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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Liberia's auditor general says U. S. "fiscal cliff" negatively affects other nations

Do not use without permission.
(UPDATE 9/10/13:  Mr. Kilby lost his job as auditor general on July 8, 2013. It is unclear whether the Liberian government will continue its contract with Kilby's company, ISCI.)

When the United States has financial problems, it negatively affects countries which trade with and receive grants from the U.S. According to Liberia's chief auditing watchdog, Robert Kilby, that is why both Liberians and Americans, economic partners who share a history from former slave leadership, should be concerned about the "fiscal cliff," financial accounting standards, and corruption in both nations.

As auditor general of Liberia's General Auditing Commission (GAC), Kilby's job is to audit hundreds of departments in the Republic which is governed by President Ellen Johnson- Sirleaf, respectfully known as the "Iron Lady." Kilby's duties include making sure government agencies and institutions work efficiently and that financial reporting is accurate. Kilby has to help kill the perception that corruption exists in Liberia.

Kilby has a daunting task of increasing revenue collection while fostering a positive relationship with Liberia's citizens and balancing the auditing process with sound fiscal management. Many in government will be resistant to Kilby's standards of resolving accounts with forensic auditing, but that is what he is commissioned to perform.

According to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency's CIA Factbook website, in Liberia "the security situation is still fragile and the process of rebuilding the social and economic structure of this war-torn country continues." Kilby agrees that the security of Liberia is tantamount to its future, and he declares that companies providing security services will do well there. Kilby acknowledges that international corporations are making major investments in the country, especially Exxon Mobil and Chevron, and monitoring such accounts could be his Waterloo in upcoming years.

The CIA considers Liberia "a low income country heavily reliant on foreign assistance for revenue. Civil war and government mismanagement destroyed much of Liberia's economy." Despite dire economic circumstances, Liberia has the highest ratio of direct foreign investment to GDP in the world and is richly endowed with water, mineral resources including diamonds, forests filled with raw timber, rubber, and a climate suitable for agricultural development. 

"Rebuilding infrastructure and raising incomes will depend on generous financial and technical assistance from donor countries and foreign investment in key sectors, such as infrastructure and power generation."

Robert Kilby, the man

Kilby envisions progress and makes it happen as evidenced by him becoming auditor general after a contentious credentials controversy and appointment process. This type of fortitude will be needed as he approaches the job of overseeing the finances of a country known under former President Charles Taylor as corrupt, poor, civil war-ridden, and in need of major infrastructure improvements.

Do not use without permission.
Kilby in Marietta, Ga. in 1996
In my mind's eye, people show their true colors at home and at social events. I have had the pleasure of interfacing with Kilby and his family at both our homes. He is a gentleman with a deep voice and genuine laugh who speaks with authority. 

I've known Robert Kilby over 16 years. Kilby is an expert when it comes to financial accounting technologies. In my opinion, he is perhaps one of the most intelligent men I have met. Talking to him about new business ventures, you can almost see the cogs rotating in his brain. He has a keen eye for details and perhaps the fortitude to imagine great things in Liberia's future.

Do not use without permission.
Robert & Marilyn Kilby - 2002
Kilby surprised me this Christmas when he called and said he had been successful in becoming auditor general in August. I had lost contact with him because his email was hacked. When I heard the news, I immediately asked for an interview but thought that now, since he had power and prestige, he would not grant me one, but he did, perhaps since he realized that it would be another opportunity for positive public relations for his country. I performed the following phone interview while he was waiting at the airport in Washington, D.C. on December 27, 2012.

Robert Kilby interview 15.1 MB 
Click link to download audio file (mp3 format) 
Be patient - takes minutes to load... 

Business to business:
Bruce Redd is a native-born African-American businessman and political campaign manager living in metro Atlanta. Redd attended President Sirleaf's first inauguration in Monrovia in 2006 and is interested in doing business in the country.  He believes that corruption can only be fought in Liberia when the remnants of former President Charles Taylor's regime are out of power. I talked to him about the possibility of African-Americans doing business in Liberia. Redd maintains that Sirleaf's government will continue to battle against corruption in high places. In the following interview, Redd states that African-Americans should be given the same opportunities to do business in Liberia as the Chinese, Japanese, or Lebanese, and that African-Americans that run small businesses should endeavor to pursue, land, and execute contracts with the Liberian government.

Bruce Redd interview  7.93 MB 
Click link to download audio file (mp3 format )
Be patient - takes minutes to load...

Read article about Pres. Sirleaf's visit to U.S. in 2007 at: http://www.wingcomltd.com/Articles/Sirleaf%20Article.htm
 
Photos taken by Kurk D. Johnson for WingcomLtd. in 2002 during former Mayor of Atlanta Shirley Franklin's Inaugural Ball. 1996 photo by Tomi Johnson.
©2012 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved.    

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Census Bureau closes six offices

The U.S Census Bureau’s 18-month agenda to realign its field offices across the nation for the first time in 50 years will be completed by January 2013. The restructuring, announced June 29, 2011, closes regional offices in Boston, Charlotte, Dallas, Detroit, Kansas City and Seattle.

The field realignment is part of the digital transformation of the Census Bureau, moving from a bricks-and-mortar model of regional offices to a virtual management structure, and leverages modern survey practices, such as telework, and better tools for field interviews. The new alignment creates an increase of timely information and a more efficient data collection process, while reducing the cost of surveys by an estimated $15 million to $18 million annually.

The new structure redistributes responsibilities to the remaining offices in Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia. This new six-region design allows about 630 supervisory staff to work out of their homes, providing more efficient data collection in more locations. The supervisory field staff has the benefit of working directly with local teams of field representatives managing all data collection for specific areas of geography.

“We undertook this alignment to take advantage of the technology available to us while preserving the quality of our data collection activity in the field,” said Thomas Mesenbourg, the Census Bureau’s acting director. “In the current era of modern technology we are able to do more with less.”

Staff at the Census Bureau's regional offices collect data for surveys, update geographic features important to the Bureau, disseminate statistics created from the data collection and serve as contacts for local media and local organizations to improve participation in censuses and surveys. Approximately 270 permanent positions were cut as a result of the closing of six regional offices. About 88 of the permanent affected employees have been placed into positions at Census Bureau headquarters or in one of the six remaining regional offices, while others have taken advantage of a buyout and early retirement options approved by the Office of Personnel Management. 

"The Census Bureau has been committed to finding the best possible outcome for each affected employee in a closing office," Mesenbourg said. "We have been offering job counseling, resume writing courses and other types of assistance since the announcement to close six regional offices was made in 2011."

The realignment increases efficiency, enhances data quality and reduces costs beginning in fiscal year 2014. To learn more about the new regional office realignment and to view the states serviced by each office, visit <http://www.census.gov/regions/

What the fiscal cliff could do to U.S....


About.com's explanation:
"If the current laws slated for 2013 went into effect permanently, the impact on the economy would be dramatic. While the combination of higher taxes and spending cuts would reduce the deficit by an estimated $560 billion, the CBO also estimates that the policy would reduce gross domestic product (GDP) by four percentage points in 2013, sending the economy into a recession (i.e., negative growth). At the same time, it predicts unemployment would rise by almost a full percentage point, with a loss of about two million jobs."

http://bonds.about.com/od/Issues-in-the-News/a/What-Is-The-Fiscal-Cliff.htm

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Schools share blame for kid's mental problems

"School is a house of learning where teachers are mothers, fathers, and caregivers during the day and the community is responsible for the mental growth and safety of children." Tomi Johnson

OPINION
Was Adam Lanza given the help he needed in school?  If he was dealing with autism and Asperger's syndrome and exhibited "weird" behaviors, was this the result of being beaten, ignored, or exploited by his teachers or caretakers?

I hate to admit it, but I saw some questionable things happen in both "regular" ed and special education classrooms while I was a substitute teacher. I saw kids being harassed, antagonized, wrestled, beaten, ridiculed, put in restraints and placed behind screens for no apparent reasons. When I questioned how they were treated, I was stared at and ignored.

When one child exhibited "weird" behavior in my classroom, I called in the principal who seemed unaware of his profile. After finding condoms and razor blades in his backpack, he was transferred to another middle school.

Since I was only a substitute, I did not have access to student files and didn't know the details of what or who I was dealing with. The only preparation I had to deal with children with autism and Asperger's syndrome was general substitute teacher training (four hours), one college psychology course, a Telecommunications degree, motherly instincts learned from raising three children of my own, and empathy for the disabled.

At the beginning of the year, I had a one week assignment in a classroom where I learned some of the  children AND teachers were autistic.  The lead teacher asked me to stay on longer because I was able to communicate successfully with the kids, but after seeing what was going on in there, I felt it was unsafe for me to continue.

What I noticed first was that the lead teacher didn't have a lesson plan or activities planned for the kids to do on the first day of school. Since I am creative, I grabbed into my bag of tricks - of stories, puzzles, word games, and brought some of my children's books, K'Nex toys, and board games to class. I was assigned to a girl who was focused on the animated character/heroine Kim Possible, but every time she brought out her Kim Possible key chain, the teacher scolded her. She was not allowed to read her Kim Possible book which was her security blanket.

The children in the classroom were very protective of each other.  When a teacher told one student to put a game away, another child came over to help. He was scolded by the teacher and then wrestled and beaten into a corner. Another child who was doing a game on the computer was reprimanded by another teacher who entered the classroom. When he became disturbed over the scolding, he laid on the floor and wet his pants. Not wanting to shame himself when getting up, he was covered and left on the floor in his own urine.

These kids need help, good professional help, and my opinion is that their regular teachers were not trained or did not have the patience to do a job which requires both experience, love, and endurance under difficult circumstances.  It takes a SPECIAL person to deal with the mentally ill. We're not doing enough to help these students or their teachers. All teachers need ongoing staff development and constant encouragement just like students.

I sat in the cafeteria one day and watched a teacher taking a red marker and slashing with unusual vigor through an English assignment which probably took the student hours to create on the computer. "He didn't follow directions," she said.  I wondered how that kid was going to feel when he got that paper back and how he would feel about his teacher.

We are all responsible for how we treat the least of these. 

We will all share the blame when another Adam Lanza shows up at school tomorrow.

Photo from Ms. Walton's 1st grade class website, Walls Elementary School.
©2012 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sandy Hook Elementary parent comments on school tragedy

This message is from Steffan R. Burns, a parent of a Sandy Hook Elementary School student.

MONDAY MORNING
Stephanie had the conversation with William about the death of his first grade teacher-hero while I was at church.  Apparently William asked about those who had died as soon as he woke.  Must have been on his mind.  Though sad,  he spent the next 5 minutes comforting his mom.  The usual 2 two weeks before Christmas service at the Newtown Methodist Church,  in the heart of the old town of Sandy Hook, was nowhere to be found.  As the wake commenced, I found the music and words a bit overwhelming.  The gravity of the situation hit me pretty hard. Guess I hadn't really had time to think about what has been happening that deeply.  Organ music has a way of making you retreat into the recesses of your own mind.

I took Anna and William back to the local retail garden center to see the Santa they met last week.  He has seen us every year since 2004 and I thought he would appreciate seeing that they had made it through.  He was very appreciative. . . . on second thought,  Santa should have known that they were OK without us having to show up.  

We got news of the first two funerals to be held this week.  Never thought they would be scattered throughout the area. . . turns out there is only one funeral home in Newtown.

Tonight we attended the vigil at Newtown's High School with a host of clergy, town officials, various politicians, Blumenthal, Lieberman, Governor Malloy, and President Obama.  . . and we got more than we bargained for. . 4 rows behind the President and directly along side the families who lost children.  William sat between Stephanie and me.  Erin was next to me as well, quiet,  learning, coping. . taking it all in. . an emerging adult.  Anna was particularly brave as she sat next to Mr and Mrs. Wheeler, who lost  their son Benjamin.  

While we were waiting for the event to begin, it hit us this event that there were 30 + Secret Service  and dozens of extra police to protect the President, 1 person.  How do you ever put together enough security to protect 450 students ? . . you just can't.  

The President did a nice job addressing the tragedy without getting too political (just an opinion).  He mentioned that taking care of our children is our first and most important job and how we do that is how, as a society,  we will be judged. . . . . . .   I am sure there were those thinking that the Newtown - Sandy Hook community, truly capable,  had failed.

When Stephanie and I moved to Newtown, I remember how impressed we were with the strong school system and the quality and variety of the programs and activities for kids.  Over the last 9 and 1/2 years this has proved to be a true community where the family comes first.  It's a small slice of New England, but not too small.  However, you do have to always keep in mind that is you get a traffic ticket here, it will be in the Newtown Bee the next week (along with your age).

At bedtime, William had  a lot of questions.  When will we be going back to school?  When will we be able to get back into the Sandy Hook Elementary?  Will they fix the glass doors and metal frames . . . and finally. . Do you think my snack from Friday will still be in my classroom?    

Thank God he still has the capacity to be 7 years old.
 

SUNDAY MORNING
Yesterday morning I was first in line to meet with grief counselors to ask them how to tell a 7 year old the magnitude of the events that happened on Friday.  The answer, as if to everything was, it depends.  Since William is an intelligent, matter-of fact kind of little guy, the consensus was to keep it short but not to hide anything.  About 9:30 am, we sat outside with William giving him the basic facts and magnitude of the events.  He drank up all the information he was given and preceded to tell us a bit more about what he saw as he exited the building. In the afternoon he would tell one of the neighbor boys that he had prayed  to God that he would not die while he was huddled in the classroom during the lock down.  

This morning we will sit down with William and tell him that his first grade teacher, Ms Soto, died, apparently trying to shield the kids in her room.

We tried to make the day as normal a day as we could for the kids.  We all went out to cut down a Christmas tree (at William's suggestion).  Then we went to lunch in town.  After that, grocery shopping, though I would admit, I do remember thinking all 5 of us grocery shopping might not have been normal.  At least there are 5 of us.

The list came out last night.  I didn't realize how much we were waiting on it until it arrived. Stephanie knows at least a half dozen of the children's families and 4 of the 6 adults.  Three of the victims live in the neighborhood.  3 or 4 others, within a mile.

I drove out to get a couple of newspapers this morning.  The roads in the neighborhood are still blocked by police near the Lanza home 2 turns from our own driveway.

In the center of Sandy Hook, there were news trucks with attached satellite dishes on top, from many more cities than yesterday.   I saw one from Detroit. As I passed the Newtown High School, I saw a long line of large dump trucks lined up in front of the main entrance.  I suppose they will build a security barrier or use the trucks to be a barrier for the vigil and president's visit tonight.

I heard on the radio that there is a possibility that the Sandy Hook Elementary School (whose colors are green and white),  may have died on Friday with the victims.  I hope not, but it would be understandable in light of the declining influx of young families since the beginning of the recession and the housing slow down.

SATURDAY MORNING
This going to get worse for a while as we get the names of the kids. The shooter lived in my neighborhood, 2 streets over. They are broadcasting live as I write this.  Ironically, at least 2 of the victims live in our neighborhood and a short walk from the home of the shooter.


Stephanie is heavily involved in the school with the newsletter and other volunteer situations. We are dealing with her close relationship with the principal and others in the office as well as the fact that on any given day she might have been there working on these activities.

William is OK but he saw way too much for a 7 year old. He got sick over it yesterday afternoon. He only knows what he saw and not the magnitude of the situation.  This morning I will sit down with him and tell him what happened.  We also fear that William's first grade teacher, Ms. Soto, may have been impacted as well as many of her students.  Ms. Soto's classroom was just across from the main office where the events began.

I expect to go to a dozen funerals next week.


FRIDAY
My entire family is shocked and saddened about the events that unfolded this morning at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, CT.  Many of you know that my son William is currently a second grader at this school.  My older girls, Erin 12 and Anna 10,  have moved on to other schools and were not on the scene.

William is safe and home and putting on a strong face.  Unfortunately, he saw quite a bit. He is a tough resilient kid and we will deal with it.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families involved.  We don't have names you can be sure we know these families. It's a small neighborhood.

Photo by Tomi Johnson

Ilea Johnson graduates from SPSU

Ilea Johnson graduated magna cum laude in Accounting from Southern Polytechnic State University (SPSU), School of Engineering Technology and Management in Marietta, Ga. on Saturday, December 15. About 40 of Ilea's friends and family from metro Atlanta, Kentucky, Florida and Ohio attended the campus event and reception at her parent's home.

"As a mother, I am so proud of my daughter's accomplishments and happy that her graduation from college marks the completion of university degrees by all my three children," said Tomi Johnson. Johnson said that her talented and beautiful daughter has not landed a full time assignment yet, and asks interested employers to contact her via LinkedIn.

The 105th SPSU Commencement was held in the campus gymnasium. The address was given by Kessel Stelling, Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of Synovus Financial Corp. who is also regent of the University System of Georgia, District Six.

"Great leaders never stop learning," Stelling told the crowd. He encouraged students to face uncertainty AND opportunity by standing out. Stelling said that when his own banking industry was in free-fall and he and his associates were considered "the walking dead" by some, he survived by surrounding himself with smart people who asked hard questions. 

Wearing graduation medallion, Johnson poses with Ron Francis and DJPhantasy.

"Keep swinging," he told the graduates who now face a competitive job market. Like Babe Ruth, Stellings said, "It's hard to break a person who doesn't give up...sail away from the safe harbor. Dream. Discover."

University President Dr. Lisa Rossbacher said this year's 385 graduates represented the largest fall graduating class in the school's history and comprised students ranging from age 21 - 66 years old.

Twenty-two percent of the graduates were women, and 40% were from other countries.
While a full time student, Ilea held internships with the City of Atlanta - Watershed Management Department, and with Amendia, Inc., a spinal implant manufacturing firm.

Ilea's first job was a child model for Macy's Department Store represented by EMM. (Photo by Tomi Johnson)
Ilea is a former Elite Model Management (EMM) model, plays the violin, and speaks Spanish and Korean. She is a member of Alpha Chi Honor Society.

Ilea poses with extended family.
©2012 Photos by Kurk Johnson and Jose Alequin. Article by Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Atlanta WingChun hosts Klaus Brand at weekend seminar


The International Academy of WingChun®  held seminars in Atlanta and Acworth, Georgia on December 7 - 9 for U.S. instructors and students of all grade levels. All events were sponsored by Atlanta WingChun (http://www.iaw-atlanta.com/).

Grandmaster Klaus Brand of Germany flew in to train members from the metro Atlanta area as well as instructors from Oakland, Santa Cruz and Berkeley, Calif. and Sylvania, Ohio.

Friday night's Escrima class featured defense techniques against sticks and sharp weapons.  "One great idea is to start with protecting your face from a stick, knife, or long blade attack, and we progress from there," Brand said. He is a former German military sergeant and weapons expert.

"When threatened  with a quick attack, we can defend ourselves," Brand explained. "Waiting a second is too long when your life is at stake. We want total control in dangerous situations, and we know how to deviate from a planned attack by using knowledge of body mechanics and optimum martial arts skills developed over years of intense training."

Many members of the organization have been studying various martial arts since childhood but are now WingChun and Escrima practitioners. WingChun is a holistic fighting system which focuses on subduing real threats and harnessing innate abilities for physical struggle. Escrima is a traditional Filipino martial art based on sticks, knives, blades, and various improvised weapons.

IAW U. S. Chief Instructor Paul Wang poses with new 1st Technician Ayron Johnson, GM Klaus Brand, and AWC Head Instructor Kurk Johnson. (Photo by Ilea Johnson)
 
To learn more about Atlanta WingChun or to schedule a trial lesson, call (678) 453-8119.
 
©2012 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved.    

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Quote of the day...

If you've been wondering why I haven't posted anything lately, I've been busy with family matters. The holidays and preparing for my daughter's college graduation are monster time consumers...

Remember: "Love is a better master than duty." Nicholas Negroponte, One Laptop per Child

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

U.S. Black poverty rate: 27.8 percent

The U.S. Census reports today that using three-year averages (2009-2011), the U.S. poverty rate was 15.8 percent using the supplemental poverty measure and 15.0 percent using the official measure.
 
Supplemental poverty rates were higher than the official measure for all race groups and for Hispanics, with one exception: blacks, who had a supplemental poverty rate of 25.7 percent and an official rate of 27.8 percent.
 
“There are several important differences between the official and supplemental poverty measures,” said Kathleen Short, a U.S. Census Bureau economist and the report’s author. “For instance, the supplemental measure uses new poverty thresholds that represent a dollar amount spent on a basic set of goods adjusted to reflect geographic differences in housing costs. The official poverty thresholds are the same no matter where you live.”
 
There are 15 states or equivalents for which the supplemental rates were higher than the official statewide poverty rates: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Virginia.


Even though supplemental poverty rates were lower for children and higher for those 65 and older than under the official measure, the rates for children were still higher than the rates for 18- to 64-year-olds and people 65 and older. The 15.5 percent supplemental rates for 18- to 64-year-olds was not statistically different from the 15.1 percent rate for people 65 and older.
 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Australian energy policy review set for November 19

Wind farms and turbines are renewable sources of energy.  (Photo by Steve Fareham - geograph.org.uk)
The International Energy Agency's (IEA) review of Australia's energy policies will take place Monday, November 19 in the capital city of Canberra. The presentation will address issues related to climate change and focus on Australia's use of coal, fossil fuels, water and renewable energy.

In 2000, Australia was considered the highest emitter of greenhouse gases per capita in the developed world and at a high risk of affecting climate change, according to Economist Nicholas Stern of the the London School of Economics. As of October 2010, there were 52 wind farms in Australia.

This presentation in Australia follows yesterday's release of IEA information which predicted the United States would become a net exporter of natural gas by 2020 and would almost be "self-sufficient in energy, in net terms, by 2035."

To view a video on IEA's World Energy Outlook, go to:
http://www.iea.org/multimedia/video/name,33413,en.html

Monday, November 12, 2012

Was Andrew Carnegie a U.S. citizen?

Library of Congress photo
"Teach a man to be a good citizen and you have solved the problem of life.”Andrew Carnegie

As I watched the History Channel's "Men Who Made America" last night, I was intrigued by references to the life of steel industrialist Andrew Carnegie who immigrated to America with his family and later became the richest man in the world.

November 25 marks what would have been the 177th birthday of Carnegie, an immigrant from Dunfermline, Scotland who was also known as the "Star-Spangled Scotsman” and died in 1919 in Lenox, Mass.

It appears that had Carnegie lived during the time of Donald Trump, he would have some explaining to do over whether he was a U.S. citizen, and this controversy did come up during his lifetime but was swept under the rug.

Some claim that Carnegie never became a U.S. citizen. According to a 2005 biography done by Nicholas P. Resetar, "There is no evidence of Carnegie ever becoming naturalized as a U.S. citizen...'' According to David Nasaw who wrote the book "Andrew Carnegie," the multi-millionaire claimed he lost his naturalization papers and actually became a citizen at age 50, a year before he married Louise Whitfield Carnegie who was a native of Manhattan, N.Y.

The New York Times ran an article on October 25, 1888 claiming that Carnegie was a U.S. citizen through the process of naturalization. Read the document at http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=F70C14FE3D5F15738DDDAC0A94D8415B8884F0D3 and decide for yourself.

James Bryce with Carnegie (public domain photo)
Carnegie never let the fact that he was born outside the U.S. deter him in helping to create a better America. The Carnegie Foundation is actively working towards comprehensive immigration reform, working through its "Strengthening U.S. Democracy" program, Federation for American Immigration Reform, NumbersUSA, and the Center for Immigration Studies.

©2012 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved

Friday, November 9, 2012

Southerners for Sandy to hold relief drive for hurricane victims

Georgia State Representative Joe Heckstall, Democrat from District 62, is sponsoring a "Southerners for Sandy" relief drive Saturday, November 10 from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. at Starbucks, 3507 Camp Creek Parkway, in East Point, Ga. 

Free coffee will be given with each donation of canned foods, cereal, rice, beans, and pasta.

Heckstall, a native New Yorker, is partnering with Georgia State Senator Donzella James, State Representative-Elect LaDawn Blackett Jones, Capitol City Bank and Trust Company, Carmike Cinemas, Wayfield Foods, the American Red Cross, the Georgia Association of Black Elected officials, the Concerned Black Clergy of Metropolitan Atlanta, and Carol Blackman of Majic 107.5 to accept non perishable items, cash donations, and blood for the victims of the hurricane.

For more information, call 404-656-0220.

(Photo from Ga. House of Rep. website)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Why is Georgia a RED state, and what can be done to change it?

"…Georgia was a Democratic stronghold in presidential elections until
1964 and the passage of federal civil rights legislation. Democratic
candidates continued to be popular in state and local elections until
the 1990s. Since 2000 the white majority has supported the Republican
Party, which has majorities in both houses of the legislature, and
more recently, control of all statewide elective offices." Wikipedia
– History of Georgia

During our 2008 school board race, the numbers were wrong, so we lost! I learned a lot about politics, though. (Photo with Beverly McMurray taken by Kurk Johnson)
As soon as Obama was re-elected, I started getting calls from my
Democratic friends in Georgia who were looking ahead to 2014, trying
to figure out who they could get to run for office in local and state
races. As you know, Georgia goes along with other Southern RED states
and didn’t re-elect President Obama. Locally, Cobb School Board Member
Alison Bartlett lost her seat after one term; PSC Candidate Steve
Oppenheimer lost his statewide race; and State Senator Doug Stoner
lost after redistricting.

Some blame Democratic defeats in Georgia on the fact that there’s no
rallying point. One frustrated voter said, “There’s no passion or fire
in Georgia Dems. The Right Repubs get supported because they have the damn Rebel Flag (history) they get behind. The Dems don't have one thing
they can all use as a lightning rod for solidarity.”

Georgia Democrats also are not powerful enough to help folks get jobs.
I remember a friend of mine years ago telling me that Repubs. in
Kentucky offered him a job only after he agreed to become a member of
the Party and donate 10% of his wages. I myself have asked Democrats
to hire me to do pr work or to help me find a job to no avail. This is
a major downfall of the Georgia Democratic Party – the inability to
help the unemployed find jobs.

“Major downfalls of the Georgia Democratic Party are inabilities to
manufacture a rallying point, find the right messengers and message,
broaden its circle of voters, and help the unemployed.”


Moving forward to the next election, Democrats in Georgia are going to have
to enlarge their circle, concentrate on issues facing more Georgians,
and help EACH OTHER get some jobs in order to turn the state BLUE in
2014-16. Stoner, Bartlett, and Oppenheimer lost which is sad, but
that is because the DEMOS in Georgia either did not read census data,
depended too much on their OLD base of voters to vote and volunteer,
didn't choose the right message and messenger when backing candidates,
or did not use social media to get out the vote!

Then there's history. Repubs in GA are politically powerful because
they have position, money, youthful volunteer teams, numbers, strong
TeaPartyers, and candidates with good names. They also have something
they are still fighting for: the rebel flag and the conservative confederate mindset.

According to CNN, Georgia along with Texas and Arizona, can turn BLUE
if it gets right with young, African American, Latino, Asian, and
college educated women voters.

In a MSNBC interview between Al Sharpton and Obama’s Senior Political
Advisor David Axelrod, it was noted that Democrats were able to win
nationally because they had the right message and messenger, thousands
of dedicated volunteers, confidence, shared responsibility, verifiable
trust, and worked on the premise that actions matter. Obama won
because he enlarged his circle of participants in the political
process which was based on Jesse Jackson’s National Rainbow Coalition
after his first presidential campaign of 1984.

Axelrod said that going forward, the Obama Administration's priorities
will be building a first class educational system, promoting clean
energy, creating good jobs, ending the Afghanistan War, building our
nation’s infrastructure, solving fiscal problems, and making immigration
reform happen very soon.

He described Obama’s leadership style over the last twenty years as
never too high or low. “He’s the first person to get up and move
forward, he keeps his eye on the ball and sees long term, he presses
forward on his goals and helps others to do so; but most importantly,
he is an idealist who sees politics as more than a game…and wants to
make people believe that opportunities for a better life do exist."

Georgia Democrats can learn a lot from Obama’s win. The time to begin is now.
©2012 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved.   

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Breaking news: Riot on Southern campus follows Obama win

It seems that racism has raised its ugly head in Mississippi where students protested last night on the Ole Miss campus. Romney is said to have won Mississippi by 55.4% but lost the national presidential election.

For more info., go to:
http://blog.al.com/wire/2012/11/report_ole_miss_students_prote.html
and
http://www.wdam.com/story/20025451/riots-on-ole-miss-campus-after-election-results-announced
 

Obama, the Defier, wins!

Obama still has work to do but with our help can move the world forward. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)
In 2008, Barack Obama surprised the world by becoming the first African African president of the United States. Some said that would never happen because he had a handicap - he was a black man living in a country built on racism. Some said his first win was a fluke and did everything humanly possible to dethrone the Defier.

Last night, their plan failed.  Obama and his team of campaign workers and voters boldly won a second term, resisting criticism and vowing to lead America into greatness again.

Obama, the Defier, didn't win last night by himself. Democrats ran a post modern, pro democracy campaign, using technology and diversity to its fullest. They kept their base and expanded it with forward thinking and by reiterating that the United States stands for inclusion.

Romney and the Republicans lost because of their pompously elitist divisiveness and inability to realize the love others share for Our President. They sold Obama short. They should now have a greater respect for Obama and must use this respect to help turn this country's economy around.

We are still praying for President Obama. We are still praying for our nation which is more than soil in Blue and Red states...but people who care about each other and are dedicated to a government invested by its citizens.

May our President, our political leaders, and our people move forward into a better day!

Email message from Obama early this morning:
"I'm about to go speak to the crowd here in Chicago, but I wanted to thank you first. I want you to know that this wasn't fate, and it wasn't an accident. You made this happen. You organized yourselves block by block. You took ownership of this campaign five and ten dollars at a time. And when it wasn't easy, you pressed forward. I will spend the rest of my presidency honoring your support, and doing what I can to finish what we started.   But I want you to take real pride, as I do, in how we got the chance in the first place. Today is the clearest proof yet that, against the odds, ordinary Americans can overcome powerful interests. There's a lot more work to do. But for right now: Thank you. Barack"
©2012 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved.    
 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Cell phones at polls problematic

Voters casting ballots via electronic voting machines in Marietta, Ga.
Many young voters have been recording their vote with cell phone cameras despite a law prohibiting taking pictures in polling places. Some say that since a paper verification is not possible with electronic voting machines, they are taking photos of the ballot as some proof of their vote. Others are just doing it because they want to make "cool" Facebook postings.

Most voters taking these pictures are unaware they are breaking the law unless they are caught and told about it by poll watchers, for there are no signs in polling places prohibiting photographs.

Poll Manager Lamont Paul in Cobb County, Ga. said that taking a picture of your vote with a cell phone camera is not a verifiable alternative, and it is definitely against the law. "People have come in and tried to take pictures of their children voting for the first time," said Paul.

Again, the 2006 Georgia Code, Section 21-2-413 states:
No elector shall use photographic or other electronic monitoring or recording devices or cellular telephones while such elector is within the enclosed space in a polling place.
Additionally, Section 21-2-414(e) specifically bans the use of a cell phone or other communications device once a person has been issued a ballot or is inside the voting booth.  Taken together, these two sections indicate that you are violating the law if you record your own vote with a cellphone photo. The law, however, does not say what will happen to you if you take a picture of how you voted.

Voters preparing to vote at Addison Elementary School in Cobb County, Ga.
In a memo signed by David Hankerson, Cobb County Manager, "...the law also states that the Poll Manager, in his or her discretion, may allow the use of photographic devices in the polling place under such conditions and limitations as the election superintendent finds appropriate, so long as no photos are allowed of a ballot, a machine face while a voter is voting the ballot, or of an electronic elector's list."
 
Members of the media can take photos of people voting as long as the poll manager agrees and voters being photographed do not protest. Media also are not allowed to take pictures of the ballot, a machine face, or an elector's voting list.
©2012 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Hurricane Sandy had no effect on October employment data

Nonfarm payroll employment increased by 171,000 in October, and the unemployment rate was essentially unchanged at 7.9 percent, according to a report just released by the U.S. Department of Labor. 

Job gains occurred in professional and business services, health care, and retail trade over the month.  Thus far in 2012, employment growth has averaged 157,000 per month, about the same as the average monthly gain in 2011 (+153,000).

"I would note that Hurricane Sandy had no discernable effect on the employment and unemployment data for October," said John M. Galvin, Acting Commissioner of Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"Household survey data collection was completed before the storm struck the East Coast, and establishment survey data collection rates were within the normal ranges nationally and for the affected areas," Galvin said.

Other information worth noting in the report was the number of involuntary part-time workers declined by 269,000 to 8.3 million in October; this follows an increase of 582,000 in September.  On net, involuntary part-time employment has changed little over the past 3 months.

Also, the labor force increased by 578,000, and the labor force participation rate edged up to 63.8 percent in October.  Total employment, as measured by the household survey, increased by 410,000, while the employment-population ratio was little changed at 58.8 percent.

For more information, go to: http://bls.gov/news.release/jec.nr0.htm

Obama will win by 79%???

Nate Silver's 538 blog in the New York Times is predicting that Barack Obama will win the U.S. Presidential election by 79 percent.

Read about his polling at:
http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/01/oct-31-obamas-electoral-college-firewall-holding-in-polls/

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Employment up 158,000 in private sector

ADP jobs report good news for Obama
Private sector employment increased by 158,000 jobs from September to October, according to a leading provider of human capital management solutions, in collaboration with Moody’s Analytics.  The report, which is derived from ADP’s actual payroll data, measures the change in total non-farm private employment each month on a seasonally-adjusted basis.

Large, non-farm businesses, not small businesses, hired more people during this time period, adding 81,000 employees. Manufacturing, however, lost jobs.

 • Industry Snapshot
• Construction 
23,000
• Manufacturing  
-8,000
• Trade/transportation/utilities 
24,000
• Financial activities 
9,000
• Professional/business services  
35,000

























































































Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Thought for today

"There are two great gifts which God, in his love for man, has granted from on high: the priesthood and the imperial dignity. The first serves divine things, while the latter directs and administers human affairs; both, however, proceed from the same origin and adorn the life of mankind."  Justinian

Obama blamed for Frankenstorm Sandy

NASA photo of Hurricane Sandy
I woke up this morning thinking about my brother-in- law saying some folks would blame President Obama for Hurricane Sandy. Then it occurred to me after reading an article about systemic and direct causation of weather disasters that maybe HAARP could be a major player in our latest weather event, moving us closer to cataclysmic 2012.

There are several articles and videos circulating on the Internet saying that Obama is to blame for Hurricane Sandy. You can read/view them for yourself and decide whether the storm is an act of God or some weird political game.

I went to NASA's site and didn't see any "chemtrails" in the satellite footage of the storm.
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hurricanes/archives/2012/h2012_Sandy.html

What  do you think?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Challenge to Trump: donate $5 million to Red Cross

Since Donald Trump says he has $5 million to give away, we challenge him to give it to the Red Cross in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. This is a better reason to give instead of asking for President Obama's papers.

Message from President Obama on East Coast storm

This is a serious storm, but we are going to do what it takes to keep people safe and secure, and make sure the communities affected get the assistance they need. FEMA is working with state and local governments to respond effectively. We all owe a debt of thanks to the first responders who will be dealing with the immediate impact of the storm.

If you live in the storm's path, please listen to state and local authorities about where and how to take shelter and stay safe -- and encourage your friends and family to do the same. If you are asked to evacuate, please take that seriously.

For more information on how to prepare for this storm, visit Ready.gov.

And if you'd like to find out how to support relief efforts where they're needed most, please visit the Red Cross or your local relief organization:

http://my.barackobama.com/Red-Cross

Michelle and I are keeping everyone in the affected areas in our thoughts and prayers. Be safe.

Barack

Message from FEMA

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has issued the following recommendations for people affected by Hurricane Sandy:
  
  • Follow the direction of local officials -- If told to evacuate, do so immediately.
  • Know the forecast in your area -- Continue to monitor your NOAA Weather Radio and your local news for severe weather updates, warnings and watches. Follow your forecast at weather.gov on your computer or mobile.weather.gov on your phone.
  • Turn around, don't drown -- The potential for heavy rains can also lead to flooding, or flash flooding in some areas. Driving through a flooded area can be extremely hazardous.
  • Make final preparations -- If you're further inland, now is the time to make final preparations. Visit ready.gov and be ready for power outages and stock up on emergency supplies of food, water, medications, and other supplies.
  • Check on your neighbor -- Make sure they're ready, too.
  • Finding shelters -- Download the Red Cross Hurricane app (redcross.org/mobile-apps/hurricane-app), visit redcross.org/find-help/shelter, or check your local media outlets. You should also register on redcross.org/safeandwell, a secure and easy-to-use online tool that helps families connect during emergencies. Finally, you can download the FEMA smartphone app (fema.gov/smartphone-app) or text SHELTER and your Zip Code to 43362 (4FEMA). Standard rates apply.
  • Donate blood -- If you don't live in an affected area, please consider donating blood, because numerous blood drives have been canceled as a result of the storm. To schedule a blood donation or for more information about giving blood or platelets, visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).


  • For information updates, go to FEMA.gov.

    Monday, October 29, 2012

    Will Sandy become catastrophic hurricane, post tropical cyclone, or worst blizzard of 2012?

    Sandy's circulation covers 1.8 million square miles. U.S. National Weather Service map of threatened East Coast USA
    Weather advisers are predicting Hurricane Sandy will dramatically affect life on the East Coast by nightfall. Events related to the bad storm are predicted to be horrible and far-reaching, with over 1,000 miles of land and millions of people impacted.

    According to the National Weather Service, Sandy is expected to bring life-threatening storm surge, coastal hurricane winds, as well as heavy Appalachian snows. Sandy is expected to make landfall along the central New Jersey coast later this evening.

    "In addition to long periods of sustained tropical storm-force winds, the storm will produce historic surge levels along the coast...Sometime prior to making landfall, Hurricane Sandy is expected to lose its characteristics as a tropical cyclone and take on the structure of a wintertime low-pressure area."


    "I have my generator ready," said Sherman Johnson in Willingboro, N.J. "This is something. Our mail was delivered today, but I'm headed for the post office to see if it's open," Johnson said.

    At this writing, everything is closed or closing in Silver Springs, Md.  "Just light steady rain with wind about 35 - 40 miles per hour. Every thing is closed," wrote Sharon Jackson in an email.

    Debra Corbett, an elementary school principal in Charles Town, W. Va., said schools are closed because of the weather today and tomorrow.  "It's not expected to snow here, but heavy amounts have been forecast for the West Virginia mountains."

    Corbett said she had heard reports that the storm was set to hit hard in Ocean City, Md., a famous tourist resort.

    ©2012 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved.

    Sunday, October 28, 2012

    Oxi Day remembered as time for heroes

    Oxi Day, celebrating the Greek people saying "No" to Mussolini during World War II, was celebrated in Marietta, Georgia at Holy Transfiguration Church following the divine morning liturgy service.

    On hand for the celebration ceremony was the Honorable Vasilios Goulousis, consul of Greece in Atlanta, who manages the country's image in Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Tennessee.


    Johnson with Goulousis (Photo by Kurk Johnson)
    "We are confident that our efforts will yield results in the medium term," Goulousis said during our interview about his mission and the state of the Greek economy. When asked about his opinions concerning Greece's economic conditions being interjected into the U.S. presidential debate as a bad circumstance to emulate, Goulousis said that it is not the practice for his office to become involved in the political affairs of the United States.

    At the end of the ceremony, the consul and his mother presented Fr. Panayiotis Papageorgiou, protopresbyter of Holy Transfiguration, with two authentic Greek costumes.

    Hellenic Studies students watched as costumes were presented by Greek Consul to Father Papageorgiou. (Photo by Tomi Johnson)
    Oxi Day is regarded by Greeks as a turning point in WWII, when the Greek people were issued an ultimatum by then Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini to allow his forces to occupy Greece. The offer was declined by Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas.

    "Greeks at that time didn't have many arms but were protected by the land, hillsides, mountains, and what became known as modern day guerrilla fighting tactics," said Harry
    Mavromatidis, a church member and tour guide during the annual Greek festivals held at Holy Transfiguration Church. "Greeks were heroes during WWII which is not mentioned a lot today."

    ©2012 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved. 

    Friday, October 26, 2012

    Can voting machines be hacked?

    I was going to pose this question to Peter Lichtenheld who handles media inquiries for Hart InterCivic, but he has not returned my phone call or email. Hart InterCivic is a national provider of election voting systems, management products, and services with ties to the Romney family.

    What do you think? Is voting technology tamper proof?

    Photo: National Museum of American History, U.S. Government

    Wednesday, October 24, 2012

    Politics dominating audience time as election nears

    Ga. State Senator Doug Stoner (r) debated Republican challenger Hunter Hill (l) in Georgia's 6th Senate District last night. (Photo by William Washington)
    "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." - Ephesians 6:12

    Every four years, we have the unique experience to become tuned in onlookers and diehard political participants, opening our eyes and ears to rhetoric ramped up to the highest degree.

    We become excited, angered, and cajoled by those who are seeking jobs to protect our interests. Why is it important for us to become involved in the political process at the local and national level?

    Because we have the free choice to decide what is truth and what is fiction.  We have the responsibility to hold politicians accountable for what they say. We have a duty to get involved in a society based on rule of law.

    To put it simply, politics permeates every segment of our lives, and those who say they don't get involved in politics are fooling themselves. Politics from the original Greek  politikos means "of, for, or relating to citizens" and is the artful science of operating governmental or state affairs but also applies to institutions, fields, and special interest groups.

    It is a power relationship between citizens and their leaders. It is a struggle between right and wrong. That is why we should be engaged in politics, and this is why we should be encouraged to vote.

    Overflow crowd of citizens watching debate at North West Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, Ga. (Photo by William Washington)

    Tuesday, October 23, 2012

    Obama moves forward towards second term

    Get ready for Obama's 2012 dance.
    I usually don't like making political predictions, but after watching last night's Presidential debate, I think Mitt Romney's political life is toast.

    "Mitt didn't address women's concerns," said Thomas Carter who called me after a debate focused on foreign policy. "He agreed with most of what Obama said."  This was on a football night when many men were focused on the gridiron and women were watching Obama and Romney duke it out with words and ideas onstage. Carter, a political enthusiast, said he watched the debate but taped the game.

    How do I rate Obama's chances to win a second term?

    #1 -  Foreign policy experience - Romney has none as commander-in-chief.
    #2 -  Over the last four years, Romney has been talking about bygone days when he was a CEO but has done nothing to help the American people.
    #3 - Romney is a whiner and complainer while Obama is a leader.
    #4 - Romney is too old school to become a forward mover.
    #5 - Anne Romney is ill and cannot fully support her husband's campaign. Michelle is Barack's greatest asset.
    #6 - Although some don't like a black man being President, they can't picture a Mormon in the White House.
    #7 - Except for one indicator (the deficit), things are looking up (jobs, gas prices, trade, etc.)
    #8 - Obama is upbeat, inspirational, and charismatic.
    #9 - Obama is a savvy politician and consummate intellectual. (Can't touch that!)
    #10 - No time to change directions now.

    My prediction:

    Romney will probably garner fewer votes than McCain did in 2008. Mitt has less than 300,000 Mormons praying for him and 1% of Americans (the rich) backing him. Barack has the following voters in his corner: women, seniors, gays, African Americans, immigrants, labor union members, entertainers, the military, teachers, non-rich Americans.

    Do the math.

    ©2012 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved.