Hart County last Friday, the third ranked opponent to fall before the Indians this season. SCHS (9-0, 5-0) is currently ranked #3 in the AJC AAA poll and rounds out the regular season against Elbert County (1-8, 0-5) this coming Friday evening at the Granite Bowl

For what it is worth, my wife and I have decided to support Mike Huckabee in the GOP presidential primary. We have been sporting Huckabee car magnets for about a week now. More on presidential matters later.

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Monday, November 5, 2007

Fleming on Richardson

State Representative and House Majority Whip Barry Fleming, candidate for Georgia’s 10th District seat in Congress, will speak on the “Glenn Tax” (or the GREAT Plan if you prefer), as proposed by Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson, at the next meeting of the Clarke County Republican Committee. The meeting is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. on Monday, 12 November, at the Holiday Inn on Broad Street in downtown Athens.

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10th Congressional District

Just a few months after Paul Broun’s improbable election to fill the remainder of the late Charlie Norwood’s term, the 2008 contest for Georgia’s 10th Congressional District is anyone’s guess.

On the Democrat side:

Jackson County’s Bobby Saxon will open an Athens campaign office at 125 South Milledge Avenue tomorrow.

Blake blogs that former candidate Terry Holley of Columbia County has formed an "exploratory committee” to investigate a possible candidacy. Holley was blown out by Norwood back in 2006.

On the GOP side:

State Representative Barry Fleming of Harlem is challenging incumbent Broun for the Republican nomination.

And speaking of Broun, the good doctor from Oconee County has district offices, as opposed to campaign offices, in Athens (3706 Atlanta Highway, Suite 3B), Evans (4246 Washington Road, Suite 6), and Toccoa (560 Falls Road).

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Friday, November 2, 2007

Just Some Food For Thought

As I was perusing the Unified Government’s Code researching some things for an upcoming post (I know – that in and of itself pretty much forever consigns me to “nerd” status), I noticed Section 3-4-5 et seq. under Title 3 concerning Public Safety.

“So . . .why wound that be of interest?” you ask. Being the libertarian-leaning, ever suspicious-of-government type that I am, I let my mind wander just a bit – and in so doing realized how much power even the folks down at City Hall have over the lives of me and my family.

States the Code (just hitting the high points):

Whenever, in the judgment of the manager, it is determined than an emergency exists within Athens-Clarke County as a result of riots, riotous conduct or threat thereof, or other civil disobedience causing danger of injury to or damages to persons or property, he or she shall have the power to impose by proclamation any or all of the following regulations necessary to preserve the peace and good order of Athens-Clarke County

To impose a curfew upon all or any portion of Athens-Clarke County, thereby requiring all persons in the designated curfew areas to forthwith remove themselves from vacant premises, public streets, alleys, parks or other public places

To order the closing of any business establishments anywhere within Athens-Clarke County for such period, such businesses to include, but not be limited to, those selling alcoholic beverages, gasoline or firearms

To designate any public street, thoroughfare or vehicle parking areas closed to motor vehicle and pedestrian traffic

In the event of man-made or natural disaster, actual enemy attack upon the United States, or any other emergency which may affect the lives and property of the citizens of Athens-Clarke County, the manager may declare that an emergency or disaster exists and thereafter shall have and may exercise for such period as such emergency or disaster exists or continues, the following powers:

To seize or take for temporary use any private property for the protection of the public

To sell, lend, give or distribute all or any such property or supplies among the inhabitants of Athens-Clarke County

To perform and exercise such other functions and duties and take such emergency actions as may be necessary to promote and secure the safety, protection, and well-being of the inhabitants of Athens-Clarke County

The proclamation of an emergency . . . shall become effective upon its issuance and dissemination to the public by appropriate news media.

Any emergency proclaimed . . . shall terminate after 48 hours from the issuance thereof or upon the issuance of a proclamation determining that an emergency no longer exists, whichever occurs first; provided, that the emergency period may be extended for additional periods of time as determined necessary by resolution of the mayor and commission of Athens-Clarke County

Yikes. I realize verbiage such as that contained in our Code is probably routine boilerplate in county and municipal codes all over the country and that the likelihood of the Unified Government ever invoking such measures is minuscule. However, given situations such as those associated with Hurricane Katrina and the recent California wildfires, not to mention potential local situations such as an impending water shortage or an terrorist attack on whatever bio-research facility may end up here, one cannot rule the possibility out completely - and I think that it should give one pause.

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