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June 11, 2008


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Column
By Mark Beardsley

Effects Of High Fuel Prices Defy All Experience
Now that $4 gasoline has arrived, there is talk of $6 gasoline. And who says newspapers carry only bad news?
Is there anyone out there with a clear idea what gasoline and energy prices are going to do to our lifestyles? I hear of $6 gasoline, then dark hints that natural gas and electricity prices will follow.
At $3 per gallon, filling up was a nuisance. Today, it is downright painful — and Gov. Sonny Perdue’s elimination of a 2.9 cents per gallon increase in the state fuel tax is a joke, considering Georgia is collecting sales taxes on a product that costs 33 percent more than it did a year ago. You can’t solve every problem with tax relief, Gov., but I guess you had to do something.
We already see the effects of $4 gas (and $5 diesel) in our grocery stores, compounding higher prices caused in part by emphasis on turning corn into ethanol instead of food. General Motors announced the closing of four plants that make SUVs and trucks (If you want a Hummer, now’s the time, because they’re dinosaurs that never had a useful civilian life and are doomed to extinction by fuel prices). The airlines are in trouble, the outlet stores can’t be far behind. Oh, and I hear there’s a mortgage crisis.
Fuel prices hit everyone and affect everything. The economic shake-out will be fascinating but far-reaching as every product and service becomes more expensive, but just think about your own personal use of gasoline.
The next time you buy a vehicle, unless you just won the MegaMillions lottery game, you’re going to go for more miles per gallon (mpg). If you’re getting 17 mpg in your SUV today, what will you go for in 2009? Do you switch to a more efficient SUV that gets 22, or drop down to a Corolla that surpasses 30? Do you trade your beloved F-150 for a Ranger, or do you decide maybe you don’t really need a truck?
OK, that’s approaching blasphemy; all households need a pickup, but maybe not one that costs $120 to fill.
If you live in Lawrenceville, do you still drive to Commerce to the Nike store, or find a place to shop closer to home? Do Commerce residents quit driving to Athens and the Mall of Georgia to shop? Who knows?
Many local people struggled to get by at $3 per gallon. What does $4 per gallon do to them? How many jobs in travel-dependant businesses will go as the economy restructures itself to cope with the prices of fuel?
From time to time we’ll see dips in the prices of gasoline, but short of a worldwide economic collapse — which is not out of the question — the cost will trend upwards, and it will change the ways we live, drive, recreate, work and play. In 20 years, people looking at our current movies and television shows will laugh at the huge cars and trucks like we laugh at the wardrobes and hairstyles in “Dirty Harry.”
The era of energy so cheap it could be wasted without consequence is over, and adjusting to the new paradigm will be most traumatic for the nation that has two percent of the world’s population and uses a quarter of its resources.
Fasten your seat belts.
Mark Beardsley is the editor of The Commerce News. Contact him at mark@mainstreetnews.com.

Group’s Activities Recall The Ku Klux Klan In ‘86
Hatred and prejudice know no bounds. They are not limited to any ethnic groups, income bracket or religion. So, it is nothing new that the so-called Christian Action Network would come to Commerce to push its agenda against local Muslims.
Their tactics are juvenile. They, in essence, try to provoke Muslims to anger so they can report on their web page that they were attacked by terrorists. In an earlier era, they’d have made good Nazis, but this isn’t pre-World War II Germany and few Commerce area residents are attracted to such obvious tactics.
The idea is to brand all Muslims extremists, yet a look at the Christian Action Network would identify its members as the extremists — though hardly as Christians. Commerce residents can remember another group that tried unsuccessfully to divide the community. Instead, the 1986 activity by the Ku Klux Klan brought blacks and whites closer together, and relations remain good today.
Commerce is a rural community, but we recognize prejudice when we see it. We also know the difference between Christian activists and hatemongers.

Don’t Be Swayed By Character Assassinations
At long last, the presidential primary season is over and the nominees of the respective parties can focus on convincing the voters that they are better qualified or better suited to lead America for the next four years.
Let the voters beware. This will be a nasty election where sorting fact from fiction will require diligence.
This is not a situation unique to the Republicans or the Democrats. Sadly, the new model for getting elected is the assassination of the character of the other candidate. We’re not talking about exaggeration or hyperbole, but rather deliberate campaigns aimed at ruining the reputations of our potential presidents.
The meanness is driven all the faster by bloggers, columnists and shadow groups that exist on the Internet for the specific purpose of confusing voters with disinformation. Thus, one will find e-mails declaring that Democratic nominee apparent Sen. Barack Obama is a Muslim, that he took the oath of office with his hand not on a Bible, but on a copy of the Quran, that he is closely associated with terrorist groups. We can expect similar propaganda aimed at discrediting Sen. John McCain.
Those attempts have lives of their own outside the campaigns of the candidates. While it is likely that the two campaigns will engage in “spinning” information to suit their needs, thousands of partisans with little or even no direct link to the candidates will churn out totally fabricated documents, stories, photographs and allegations attempting to control your vote.
The campaign will last a long five months. By the time it is over, a monarchy may seem preferable to the American election process. Every attempt will be made to sway your vote, to manipulate your thoughts, to direct your action. The only way our Democracy can survive is if voters reject the politics of character assassination and make informed decisions based on a candidate’s real record, his public statements and his ideas on willingness to address the huge challenges of our time, from global warming to the economy to, most importantly, the war in Iraq. Don’t let the lies, innuendos and distortions guide your decision-making process. Don’t be complicit in the destruction of this democracy.


Column
By Susan Harper

How To Celebrate Father’s Day
I’ve never been sure that the fathers of this world get enough credit for all that they do, but perhaps this is because I strongly suspect that my own father never has.
True, he worked long hours during his 40-year career in aviation, and his commute grew longer and longer as New York and the airline business both grew — but he always seemed to be having such a wonderful time, we kids could hardly wait to grow up and go to work too!
In fact, we never really thought of him as working. We thought he was off on a grand adventure. Whether he was flying a plane or, as he put it, flying a desk, his experiences provided stories with which he regaled us in the evenings. Touched by his Southern storytelling gift, the characters and situations he ran into in his “workaday world” leapt to life at home: the co-worker who had such a crippling handshake that grown men went out of their way to avoid him; the sheik in an oil-rich emirate whose pride and joy was a women’s college he had started; the woman in a Manhattan coffee shop who ate the same exact thing every single morning: an onion bagel. These people and their lives became part of our family vocabulary, and the world beyond our home took on an allure of fascination.
But Dad had fun at home too. The men of our New York neighborhood had a pact: Never call a “repair man” — somebody around here will have the know-how you need. Already a practiced tinkerer from his growing-up years on a farm, Dad gained new expertise in furnace, washing machine and refrigerator repair, along with plumbing, insulation, carpentry, and so on — and on. I still remember the day he and our across-the-street neighbor put in a new mailbox using a post-hole digger. I thought it looked like the worst work in the world, but the two of them were out there laughing.
As for gardening, Dad grows things just for the joy of it. Our Long Island yard was filled with trees and shrubs and flower gardens — the only thing out there that looked like it might be actual work was the lawn — and when Dad and Mother retired here in Commerce, he started spending eight hours a day in the new yard, filling it with azaleas, creating brick pathways, a “hiding place,” and a secret garden, giving us all an earthly paradise which he and we still enjoy constantly.
Retirement also brought the fun of volunteering, and a whole new batch of adventures and stories featuring his new neighbors and fellow volunteers.
So what do you give a guy who has traveled the world, fulfilled his career dreams, shared the fun of it all with his family, and — as far as you can tell — had a fabulous time? He says he wouldn’t mind a Jaguar, but other than that, he can’t think of a thing he needs. I’ve been a long time realizing that this is not just a man whose glass has been half-full his whole life (instead of half-empty); this is a man whose glass has been full — whose cup has been running over. And what I give him is applause. And, maybe a new shirt. An apple pie, perhaps? (His favorite.) And, my heart.
Susan Harper is director of the Commerce Public Library. She lives in Commerce.



 

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