The Agitator by Oliver_Halle
The Agitator #139: Mr. Lee and the ethics hearing
October 23, 2014 10:55 AM | 145349 views | 0 0 comments | 2697 2697 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

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by Oliver_Halle
January 31, 2012 09:47 AM | 1194 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

On Monday (1/30/2012), I went to the Cobb County Government Center on Lower Roswell Road to renew my car registration. There were six people in front of me. From the time I arrived to the time I left was under ten minutes. To say that the people in the tax office are efficient, courteous, and friendly would be an understatement. Too often we hear about lazy, inefficient, underworked, and overpaid government workers. In my experience the workers in the tax office are representative of the vast majority of those who work for Cobb County government, and that includes my contacts with the police and fire departments. We are fortunate to have such a high caliber work force.

I might add, especially to those critics of federal employees, if you haven’t dealt with the Social Security Administration, you could only wish that the private sector could run as smoothly. Too many government workers at all levels have been negatively stereotyped. Perhaps the critics are blind to all too many consumer complaints from the private sector, by way of example. It is a myth that the private sector always works better and more efficiently. And no, I am not a socialist by any stretch; I am just pointing out the reality of people being people in any setting.   

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by Oliver_Halle
January 25, 2012 09:11 AM | 1183 views | 2 2 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

There are apologists for Mitt Romney’s wealth, and I for one don’t begrudge him for being successful as he is wont to point out in every debate. What is troubling, though, is not that he paid a lower tax rate on the money he made, it is how the tax code allows him to structure his income so that it receives a special break. Romney did the same as anyone of us would do if we had the means to take advantage of the code. Different sources argue whether various forms of investment income really provide that much capital to create jobs. I have read that it is nowhere near the amount as some of those who benefit from the breaks would have you believe. Interesting too is that many Americans are unhappy that almost half of all Americans pay no income tax, but for some reason they are okay with the more advantaged paying a much lower tax rate than most middle class earners.

Senator Johnny Isakson has spoken to any number of groups, including Marietta Kiwanis where I am a member. Many of these canned speeches are summarized in the MDJ. The senator has staked out a position, a mantra, that taxes and regulations are killing small businesses. In my opinion, the worst and most burdensome regulations are those that the IRS disseminates. I think most Americans agree that we need a tax code that is simpler, reaches more people, and is more equitable. I would urge Senator Isakson to do more than complain about the current system that he says he doesn’t like any more than I do. I would urge him to be the sponsor---not co-sponsor of someone else’s bill---but the sponsor of his own bill that would revamp the tax code and tax regulations. I would urge Senator Isakson to show some meaningful leadership and begin working on this project. Perhaps he could put together a group of professionals to work on some ideas, to work with his staff, set some timelines, and put something of substance on the table that can be acted on. His constant complaining and blaming Obama and the Democrats for all our economic problems is not moving the ball down field, and if he were to do more right now than just talk, he just might have a Republican senate in the near future that could make his reform efforts happen.  

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Pat Sullivan
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February 06, 2012
Once again people misunderstand wages vs. income. Mitt Romney's income does not come from wages and is therefore taxed at the Capital Gains rate of 15%. The gains were made by monies already taxed at a higher corporate rate and are now taxed only on the gain made from the investments. Envy is a sin. Ignorance has no such excuse.

by Oliver_Halle
January 16, 2012 08:56 AM | 1254 views | 2 2 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

The Georgia General Assembly is once again going to debate ethics reform, at least create the appearance of a debate. It is remarkable that there is resistance to limiting what lobbyists can spend on our elected officials in order to “inform” and keep them abreast of issues. Recall that House Speaker David Ralston took his family to Europe during the Thanksgiving holiday in 2010. Ralston defended the $17,000 trip, paid for by a lobbyist with an interest in transportation projects, by saying that he was there to look at different countries’ systems to provide some ideas for Georgia. Ralston responded, when asked why his wife and children accompanied him, by saying that he wasn’t going to spend Thanksgiving away from his family. I have always wondered what our American fighting men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan thought about Ralston’s hardship. But the best news stemming from this trip is that none of the cost of the trip and largess lavished on Ralston and his family had, or would have, any influence on his decision making. At least that’s what he said. Ralston maintains that the citizens should decide whether a legislator is being influenced and vote him out of office, but that no laws should limit how much is spent on legislators, who presumably do their best thinking over steaks, lobsters, lavish country clubs, sporting events, and the like.

Angela Spier, a former Public Service Commissioner, I presume would disagree with Ralston. She took money from no special interests whatsoever. If a lobbyist wanted to dine her, my understanding is that she would tell him to bring his bologna sandwich to her office, and she would bring hers, where the two would eat in and discuss issues. I wonder how many lobbyists took her up on that offer. Angela Spier represents the high water mark for ethics, and I hope that better judgment than David Ralston’s prevails at the capitol.  

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Mike Grier
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January 21, 2012
As we all know from many infamous examples, "follow the money". Lobbyists, and public officials who allow themselves to be influenced, should not be tolerated and their should be laws against that sort of thing.

What average American citizen has the same access as a lobbyist to the people they've voted for? None. Care to test that theory? Try writing to those you've elected. If you're lucky you'll get a form letter in reply. I know; I've done it. They are not listening to you and I.

Our political system is broken. Until we have campaign finance reform and term limits we are doomed to continue doing the same things expecting different results, which is the definition of insanity.


by Oliver_Halle
January 10, 2012 03:35 PM | 1406 views | 5 5 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

In a MDJ story dated 1/10/2012, “Grand jury suggests higher pay for police officers”, there were 22 comments underneath it at the time I wrote this, almost all negative, and all written by anonymous writers. Admittedly, I have a more positive opinion about paying police for the job they do for us, so at least I shouldn’t fear a knock on my door by one of Cobb’s finest for being on the wrong side of this issue. But it baffles me that even in responding to innocuous newspaper stories, most commentators hide behind anonymity and make some of the nastiest personal attacks about the subjects of an article or column. It would be nice to know who these folks are so that the readers can determine if the writer has a personal agenda, if it is a political opponent, or if there is something else driving the attacks. Same for those writers who support the people named in a story---we should know if they too have some personal interest or connection. I don’t like a lot of our elected officials at all levels any more than most other people, but I give them credit for putting their names out there when they float something controversial. I give them credit for letting the public jump on them and their ideas, for not hiding in a bunker when they say something likely to generate controversy. I think more of us would like to see some names behind the comments. Somehow I suspect that the nasty tone of many of them will become more civilized; they might not want their children, spouses and friends to see the kind of personal attacks that might otherwise be made on them. Perhaps too, some of these anonymous writers, who so often seem to be closet pundits on any subject, should give the rest of us the benefit of their knowledge, wisdom and experience, and run for office themselves.

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Oliver G. Halle
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January 13, 2012
That anonymity has become acceptable as the rule vice the exception with more and more media, in my opinion, doesn't make it right. There are any number of examples one can provide to demonstrate the problem with it. If a political candidate uses the blogs to write anonymously, how can the reader determine, and factor in, the credibility of the anonymous writer? I thnk we can all agree that if we know someone's agenda, it makes a difference in how we form our opinions. It also makes a difference in many instances to know the author's background, if they have a financial stake or interest in a topic. In a civil or criminal trial, these issues and more are brought out on cross-examination of witnesses so that a jury can better determine the truth. Knowing the identity of writers, with limited and valid exceptions, helps the readers to get a better handle on what is truth.

On this subject, Mr. Foster, we will have to respectfully disagree, but I do respect and appreciate your opinions and willingness to reveal who you are.


by Oliver_Halle
January 04, 2012 12:13 PM | 1275 views | 4 4 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Judy Manning's comments concerning Mitt Romney's faith demonstrate that she is unfit to hold office herself. What she doesn't seem to understand is that we are a secular nation, that we believe in freedom of conscience, and no matter what faith a person holds, as long as that person swears allegiance to support, defend and preserve the Constitution first, that is what matters. I am definitely not a Romney supporter, but to inject Romney’s religion into the debate, especially when he hasn't made it an issue, is despicable. Perhaps Manning should take some time and read the Constitution and case law, and read up on the history of this country.  
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De Dude
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January 05, 2012
Amen, Oliver......who is Judy Manning to "preach" about anything???? I am sick and tired of all these religious fanatics telling us how religion impacts everything in our government. Perhaps if THEY prayed harder we would not be in the financial mass we are in now!!!

by Oliver_Halle
December 20, 2011 03:21 PM | 1223 views | 1 1 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Tim Lee’s explanation for his trip to Israel on the nickel of a special interest group is more than laughable; it is contemptible. He says that it will help him deal with issues related to the Jewish community. I wonder if he has reached out to some of Cobb’s Jewish leaders and members to first identify what particular issues they have that other religious groups don’t have. Since when does a county commissioner deal with problems that are usually found on the national level? One exception, that does not apply to Lee or other locally elected officials, is the specialized training that Israel provides to local law enforcement to fight terrorism. Lee made a weak attempt in his MDJ interview to stress the importance of understanding Israel’s immigration issues. Perhaps if he studied a little of Israel’s history he would know about the Law or Return that gives every Jew in the world the right to immigrate to Israel, that under the law they are conferred automatic citizenship. There is no analogy to the illegal aliens that are found in Cobb County. The problems are hardly the same.

The other issue that should be of concern to all Cobb citizens is why Project Interchange would pay for Lee’s trip. Does PI have a special interest that Lee could potentially help them with on a local level? Does PI only offer to pay for elected officials or those in government that can dispense some kind of largesse or favors? Surely PI wouldn’t fund these trips if there wasn’t something in it for them. If they are so generous, perhaps I or anyone else can sign up for the opportunity. Lastly, Lee admits that his re-election campaign picked up the $350 that he was required to apply to the total cost. Are you kidding? He couldn’t pay for it himself? Do his donors know that he is using their money for this kind of “business?” A review of his past campaign disclosures also reveals that his Kiwanis dues have been paid from the same source. At a salary of $135,000 from the taxpayers, does the chairman ever spend his own money?  

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EMBuckner
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December 29, 2011
If the Dear Chairman wants to expend our tax dollars or his time willy-nilly, why should mere taxpayers and citizens object? Don't we all understand that DC knows best? Surely this outside Yankee agitator (self-proclaimed), whose middle name is derived from one of the leaders who caused us such terrible grief back in the sixties is not the source we need to rely on! Wishing I was anonymous and could therefore duck ALL responsibility for my remarks, I remain, a Georgia boy from as far back as I go.

by Oliver_Halle
December 07, 2011 12:37 PM | 1251 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

We now have three announced candidates running for Cobb Commission Chairman, and a fourth will soon announce according to the MDJ. The latest to jump in, Mike Boyce, is a retired marine colonel. So for now we have two candidates from New York, the incumbent Tim Lee, and former chairman Bill Byrne. Boyce doesn’t claim a state because he grew up in a military family that moved around a lot. He has strong leadership experience, did budget analysis work in the Pentagon, and used his military experience to govern an entity in Iraq. Let the New Yorkers go back to New York and run for office! :) (I confess to being from Brooklyn and Staten Island, but I have no interest in running for office. I just want to enjoy the good southern life under the leadership of someone home grown, or at least nearby.)

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by Oliver_Halle
November 23, 2011 02:35 PM | 1257 views | 2 2 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
I state the obvious when I mention the high unemployment/underemployment rate, and how some families are desperately trying to generate any income they can in order to keep the wolf from the door. That said, a friend of mine who lives in an east Cobb gated community, told me that the other day a car came through his neighborhood at 6 a.m. with a loud muffler. A neighbor that was outside walking and who is active in his homeowner’s association, stopped the car to inquire about the noise and learned that the driver was an MDJ newspaper deliverer. If the story is accurate, the neighbor called the MDJ to complain about the muffler, and the driver was instructed to get it fixed before he would be allowed to deliver any papers.

If this story is true as reported to me, have some people reached a new low? I get the MDJ and the Atlanta newspaper delivered each morning and welcome the sound of their cars knowing that the newspapers are waiting for me. These carriers get up at an ungodly hour, and make their rounds in the dark and all kinds of adverse weather while most of us sleep comfortably. And they don’t make the money that those in gated communities do. Perhaps the homeowner in this instance, instead of calling the MDJ to complain, could have shown some seasonal spirit and offered to help defray the cost of the repair. I imagine, though, that the homeowner never experienced hard times and wouldn’t appreciate the plight of the less fortunate.

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Samuel Adams
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November 25, 2011
Agreed 100 percent, Halle.

How many sanitation trucks speed down my quiet street, sounding like the mother ship landing on our house? The UPS trucks scream up and down, dozens of times each day. Yet, it's the lone entrepreneur working for the local news outlet who is targeted by the wealthy. Yes, this is a bit of sarcasm, however, I am serious.

by Oliver_Halle
November 23, 2011 11:26 AM | 1402 views | 4 4 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
It is deplorable that our military veterans are experiencing the highest percentage of unemployment. Surely it’s not because these service members are unemployable. The military teaches a variety of skills that are useful in our economy. It is a false argument to suggest that “trigger pullers” don’t have requisite skills that translate into civilian counterparts, especially when there are approximately five people with varying skills that support each combatant. I would like to ask how many local companies, have hired a veteran? If not, when there has been a job opening, have you reached out to Dobbins AFB or other military installations to find out if you could post a job vacancy for service members about to rotate to the private sector? (This was common when I was in the Navy a long time ago.) Patriotism is more than displaying the American flag, putting “Support Our Troops” bumper stickers on vehicles, and voting for the politician who “out patriots” his opponents with self-serving lip service.
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EMBuckner
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December 31, 2011
I don't go around looking for chances to agree with Laura A, but she's right on this one. This nation, including Cobb, give endless examples of high-flown rhetoric to support those who have worn the uniform of our country but all too often don't back the rhetoric up. Everyone should understand that the men and women who have served us don't make foreign policy decisions--they just put their lives on the line to carry it out. So, whether you support or oppose a war or diplomatic effort, as an American you should support--and NOT just with words--those who have served us. And beware of the scuzz-balls who claim they have when they have not.

Mr. Halle should write up a blog entry on his well developed ideas about politicians (and others) who trade on service they never gave. Regards to all, Ed B.

by Oliver_Halle
November 21, 2011 09:21 AM | 1310 views | 2 2 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Cobb County has had a commission chairman for the past 20 years or so that is either from New York or New Jersey.  If no one else jumps into the race next year, we will have another four years of a New York transplant.  (I am a native of Brooklyn and Staten Island.)  Aren’t there any home grown folks that feel up to governing? 

Originally published November 11, 2011. 

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jawja boy
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November 25, 2011
Amen, Oliver, we surely do not need anymore Northerners coming down here telling us how to run our County....we need a true Southern boy with deep roots to get rid of the Brooklyn thinking politicos who think they know best....sound like someone you know???

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Oliver Halle of east Cobb is a retired FBI agent and has law degrees from The University of North Carolina and New York University. He commanded a Swift Boat in Vietnam, where he earned the Bronze Star with the Combat V for meritorius action. While with the FBI he helped investigate and prosecute members of the Columbo organized crime “family” and later launched the investigation that resulted in the conviction on corruption charges of Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell.

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