More Jackson County Opinions...

July 9, 2003


Column
By:Bill Shipp
The Jackson Herald
July 7, 2003

Are Democrats going, going gone?
In the midst of the old grads’ war of vengeance against UGA President Mike Adams, an inspired idea emerged.
Someone suggested Sen. Zell Miller would be a near-perfect replacement for Adams — if the Bulldog army of Athletic Director Vince Dooley succeeds in ousting the present president.
Come to think of it, Miller would be an outstanding president of the University of Georgia or Young Harris College or any other Georgia institution of higher learning. He has the background and the credentials. A high post in academia would be a fine capstone to a grand career in public service. However, when contacted, Miller said the idea was “ridiculous,” and he had no interest.
Too bad. A potentially good story has been spiked. Appointing Sen. Zell as UGA president in the near future has ramifications that go beyond lifting the Athens campus out of the squalor of controversy. In the view of many, a premature Miller exit from the Senate would virtually seal the doom of the once-mighty Democratic Party of Georgia.
Though Miller has voted often as a Republican in Washington, he has remained a Democrat, the last ranking donkey in the last Southern state to embrace the GOP as the party of the majority.
Miller has already announced his retirement at the end of his term in 2004. Suppose, however, he would agree to resign early to re-enter the world of academia. (Miller claims to be a history teacher in the real world.) Republicans would rejoice. Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue would appoint Miller’s successor — a good Republican, no doubt - and probably eliminate the present possibility of a bloody GOP Senate primary between Congressmen Johnny Isakson and Mac Collins - and an even worse scenario (for Republicans) of a Democrat picking up the pieces from the injurious primary and retaining the Senate seat.
Nevertheless, with or without a hot primary race, Republicans are confident they will continue to expand their power in the state. They see the Democratic Party becoming increasingly marginalized — “the party of African Americans and trial lawyers,” in the words of conservative TV host Dick Williams.
Still, hope springs eternal. Ask a Democrat about the Senate race, and you will hear that Isakson and Collins are already on the road to a repeat of the 1996 Republican disaster. They may be right, but Democrats still do not have a viable candidate on board for the U.S. Senate election.
Seven years ago, Isakson appeared a shoo-in to win the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Democrat Sam Nunn, until conservative businessman Guy Millner turned the GOP primary into a bruising referendum on abortion. Isakson, perceived as the pro-choice candidate, lost the primary. Democrat Max Cleland, definitely a pro-choice candidate, defeated ardent anti-abortionist Millner in the general election.
Isakson’s brain trust says it isn’t about to refight the 1996 primary. The Isakson-Collins contest will be much different, they vow, although Collins is using the same team of strategists who directed Millner’s campaign.
Isakson’s advocates are right about one thing: Georgia’s political landscape has changed dramatically since the election wars of ‘96.
The size of the Republican vote has exploded. In the 1996 Senate primary runoff, just 320,000 Georgians picked up Republican ballots. Last year, more than 510,000 voted in the Republican primary. Republican rolls are expected to swell even more next year as the presidential race takes the spotlight.
The bigger number in the Republican primary waters down the strength of the hard-right wingers in selecting candidates.
Most of the additional Republican voters are Northern transplants (in the metro suburbs) or recently disgruntled Georgia Democrats (in South Georgia). Both groups appear more likely to favor Isakson, who has high name recognition throughout the state. Isakson also has bolstered his conservative credentials with a carefully crafted congressional voting record that even pleases the National Right to Life organization.
On the other hand, Collins is likely to appeal to many of the same voters who fought to save the 1956 Rebel-cross state flag. Those mostly white male voters ultimately helped install Sonny Perdue as governor, replacing Democrat Roy Barnes, and Saxby Chambliss as senator, knocking off Democrat Cleland. In another era, the Collins contingent might have been known as “Lester Maddox Republicans,” and they may come close to owning a majority of the Georgia vote now.
Still, the main issue here is not whether Isakson or Collins has the advantage at the starting gate of the Senate race — but whether Georgia Democrats can recover from their present nosedive into oblivion. And if Miller should decide that leaving the Senate early is not so ridiculous after all, the momentum of the Democrats’ downhill slide would increase precipitously.
You can reach Bill Shipp at P.O. Box 440755, Kennesaw, GA 30160 or e-mail: bshipp@bellsouth.net, Web address: http://www.billshipp.com

Jackson County Opinion Index

Column
By: Adam Fouche
The Jackson Herald
July 9, 2003

Machines too smart?
So maybe the imminent battle depicted in Terminator 3 between man and machine for control of Earth and the survival of the human race will never happen. It is a far-fetched idea.
But the concept that we may be producing machines that are too powerful and too smart warrants more than a passing thought.
As the culture, especially in America, has spurned a lazier society, we have built machines and computers to do our work for us and make our life easier.
Nearly every computer in the country has a connection to some server that connects to some larger server that, through the intricate Internet network, practically connects every computer to one another.
These connections put tons of information about each of us within reach of any smart high school hacker.
Our credit card information, medical history, social security number, bank records, maps to our homes and even lists of the items we most often buy at the grocery store (they track that through your bank card or supermarket discount card) are stored on databases just a few points and clicks away.
Sure, there are protections set up to keep private information private and limit access to these databases. But remember, firewalls and other security blocks are developed by humans. And given the time and opportunity, other humans will always find a way to compromise computer security features.
Of course, this is all a trade off.
I especially love the ease of online bill payment and the ability to make a call with a cell phone smaller than my wallet. And as a reporter, my job would be much more difficult without the ability to pull a world of information off the Internet.
The benefits of smarter computers and machines can’t be overlooked or underestimated. Technological advancements have made important improvements in the medical field and have improved the ability of law enforcement to track and catch criminal offenders.
But again there’s a trade off.
Humans have used scientific advancements to clone animals and even, as a group in Florida claims, clone humans. This raises ethical questions.
And as has made recent headlines, the musical recording industry and the government may soon use computers and Internet network connections to find illegally-downloaded music on hard drives across the country. Some lawmakers have even suggested using computer programs to seek and destroy the computers of those who have downloaded music.
As we make machines and computers more powerful and smarter, we can’t overlook what we are sacrificing in exchange.
More computers and more network connections mean we are compromising our own privacy and confidentiality. And the more we relinquish control to technology the more individuals are taken out of the loop.
No, I don’t foresee computers taking a mind of their own and using our own technology to spawn “terminators” to destroy the human race. That’s science fiction.
But we must remember that as technology and computers become an integrated part of our life, we are exposing our vulnerability leaving ourselves open to attack.
And it’s not an attack from machines I’m worried about. It’s an attack from other humans — one that happens every day to thousands of people — that worries me most.
Adam Fouche is a reporter for MainStreet Newspapers. His email address is fouche@nbank.net.


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