August drifts along, headed toward an autumn of hope or despair. Waiting for the Manafort trial verdict, I saw the news shouted everywhere of Aretha Franklin's death. Another beautiful person gone in the ugly age of Trump. My heart soars whenever an ...


Mourning Aretha, and waiting for fall and more...

Mourning Aretha, and waiting for fall

August drifts along, headed toward an autumn of hope or despair.

Waiting for the Manafort trial verdict, I saw the news shouted everywhere of Aretha Franklin's death.

Another beautiful person gone in the ugly age of Trump.

My heart soars whenever an Aretha song plays on my '60s satellite radio channel. She was a one-person choir of angels. 

Here in Atlanta, the kids are back in school, too soon. At dawn, a yellow school bus passing by lifts my spirits. 

Trump revokes Brennan's seccurity clearance because of "erratic conduct and behavior." Conduct and behavior! 

The big orange fool accuses Brennan of erratic behavior? Trump should have his security clearance revoked. And the presidency. 

College football comes soon, and I will watch for hours every Saturday. The Urban Meyer and Maryland messes put a pall on the new season. I know it's a wretched, crooked game, exploiting kids for the enrichment of coaches and TV networks, but I'll love it until the day I die.

When is kickoff?

Hoping for a blue wave in the midterm elections, I fear the GOP and Russia will find a way to steal them. Irrational, I know. Here's hoping democracy will prevail.

Yes, I'll follow baseball's playoffs too, although the game is more of an ordeal than pleasure.

With all the alarms over climate change, I'll awake one October morning and go outside to a crisp wind and champagne-colored sky. I'll take a deep breath, believing the world young again.




The gulch of corporate welfare

The cost of corporate welfare keeps rising.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is cooking up a $900 million public financing deal for the $3.5 billion redevelopment of downtown Atlanta's dismal railroad gulch, according to the AJC's Scott Trubey. The public cost could reach $1.75 billion, Trubey reported.

Bottoms had trouble paying her taxes, as disclosed during the mayor's race. But she can tabulate a 10-figure deal for wealthy California developer Richard Ressler.

Arthur Blank's Mercedes-Benz stadium nearby cost state taxpayers $700 million, while Cobb County gave the Braves $392 million for Suntrust Park and the Battery entertainment/apartment/retail complex. 

Ressler, the brother of Hawks owner Tony Ressler, wants to rebuild the Gulch site for apartments, offices and stores, .The head of California-based CIM Corp will pitch the complex to Amazon for its second headquarters. Left unanswered is why Amazon would want to wait years for the complex to be completed, with a number of already developed sites around the metro area.

The public financing plan would be funded by a complex mechanism involving a special tax district and "enterprise zones," a scheme that allows rich developers to enrich themselves from public funds. The City Council wants to slow the process, Trubey said. Fulton County and the Atlanta schools also would have to give their approval.

In exchange for their acceptance of the deal, the different governments would sometime this century receive increased property tax revenues, Trubey reported. 

As Popeye the Sailor Man's pal Wimpy always said, ""I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today."

Left unclear is how the tax revenue increase would come about if Amazon chooses the downtown site. The state is reportedly offering Jeff Bezos' Internet retail giant billions in tax breaks. 

It must be fun to be a billionaire. 





Robert Penn Warren and Eleanor Clark in 1978 New England Review interview anticipated today's cultural and social crises

UnknownNovelist, poet and literary theorist Robert Penn Warren and his wife, the writer Eleanor Clark, shared a wonderful life of writing, family, travel and simple rural pleasures.

Proud of his Southern heritage although raised in the border state of Kentucky, Warren contributed to the New Agrarian manifesto "I'll Take My Stand," then moved away from the group's intense regional conservatism, or, as their critics claimed, reactionary Confederate romanticism.

In contrast, Clark was proud of her Connecticut Yankee heritage. Part of the radical leftist Partisan Review crowd in her youth, Clark also grew away from her early solipistic theories.

While they came from different worlds, the couple both grew up in small towns, surrounded by older storytellers who presented them their recollections of a vanished 19th century America.

Finding happiness as writers working from their homes in rural Connecticut and Vermont, and raising two children, the sculptor Gabriel Warren and the poet and essayist Rosanna Warren, Warren and Clark enjoyed a successful marriage built on trust and affection, along with sparks of conflict.

Fond of travel to Europe, and steeped in history - one of Clark's masterpieces is the non-fiction "Rome and a Villa" - the couple in their gracious rural lives of reading, writing and reflection blended Old World values with those of American democracy.

Steve Oney as a 25-year-old working for the old Atlanta Journal-Constitution Sunday magazine visited Warren and Clark at their home in rural Vermont and wrote a vivid portrait of them and their warm, humor-tinged marriage. The 1979 profile is included in Oney's outstanding collection "A Man's World."

In his introduction to the 2017 book, Oney recalls that Warren gave him a  lifelong credo: "It may be said that our lives are our supreme fiction."

(Here is a Southern Bookman interview with Oney after the publication of "A Man's World" by Mercer University Press.  

And here is a Southern Bookman interview with Warren and Clark's daughter, Rosanna.)

Warren and Clark also come alive in critic and writer Jay Parini 's 1978 interview with the couple for one of the first issues of the New England Review, now celebrating its 40th anniversary. A co-founder of the literary journal, Parini, the biographer of Robert Frost, visited Warren, Clark and family along with Syndey Lea and Robin Barone.

The interview shows Warren and Clark's affection, humor and subtle rivalry with each other. As with Oney's piece, the reader feels as if he or she is participating in the visit. 

Clark and Warren's concerns about art, culture and the loss of individuality and community remain pressing today. Such civilized reflection seems in short supply, unfortunately.



Emory professor Carol Anderson indicts Kemp's voter suppression efforts

Emory professor Carol Anderson in a New York Times opinion piece Sunday exposed point by point Georgia Secretary of State and GOP gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp's campaign to suppress minority voting.

The alarming article likely won't ever appear in Anderson's hometown paper, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, fearful of upsetting conservative readers. Instead, the AJC runs bland boilerplate pieces on its denuded Sunday editorial page.

Anderson's article hints at Russian involvement in hacking Georgia voting machines in the recent presidential election, and a special congressional election. Kemp ignored warnings of hacking, Anderson indicates. 

She also brings up the destruction of state voting data by Kennesaw State University's elections center, subcontracted by Kemp to run state elections.

Unmentioned is that former GOP Attorney General Sam Olens served as Kennesaw State's president until ousted over a controversy involving protests by KSU cheerleaders. Former State Rep. and vocal Republican agitator Earl Earhart pressured Olens to curtail the cheerleaders' protest. What influence did Olens and Earhart have over the elections center?

While pointing to Kemp's suits against organizations that signed up 200,000 new African-American and Asian-American voters, whom Kemp kept off the voting registration list, Anderson doesn't mention that Democratic governor's candidate Stacey Abrams was the subject of one of the suits. As State House Minority Leader, Abrams led an effort to register African-American and Latino Voters.

For its part, the AJC ran a slanted front-page article about fund-raising in the governor's race. The first part of the article repeats previously reported information that financier George Soros donated to the Georgia Democratic Party and Abrams. Information about Kemp's fund raising is not given until down in the article, when it "jumps" to another page. Readers often don't keep going that far.

The article also states that Abrams' donations came from "the left coast," a slanted term that should have no place in a news story.  

Anderson makes a convincing case that "voter suppression keeps Georgia a red state."


A fitting tribute to Roger Miller

Roger Miller's songs and recordings gain luster as the years roll by.

His easy-listening compositions, several of them "novelty" numbers, were underestimated when he arrived in the era of Bob Dylan, Lennon and McCartney and others. 

In retrospect, songs like "Dang Me," "Chug-A-Lug," and "You Can't Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd" stand as American classics. His witty lyrics and winsome singing give them the depth and texture of the best story-telling. Serious works like "England Swings" register with movie-like imagery. "King of the Road" is one of the great songs.

Texas Monthly writer Christian Wallace in a warm review of a new tribute album to Miller reflects on how his songs have touched his life and their enduring appeal in American culture.

With performances of Miller's hits by Alison Kraus, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Loretta Lynn, Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, Lyle Lovette and Asleep at the Wheel, the album reflects Miller's brilliance.

The album would be memorable for just one number: a performance of "Old Friends" by Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Merle Haggard, in one of his last recordings.

Wallace rightly singles out Kacey Musgraves' performance of "Kansas City Star."  Preserving the drollness of Miller's original, Musgraves gives the song her signature flair.

The album displays anew why Miller's songs remain with us.