Panorama of my town

Panorama of my town

Sunday, December 23, 2012

New Public Policy: Protect our Citizen

New Public Policy:   Guns in the hands of the civilian population banned in this country, effective immediately.  300 million privately held weapons and billions of rounds of ammunition confiscated and destroyed or donated to Local and National law enforcement agencies.  Immediate release of everyone in prison convicted on drug charges, so we have room in our prisons for anyone arrested with a gun.   

There was a time when many people in this country ‘believed’ that segregation was Constitutional and worked with great diligence to protect that notion; they bombed churches and innocent children, they turned water cannons on innocent people in the streets, they beat riders to freedom,  and they lynched beloved fathers and brothers.  Today, my 17 year old son cannot fathom that time of horrors bestowed by and upon our own citizens just because of the color or their skin.  He can see today, with benefit of hindsight given to him by decades of pain, that segregation was blatantly wrong and immoral.  He cannot imagine a world any different than the one he lives in now.

Today the ‘belief’ that citizens of this country have a Constitutional right to obtain and use a hand gun with 30 round clips is equally preposterous.  Just because the NRA has plastered lies all over the media, pandered to its members for over 130 years, and spends millions of dollars each year in national and state legislatures to protect their lies does NOT mean their interpretation of the Constitution is correct or moral.

Read the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution, don’t just listen to the rhetoric of the NRA. There is a reason why the founders of this country started that amendment with the words ‘A well regulated militia.’  They expected this country to have a citizen militia that was well trained and well regulated.  They had NO intention for anyone to be wondering around in public places with side arms like they were Jesse James or Adam Lanza.

The social implications and dynamics of such a ‘free-wheeling’ gun culture as we have today is immoral and is killing us. The cycle of violence it has created is killing our children and offering a false sense of security to the fearful.   Suggestions to escalate gun use, train MORE people to use and carry weapons, put more armed guards in our schools and permit concealed weapons in our most sacred spaces is a dangerous and desperate act by an organization who knows it’s time is done and is struggling to hold off the inevitable. 

Just because the NRA says it’s so, does not make it so. The NRA is a sham organization heavily supported and used as a mouthpiece by an industry that makes hundreds of billions of dollars every year in the manufacturing of weapons and ammunition and has NO other interest except to protect its own existence.  The arrogant NRA missed the opportunity a long time ago to advocate for better regulation and tracking of weapons and ammunition and now it is scrambling for its very existence.   Now it’s time for us to stop listening to its lies and fear-mongering rhetoric. 

Now is the time to protect our children.  

Now is the time to do the hard work. 

If we take action NOW then perhaps our children’s children will one day look back, the way my son does today, and feel a chill to their bone when they think how we once lived in a society that was so dangerous to its own citizens.    

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Who Can Rescue Georgia's State Democratic Party? rev

We desperately need a Champion prepared to fight for justice and a true Democratic platform in Georgia and we need that person NOW.  We need someone to take back our State Democratic Party from the incompetent hands of a Leader who has lost all credibility with the National Party and has insured this state will not turn blue (or even a darker shade of purple) in 2012.    Are you out there?

On October 3, Mike Berlon,Georgia Democratic Party Chair, released a press release after the first presidential debate between President Obama and Candidate Romney.  At best it was poorly written and a barely literate retort sent to thousands of Democrats across the State.  To be clear, while it may have been approved by Berlon, it was written by the State Party's 'Communication Director' which is more troubling still.

The Lumpkin County Democratic Party Chair, Mr Eugene Elander, who also happens to be a college professor of 53 years, published author and who has dedicated decades of his time and  leadership to the Democratic party in three states, in an email penned quickly in a futile attempt to stave off well deserved criticism about our Party's ineptitude, offered suggested edit. His email was met with the most inappropriate and ungrateful response I have ever read from both the author of the release and Mike Berlon personally.  No 'thank you for bringing these errors to our attention.' No 'Oops, clearly we were just giddy at the outcome of the event and still tipsy from drinking all night at Manuel's when we wrote this.'   Instead he was insulted and dismissed.

The press release can be found HERE(no surprise if it has been corrected).

I felt strongly about what I have been seeing and hearing over the last year and this seemed to be the last straw for me and I thought I'd let the good Mr. Berlon know how I felt - so I sent him an email of my own. 

sent October 5;
   Mike - I did not run again this year for my Fulton County Post Seat because of this type of ridiculous infighting at the State Party level and I hold you accountable for the loss of good people, important resources and vital local and national support. Your failure in leadership is profound and this is only the most recent example.  You have a reputation of hiring and keeping incompetent staff near you and driving off qualified and passionate party workers who express any dissenting opinions.  

This response by you and Eric to Mr. Elander is totally inappropriate. He was trying to save you from complete embarrassment - to no avail and no appreciation.  What Eric sent out to thousands of people was incompetent (especially for a Communications Director) and if you approved it, then so are you.   Now the whole email exchange is public!

Your public disputes with your own party staff, and National party and Obama election leadership are debilitating to all Democratic party activity in the State and common opinion is that progress in this vital Presidential election is happening IN SPITE of the State party rather than with the Party's support and cooperation. 

Vital Local and State elected officials overtly express to me their disdain for the current state of affairs with the State Party and with you in particular.    You are widely seen as ineffective and combative rather than collaborative, as a result your effectiveness in your current role is extremely limited. 

Agree or not with the outline of issues I have presented above, you cannot dispute the significant lack of confidence in your leadership and the loss of quality and committed staff and volunteers, like myself, due to your actions.  Please consider removing yourself from leadership of our State Democratic Party as soon as possible, for the good of the Party.

Anna Foote

 "There is no such thing as being non-political. Just by making a decision to stay out of politics you are making the decision to allow others to shape politics and exert power over you. And if you are alienated from the current political system, then just by staying out of it you do nothing to change it, you simply entrench it."  Joan Kirner at Women Into Power Conference, Adelaide, October 1994 

This is the response from Mr Berlon;

Thanks very much for your email.  Its clear that we disagree about many things but I respect your position.  
The email exchange with Mr. Elander was private. If it has become public it had nothing to do with me. 
We have had many email exchanges with Mr. Elander over the past several months.
I wish you well in your future endeavors.  Thanks for your service.

Mike Berlon
PS-I have copied Eric Gray on this as well since you referred to him in your email.

So here starts my search for a new Leader that I can trust, believe in and follow.  Here starts my campaign to find someone prepared to transform the State Party.  Here I am begging someone to come Forward for Georgia.  Here I plead with deposed, hard working and dedicated Democratic Party volunteers and humiliated staff to come forward and quit worrying about what the State Republicans will do with news that our party is disintegrating under Berlon's failure of leadership - psst...they already know!  We can't wait 2 more years - we need to do this now.

Here is my promise - if you step Forward, I'll step with you.  If you are ready to take back our State then I am ready to  fight with you. And by the way....I know of an army that will join us.  

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Ashes by Bud Foote (c)

Originally published June 2012.

A kind, gentle friend of mine lost his father just weeks before Father’s Day.   I have troubled over his loss since learning about it and the terrible timing.   I remember my first Father’s Day without my Papa and I wear a heavy weight in my chest each time the day comes around.  My heart ached for my friend as he struggled, like I had just a few years before, with the revelry and good wishes offered by strangers in the store checkout line and news anchors on TV encouraging us all to enjoy a day grilling out in the back yard  or offering suggestions about where to buy hand tools.

In 1974 my father, English Professor, author, songwriter, poet, and much more, wrote one of the most moving poems I have ever read on the somber and joyous occasion of the spreading of the ashes of Michelle Murray, a renowned poet and  dear life-long friend he had lost much too early.  I knew, but could barely speak, the words on the occasion when our family stood ankle deep in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico to insure that Bud would forever be a part of a place he loved so dearly.

Fathers are never really gone from us.  I reprint Bud’s poem after Father’s Day both to honor and remember my father, but also to share his gift of words with those whose fathers are here now only in our hearts.  Like Bud, these words are now forever ‘in the wind.’

And now you will be everywhere,
forever;  free from place and time,
fly on the winds.  Ash to tiny ash
to speck to fleck to molecule; in time
a molecule of you in every breath I breath:
from now until I die, ten thousand times a day
and in each word I speak, from now till death,
a flick a fleck a speck a particle from you
which now we scatter.  Fly.  Go free.
your bondage now is over.  We loved you.
We will love you.   Good bye today;  hello with every breath
from now forever.
Bud Foote ©

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Place At The Table

Tonight I had THE most disconcerting conversation I have had in years.  It's no secret, all things being equal and a few things forgiven, I will support a female candidate over a male candidate in ANY race, ANYwhere, ANYtime.

I have been clear about this position.  Women number slightly over 50 percent of the population but in this country occupy only about 17 percent of the elected offices. It has been approximately the same percentage for the last 30 years!  How can women help decide what's on the menu, if we aren't even at the table?   I understand why women are reluctant to run and I even sympathize.  Children. Career. Community. Church.  Women get involved in so very many things that make an enormous difference in the lives of their family and community every day. Why on Earth would a perfectly sane woman expose herself to scrutiny and hyper-inspection that would be required of her and her family to run for public office?  Why would she take a cut in pay to work MORE hours and ask her family to do with less?  Why would she suffer the indignities of the intrusion on her personal life that comes with public office?  Why indeed?

That said, I will do whatever I can to convince and support good women to step up and accept all of that insanity in order to be at the table and in a position to support the issues of women and families.   I'm even preparing to support a Republican woman (the first in my life), Regina Quick, to run against that idiot Doug McKillop (who authored HR954 and has put my ObGyn in danger of losing his practice and perhaps becoming a criminal for helping his own patients) because Regina will support and defend a woman's right to choice in this State.  She is prepared to be moderate and sane in her approach to choice.  She understands that this is not a 'liberal platform' issue, rather she knows it's about the preservation of a woman's right to make decisions over own body.  We need more women to offer moderation in the Georgia General Assembly. 

And then I have this heartbreaking conversation tonight with a smart, African-American man who is currently in the GA Legislature, whom I respect a great deal and is running a hard race against a smart, capable African-American women also currently serving in the GA General Assembly.   Both arguably good legislators who know and support women's issues and vote progressive.  Both would serve their newly drawn district well. 

When he called tonight to ask for my support I was very clear with him, 'all things being equal, I will support the woman in any race, even when it’s not my district.'  and as much as I know he didn't need to hear the details, I educated him just the same about the 17 percent, about the loss of my right to choose, about the War on Woman, about our need to be at the table with the menu.   He professed that he was equally capable of supporting women's issues. He questioned why I would 'blindly' support a woman over a qualified man JUST because she was a woman. How it was unfair and how he felt discriminated against.   He told me 'I support women's rights' and repeatedly said 'I have a wife and a daughter so I understand women's issues ' and even mentioned how he's 'a member of a women's group.'  Really, he all but said 'some of my best friends are women.'  Do you hear what I just heard?  

He could not hear himself.  I could not make him hear me.  But I will keep trying to help him hear because he IS a good man.  This is not a 'men vs women' thing. This is about women standing up for ourselves.  This is about making sure there is diversity in the conversation and at the GA Assembly. This is about putting women at the table with menu in hand.  

I wish I could I make him understand that I love men, some of my best friends are men, but women can no longer send a male representative to the table for us - we must demand the right to be at the table and speak for ourselves.  There will be some fantastic women on the ballot this year so I ask my sisters and my brothers (including the one I implored tonight) to join this ATLGal and vote for more women to be at the table.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

To Step Mom's on Mother's Day

I wrote this last year and will happily re-post so that all the Step Moms know that you are appreciated and loved.  

I’m going to be 50 years this September and I live with my Step Mom.  Yup!  Well, to be clear she lives in the upstairs unit of our duplex and I live downstairs.  But we have keys to each other’s homes, from time to time we eat together, we drink wine and get caught up, we share dishes and furniture when one or the other of us is having a large gathering of friends, we run errands for one another and generally are the best of friends.

Ruth Anne came into my life at a time of great turmoil and brought with her a calm and confidence (and a much needed sense of humor) I really needed.  From the time I first met her when I was eight years old she has been my role model for the ‘perfect step mom.’  Close enough to offer support but not too close to challenge my biological mother.  Giving and caring and loving and kind, she maintained a gentle reality about who we are in each other’s lives while starting her own life and family with my father, all the while giving me much needed comfort around this new arrangement.  I grew to love her very much and call her mom without the ‘step.’

Her home was always open to me, the 'step daughter', without condition or reservation.   Her home always felt like my home, too.  As I transitioned into adulthood, so transitioned our relationship.  My wedding was performed in her home, Christmas’ and Thanksgiving dinners with my growing family were at her home.  In fact, so very many of the most important events of my life happened in her home. 

When father retired and they prepared to transition to that next stage of their lives she and I ‘conspired’ to co-op the family home, an existing duplex, so she and father moved into the smaller unit and my family and I moved into the larger.  The arrangement could not have been more perfect for both families.  And my love and admiration for Ruth Anne continued to grow as she embraced my young son as her own grandson, no reservations, to hesitation.  Not her ‘step grandson’ but her own, lavishing him with all the love any grandmother offers her own.

When father passed, Ruth Anne and I stood holding hands, in our home, and knew without speaking the words, that our love and friendship was so strong it would hold us in each other’s lives, even though we had just lost our ‘common thread.’  And 6 years later, it certainly has.  

We enjoyed Easter dinner with this beautiful extended family on our ‘joint’ family deck this year and as Ruth Anne and I combined our efforts to prepare the meal for sons and step sons and brothers and step brothers and children and grandchildren, we saw only one big beautiful family and by the look in her eyes as we stole a moment’s glance across the table, I knew she was thinking the same thing I was;  we are truly blessed. 

Happy Mother’s Day to all the Step Moms. 

....yes, this is a week early so you will remember to get that card into the mail and those flowers ordered on time  :-)   

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

There Is No Such Thing As Being Non-Political

Do you know if you are registered to vote in Georgia?
Do you know what NEW State and local districts you live in (the lines have moved, folks!)?
Do you know where to vote?  Do you know WHEN to vote?
Do you want to see a Sample Ballot?
Go here to find out I'M SO SMART

I gotta tell you something, I am about as sick and tired as I can be with people I meet griping and complaining about stupid politicians and bad legislation and right in middle of the conversation I find out they have no idea who their State Representative is, NEVER volunteered on a campaign and rarely vote!  It infuriates me so much it makes me want to punch them right in the nose.   Generally, I take the high road and just turn and walk away.  Generally.

My friend Melanie has a name for these people; 'Slacktivists.'

Joan Kirner was quoted at Women Into Power Conference, Adelaide, October 1994 as saying "There is no such thing as being non-political. Just by making a decision to stay out of politics you are making the decision to allow others to shape politics and exert power over you. And if you are alienated from the current political system, then just by staying out of it you do nothing to change it, you simply entrench it."

Oh Joan, truer words were never spoken.

Doing nothing but bitching about the political circus going on around you won't make it go away, but it WILL insure that you sound like an idiot.

Ignoring or dismissing the political activities in your community will only insure that you can NOT make a difference in your community.  You have very little influence if you don't even know your elected officials by name. How can you call them out if you can't call the up?

For sure, if you abdicate then others will decide your quality of life.  Others will spend your tax dollars and make decisions on how you spend your money.  Others will benefit from your lack of participation.  And then its complain, kvetch, condemn and you sound so ignorant.

Seriously, if you want to critique a football game, I don't expect you to have played football but I DO expect you to have at least watched one damn game!

Do us all a favor - if you won't put some skin in the game then shut up.  If you can't tell me what Congressional district you live in then zip it.  If you have NEVER attend even ONE City Council or School Board meeting then button it up.  If you haven't voted in the last 2 election cycles then just sit down and let the adults talk.

Get smart - get involved.  Then you will have the tools and intelligence to have a smart conversation about process, candidates and elected officials and the stupid decisions they make.  Use the link above to get started.  Call your local political party State headquarters in Georgia (Google it) and ask them who is running for what offices in your particular state and local districts.  If you want some suggestions on who's campaign to work on, give me call - of course, I have an opinion! (wink)

Then pick up the phone and volunteer on at least ONE campaign. Put out yard signs, answer the phone, make phone calls, bring cookies, wash dishes, attend events and hand out buttons and PLEASE write a check to support your candidate.   Volunteering on a campaign is easy and its temporary, but it is very empowering. Then come tell me what is ailing you about an elected official or a really terrible law and I promise I won't punch you in the nose.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The 'New' Georgia Republican Logic

There is a 'new' logic that I have recently had an opportunity to learn and I thought I'd share it with you.  It's unique and creative and it has taken me a while to wrap my head around it, but after a full day at the Georgia legislature this week, I am beginning to understand.

I have several women friends in the Legislature who have tried, on a few occasions, to explain the 'new' logic to me, but I just could not figure out what they were talking about.  I took one Logics class at GSU many years ago and had a similar problem so I just figured it was me and I didn't worry on it too much.  But after the 'intensive' I went through on Monday under the Gold Dome I NOW understand it, and I gotta tell you it scares the hell out of me.

As such, I feel it is my obligation to explain it to you, not to scare you but to warn you to be careful because its a trap and you will get hurt if you get caught in it, especially if  you are a woman or if you love a woman.

Now first, according to the 'all knowing' Wikipedia the definition of Logic goes like this:  “ Logic (from the Greek λογική logikē) is the philosophical study of valid reasoning. Logic is used in most intellectual activities, but is studied primarily in the disciplines of philosophy, mathematics, semantics, and computer science. It examines general forms which arguments may take, which forms are valid, and which are fallacies.  Logic is often divided into three parts, inductive reasoning, abductive reasoning, and deductive reasoning.”

Continuing to cut and paste from Wikipedia I offer you an explaination of each of the types of reasonings:
Inductive reasoning, also known as induction, is a kind of reasoning that constructs or evaluates propositions that are abstractions of observations of individual instances of members of the same class. Inductive reasoning contrasts with deductive reasoning in that a general conclusion is arrived at by specific examples.

Abduction is a kind of logical inference described by Charles Sanders Peirce as "guessing".The term refers to the process of arriving at an explanatory hypothesis. Peirce said that to abduce a hypothetical explanation  from an observed surprising circumstance is to surmise what may be true because then it  would be a matter of course.  For example, the lawn is wet. But if it rained last night, then it would be unsurprising that the lawn is wet. Therefore, by abductive reasoning, the possibility that it rained last night is reasonable.

And finally

Deductive reasoning,  is reasoning which constructs or evaluates deductive arguments.  Deductive arguments are attempts to show that a conclusion necessarily follows from a set of premises or hypotheses. A deductive argument is valid if the conclusion does follow necessarily from the premises, i.e., the conclusion must be true provided that the premises are true. A deductive argument is sound if it is valid and its premises are true. Deductive arguments are valid or invalid, sound or unsound. Deductive reasoning is a method of gaining knowledge. An example of a deductive argument:
All men are mortal
Socrates is a man
Therefore, Socrates is mortal

Got it?  Great.  

Now I call the ‘new’ Republican logic ‘Fuctuptive Reasoning.'   Fuctuptive reasoning is the self-righteous and narcissistic argument that Republicans use to oppress anyone who does not look like them, think like them or have their privilege.  Using fuctuptive reasoning, the government should be limited and small when it comes to them and their business but government should be all in your business if you are not one of ‘them.’   An example that follows this premise, i.e, if a Republican woman gets pregnant and she has access to all the finest health care resources that money can buy then she gets to make whatever decisions she desires about her own body, but a woman of limited means and education will do what she is told because a Republican legislature knows what best for her. 

This is also their reasoning behind immigration reform and education.  'I am rich so I can live where ever I want but you are poor so you need to stay where you are.  If you come here to pick my fruit just don't get caught.'  And,  'I can buy the best education in the world but you will get what I give you in public schools and like it or take these tax-payer funded vouchers and attend a for-profit charter school run by one of my buddies.'

Get it?

Now I know this is kind of a complex ‘new’ logic and if you are like me you probably just don’t get it right now. Not to worry, you are not dumb or slow, you are just not a Republican and you probably need to just sit down and shut up because they are in charge at the State Capitol so they get to make the rules that follow their logic.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The fanaticism behind Ga.’s pending abortion law | Jay Bookman

Read this and you will be clear that this is in fact a war on women.
The fanaticism behind Ga.’s pending abortion law | Jay Bookman

How a Woman Becomes an Incubator for the State

When does a woman (you, your sister, your daughter, your lover, your friend) become nothing but an incubator? If passed, Georgia HB954 would mandate that, if a woman discovers in the 20th week of her pregnancy the fetus she is carrying will probably not live to full term or will die shortly after delivery, she MUST continue that pregnancy whether she wants or not, or become a criminal.

She will NOT have the personal right or freedom to end an unwanted pregnancy and will become a living and unwilling incubator, relegated to nothing more than a slave to the will of State of Georgia. Her doctor would be a criminal to even suggest she has the option to end the pregnancy and could go to prison for up to 10 years for actually performing a merciful end to a tragic situation. The author of this draconian legislation does not deny the reality this situation and in fact he is quite pleased at the prospect. I heard it with my own ears, between the gasps of women in the room around me and the sound of the blood pounding in my head.

On Monday, March 19, 2012, I sat in meeting room 450 at the State Capitol of Georgia in utter disbelief as the Senate Health Committee took a voice vote (so the record would not reflect who voted how) to send the most horrific legislation that I have ever witnessed to the floor for a vote. And if it passes, women will lose the right to make their own health decisions and will have no one to blame but themselves.

The author of this war on women and families, would have you believe that his legislation is an effort to avoid ‘fetal pain’ but don’t believe his lies. It is red herring argument with no scientific evidence behind it. This legislation is intended to enslave a woman and MAKE her carry an unwanted baby or suffer the consequence. It is government control over her body. It is an attack on her right to privacy and to make her own decision about her health care. It is medieval and barbaric.

But there is more. This legislation is also intended to torture and cause extreme bodily damage to a woman who, to save her own life, must have an abortion after 20 weeks of gestation. Should the mother’s life be in danger this ‘merciful’ legislation would permit an emergency abortion, but MADATES the exact cesarean procedure a doctor must perform. A woman and her doctor would not even have the option to choose how to deliver the fetus. She will be cut from her navel to her pubic bone and flayed open in THE most dangerous manner. Her recovery will be longer and more painful. She runs the risk of never having more children. She will carry a visible scar (a scarlet letter) for the rest of her life.

Sadly there is even more. A woman’s mental health cannot be a determining factor after 20 weeks when a physician is helping a woman, and her family, determine if she should continue the pregnancy.  A woman with severe depression or mental illness would be forced to do something she may not even be capable of totally comprehending and putting a burden on her family, or perhaps the State.

Also, there is NO provision for exception for a woman impregnated due to rape or incest. Seriously.

No, I am not exaggerating. This step backwards 50 years will likely happen. This attempt to enslave and torture women at the requirement of the State of Georgia is real and it could very well happen this session.

To be clear, this is not just a politically motivated anti-choice bill. You do not have to be pro-choice to know this is all out war against a woman’s right to manage her own health care. There is no compelling medical reasoning or scientific evidence to support the need for this legislation. In that meeting room we heard testimony after testimony from Physicians, ObGyns, nurses, constitutional law professors, all attesting to the fact that it is bad public policy to criminalize doctors for helping a woman make her own health decision, the premise of ‘fetal pain’ at 20 weeks is a fallacy, selecting a timeline to deny an abortion is arbitrary and the defense of this legislation will cost Georgia taxpayers millions to defend in court.

But be VERY clear, if HB 954 passes the shame is ours, women. We brought this disasterous situation and have no one to blame but ourselves.

Joan Kirner at Women Into Power Conference, Adelaide, October 1994 said, "There is no such thing as being non-political. Just by making a decision to stay out of politics you are making the decision to allow others to shape politics and exert power over you. And if you are alienated from the current political system, then just by staying out of it you do nothing to change it, you simply entrench it."

Women make up fully half the population but less than 17% of the elected policy makers in the country. By not being present in the room to have our voices heard we give up and give over vital personal and family rights to those who will control our decisions about our personal health care. We are responsible if we and our families do not have the right to decide our own fate.

To disengage out of disgust with ‘the corrupt system’ or to beg ignorance of the process, or to act with elitist distain for politics, is to have your rights taken away from you and to find yourself, or a woman you love, relegated to nothing more than an incubator.

If you can pick ONE moment to step out and rise up, then THIS must be your moment. What other moment could be more important? If not now, then when? We CAN stop this. We MUST stop this.

Call your own Senator and call the Lt. Governor, Casey Cagle. 404.656.5030 Here is the link to find your Senator.  After you fill out the name, county and DOB, click to next page. Near the bottom of that page is the link to your Senator.

Call him or her and demand they oppose HB954. Be sure to let them know you are in their district.

Here is the link if you want to read HB954 for yourself.

It will take MASSIVE numbers of voices to stop this legislation and protect a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions. Please pass this along to your friends and family within Georgia. Send this quickly to people who love women and support a woman’s right to make these incredibly difficult and heartbreaking decisions in the privacy of her home with their family and physician. Please do it now.

UPDATE AS OF MARCH 26, 2012.  HB 954 passed in the Senate but because 2 amendments were attached it has been sent back to the House.  Call your Representative and her/him them to FIGHT FOR WOMEN'S RIGHTS!!!!

UPDATE AS OF APRIL 2:  HB 954 passed out of the Senate and is now headed to Gov for signature.  Call 404-656-1776 and tell Deal you want him to VETO the legislation.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Thank You to My 3rd Grade Teacher, Mrs Thrasher

My heart is broken as I read about the firing of teacher, Mr. Lewis from Parks Middle School, today. How did this gentle man, who clearly loved teaching and inspiring the young minds he taught, find himself in this predicament?  What lead him to stand today in front of an APS tribunal begging for leniency?  

“We were told failure was not an option," said Mr. Lewis.  Clearly, he understood what was meant by 'failure' in this case.   It meant test scores.  But, in fact failure was ALL that happened.  The children were failed.  The community was failed.  The trust in our school system was failed.  The faith in our teachers was failed.  The confidence in our leaders was failed.

I sat in tears as I listened to his heartfelt plea, not just for himself, but for all the teachers who lost their bearing and drifted to the wrong meaning of 'failure.'  Our heroes, our mentors, our role models, had been so badly tormented and 'damaged' under the strain of horrific leadership that they chose to make incredibly bad decisions rather than leave the children they love.  My soul was crushed when Mr. Lewis said "Let us not crucify the teachers, and act like there weren't and aren't systematic problems that need to be addressed all the way up."

He is right.  APS is top heavy and the branches need to be thinned, for sure.  APS has lost its moral direction and needs to get set back on course.  But, it should be telling to any observer that the first person fired is a black, male teacher who stood up and fully confessed what he did and fully explained how he had been compelled to do so.  There he stood bravely, with tears in his eyes, recounting his story, facing the very people who put that burden on his back.  

I am not saying he was right.  What he did was wrong and there is no excuse to fail our children.  Yes, he should be fired.  Do tell me, how does such righteous indignation help our children?  I'm just wondering because I see the ax has fallen where it often does, on the ones who are the least egregious.  

Mrs. Thrasher was my 3rd grade teacher.  I adored her.  In my eyes she was perfect.  She was pretty.  She was kind.  She made me feel smart and protected.  To this day, I remember her so fondly that I am moved when I think of my days in her classroom.  

Thank you Mrs. Thrasher, and thank you to all the teachers who have loved and inspired the children in your care for your entire careers.  You deserve better.  You are worth more than you are given.  Please don't give up in fear or exasperation, because 40 years from now a child in your classroom today will remember what you meant to him or her and will be a better person because of the difference you make in their life right now.   

As a side note:  My son will graduate from Grady High School next year.  He has attended only Atlanta Public Schools.  I am grateful to every one of his teachers over the last 11 years.  Thank you.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Morning Walk with Loki on the Beltline

ATLGal and Loki headed out this morning to get caught up on the progress of the NE Beltline trail construction and we thought we'd share a few photos of the progress.

We were thrilled with what we saw and are eager for more warm morning walks.

shshshsh....don't tell anyone we were on the path without our hardhats!

Above; Well, still a bit of a daring walk across Ponce bridge, but certainly safer than it used to be.   We used to have to walk on the narrow rails and you could see straight down to the street between the rails. :-)  Note the broken sign on the right of the bridge.  Great fun as a kid, but it was a bit nerve wracking as an adult -LOL.

Above; On North Ave. Bridge with a bit of graffiti and and urban camper.  
Old Sears Building, now Ponce City Market, on the right

Above;  Looking west up North Ave.  
That parking deck at Ponce City Market on the right
 is going to be history very soon! 

Above; Great skyline view over the old Excelsior Mill 
(aka; The Masquerade) 

Above; Graded and ready for pouring the path at Poncey-Highland.

Above; Poncey-Highland does have some wonderful urban Art near the Beltline.  
Look at this colorful wall at our skate park off of North Ave (yes, behind the barbed wire).

Below; passionate and strong imagery on two walls of one building on Sommerset.

Below: a warning to train riders hanging out 'alfresco'  as they approach the 
old Sear building warehouse - DUCK!!!

Get ready - the Beltline is going to open up a whole new world to the residents of, and visitors to, Atlanta.  

Friday, March 9, 2012

There Once was A Sears Parking Deck

I guess I thought the Sears Building had ALWAYS been on Ponce de Leon, like since at least Sherman's army came rambling through or something. It certainly was there all through my childhood and I spent a lot of time in it. We po' folk who lived off of Ponce in the 60s and 70s bought our clothes in the basement and housewares from the catalog store. As our parents waded through rows and rows of clothing racks we played and bounced and bobbed in and out of the racks, under the colorful clothes and across the dirty carpet floors. I learned all about catalog sales in that building - browsing through catalogues thicker than my school books and eagerly picking out my Christmas wish list items.

It just looks like it is a forever part of Atlanta, I suppose. Imposing and ever present, taking up several blocks of two major streets. Did I hear the tower is actually 135 feet tall? That's waaay bigger than it appears - probably because it sits down in a 100 foot deep hole between Freedom Parkway to the east and Boulevard to the west. It looks to me to have a million bricks and a thousand windows. OK maybe not that many, and I'm sure someone at Greestreet has counted, but I know its a lot.

Well, it’s a little smaller now. Did you notice the mess on Ponce de Leon? I drove by the building this week and gasped out loud at the hole at the corner of Ponce and Glen Iris Blvd. You know I really thought I'd be happy to see that terrible old, dark deck torn down. I told people I'd throw a 'Tear It Down' party and gladly supply the sledge hammers - Kit Southerland and I would have to draw straws to see who took the 1st swing! But instead, my heart sank and I nearly ran the car off the road for staring at the gaping hole in the side of the building.

And the memories came flooding back. So permit me just one minute for an Ode to a Deck....I will remember the dark, dank smell of the deck with black, oil stained floors and badly painted parking spaces, hated by our parents but totally ignored by us children eagerly heading into the building to pick out my new school clothes. Those terrible speed bumps that messed up car suspensions felt like a roller coaster to us! I remember there were always cars in the deck. Cars of employees who worked in the mysterious floors above. I never thought much about them at the time but someone was filling our orders and sending them down the shoot while we waited impatiently below. There were accountants, cleaning crew, payroll clerks, managers and secretaries, all busily making a living above our heads. Big burly men came and went from the gym with heavy bags over their shoulders. That deck took care of their cars, it supported life once. It served a purpose.

So now it’s gone....or going. There's a webcam on the roof of a bar across the street pointed at the crumbling parking deck and you can watch its demise. It’s not as cute as the Panda-cam but there is more action :-)    Watch the Demolition Here

Kit got the first piece of rubble that Katharine Kelly of Greenstreet Properties pulled down for her from the side of the deck using the bulldozer you can see in the webcam signaling the official start of deck demolition. I got my piece of rubble yesterday. My personal memorabilia of The Deck. My chunk of history.

Cannot say this ATLGal is gonna miss that deck.  The new life coming to that corner will be ever so much better and brighter.  But in Atlanta we are rather cavalier about tearing things down without stopping for just a moment to reflect on what was there and the value it once had.  Thank you Old Sear Deck, for serving us well while you were here.  Good ridden. 

Facebook link to Ponce City Market

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A Tale from Ponce de Leon

There was once an abortion clinic on Ponce de Leon at Juniper Street.  I remember learning about it in1979.  Behind it were the offices of the Council on Battered Women.  With its secret, cramped offices and counselors with limited resources, but good hearts and good intentions, the Council and its attached shelter offered hidden bedrooms weighed down by waiting lists filled with the names of desperate women and children needing protection from horrific lives.  The abortion clinic and the shelter anchored a block of quiet, intense sadness at the end (or beginning, perhaps) of a 2 ½ mile trail of despair that defined Ponce de Leon in those day.  It was a quiet corner.  A dark corner.  The irony of the two facilities huddled so close together was lost on no one.
The unassuming Midtown Hospital was housed in a once grand, brick home with towering white columns on a large corner lot facing onto Ponce.  No signs in the yard announced what went on behind the grand entrance.  No advertisements in the newspaper solicited the unfortunate business.  Nevertheless, it was always busy and the license plates on the cars in the small parking lot hidden in the back were not all from Georgia.
A plain, unmarked door at the rear of the building led to a waiting room that looked less like a hospital and more like a DMV waiting room.  The staff had kind eyes that had simply seen too much.  They had strong and authoritative voices dulled by the repetition.  The clients waited mostly quiet and lost in their own thoughts, accompanied by a spouse, a boyfriend, or a family member.  Or they sat alone, each contemplating the numb reality of that very moment in their lives. 
Oregon 1976; the first clinic bombing, then another in Ohio, 1978.  By 1983, there were hundreds of incidents of vandalism and threats on clinics and doctors.  The staff knew it.  The clients knew it.  The City’s leaders knew it.  Everyone just stood still, held their breath, and hoped it all would pass.
Then “street interventions” began and clinics across the country, including Midtown Hospital, hired armed protection and welcomed volunteers who took shifts escorting clients safely through the onslaught of pamphlets and hateful messages from their cars to the plain door.  I did not tell my family I had volunteered.  They would have understood and even supported me, but they would have worried and I didn’t want them to worry.
The media got wind.  The public became aware.  The intensely private actions taking place inside those walls were rattled by radicals with an agenda but no compassion or comprehension.  Staff’s eyes saw things very differently now.  Bomb threats emptied the hospital of everyone except the doctor and one nurse caring for the woman still on a table in the middle of taking back her life. 
Then, overnight, the hospital and the women’s shelter were gone from Ponce de Leon.  The light had become too bright on that corner.  Women’s shame is best left in darker, quieter spaces.  Downtown expansion into Midtown, and a lot of developer money, made the decision easy, quick, and painless for public officials and proper society.  
As recently at 2009, Dr. Tiller was shot and killed in Kansas because he offered women in his care a choice.  In January of THIS year (2012), a family planning clinic in Florida was bombed with a Molotov cocktail.  Legislation is on the docket in almost every state, including Georgia, proposing to limit a woman’s right to control her own body and her own life.   Legislation to keep women under control and in the dark.
This ATLGal believes the struggle to protect a woman’s right to choose what to do with her own body and how to care for her children ebbs and flows in and out of the light, but the reality of women’s lives continues to be kept dark and violently controlled.   The recent throw down between Susan G Kolmen and Planned Parenthood shed some light and I cannot help but delight in the lesson learned; if you bring the fight onto the open streets then good women and men are prepared to go to battle.  That is so cool.  Let’s take it to the street, not just onto Ponce de Leon. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Conversation

City Council President Ceasar Mitchell and I have a lot in common.  We were both born and raised in Atlanta.  They were two very different Atlantas, his on the west side and mine on the east, but we had much in common, nonetheless.  He and I were innocent children at a time when Atlanta was losing population and the City seemed to be shrinking around us.  He experienced the tail end of Black migration to the north and west.  I witnessed white flight to the suburbs.  But we both had parents’ who stayed; his mother a teacher, my father a professor – both families contributing to their communities.  They instilled in us a love for our City and a dedication that comes from staying.
Jane hosted the Alliance of Intown Neighbors meeting at her home in Midtown last week and Ceasar was our guest.  I have wondered in and out of this informal group of neighborhood leaders and influencers over the years but find I am more in than out these days.  I love our ‘living room’ chats with City, County and State elected representative.  They get 2 hours in an intimate setting to interact in a way they generally don’t get to experience in their very public life.  We get to freely express our informed concerns and our sincere appreciations.  No snarky comments or cheap shots. We are grown-ups and it’s a safe space to converse.  As a result, we often have very frank and genuine conversations. 
Our evening with Ceasar was just that; genuine, and he went there with us honestly, as the conversation turned to the inevitable issue of APS redistricting.  Our normal attendance of between 6 and 8 was far exceeded to standing room only in Jane’s shrinking living room.  Kind but troubled minds representing neighborhoods flung far and wide across the City expressed their exasperation and exhaustion at the process and at APS.  My heart skipped a beat as I watched Ceasar take a moment to show that charming smile as he dropped his chin just a bit.  Would he remind everyone in that room that he was the son of an APS teacher?  Could I see behind that smile a hint of pain at the conflict this processes was causing in his City? 
We bantered back and forth with him as he told us about the Council’s struggle with the question of APS.  Some wanted greater action while others were more cautious.  Concerned homeowners expressed their worry about a further depression of already low home prices.  Neighborhood leaders want a resolution to unused and boarded up APS properties.  Parents of children who might be redistricted to ‘less desirable’ schools were too obvious.  But Ceasar was steady in his responses ‘where can the City influence this conversation, appropriately?’  But as the conversation drew on, a moment of complete honestly presented itself and I will be eternally grateful for that safe space and Ceasar’s genuine heart, “the real issue,” he says directly and with full voice “is that we are not prepared to have ‘the conversation’.” And because I had been raised in our two Atlantas, I knew instantly what he meant.  And he was right, of course. 
We are still not ready to have that conversation, and my heart has been heavy with the reality of his words ever since.  We have a lot in common, Ceasar Mitchell and I.  I have not asked him, but I think he would agree.  We love our City but we know its limitations…..and we stay, like our parents before us.  Ceasar stays because he can influence it.  He stays because he is prepared to do the hard work. 
Perhaps Ceasar, if we just stay long enough, perhaps one day soon we will make a safe space to have ‘the conversation,’ and I really want to be here when it happens.  So, like you, this ATLGal stays and looks forward to more conversations with you in Jane's living room. 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Georgia Deserve Better and Always Has

The rally at noon on Saturday kicking off the Georgia Democratic Party’s new campaign was fantastic – the weather was perfect, the energy was strong, there was excitement in the air.  The new Democratic leadership in Georgia are energizing the base in a way I can’t recall I have ever seen before.  Inclusive behavior, creative thinking, holding to real progressive principles – I can’t stop thinking that if we had only had this leadership in 2007 how we could have turned Georgia blue.   

The message that ‘Georgia Deserves Better’ is powerful and right on target.  Georgia DOES deserve better and always has.  

This had definitely been ‘the week of the Democrats.’  The Republicans are doing our job for us on the National stage and the President’s State of the Union speech has launched us officially into the political season that is rallying the Democratic party all across the country.

Last week we Mid-Fulton Democrats hosted a State of the Union Speech Watch Party at a neighborhood bar because greasy food and beer goes great with just such an event!  A writer with The Patched blogged about us all night long from the next booth - taking pictures and asking us questions throughout the night.   It was an electrifying evening and as I sat there celebrating our President I was taken back almost four years earlier to Invesco Stadium and the thrill of sitting in that arena with 80,000 of my closest friends and the greatest pride I had ever felt about ‘my party.’

I loved his speech last week. I revealed in the supportive conversation and banter between my fellow Democrats as we hooped and hollered in support of our President.  But I was particularly moved by a poignant moment that happened between two of my companions that put it all into perspective for me.  One young and bright and energetic and rather new to Georgia politics, the other an older, long time progressive activist from the north. 

As we awaited the start of the speech the older woman mentioned as to how she had seen a Facebook page for ‘Yellow Dog Democrats’ and asked those of us working with the Democratic Party about that group.  Clearly, she knew the history of “Yellow Dogs” in this State and was confused that they had such a proud presence in the face of the ‘new’ Democratic south.  A humiliating history which she began to expound upon – a party that would ‘rather vote for a yellow dog than the damn Republican Yankees who freed our slaves and ruined our economy.’  An error I find frequently made by well-meaning northerners who come to the south and want to remind us of our dark past and greatest humiliations as we work so hard to exercise those demons and make a brighter future. 

My younger companion was taken aback.  She made it clear, very quickly, that in fact SHE had helped organize that newly formed group and seemed baffled and confused by the expressed distain.  I love this part – she immediately pulled out her smart phone and did a Google search.  Wikipeadia!  Her history lesson now a little more complete with 3rd party corroboration, she quickly informed our northern companion that THIS yellow dog group was not THAT yellow dog group at all.  My heart ached for her as her pride for the group's hard work was stained by the reality of a Democratic party history that she had never connected with, because she only had today’s Democratic party as a frame of reference.

I am thrilled that today’s Democrats are NOT the Democrats of my youth and the VAST majority of Georgia’s past.  Those Democrats supported draconian laws and morals.  Those Democrats supported Jim Crow laws and ‘equal but separate’ schools.  Those Democrats were closeted Republicans. Georgia Deserves Better and always had.  

Today REAL Democrats, like my young companion, can give Georgia what it deserves.  Compassion, resources, fairness, equity for its citizens – ALL its citizens.  We are making a new name for the Democratic Party in Georgia.  We are exercising the demons of our past and making today’s Democratic Party the REAL progressive party it should have always been.

I am proud of my young companion because in her own way she is casting out the negative past of the old Democratic Party of Georgia by reclaiming and rebranding the new ‘Yellow Dog’ label to be something we can be proud of, rather than a shameful reminder of our past to be found in Wikipedia.   I like the new Democratic Party leadership in Georgia and support our new rally cry. 

The ATLGal agrees, Georgia Deserves Better.

                                            Emily Schunior, Chair, Fulton County Democrats

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I Lost the Hyatt Regency

I was on the 10th floor of the Sloppy Floyd Building today and I could not find the Hyatt Regency Hotel.  Has anyone seen it lately?   I was sure when I went to the window I'd see it and that old familiar building would take me back to my childhood and I'd point at it and tell my companion about how I used to ride round and round in circles inside the blue dome....but it wasn't there. Very disconcerting.

The evening before I had a wonderful conversation with a cute, young bartender in a bar a block off of Ponce about what downtown looked like when I was a child.  My girlfriend had gotten caught in traffic - that Freedom Parkway light at Boulevard is a real bummer.  After she arrived, I reminded her that Edgewood and Decatur are ever so much more efficient when coming from downtown at that hour.

My young companion had poured me a drink and asked the only person sitting at the bar if I 'come here often.'  I was flattered for about a split second, when it occurred to me he was just bored, not flirting.  So I told him about how I used to come to this bar when it had another name and lived another life, many years ago.  He seemed genuinely curious to hear more about how the area had changed since I moved here and I just could not hold myself back....I love this kind of an opening.  Ask me anything about Atlanta.  please!

"Oh ho!" I exclaimed with faint modesty, "I was born and raised here.  Have lived most my life within 3 miles of this very spot. I've seen changes most people have only heard about."    He was too kind - 'tell him more', he said.  Okey dokey - remember you asked.  I spent the next 10 mins in a stream of conscientiousness that broke only long enough for me to take a sip of my drink.  I actually startled myself at the details of what I remembered, as a child. He didn't blink.  He didn't move and so the flow of useless information just kept coming.   Juniper and Spring St were once two-way streets (and West Peachtree should go back to two-way, but that is another conversation).  The Fox Theater was almost torn down.  We used to swim in the lake in Piedmont Park (I think he made a face at that one).

But what stuck in my mind's eye was the view from atop of the Hyatt. That view seemed like it went on forever.  I could see Stone Mountain from up waaaay there, playing 'hide-n-go-seek' out of the dense green tree canopy!   It was a breathtaking view for a little girl.  He interrupted my slightly rum influenced monologue  -'yes!' he had seen that 'little blue dome.'  I paused, why did I feel slightly insulted  by his comment?

My young companion had never seen Atlanta's skyline without 40-story skyscrapers.  Portman buildings and   giant towers along Peachtree from downtown to mid-town are his only frame of reference.  For him, Atlanta always had a 16-lane freeway running through the middle of it and a brown haze on the horizon.  But not for me.

So here I stand, 100 feet above downtown,  the Georgia Capitol covered in Dahlonega gold shining out one window and a wonderful City skyline out another,  but there is no blue Hyatt Regency dome anywhere to be seen.  I was just SURE I'd see it from up here.  Now where did it go?  I think I've lost it.