More Jackson County Opinions...

JANUARY 29, 2003


Column
By:Virgil Adams
The Jackson Herald
January 22, 2003

This, that and the other
This, that and the other? Yes, I thought this (or that) would be a nice change from the title that usually accompanies these raids on shoe boxes filled with notebooks full of stuff. We’ll give “Short notes from all over” a rest this week.
But the content is the same: bright ideas, deep thoughts, quotable quotes, vibrations, impulses and gems of wisdom that have come to the old prophet (prophet?) over these many years of keeping a journal.
* * *
First, a word for the serious and not-so-serious religious folks who are contributing to the proliferation of WWJD signs on church marquees and vehicle bumpers.
I assume they are looking for answers to the question. “What would Jesus do?” I also assume that, once they find the answers, WWJD becomes their modus operandi. They go and do likewise. Or do they?
It is a worthy goal, and I commend anyone who has achieved it.
I confess that I have a long way to go. I was comfortable with WWJD until I changed it to WDJD and did a little research.
I’m here to tell you that asking what Jesus would do and doing what Jesus did are not one and the same. Asking is easy. Doing is hard.
Being the frustrated preacher that I am, I probably will have more to say on this subject. Stay tuned.
* * *
I am also a frustrated receiver of various, sundry and assorted pieces of mail. For every first class piece that I get, there are five or six second, third, fourth, fifth and junk pieces. And oftentimes, some of the junk is made to look first class. And don’t you just hate it when junk is made to look like official government documents?
There ought to be a law.
* * *
I don’t believe it, but I hear tell there are some people out there who don’t get any mail at all. And they would like to get some mail. I am fixin’ to tell ‘em how.
Just give to some charity. For the rest of your life, you will get mail from that organization asking for another donation. Just because you gave once, they think you ought to give again—and again and again and again.
I made a small donation to a worthy cause 12 years ago. That worthy cause mails a bleeding-heart solicitation every three or four months asking for more. They have spent more on postage than on my original donation.
Furthermore, that charity has sold my name and address to other charities, and my mail has proliferated faster than WWJD signs on church marquees and vehicle bumpers.
* * *
Here’s another frustration: We may win the war with Iraq, but we have lost the war with fire ants.
Even more frustrating is the stupidity I have displayed in continuing the fight. Over the past five or six years I’ve invested big bucks in the hopeless battle. Add the big bucks you and your Southern neighbors have invested, and the total will be in the billions. (I take no consolation in the fact that I am not alone in my stupidity.)
I have tried every new bait, chemical, poison and treatment that has come down the pike. It’s all been money down a rat hole. Excuse me, ant hole.
One morning there were 16 mounds in the garden and yard. The next morning there were 32. Twenty-four hours later there were 64. I launched another salvo of stuff, and the fire ants were gone—for three days. Then they started their geometric progression again.
* * *
Scientists someday will come up with a chemical killer that will eradicate fire ants from the face of the earth. That does not encourage me.
That deadly agent will so pollute the soil and water that we—and the soil and water—would be better off if we had left the fire ants alone.
Years later a new generation of scientists will determine the serious side effects of the stuff and wonder why the previous generation was so stupid.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that, in the end, Nature will win. And she will do it without any help from us...and in spite of us.
* * *
Let’s hear it for Joyce Hardman, a manager with the University of Georgia auxiliary services.
Last summer the University developed a web site that offered parking permits online to students.
Eight thousand students tried to access the site at 9 a.m. on July 19. The computer crashed, and fewer than 200 of the 18,000 parking spots were assigned by day’s end.
Said Ms. Hardman: “It was a great system, but it totally didn’t work.”
Yeah, great system.
* * *
I pay The Atlanta Journal-Constitution $223.02 a year just to read The Vent. I think that qualifies me to quote one occasionally. The following appeared on Jan. 20:
“War is brewing, no one’s working, kids are starving and you pea brains are worried about what the state flag looks like. What a waste.”
Sort of like throwing stuff down an ant hole, huh?
Parting shot: It is all right to be stupid. But a pea brain?
* * *
Hold it! This just in. Another Vent: “When you destroy an ant hill—including the queen—how do they relocate, rebuild and elect a new queen by the next day?”
Virgil Adams is former editor and owner of The Jackson Herald.

Jackson County Opinion Index

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Column
By: Bill Shipp
The Jackson Herald
January 22, 2003

Ready to put the brakes on runaway litigation
So you think Democrats were the biggest losers in the last round of Georgia elections? It’s true - the donkeys took a bath. But trial lawyers, regardless of their party, were hit harder.
For the first time in memory, courtroom attorneys no longer dominate state government. Perhaps that is why “tort reform” - now euphemistically called “civil justice reform” - echoes louder than ever off the walls of the Gold Dome.
A year ago, or two years ago, or a decade back, anyone who said “tort reform” wasted his breath.
The Capitol’s ruling clique of lawyers didn’t want to hear proposals for capping damages in liability lawsuits - or changing the way expert witnesses are qualified - or, heaven forbid, limiting lawyers’ fees. Now, those ideas and many similar ones are expected to gain the full attention of the governor and the 2003 Legislature, once they tire of sparring with one another over internal government issues.
Why the sudden interest in tort reform?
Two reasons:
1. The business climate is right. Liability insurance premiums are going through the roof. Physicians are quitting their profession because they can’t afford to pay for malpractice policies. Mortgage lenders and insurance companies are leaving the state in droves. Every kind of insurance - from homeowners’ protection to individual healthcare plans - is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain. Some of the stated reasons for these woes: A runaway trial lawyers’ bar, sky-high judgments in civil liability cases, and a plethora of seemingly frivolous lawsuits filling the courts and threatening to disrupt ordinary commerce.
(Insurance companies blame exorbitant court judgments for suddenly skyrocketing premiums. Trial lawyers say the plunge in the stock market and the resultant decline in investments are the reasons.)
2. The political atmosphere has changed. A businessman, Sonny Perdue, replaced noted trial lawyer Roy Barnes as governor. Eric Johnson, a Savannah architect, is running the state Senate. And Terry Coleman, the new House speaker, has a background in financial planning and insurance. He replaced wily courtroom advocate Tom Murphy, who manned the barricades in the Legislature for three decades against meaningful tort reform.
Gov. Perdue, even when he was a Democratic state senator, was an ardent advocate of tort reform. The present Bush administration has made tort reform a national priority.
The Georgia Chamber of Commerce, headed by one-time Macon Mayor George Israel, is leading the lobbyist charge for civil judicial reform in our state. Nearly every other business and healthcare association has joined the campaign.
Having suffered a body blow in the last election, the usually aggressive trial lawyers’ bar has been rocked back on its heels.
With the rise of the GOP in Georgia, the pro-business lobby, always a power in the Statehouse, is probably more influential now than ever. And tort reform has the best chance ever of becoming reality.
Tort reform laws, however, are sometimes similar to bills dealing with predatory lending and other seemingly mom-and-apple-pie measures. They can have serious side effects.
Georgia’s predatory lending law, enacted to protect naive consumers from unscrupulous loan sharks, turned out to be too strict. Several big-time mortgage companies have packed up and left. The high-credit-risk consumer is having a tougher time finding money to borrow.
Similarly, cracking down on the courts with new rules for litigation could make it more difficult for the Little People to recover damages through the courts. Surely, such a result would not be what the current boosters of tort reform intend.
In addition, as any plaintiff’s lawyer will tell you, we have the trial bar to thank for having safer vehicles, sounder healthcare practices, and purer foods and drugs. In most cases, litigants, not lobbyists or lawmakers, have made big-biz more responsive to citizens’ needs for safer products and services.
Yet, the current avalanche of lawsuits obviously cannot continue unabated, lest we endanger our standard of living.
In the end, however, the solution to civil judicial reform may lie more in selecting wiser and more responsible judges than in enacting tougher and more restrictive laws. The buck for giving us better state judges stops with Gov. Perdue.

You can reach Bill Shipp at email: bshipp@bellsouth.net, Web address: http://www.billshipp.com


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