Politics:Ga Amendment 3, Forest Land Conservation and Timberland Properties Amendment (2018)

I had no clue how to vote until I looked up what politicians were saying about this particular amendment.  It was so confusingly written (and honestly, that includes the original language they were editing.  UGH).

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to revise provisions related to the subclassification for tax purposes of and the prescribed methodology for establishing the value of forest land conservation use property and related assistance grants, to provide that assistance grants related to forest land conservation use property may be increased by general law for a five-year period and that up to 5 percent of assistance grants may be deducted and retained by the state revenue commissioner to provide for certain state administrative costs, and to provide for the subclassification of qualified timberland property for ad valorem taxation purposes?

Who Do What???

Then I read what Governor Nathan Deal said, “Georgia’s working forests generate significant economic investment in our local communities due to the contributions of those who replenish and protect our natural resources. This legislation supports our timber growers and lessens the economic burden of producing quality products that sustain numerous industries, from construction to manufacturing.”[4]

I added the underline.  In my experience this is coded language for “helping my rich buddies.”   See when I looked at the actual text – this applies to timer land 200 acres or more.  200 acres.  That’s a LOT of land.  The cheapest plot I could find listed in GA was 1/4 of a million dollars ($225,000) for just over 200 acres.  (ok, there was one listed for $190k but it wasn’t contiguous.  It was broken up across several plots.  ONLY $190k you guys….)

I also read this write-up by UGA (PDF) and it sounds like it’s making it easier for people with timber on their 200+ acres of land to get tax breaks.  Specifically, “They introduce more options for forest landowners in Georgia when it is time to choose which tax incentive program to use and grant more flexibility to landowners to keep their land in forests.”

What really convinced me how I’m going to vote is this analysis in the Calhoun Times, “f it is not necessary for some compelling purpose to give this tax break, it is questionable whether this one type of property should receive a reduced tax valuation as opposed to other types of real property: homes, factories, stores or farm land.”

Thank God for a lawyer making it make sense.  I agree.  I don’t see a compelling reason (or the law makers have done a terrible job of presenting it) for timber owners of 200+ acres get a tax break no one else gets.  IF this is “conservation” they did NOT explain that AT ALL.

In other words, if I don’t understand an amendment my reaction of “fine, i’ll vote AGAINST” was justified (lol).  This is why I try really hard to find information on these things.  I don’t know about y’all but it’s confusing and frustrating, but finding some other sources…. that helps a lot.

Review: The Veil of Gold

The Veil of Gold by Kim Wilkins was good, but I can’t quite give it great.  It grabbed me pretty quickly, I didn’t hit 100 pages before I was carrying it around so I could read anywhere I found myself with a few moments.

The characters were interesting.  I wouldn’t give them all kudos on being well-rounded but they were definitely interesting and I really liked that the main male in the novel was in a lot of ways very anti-trope.  He was nervous and uncertain and very kind.  And yet I never would call him “whiny” (ok, not without really good cause– ’cause he had one!) and I would never think he wasn’t a man.

Ok, so let me get straight to my biggest beef.  The ending.  It was abrupt.  There was all this lead up and build and then in like 20 pages tried to tie everything into a bow that ended up being very messy instead of amazing.  The story kind of desperately needed a denouement.  It felt like the author knew she hit her 50k in NaNoWriMo and just tried to wrap it up ASAP instead of giving it the same depth and attention she had given the first 50,000 words.

It wasn’t a “bad” ending per say, just very, very abrupt and jarring in that abruptness.  So much of the rest of the novel had been more of a slow burn to have that sudden explosion and then nothing beyond it…. was jarring.  It’s the best description I have.

The plot was fabulous through 95% of the book.  REALLY compelling and awesome use of Russian folklore and history.  I loved the intertwining of the magical and real worlds.  The way the characters wove worked wonders.  Pun might be intended because of the wondrous nature of the plot….

Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fairy tales but not to just anyone.  I would definitely say it’s more of 15+ age as there is some graphic language, descriptions of violence (Russian fairy tales are NOT generally nice), and sex – although it isn’t erotic or “sexy” but the topic comes up in enough ways I’d bring the age up a little more than I might otherwise.  If not for the sex & language, I’d probably put this at 13+ and then only because of the complexity of the journey itself.  But anyone who’s read Lord of the Rings (read it, not watched the movie) could definitely get through this book – except for the age-potentially-inappropriate content.

I think overall, I’d give this 3.5 out of 5.  Good, recommended to people who I think would enjoy it – but not a “if you don’t read this you are denying yourself pleasure in this life you should regret” level.

Politics: GA Amendment 4, Marsy’s Law Crime Victim Rights Amendment (2018)

This one I struggled with.  On the surface it is a great idea and I 100% support it.  There are so many good reasons!  And yet… this is where I really struggle with the American “justice” system.

So the text on the ballot will be:

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to provide certain rights to victims against whom a crime has allegedly been perpetrated and allow victims to assert such rights?

The rights include things like telling a victim of a felony (rape, assault, etc.) of court dates; when the accused is up for parole or release.  And the tv ads I’ve seen focus on the idea of how a woman would feel seeing her assailant at the grocery store, at her work, or he shows up at her house.  OH! The humanity!

Yes.  This happens.  According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) 29% of federal violent crimes convicted are arrested again.  BUT in this article the award-winning journalist Nancy Mullane followed over 900 convicted of murder and found less than 10% were re-arrested for anything (and none for murder).  Do these people deserve to have this crime follow them the rest of their lives?  I don’t know if kin would be considered “victims” under this law (I couldn’t find out in timely manner) and it bothers me.

You see, the 29% sound bad – that’s 1 out of every 3!  But the BJS also says “A sixth (16.1%) of released prisoners were responsible for almost half (48.4%) of the nearly 1.2 million arrests that occurred in the 5-year follow-up period.”  so a bit more than 1 out of 6 (16% is 6.25/100) make up HALF – that’s a lot (and honestly what I expected).  The other information I couldn’t find from the BJS report (which I find very disturbing) – how many of these offenders are arrested for a similar crime? Are they being arrested for drunk driving for beating up another person (robbing, raping, etc.)?

But the BJS only looked at federal criminals – The U.S. Sentencing Commission looked at states as well – over 25,000 released inmates and there are some interesting stats.  (PDF of the report) “When considering only the “most serious” post-release offense committed by those who were rearrested, assault was the most prevalent. About one-fourth (23.3%) of those rearrested had an assault rearrest as their most serious post-release event over the study period. Other common “most serious” offenses were public order (15.5%), drug trafficking (11.5%), and larceny (7.7%)” (bold is mine)

This is the issue I have – if someone commits a crime, they are burdened by that forever in our system.  more than 3/4 do NOT commit a similar crime.  But…

Is 1/4 enough? Yes.  For me it is. So despite my struggle that released/ paroled/ “rehabilitated” people coming out of the justice system should get a chance to stay clean… the 1/4 who even might go back and hurt their victim again (the stats don’t say anything about criminals going back after their accuser, but it IS possible). That is also 1 out 4 who are likely hurt someone. I don’t know that it’s the best solution but it is at least better than nothing.

So I’m going to vote “yes” but I don’t like this solution.  I would rather we look at giving those released better tools to prevent recidivism than focus on just “protecting victims.”  I get that this sells better (I mean, who can’t feel sympathy for the woman opening the door on the man who attacked her before!) but this isn’t a GOOD solution.  I think it’s a terrible solution. But it DOES help protect the vulnerable in our society.  So reluctantly, I think it’s better than doing nothing.

Politics: Ga Amendment 5, School Sales Tax Referendums Amendment (2018)

Amendment 5 would amend the Georgia Constitution to authorize a school district or group of school districts within a county to call for a sales and use tax referendum. The referendum called by the school districts would then have to be approved by a majority of the qualified voters residing within the limits of the county.

When I first read this amendment, I felt annoyed.  It isn’t the job of the school board in a county to figure out taxes.  BUT – the argument is that Local Board of Education (LBOE’s) were empowered in the 1990’s for SPLOST projects already… ok, now I’m less annoyed.

I STILL have a gut feeling that the legislative body is trying to foist responsibility onto the local politicians instead.  In the exact same breath, that might be good – the local LBOE in a place like Fulton County might be grateful to be able to process requests themselves.  Smaller boards however may find it more burdensome.

So which is more important, the time of the smaller boards which would benefit from having “experts” help make such rulings or freedom for larger counties/boards that could use more dexterity?  Either way, the voters would need to approve it…

Ok, so I think I’m going to vote “yes” on this one.  I still have some faith that people want educated children and MIGHT actually approve such a tax.  I could be wrong, but I think it isn’t a terrible idea…. I think.  I hope.

Writing: Novel in Progress Part 4

Captain Chou looked at the report.  Out of respect they had annonymized the transmissions in all the ambassadorial suites, but he did notice a significant spike of activity after Talia’s arrival.  It wasn’t surprising, certainly each ambassador was furiously scrambling to write home and ask for instructions.  Probably video and conference calls across the stars.  That would be expensive on the power grid if it continued too long.  He sighed, running a hand through his hair.  He put out a quick message to the crew to minimize unnecessary power usage.  He then followed with a quick ping to the three shift engineer leads to give them a code to let him know if they ever hit 70% usage.  It was still well within safety range and would give them a chance to ration the power more carefully.

Rubbing his eyes, the captain set down the pad and leaned back in his chair.  He felt he could fall asleep sitting up, but also knew that would give him a terrible crink in his neck.  Slowly, he stood and rolled his head reflexively.  Tomorrow was going to be a long day no matter how he considered it.  He just hoped the existence of the Orgalla’s ambassador didn’t spark something dangerous back home.  What would the news be spouting?  Fortunately, only four reporters had been permitted – one for each racial delegate and a military reporter that was always assigned to the Sunburst.  And their videos were NOT allowed to be sent directly to any news media – each race had been instant that all communication from the media crews should be first vetted by governments to maintain any state secrets which needed to be maintained.  Talia was almost certainly a state secret in most if not all governments tonight.

Would it stay that way?  Should it stay that way?  The very thought passing through his mind made the Captain jolt slightly and run his fingers over his beard.  He was clearly too tired to think straight anymore.  He made himself go and lay down on his bed, trying to turn off his brain and let sleep come.

In the morning, when the Captain arrived in the conference room Yewoul  was already there.  The kikatal wore the general sashes tied to its furry form, designed to link together in intricate knots.  The ceremonial garb was extravagent, and despite the human belief that kikatal preferred their “natural” look, the Captain had long ago learned that they had learned to prefer clothing and tended to go “natural” when they were concerned about a potential battle.  Their hair could harden at will into sharp spikes, so it was actually a sign of trust and comfort to wear cloth.

“Good morning,” Captain Chou said.

“Captain,” the ambassador nodded its head.  Chou was fairly certain Yeoul was female, but he wasn’t completely sure.

“Have you had anything to eat yet?” the captain asked politely.

“Yes, I consumed nutrition tablets in my cabin so I could remain focused today on this negotiation.” Yewoul replied.  “I am wondering Captain, what are your thoughts on this Talia Lost?”

Captain Chou considered carefully and then said, “I honestly am not sure ambassador.  We don’t know how the orgalla communicate, we don’t know where they found or made her…”

“So you agree it is possible she was constructed?”

“But then why human?” the captain retorted, “we aren’t even the most populous species, I know the dewallo outnumber humans at least 2 to 1.  If she was constructed, why human?”

“So you believe they found her and stole her?”

“How?  And why her of all humans?”

“You speak truly Captain,” the ambassador settled into its chair with a heavy human-like sigh.  “We just don’t know.  My government wants me to ask the humans to press this issue – could you as a representative of the military demand some kind of answer?”

“I have been given orders to remain as neutral as possible.  It would have to come from Ambassador Westmire,” Captain Chou kept his voice neutral as he said it, but he saw that Yewoul understood – Paul Westmire was the worse choice for such a demand.  He would bluster and make more of a mess than now.  Ambassador Irvine was a better choice, but Captain Chou couldn’t say that outright.

Ambassadors Risyk of the dewallo and Irvine of non-earth Alliance arrived together, followed by the dewallo Deneph and the kikatal Etcorm.  Talia Lost and her silent guardian arrived shortly afterwards.  She looked around the room silently and hesitated.  Captain Chou quickly approached and said, “Welcome Ambassador Lost.  Is that how you wish to be addressed?”

“Princess Talia actually,” she replied.  “My adopted mother is heir to the… throne is the closest human equivalent.”

There were exchanged glances and Captain Chou said, “Forgive me Princess Talia.  Have you had breakfast?  We have some refreshments over here and the seats for you and your companion are right here.”

Captain Chou showed her the assortment of breakfast finger-foods, coffee, and the seats for the orgalla ambassadorial team.  She selected two morsels and moved to her chair.  She still wore the military-style outfit and her hair in a braid.  Paul Westmire arrived with the press, talking to the reports from the Sunburst and Earth alliance.  When he saw everyone already there he made a production of getting coffee and talking to Talia Lost before he finally moved to his seat, ignoring the frowns from the other ambassadors.

Manners: Remove Thyself!

I read this comic this week: https://questionablecontent.net/view.php?comic=3837 (and if you don’t read QC – you should!)

And I don’t want to talk about the content per say – but rather when it’s time to remove yourself from a bad spot.  I definitely had that in 2 jobs.  I knew things were turning sour and I couldn’t see how to fix it without compromising myself/my ethics.  So it was time to start job hunting.

And this is true of relationships too.  Sometimes it’s a catalyst like Basilisk (the purple lady in the comic) experienced that just makes her see it.  Sometimes it builds up over time and one day you look at the mountain of evidence and say, “Oh. Wow.  Ok, that isn’t good anymore.”

Knowing this is hard though.  I’ve always been afraid I’m going to “give up” on stuff too quickly, which sometimes means I “stick with” it MUCH longer than I should.  I hate giving up.  I hate admitting defeat.  I hate admitting I made mistakes.

But you know what, I like seeing reminders that I should look for catalysts.  I should listen to the piles of evidence. So should you.

Politics: Why I believe in legislation

I don’t believe legislation is the fix for everything, but I think it can help.  Specifically, when we are talking about the current beloved topic of “legislating morality.” And this isn’t simple to me – I have struggled a lot with the abortion topic over the years.  So setting that one aside (It’ll have to be another post someday), I want to talk about why I support some “morality legislation.”

Ok, so first off, that is such a bullshit term in my opinion.  200 years ago, we thought putting out a child to die in the woods was an understandable if tragic choice people had to make. 100 years ago cutting off a limb to save a life was entirely “normal and acceptable” (again, tragic).  Today society allows black people to get shot when buying a candy bar.  Can we agree that it’s tragic at least??? (Do we really have to ask people to find death tragic?)

As society, we agree “murder” is wrong.  Premeditated killings are “wrong.”  That is actually morality.  By that logic, the death penalty IS murder, but a society we allow THAT murder.  So even is something as “simple” as murder we have exceptions.  We give different definitions of killing someone like “self-defense” and “manslaughter” when it isn’t premeditated and depending on other factors as a society (all expressed through legislation) we have a variety of reprieves and punishments we think “are right” for those acts.

So when we have a segment of the population that, for one reason or another, just CAN’T seem to figure out how not to murder other people; we legislate the morality for the “good of all.”  And yes, it is a very slippery slope.  This could very easily turn into applying [my] morality on people (my here being whoever is writing the law).  And in fact, that does happen.  Just look at the various definitions of what constitutes rape across various states/jurisdictions: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laws_regarding_rape

So they might need to be revised after being written as we continue to evolve and learn.  I accept that.  The idea of “no means no” has transmuted into “only yes means yes” just in the past 10 years or so – and the distinction is important there.  So Rule #1 is:

#1 – No law should be set in stone. Anything might need to be revised.

Can we agree that as we learn more, we revise information?  I recently learned sperm don’t swim! (https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-05/uow-sca050412.php)

Ok, so if we agree that new information can change “morality” laws – what ISN’T morality?  I mean, is stopping as a red light because it’s “moral?”  I mean, if you take my first bit far enough – YES.  Because WHY do we stop at red lights?  So we don’t kill each other?  And we’ve decided the morals of murder are bad.  But that eventually turns in reducto ad absurdum – we also require stopping at red lights to keep traffic moving on all the streets, not just for the pushy people.

Which is a great example to lead into my 2nd rule.  Pushy people; Type A; Aggressive/Assertive; etc.  We all can think of someone who fits this mold (and if you can’t, it’s probably you).  1,000 years ago these are the people who became tyrannical lords  (*cough* William the conqueror *cough*).  Now they become tyrannical managers or just frustrated assholes.

Because, we (as a society) decided that sometimes having compassion like Mother Teresa or Ghandi or MLK Jr – it’s a good thing!

And this is important for an “enlightened” society (in my opinion).  We recognize that strength of conviction and strength of arms/voice are not the same thing.  Which is what drives Trump crazy because he can’t understand why his strong-arming doesn’t win him the kind of acclaim that MLK Jr got (much less Obama).  We have decided to recognize a value in smart and not just strong (overall, obviously some people still like “strong” over “smart”).

So I would argue this is rule #2:

#2 – Give as much value to the words spoken softly as those yelled from the rooftops.

This very much also comes from my personal belief and I will own it – I’ve written before about the tattoo I want.  That very strongly informs me that those who are “weak” and “helpless” and NOT “worthless” accordingly – and in fact those of us with the strength SHOULD stop and make sure our less-strong-“neighbors” have our arms & voices to BE heard.  This is the foundation of things like the #metoo, #blacklivesmatter and #whyIdidntreport – all of which are voices who have historically been beaten down, abused and ignored.

And lastly, this leads to my third rule which I think should almost be #1, but I think it needs the previous 2 to really support it:

#3 – Consider who this could hurt.

And sometimes we can’t tell.  There is an intersection I drive through every day that gives me road-rage because people don’t know the difference between and merge and a turn lane…. but when it was designed the road-builders couldn’t see how people would try to subvert their GOOD plan. Whoever designed it thought people would respect things like “don’t cross a solid white line” (Citation from an attorney in GA).  They don’t and it causes MASSIVE back-ups (seriously, I’m going to get a dashcam and record.  The days people don’t get in the turn-lane; buttery.  The days they do… log jam!)  But I’m not mad the designers of the path – they never expected it to be used this way and had no idea.

And this is where the rules loop.  Because we might not realize immediately the law hurts someone (stop & frisk; war on drugs; a poor definition of rape; etc.) but over time we LEARN.  Admitting we screwed up, the law didn’t achieve what we intended/wanted/etc. and going back to Rule #1 – changing it.  This is how we improve.

And this is where #3 also has a caveat about accepting data.  Accepting the fact that there were factors you didn’t see or didn’t know about – that’s ok.  And as a society, we need to give a little grace.  If someone comes out and says, “You know, I’ve learned some things I didn’t know 1, 5, 10 years ago and now I think….” we should reward them.  They are not “flip-flopping” – they are learning.  Learning is good.  Your whole life.  GOOD.

Anyway, as we go into November I am going to be looking for candidates who follow my three rules:

  1. Admit things might need to evolve/change
  2. Give value to the quiet, less-heard people
  3. Consider who a change might impact
    1. Accept data that disagrees with your preconceived notions on the impact

The candidates who are willing to get anywhere NEAR this philosophy – they’ll get my vote.  Because I don’t want to go backwards.  I like antibiotics to prevent gangrene.  I don’t want anyone to leave their child to die in the woods.  I want to continue moving on to perfection.