Monday, April 30, 2012

Craig Spinks: Leadership? Augusta

Augusta needs more leaders like Dr. Azziz
Monday,  April 30, 2012
Augusta, GA
By, Dr. Craig Spinks, ED. D

Leadership is a human trait about which much has been written and even more has been said. That successful societies require leadership is common sensical. That leadership training is the focus of so much professional development activities suggests, however, that this trait is not widespread. That leadership is not widespread is a premise with which most people on the street would agree. Even a blind person could see that this premise holds true in our hometown.

Why? Why are there so few leaders, generally, and so few in Augusta, particularly?

Might I offer a disquieting explanation? "There isn't much courage in Augusta, GA." Please follow my line of thought.

While leadership gurus may disagree on the definition of leadership and the characteristics of those exhibiting it, they do agree on one aspect. Leaders have courage; leadership involves the ability to take courageous actions- their effects upon the leader notwithstanding. How many "leaders" in Augusta act bravely? How many reputed leaders meekly "go along to get along" with Billy, Paul and their minions?

I can think of two outstanding example of Augusta leaders, however. But they are dissimilar in many other ways. One is short, stocky and bespectacled; the other is tall and thin. One is a native of South America; the other was born in Louisiana. One is a physician by training; the other a soldier. One came to town to head our medical school; the other was brought here by Uncle Sam.

But they do share a profession: Education. And that's not their sole commonality. They're both courageous visionaries who seek to bring excellence to their respective educational institutions. Unfortunately, the profession and their pursuit of excellence are not the only things they have in common. Another commonality is their facing among Augusta's "leadership" myopic procrastinators whose visions for the GHSU and the RCSS extend no further than the direct impact of these institutions upon their personal bank accounts.

Where will you stand? Will you stand with Rick Azziz and his vision of Augusta's possessing a nationally-ranked university with campuses spread around town? Will you stand with Wayne Frazier and his vision of high school graduates ready for citizenship and leadership?

Or will you stand with Augusta's traditional "leadership" and from the Ripken-Morris-Simon-Copenhaver Stadium Complex watch the 21st Century flow right down the Savannah River past "The Garden City of The South?"***
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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sunday Sermon: Washington Meets Jezreel?

Jezebel Governance

By Al Gray

If one wants to read of government that went completely evil in the Bible, he only has to read in the books of Kings to find the pinnacle of corruption. Ahab bore the mantle of corruption but his queen, Jezebel, was its cruel face. Much was written about their wickedness, but the story of Naboth is one that is routinely and repeatedly spun by our own government run amok.

 1 Now it came about after these things that Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard which was in Jezreel beside the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. 2 Ahab spoke to Naboth, saying, “Give me your vineyard, that I may have it for a vegetable garden because it is close beside my house, and I will give you a better vineyard than it in its place; if [a]you like, I will give you the price of [b]it in money.” 3 But Naboth said to Ahab, “The LORD forbid me that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.” 4 So Ahab came into his house sullen and vexed because of the word which Naboth the Jezreelite had spoken to him; for he said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.” And he lay down on his bed and turned away his face and ate no [c]food.

 5 But Jezebel his wife came to him and said to him, “How is it that your spirit is so sullen that you are not eating[d]food?” 6 So he said to her, “Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite and said to him, ‘Give me your vineyard for money; or else, if it pleases you, I will give you a vineyard in its place.’ But he said, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’”7 Jezebel his wife said to him, “Do you now [e]reign over Israel? Arise, eat bread, and let your heart be joyful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”

 8 So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal, and sent letters to the elders and to the nobles who were living with Naboth in his city. 9 Now she wrote in the letters, saying, “Proclaim a fast and seat Naboth at the head of the people; 10 and seat two worthless men before him, and let them testify against him, saying, ‘You cursed God and the king.’ Then take him out and stone him [f]to death.”

 11 So the men of his city, the elders and the nobles who lived in his city, did as Jezebel had sent word to them, just as it was written in the letters which she had sent them. 12 They proclaimed a fast and seated Naboth at the head of the people. 13 Then the two worthless men came in and sat before him; and the worthless men testified against him, even against Naboth, before the people, saying, “Naboth cursed God and the king.” So they took him outside the city and stoned him [g]to death with stones. 14 Then they sent word to Jezebel, saying, “Naboth has been stoned and is dead.”

This short story has so many elements of greed, covetousness, power, law, connivance, economics and politics applicable to our times, that one scarcely knows where to begin.

Property rights are central to every functioning society. They were powerful in Naboth’s day, too. Even though Ahab was king, the law commanded that the landowner could not be forced or ordered to surrender his property even to the King. Up until recently in America, a property owner was protected from the predations of the powerful and their government by the due process and equal protection clauses of the 5th and 14th amendments in the United States Constitution. Other societies, systems, and cultures offer similar rights.

Ahab chaffed under restrictions on his power probably more than his unrequited desire for Naboth’s vineyard.  Governments at every level within the United States similarly chafe at our constitutional property rights. They too become vexed, for the power of the individual cuts into their power to rule. Jezebel fired up Ahab’s resentment by throwing up to him the words “Do you now [e]reign over Israel?”, thereby fomenting a sense of legitimacy for what she planned.

Subterfuge and connivance using political allies to circumvent the law came next, as Jezebel was a masterful practitioner of those things.  This wicked queen used forged documents, powerful allies in local politics, perjury, and staged events to eliminate Naboth’s ownership rights to the vineyard by taking his life itself!

The modern American, Georgian, and Augustan experience is full of these very same deceptions, corruptions, artifices, schemes, and frauds to steal the peoples’  money and property. Examples are the General Motors bondholders, the MF Global depositors, and others looted under the guise of “emergency.” We are seeing the gutting of the 1st, 4th, 5th,  and 14th amendments before our very eyes. Locally, we have three counties who have attempted to impose “Overlay Zoning Districts” that were in open defiance of equal protection, so as to change land uses based upon government whim (they call it “planning instead) rather than consistent application of existing laws that were not restrictive enough in the government’s eyes.

We have Jezebel governance in spades.

Like Jezebel, our banks committed tens of thousands of acts of forgery involving mortgages and debt securities, with the forged documents being alternatively used to foreclose on home buyers or to defraud securities investors.  The government’s response was to rig events to avoid the truth by forcing the nation’s accounting profession to change its standards to permit fraud. Every citizen’s financial assets, even our money are in jeopardy.  Indeed, the predations of the mad money-printing Federal Reserve are one devious way to circumvent the determination of today’s Naboth’s that “I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.” This is government subterfuge – Jezebel government.

The economist and philosopher Frederick Bastiat sums up Jezebel governance in these ways:

The plans differ; the planners are all alike...

Now, legal plunder can be committed in an infinite number of ways. Thus we have an infinite number of plans for organizing it: tariffs, protection, benefits, subsidies, encouragements, progressive taxation, public schools, guaranteed jobs, guaranteed profits, minimum wages, a right to relief, a right to the tools of labor, free credit, and so on, and so on. All these plans as a whole—with their common aim of legal plunder—constitute socialism.

But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.

It is easy to understand why the law is used by the legislator to destroy in varying degrees among the rest of the people their personal independence by slavery, their liberty by oppression, and their property by plunder. This is done for the benefit of the person who makes the law, and in proportion to the power that he holds.

Away with the whims of governmental administrators, their socialized projects, their centralization, their tariffs, their government schools, their state religions, their free credit, their bank monopolies, their regulations, their restrictions, their equalization by taxation, and their pious moralizations! And now that the legislators and do-gooders have so futilely inflicted so many systems upon society, may they finally end where they should have begun: May they reject all systems, and try liberty; for liberty is an acknowledgment of faith in God and His works.

Liberty is an acknowledgment of faith in God and His works.  Jezibel governance hates those things. 

Lord, give us the courage of Naboth to say to our Jezebel governments “The LORD forbid me that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.”

Any government that practices Jezebel standards deserves Jezibel’s fate.

Pray that we stop them before it is too late for us, too.***

Monday, April 23, 2012

Corporal Gripweed: "Damn the Torpedoes; Full Speed Ahead!"

Monday, April 23, 2012
Augusta, GA
By Corporal Gripweed

Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead
               Admiral David Farragut (Battle of Mobile Bay, August 5th 1864)

It seems of late, that we here in Augusta GA have had our fair share of controversies concerning latent governmental ineptitude. From the TEE Center/parking deck debacle, to the most recent revelations surrounding CHODO shenanigans in the Laney -Walker district, it appears that we have no shortage of city leaders who are willing to look the other way, while deals are made that benefit the few at the expense of  the many. I am continually saddened by the fact that many of these so-called leaders will attempt to  explain away these missteps, by calling those of us  who question their decisions as "divisive".

The fact that mines or “torpedoes”, in Civil War parlance, will be put in the way of any one who seeks the truth is just plain wrong. Sadder yet is the fact that so many people in this county feel that they have no voice and so are powerless to stop the machinations of their “representatives” that they don't attempt to engage government on any level. 

Case in point: The process for awarding the contract to conducting a forensic audit concerning the TEE Center parking deck has been delayed for a third time. More recently, a sitting commissioner has voted in an apparent conflict of interest to have the city repay money his CHODO owes to the federal government.

The ruling “elite” hope we won't attempt to navigate the minefield of connections and incestuous relationships that have “ruled” this city for generations, and to that I say, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.”

Moreover, these same elites also know they have the local mainstream print media, The Augusta Chronicle, as well as the so-called alternative print weekly, The Metro Spirit, solidly in their corner. So they say to themselves, “How can we lose?

Well ...They WILL lose if we continue to ask questions, expose graft and navigate the minefields that scare the timid, but spur the brave to say, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!

If the  ruling class in Augusta loses, the city, and it's citizens win. It is up to concerned citizens to step up and ask questions and DEMAND answers...We here at Augusta Today and City Stink ask for your help in this battle...To continue to ask questions and expect cognitive, coherent answers. This is the bedrock of a representative republic. To expect anything less from our local leaders is tantamount to giving away our rights as citizens.

To any one who wonders whether this is a strategy that will produce results....Admiral Farragut won the battle of Mobile Bay when he roared, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”***

See more Corporal Gripweed columns here--> Corporal Gripweed Commentary

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Empathy Coupled With Introspection Powers Success and Salvation

Golden Ruler, Golden Rule & Golden Life

By Al Gray

Marcus Aurelius was Roman Emperor from 161 to 180 AD.  “He was the last of the "Five Good Emperors", and is also considered one of the most important Stoic philosophers.” This man was supremely well-educated by the best Greek and Roman tutors of his day. “Marcus Aurelius' Stoic tome Meditations…. is still revered as a literary monument to a philosophy of service and duty, describing how to find and preserve equanimity in the midst of conflict by following nature as a source of guidance and inspiration.”

The Catholic Encyclopedia presents a mixed explanation of the life of this pagan ruler, yet includes this account.

During the war with the Quadi in 174 there took place the famous incident of the Thundering Legion which has been a cause of frequent controversy. The Roman army was surrounded by enemies with no chance of escape, when a storm burst. The rain poured down in refreshing showers on the Romans, while the enemy were scattered with lightning and hail. The parched and famishing Romans received the saving drops first on their faces and parched throats, and afterwards in their helmets and shields, to refresh their horses. Marcus obtained a glorious victory as a result of this extraordinary event, and his enemies were hopelessly overthrown.

That such an event did really happen is attested by both pagan and Christian writers. The former attribute the occurrence either to magic or to the prayers of the emperor ... The Christian writers attributed the fact to the prayers of the Christians who were in the army and soon there grew up a legend to the effect that in consequence of this miracle the emperor put a stop to the persecution of the Christians…..

Marcus Aurelius was one of the best men of heathen antiquity. (T)he judicious Montesquieu says that….we cannot read the life of this emperor without a softening feeling of emotion. Niebuhr calls him the noblest character of his time, and M. Martha, the historian of the Roman moralists, says that in Marcus Aurelius "the philosophy of Heathendom grows less proud, draws nearer to a Christianity which it ignored or which it despised, and is ready to fling itself into the arms of the Unknown God."

The Bible upholds a number of foreign rulers to have moral qualities, including some who worshiped the Lord at times. It does not preclude us from considering words of wisdom from other sources. In this sense Marcus authored many very fine, uplifting, inspiring, and wise quotes including this powerful key to success -

“Let it be your constant method to look into the design of people's actions, and see what they would be at, as often as it is practicable; and to make this custom the more significant, practice it first upon yourself.”

Before expounding upon this concept, let’s consider our Bible Verse of the week as it appears Matthew 7, verse 12 of the King James Version.

12Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

These stunningly elegant words sum up the very essence of civil societies of all types, indeed of civilization itself. The concept is found in nearly all cultures for it sums up our fair expectations of how we want, expect, and demand others to treat us. Indeed, even in the most totalitarian of states there is reverence for this golden rule, for wholesale abandonment of it risks revolution. Some years ago this writer read of an elderly woman in China with a long term lease in the middle of exploding development, on account of whom a major office and retail complex was being delayed simply because the woman refused to move from her home. The story seemed odd, until one considers just how powerful the golden rule is.

“Do unto others” goes to the very heart of how we relate to each other as people living in harmony and peace.  The concept is redundant in the Constitution of the United States and our precious Bill of Rights, with the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of first the 5th and, later, the 14th Amendments having  stood resolute in protection of property rights since the Constitution was ratified.

Recently there been appreciable erosion, not just in our most priceless rights, but the underlying moral code of the golden rule. We stand near the abyss and will certainly topple over if we don’t recover the commandment found in Matthew 7:12.

The golden rule was expanded upon by the words of the golden ruler Marcus Aurelius referenced above.  The technique is one of supreme, sublime power. The greatest attorneys practice the first half.  “Let it be your constant method to look into the design of people's actions, and see what they would be at”  In other words you get an advantage by placing ones’ self in another’s position, determining his motivations, and predicting his actions. Wise people of all professions, faiths, and organizations use this strategy to excel. Empathy is a powerful tool used to approach the second commandment of “Love thy neighbor as thy self.” It is also a way to lower resistance in an erstwhile adversary.

The second part of the Marcus Aurelius quote is the admonishment to make this custom the more significant, practice it first upon yourself.”  The first part is extremely difficult to master by most people and they simply refuse to make the effort. Their thoughts, desires and motivations are too powerful to temporarily shove aside to gain empathy for another, be it for advantage or be it out of Christian love. Adding the second requirement of introspection of one’s own thoughts, desires, and motivations is an unimaginable, unattainable, and nearly impossible practice to even folks skilled in applying the empathetic first instruction.

The power of the combined technique is stunning. When a person does both parts of this instruction set, it combines empathy with introspection. You not only see the world through the eyes of others, but you analyze your own situation through theirs. It makes your arguments compelling, even overwhelming, for you not only are predictive of their words and deeds, you are predicting how they will address your own! If there is faulty logic, bias, dislike, hatred, or some other negative force in your position, you can objectively identify it and eliminate it before making a crucial error or misjudgment.  If the other has the superior argument or position, one can adapt to it or adopt it before his position is established.

This is a path to peace. Wouldn’t it be great if world leaders would practice this? Most wars would be avoided!

If there is one technique that marries a holy commandment to friendships, continuous harmony, and even personal advantage it has to be this one. It is training in this life for eternity. It is of overwhelming power independent of faith.

Marcus Aurelius was a pagan, yet even a pagan emperor knew the magic of the golden rule. The words of Matthew 7:12 ring through the ages in law, as the verse stated, but this golden ruler recommended practicing a more stringent, demanding, and disciplined version of it as one pursues a golden life in every sense of those words.

Can you live the commandment of the golden rule?

Can you take it to a more demanding, higher level of empathy and tempered introspection?

The rewards on earth and in heaven are worth trying. You don’t have to be an emperor or prophet to gain your reward. 

You just have to overcome yourself.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Aitken Will Have a Poor Record to Defend

Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Augusta, GA Commentary

Augusta Commissioner Matt Aitken ended weeks of speculation yesterday by issuing a press release that he would indeed seek re-election. The news was not released until after 5pm yesterday on The Augusta Chronicle website, and a formal announcement is expected today at 5pm. Aitken will face challengers Bill FennoyStanley Hawes, Thelonius Jones and Denice Traina. Aitken had previously said that he may not run for a second term because of what he complained as "negativity" from the media. We suppose what Aitken means as "negativity" is people holding him accountable for his record, and this time Aitken will have to defend his record as a commissioner. Let's take a look at it:

The main impetus behind Aitken's first run for the commission was passage of the TEE Center, the same one that has been mired in controversy over delays, cost over-runs and land not being deeded to the city as promised. As a commissioner, Aitken has voted consistently "to just move the project along", despite the mounting evidence showing waste of taxpayer dollars and the commission being mislead about key elements of the project. In fact, When Aitken was first elected, the TEE Center agreement was hurriedly passed just days later. Aitken has repeatedly voted against audits investigating the TEE center and parking deck debacle.

Aitken has taken great interest in trying to get a new ballpark built for Ripken Baseball, despite this ranking very low on the priority list for most District 1 constituents. Aitken even introduced a motion last Summer to commit the city and taxpayers to a partnership with Ripken Baseball to build a new ballpark at The Golf and Gardens site. The Commission rejected Aitken's motion but it was brought back in a different form by Commissioner Joe Jackson for City Administrator Fred Russell to enter into negotiations with Ripken Baseball to develop a "creative financing" package for a new ballpark.

Aitken has a habit of keeping his constituents out of the loop on key issues. One instance is the Opportunity Zone for Harrisburg, a motion that Aitken put on the commission agenda. The problem is he neglected to inform the residents of Harrisburg, which falls in his district. State law requires public hearings before these opportunity zones are put into effect. That was never done and residents were never informed. It was all done under the radar with no public input.

Aitken also ignored concerns from Laney-Walker residents when the Planing and Zoning Department was trying to sneak through an incomplete and fatally flawed overlay zoning application without conducting the required public hearings. When a concerned citizen, Dee Mathis, brought her concerns to the commission, Aitken (who serves as her commissioner) was silent, and ended up voting for the overlay application despite numerous errors. And when public meetings were held in the community, commissioner Aitken did not attend a single one of them.

We have heard repeatedly from downtown business owners that Aitken does not respond to their concerns. When the downtown clock, paid for with SPLOST money, was suddenly removed from downtown without any input from the downtown business community, there was no response or intervention from Aitken. Small business owners also complain that their calls for an enhanced security presence in downtown has gotten no response from their commissioner. In fact, Aitken voted for a budget that cut over $1 million from public safety. Instead of championing the interests of the small business owners, who are the backbone of downtown, Aitken often champions the special interests of the cliquish Downtown Development Authority, an entity that has virtually no representation from the downtown small business community. Aitken consistently favors big spending boondoggles that benefit the cronies of The DDA over basic needs that benefit the average small business owner.

Aitken is consistently absent from committee meetings and he rarely asks questions at regular commission meetings. It is also obvious that Aitken is clueless on many of the items that come before the commission. Does he even bother to research the items on the commission agenda or does he just vote as he is instructed to by his handlers? It appears to be the latter. If there is one glaring example of this it is the budget that was hurriedly passed last fall. Aitken voted for the budget, not realizing it contained over 30 lay-offs. He was even under the impression that it contained raises. Had Mr. Aitken even bothered to read key elements of the budget before voting on it? Apparently not. Isn't that the job of a commissioner.. to know what he is voting on?

In the following video that appeared on WRDW News 12 after the budget vote, reporter Chris Thomas queries Commissioner Aitken about the budget and whether he was aware of the layoffs. It was obvious that  Aitken was clueless... the awkward moments of silence... the deer in the headlights look... it said it all. Aitken can complain about a "negative" media all he wants, but  it's his responsibility to know what he is voting on. Aitken is simply not prepared to be a commissioner. The following video should become an albatross around his neck. Watch the video below. Is this someone who deserves a second term?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Commission Stalls on Firing Beck

Tuesday, April 12, 2012
Augusta, GA
By The Outsider

We don't know what all was discussed in the closed door legal session at today's Augusta Commission meeting, but we do know that Recreation and Parks Director Tom Beck was there to respond to questions over an internal investigation that just concluded over the falsification of time cards in his department and allegations of rampant cronyism and a hostile work environment. Commissioners decided to put Beck's fate off for atleast a week, placing him on unpaid administrative leave until Monday.

Holding off to make a decision on whether or not to fire Beck would have made sense if an internal investigation had not yet been conducted, but it has already been concluded. Sources tell us that the evidence was damning enough that City Administrator Fred Russell was likely going to recommend Beck's termination at today's meeting. Since these discussions occurred behind closed doors in legal session, we do not know for sure what Russell's final recommendation was.

But commissioners were presented with the evidence against Beck from that internal investigation at today's meeting, and they saw fit to simply suspend him without pay. So the question remains: Why stall on making a decision to fire Beck? To many people it is looking like the commission is just trying to figure out a way to wiggle out of having to fire Beck and simply give him a slap on the wrist. This is a department director who has had more second chances than Lindsay Lohan has had appearances before a judge. Will he squeak through yet again? The fact that commissioners were unwilling to make a decision today to fire Beck is troubling. It's not like this is the first time Beck has screwed up. And even if this was his first offense, falsifying time cards is a serious matter. How can a department head be trusted if he was complicit in falsifying time cards?

For some people it appears that a double standard exists in Augusta.. that if Beck was black, he would have been fired years ago.. but the entrenched good-ole-boy system has kept him around. Will that play out this time? We won't know for sure until Monday, but the fact that commissioners couldn't come to a decision today isn't very encouraging.***

Related Stories:
Will Recreation & parks Director Tom Beck Be Shown the Exit Today?

Recreation and Parks Director Tom Beck Shown the Exit Today

Rec. & Parks Director Tom Beck
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Augusta, GA
From Reports

UPDATE: In a special called legal session today (Monday April 23) Augusta Commissioners voted 8-1 to fire Parks and Recreation Director Tom Beck with cause. Only Commissioner Grady Smith voted to keep Beck. Commissioner Jerry Brigham was absent from today's meeting.

*Below is our report from April 17th:

After today's Augusta Commission meeting, Recreation and Parks Director Tom Beck may be out of a job. Chris Thomas of WRDW first broke the story last week about what is being called "The Augusta Wreckreaction Scandal."  A whistle-blower within the department came forward with allegations of time cards being falsified and rampant favoritism. City Administrator Fred Russell has placed Beck on administrative leave and sources say that he will recommend his termination before commissioners today. That's strong action coming from Russell who has taken a passive role over the years when it came to disciplining incompetent employees. Since this involves a personnel matter, those discussions about Beck's job will be held behind closed doors in a legal session. So the question regarding Beck is.... Will he stay or will he go?

With the bunch we have on the commission there's no telling what to expect. Even if Fred Russell recommends termination, that's no guarantee the commission will fire Beck. And it would not be the first time the commission refused to discipline Beck on the advice of  a City Administrator. Back in 2000, then City Administrator Randy Oliver recommended that Beck be suspended for one week without pay for similar infractions. But Beck's supporters on the commission overrode Oliver, refusing to discipline the Recreation and Parks Director. Will the same happen this time? It's hard to tell, but perhaps this latest screw-up is the straw that breaks the camel's back and Beck is sent packing.

But Beck has been allowed to get away with a lot over the years, so commissioners may just end up giving him a slap on the wrist.  There have been numerous complaints over the years of Beck's lazy style of running the department and of rampant cronyism. Before being handed over to a private company, The Patch golf course was directly under The Parks and Recreation Department. The course lost hundreds of thousands of dollars annually for the city partly because of a lack of oversight from management and favoritism that allowed certain people to play for free. The course had also been allowed to deteriorate into such a poor state it was almost unplayable. Critics say this is indicative of Beck's lack of leadership and the lax way he runs the department.

Just over a month ago Beck made headlines when it was revealed that it was he who went to Brian Hendry, the now private operator of The Patch, and told him that there was $300,000 of SPLOST funds that he could get. When Hendry was awarded the contract for The Patch, he had agreed to absorb the costs of maintenance, but here was Tom Beck telling him that there was free tax money out there that he should get. Ultimately, commissioners denied the request by Hendry for the $300,000 in SPLOST money, but it showed blatant insubordination by Beck to go around his superiors trying to give hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax money away. Many critics ask why Beck wasn't fired or at least suspended for that? Critics argue that this lack of punishment over the years has made Beck feel as though he is untouchable and able to get away with almost anything. Will he be proven right again after today's meeting?


UPDATE--> Commission Stalls on Firing Beck

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Our UNEARNED Tax Credit - Good for Eternity

Taxing Times for the Spiritually Destitute

Sunday April 15, 2012
Augusta, GA
By Al Gray
Today is April 15th, a day on the annual calendar that brings dread, anguish, monetary pain and just plain resentment across the land. This year the coincidence of tax filing day and Sunday brought a welcome 2 day reprieve. People absolutely detest taxes, especially in these times of dysfunctional, corrupt, and even counterproductive government. Just this weekend came news that the vaunted, respected, and powerful Secret Service, who are protectors and guardians of the United States Treasury, had their Presidential advance team recalled from the country of Columbia because of entanglements with a group of prostitutes! One wonders how much lower our government can fall. The natural tendency is to become dubious of the justification to support such a government with our tax money. That is another subject best left to another day.

In Jesus’ day, the Roman government contracted out the collection of taxes to the subject states, with the tax collectors empowered to keep any excess taxes that were collected. Privatization of this unsavory process is nothing new, which is something our politicians spouting nonsense about the glories of contracting government out should think about but certainly won’t.

 9 As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector’s booth; and He *said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him.
 10 Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when Jesus heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

From historical accounts, a tax collector of that day angled very hard and probably had make ‘contributions’ to be awarded a tax booth, so it is remarkable that Matthew would respond so readily to Jesus’ call.

Tax collectors who were Jews were doubly reviled as traitors. Because of the incentives to over collect and keep the excess for themselves, many abused the people with aggressive collection practices, even including beatings. Perhaps the social revulsion and distain of the masses had taken a toll. We will never know what motivated Matthew to join the band of disciples that day. What we do know is that Matthew needed Jesus and sensed it in a very immediate, profound way.

What is more is that Matthew brought even more tax collectors into the fold, as it is written “many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining.” The Pharisees were astounded that Jesus would affiliate with the social and religious underclass.  One supposes that they understood in some elementary way, that the physically defective, injured, maimed, and hurting would flock to anyone who was delivering relief from their conditions. Dining with detested tax collectors truly had them stumped.

Bear in mind that immediately before Jesus called Matthew from the toll booth, he had healed a paralyzed man, addressing a very obvious need of the physically downtrodden man. The subtle shift to dining with despised tax collectors pointed out those sinners had emotional afflictions that also justified Jesus prompt attention. “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” meant He came for those who confessed that they are sinners, not those whose zealotry kept them going through the motions of some liturgy, practice, or dogma without realizing or admitting their innate sinful nature. The Pharisee could not see the truth that ..."all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God"

Are we in our modernity any better suited to see this truth? Are we so caught up in social status that our churches spurn folks who appear to regularly fall short? Would anyone with an independent eye and judgment figure that we are later day Pharisees ourselves?

On this April 15 we need to tax our thoughts and minds on these matters so as to more faithfully attend to the central teaching of Christ.  AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’ The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’

In many ways this is the hardest tax of them all to pay. Its requirements are to give up the hatreds, animosities, dislikes, distains, and other emotional impediments we hold with a near religious fervor to truly love each other. It won’t be easy. Following Jesus never is. If we fall short, yet have faith that Jesus paid it all, that will become the biggest tax credit that we can imagine.

Last Sunday's Sermon--> Easter Sunday: He Has Risen!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Lori Davis Campaign Calls Fundraiser Event a "Spectacular Success"

Lori Davis, candidate for the Dist. 1 commission seat speaks with supporters

Friday, April 13, 2012
Augusta, GA
By The Outsider

The Lori Davis Campaign for Dist. 1 Commissioner said that their first official fundraiser was "a spectacular success." The event was held yesterday (April 12th) at A.L. Williams Park in Harrisburg across from The Kroc Center. The campaign tells us that it was a sell-out with all 200 tickets sold. The campaign estimates that nearly that many people showed up between 5pm and 8pm. "We had well over 150 show up today," Davis told us, "I am very pleased with the outpouring of support. We had a very diverse turnout representing nearly every neighborhood within District 1. This shows that the people are ready for a change and a more hands-on commissioner who will represent everyone."

The event was sponsored by Schweitzer's Art Glass located at 980 Broad Street in downtown Augusta and featured a fish fry dinner. Davis says the campaign is seeing an enormous amount of support from the downtown business community.

From left: Jennie Lindsey, Lori Davis, and campaign co-chair Dee Mathis
Dee Mathis, a Laney-Walker resident who also serves as campaign co-chair greeted guests as they arrived. " I'm supporting Lori Davis because I know she will be a commissioner who represents all of the people in District 1," said Mathis.

According to Mathis, Davis assisted her in getting action from the city over blighted properties in her neighborhood and in getting the city to follow proper procedures over the controversial Laney-Walker Overlay Zone. "I couldn't get any help from my current commissioner, Matt Aitken, on these issues, but Lori Davis has always been there on our side," said Mathis, "Lori has been dealing with many of the same problems in Harrisburg that we in Laney-Walker have suffered with; she understands our plight."

Mathis also lauded Davis for attending the community hearings over the Laney-Walker Overlay Zone last fall, "Lori showed up for those meetings, but our current commissioner Matt Aitken was absent. We need someone who will be more engaged in the community representing us, and that person is Lori Davis." You can read more about the Laney-Walker Overlay Zone here:-->Laney-Walker Overlay Zone Series.

Davis said she is extremely pleased to see the support she is getting from throughout District 1 and the city,  and the business community, "I was happy to see many local business owners who care about District 1, such as Donnie Thompson, Cliff Channel, Johnny Hensley, and of course The Schweitzers who sponsored the event, among many others."

We also spotted Brad Owens, former downtown business owner and political columnist, who was in town all the way from Africa. There was also local musician Eryn Eubanks, and several other members of The Family Fold. We also spotted Sylvia Cooper of The Augusta Chronicle who was ostensibly covering the event for her weekly City Ink column

Davis says she noticed many faces from National Hills and Waverly neighborhoods which are proposed to be added to District 1 under some redistricting maps. "I think they know I will fight for everyone in District 1 and for every neighborhood. I will be engaged throughout the community," Davis told us, "From Laney-Walker to Olde Town to Harrisburg, to Country Club Hills and beyond, the people at this event really reflected the diversity of district one and Augusta as a whole. I am so pleased to have this kind of support."

The campaign says that more fundraisers and events are in the works and that people can get updates and see more photos from yesterday's event on their campaign Facebook page found here-->Lori Davis Campaign Facebook Page.***


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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Campaign Disclosures Reveal Big Names and Big Money in District 3 Race

Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Augusta, GA
From Reports

The two announced candidates for the District 3 Augusta Commission seat being vacated by Joe Bowles at the end of the year introduced themselves to members of The Committee for Good Government last night at The Julian Smith Barbecue Pit. It's an obligatory pit stop for candidates for local office. There was good barbecue of course and pleasantries were exchanged but there was not a lot of specifics from the two candidates: Mary Fair Davis and Ed Enoch.  We found that the real news and specifics could be found in the campaign disclosure filings just released by the Georgia State Ethics Commission. One thing is very clear: The District 3 race is shaping up to be the most expensive Augusta Commission race in history.

There's Something About Mary
There really must be something about Mary Fair Davis that compels people to open up their checkbooks. According to the first quarter Campaign  Contribution Disclosure Report filed by her campaign, Davis raised a whopping $35,315.00 as of the March 31st filing date. Scanning through the itemized contributions list for individual donations above $100, that must be reported by name, reads like a Who's Who list of the biggest movers and shakers in Augusta. *(See pdf at the end of this article).

Big Money
The biggest individual contributor to Mary Fair Davis' campaign for the first quarter was none other than Clayton Boardman (CEO of Flywheel, LLC) who gave the maximum individual amount $2,500.00. Boardman also serves as the campaign chairperson. It is worthy to note that Mary Fair Davis served as the campaign chairperson for Deke Copenhaver's first run for Mayor, who is an in-law of Boardman.

Enterprise Mill Events, another member of the campaign committee provided $1,230.50 of "in-kind" contributions for refreshments for a campaign event.

William Fair, III of Atlanta, GA (presumably a family member of the candidate) gave $1,100.00

H.M.  Osteen, Jr ( a founding member of Augusta Tomorrow) gave $1,000.00

More Boardman Bucks:

  • Braye Boardman gave $500.00
  • Ann Boardman gave $800.00
  • Boardman Et. Al. gave $500.00

Magnolia, LLC (listed as a member of the campaign committee) gave $500.00. We looked for more details on this entity. They were created on 11/22/2005 and their Principal Office Address is: P. O. Box 850 Augusta ,GA 30903. The agent registered with the state for this LLC is Margaret Elizabeth B. Copenhaver.

Other Notable Donors:

  • E.G. Meybohm (owner of Meybohm Realty) gave $300.00
  • Commissioner Joe Bowles gave $300.00
  • Frmr. Commissioner Don Grantham gave $150.00
  • State Rep. Barbara Sims* gave $200.00 *(it's worthy to note that Sims was the legislator who introduced the bill that moved local elections up to July 31st)
  • William McKnight (owner of Mcknight Construction) gave $500.00
Ed Has Some Catching Up To Do
Augusta attorney Edward Enoch, who is challenging Mary Fair Davis for the District 3 seat has so far raised $14,374.00, well below half of what the Davis campaign has raised thus far. (see pdf at end of the article for the full report). If Mary Fair Davis is the "Boardman" candidate, then it's safe to say that Enoch is the "Kendrick" candidate. *View Enoch's itemized contributions here--> Enoch Contributions.

Enoch's Big Donors:
  • Kendrick Paint & Body (1333 Broad Street) gave the maximum of $2,500.00
  • James Edward Enoch gave himself $2,150.00
  • S&K Capital Partners LLC (2904 Bransford Rd, Augusta) gave the maximum of $2,500.00. Stephen Kendrick (owner of Kendrick Paint & Body) heads up S&K Capital Partners LLC.
  • Kathryn Nave (Evans, GA and principal of Evans Christian Academy) gave $1,000.00
Other Notable Donors:
  • Hiram Thompson (Evans, GA and owner of Thompson Building and Wrecking Company) gave $250.00
  • Lynn Smith (an attorney at Enoch's firm) gave $500.00
  • Alternative Construction & Environmental Solutions, Inc gave $300.00
  • Pamela Doumar (Juvenile court judge for Augusta judicial circuit) gave $250.00
  • Price Dunaway (Evans, GA and COO of Integrated Medical Professionals) gave $500.00
  • Watson & Knox, Inc of Thompson, GA gave $350.00
**You can view the full Campaign Disclosure Reports Below**
Mary Fair Davis Filing (click full screen at bottom of frame to enlarge)

Ed Enoch Filing (Click full screen at bottom of frame to enlarge)

Is Downtown Augusta Throwing Money Away on CADI Program?


Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Augusta, GA
By The Downtowner

Augusta’s downtown has been patrolled by a nine-man team for the past four years, and at the end of the year it will be up to the property owners to decide whether to keep them working.

Clean Augusta Downtown Initiative (CADI) began in early 2008 as a way to make downtown Augusta more clean, safe and friendly. Through the Great Recession and into the slow economic recovery,  property owners inside the Business Improvement District (BID) have been paying .00725 cents on every dollar of their property value to fund the $ 365,000-a-year program. (Augusta Chronicle;February 4, 2012).

As the 5th year of this program approaches an end, downtown business owners will decide once again whether to continue to fund this program.  It will take 51 percent of the downtown property owners to keep the CADI program in place. As a downtown regular, I decided to  poke around a little bit to see how this program came into being and how business owners feel about the use of their tax dollars which now exists  in triplicate for them. That’s right, property owners in the BID are being taxed three times for their city services. Not only do they pay county taxes, they pay a tax that seems to be left over after consolidation called, “Urban Maintenance and Operation.” The BID was established in 2008 which levied a third tax. How did this happen and what are they getting for all of this money?

In 2007, the DDA began their campaign to encourage business owners to form a Business Improvement District which would allow the city to collect a special tax that would be used to help with issues specific to downtown. When talking to downtown business owners about this, most recollect that public safety was the issue discussed most often. As a matter of fact, paying for an expanded  public safety presence downtown was a huge selling point in getting the owners to agree to the program. Who doesn’t want more safety in downtown Augusta? It is a necessity for businesses to thrive.

 As the petition drive continued and meetings were held, I have been told that many business owners who were in opposition were not made aware of the meetings and were quietly left out of the loop. In July of 2007 with petition in hand and the new ordinance drawn up, DDA director Margaret Woodard presented all relevant documents to the Augusta Commission for approval.

According to meeting minutes, Commissioner Jerry Brigham began to question how a Board of Directors would be set up since this was not mentioned in the ordinance. He commented that this needed to be spelled out since so much money would be going through the hands of the board members. At this point in the minutes, someone identified only as, “Byrd,” assured Commissioner Brigham that the business owners in the BID would be nominating and voting for their own board members, (Byrd is quite possibly Byrd Warlick the DDA attorney). Satisfied with the answer, the Commissioners proceeded with a vote to enact the new ordinance without the clarification in writing….Mistake number one.

Now let’s fast forward to January of 2008. The minutes of the very first Board of Directors meeting for CADI show that all board members had been established and were in attendance at this meeting. Who nominated them and when did the business owners vote on them? Owners I have spoken with never saw a ballot. The result and mistake number two was that the early board members were obviously hand picked by the DDA.

Business Improvement District board members:
- Donald Bailey, Davenport Bruker, Len Carter, Bryan Halterman, Tennet Houston, Paul King, Robert Kuhar, Darryl Leech, Sanford Loyd, Julian Osbon, Jeff Partl, City Administrator Fred Russell, Tillman Sauls, Berry Smith, CVB Director Barry White,  and Margaret Woodard.

Sorry folks.  When I think of Downtown Augusta, I think of, Bonnie Ruben, Coco Rubio, David Hutchinson, Robin Schweitzer, Oolie, Jai West, Fred Daitch, Pat Johansen…Shall I go on? Where is the true representation on this Board?

Now that a bit of the stinky history is out of the way, The question that needs to be answered, Is CADI worth another five year investment? This downtowner  says, “No way!” At least not in its present state, and I have found that many downtown business owners are in agreement. Following are a few of the complaints that will have to be addressed:

  • Why are we paying CADI to do what we’re already paying the city to do?
  • Why was CADI never about Public Safety as we were told it would be?
  • Where is all of the equipment CADI started off with? Especially those  machines that suck up cigarette butts.
  • Where does $350,000 a year go with only 7 employees?
  • Why does CADI now charge for graffiti removal? (Business owners were initially told that would be a principal responsibility of The CADI program)
  • Why does CADI take care of the Board of Education property?
  • Where is our Board Representation for downtown business owners?
  • Why does the DDA charge $25,000 a year to oversee this program?
  • Where is the survey from the DDA that was supposed to have been delivered to business owners by the end of March 2012 (according to the February 2012 Director’s Report).
  • Will those of us who are in opposition be left out of the new process?
These are all great questions that need to be answered. As a downtown regular I see more vagrants and panhandlers than ever before. I strongly believe that Public Safety is the main ingredient that is lacking for downtown to be able to thrive. If there is a perception that the area is unsafe, then people won't come and spend their money, and having a more visible public safety presence gives people the perception that the area is safer. Downtown business owners were told that CADI would primarily serve that purpose, but that clearly has not happened.

Just think of what could really be accomplished with $350,000 a year of extra tax money with the right visionary in charge of the DDA? Just imagine what could be accomplished downtown with more downtown business owners being included in the process. Now is the time for the downtown business owners to organize, research, and take a stand. Do not let this opportunity to make a huge change pass you by. Become informed and get what you deserve, not what the DDA thinks you deserve. We are depending on you! Downtown is depending on you.***


Stay Tuned has initiated an Open Records Request (ORR) on the CADI program and other DDA initiatives. We will have more updates detailing how the DDA misuses public funds and engages in cronyism over how funds are spent and who is appointed to these boards. Stay tuned.

Related Stories:
The Case of the Disappearing Downtown Clock

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Here Come Da Judge: Federal Court to Settle Redistricting Mess

Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Augusta, GA
By The Outsider

Well it appears certain now that a federal judge will try to clean up the redistricting mess that Augusta placed itself in. Augusta commissioners voted 9-0 yesterday to seek federal intervention to end the saga over redistricting and get finalized district maps for the commission and school board.

Candidates and potential candidates for seats up for grabs this year have been in limbo since the local delegation could not come to an agreement on redistricting maps by the end of this year's session. That meant that the current maps drawn up after the 2000 census would still be in effect, but because of population shifts over the last 10 years, using the old maps would clearly put Augusta in violation of the 14th amendment of the US Constitution. So the city took preemptive action to settle the matter instead of waiting for a third party to file a lawsuit.

As we've stated in previous articles, this entire thing could have been settled months ago. An ad-hoc committee was convened last Fall for the explicit purpose of re-drawing district lines. This committee was made up of members of the Augusta Commission, Richmond County School Board, and the local legislative delegation. A redistricting expert, Linda Meggars, was brought in at taxpayer's expense to assist in redrawing the maps. Several drafts were considered, and in the end the ad-hoc  committee voted unanimously to endorse what was known as Map-3R. That map was also endorsed by the Richmond County School Board. However, it failed to get the endorsement of the Augusta Commission, when two commissioners who served on the ad-hoc committee (Jerry Brigham and Grady Smith) changed their minds and blocked it at the December 6th Commission. The vote tied 5-5, but since the mayor was absent (on vacation), the measure to endorse the map failed by default.

Then the process moved to the state legislature where it stalled again. State Sen. Jesse Stone (R. Waynesboro), at the behest of Augusta Commissioner Jerry Brigham, blocked Map-3R  from moving forward and instead proposed starting the process from scratch, coming up with an entirely new map. Then in the final days of the legislative session, Stone proposed adopting Map-2R (one of the earlier drafts considered by the ad-hoc committee). This proposal failed to win support in The GA House, so once  this year's session was adjourned, Augusta-Richmond County was left with having to use the old maps from the 2000 census.

If there is any good news out of all this is that the city's decision to seek federal intervention will speed up the process to settle this issue once and for all. But once the courts are involved, there's no telling what the new maps may look like. It is unlikely though that a federal judge would make drastic changes to the maps that have already been considered with elections coming up presumably on July 31st. Most likely, the courts will look at the various maps considered by the ad-hoc committee and approve one of those. In that case, the likely outcome is that the courts will opt for Map-3R. After all, it was approved unanimously by the ad-hoc committee , received the endorsement of the school board, and received the endorsement of 5 Augusta Commissioners. Also, Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver is on record supporting Map-3R. This is the map that is still on the city's elections website and the one that many candidates have already become familiar with. Going through a complete redraw could take months and with elections moved up to July 31st, that could create an even bigger mess, so it seems very likely that the courts will favor Map-3R.

Sending this to the Federal courts could mean that the State Senate Bill that moved Augusta's nonpartisan elections from the General Election ballot to the July 31st general primary ballot may very well be struck down or delayed, especially with new district lines not settled until May at the earliest. Holding the elections in July would leave little time for candidates to qualify under the new maps, raise money and campaign. So look for the elections date to be pushed back to November. So in the end, after all of this drama we could be right back where we should have been in the very beginning.***

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Monday, April 9, 2012

Columbia County Judge Candidate Hosting Fundraiser Today

Monday, April 9, 2012
Martinez, GA
From Reports

The Jason Hasty Campaign for Columbia County Magistrate Judge is holding a fundraiser today, April 9th between 5 and 8pm at Cleve Edmunds Barbecue at 935 Washington Road in Martinez. A campaign press release states that the event is $10 a plate that includes Barbecue, hash and rice, side item and a drink. All proceeds goes towards the Jason Hasty for Judge campaign. It is a drop-in event and patrons can dine in or carry out.

Jason Hasty describes himself as "The Conservative Republican" candidate for Columbia County magistrate judge with over 21 years of experience practicing law and has served as the Assistant Public Defender for the Augusta Judicial circuit.

Those interested in attending the event can simply drop by Edmunds BBQ today between 5 and 8 pm and plates will be available for purchase. More information can be found at the campaign website----> Events for Jason Hasty Campaign ***

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Saturday, April 7, 2012

By Authority of Man An “Evildoer,” By the Cross A Savior

Easter Sermon: He Has Risen!

Easter Sunday, April 8, 2012
By Al Gray

Folks, we are in a maelstrom of forces that threaten us all and by “all” this writer means mankind in the broadest sense, Americans in the national sense, and as individual souls in the common sense.  We find ourselves in a technologically complicated world with unimaginably hideous weaponry in the hands of men whose base emotions, fears, reasoning, and limitations are unchanged since the times of Genesis. We pretend otherwise, one supposes, in order to sleep.

Read the Bible. Quit feeding the evil beast who entices under the worship of false patriotism, the admiration of authority, and the comfort of a modern lifestyle. You must do this soon. These times hearken in frightening ways to the power of the state and religious zealotry openly displayed during the trial of Jesus. Of more recent vintage, even unbelievers note the parallels to the fall of the Roman Empire, the French Revolution, the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, and the rise of the Nazis. We tend to think of the people of those times as either being evil or victims of evil. Is it really that simple, or were people fooled by the worst of their weaknesses?

In the last decade there has been constant erosion of our rights under the United States Constitution by both national political parties, Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court. New laws like the Patriot Act and the recent National Defense Authorization Act give the state vast powers to cancel our most precious rights on a whim, an arbitrary decision, or just plain mistaken identity. These powers extend to cancelling our very lives, yet the response we lovers of liberty get goes something like - “Well, if you are not doing anything wrong, what do you have to worry about?” from left and right. We have all heard this refrain. Let’s recall for a moment the very beginning of the Trial of Jesus.

“ 29 Therefore Pilate went out to them and *said, “What accusation do you bring against this Man?” 30 They answered and said to him, If this Man were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him to you.””

Are you getting a little more awake now? It got worse, a lot worse at the hands of the statist chief priests who trumped law with mob rule.

31 So Pilate said to them, “Take Him yourselves, and judge Him according to your law.” The Jews said to him, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death,”…. 35 Pilate answered, “… Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?”

The priests had already decided nothing short of the death penalty would be acceptable, so they changed their tune when the imperial justice system would not be stretched to invoke a death sentence. At five junctures, Pilate expressed doubt about Jesus’s guilt, straightforwardly stating “I find no guilt in Him.” In In John 19, the religious hierarchy changed its tune claiming:

We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God.”

It is written that Pilate finally succumbed to the political pressure of the religious zealots and priests. Politics trumped law.

12 As a result of this Pilate [d]made efforts to release Him, but the Jews cried out saying, “If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a king [e]opposes Caesar.”

These dastardly ‘leaders’ were not just content to kill the Truth found in Jesus’ teachings they, like our current day religious and statist bunch, wanted to SPIN it in their favor.

19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It was written, “JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS.” 20 Therefore many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in [k]Hebrew, Latin and in Greek. 21 So the chief priests of the Jews were saying to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews’; but that He said, ‘I am King of the Jews.’” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

See the parallels? There is nothing new under the sun, human nature has not changed through the eons, and corruption accrues to the brazen.  Indeed the historian of the Fall of Rome Tacitus wrote “Crime, once exposed, has no refuge but in audacity.” He also wroteCustom adapts itself to expediency.”  It was audacious and expedient for the political and religious leaders to kill Jesus. Are ours any different? Are they any more right?

The Saving Grace

Jesus lived a life of constant miracles. The biggest of them all was His Resurrection, which overcame the temporal, corrupt powers of men and the evil of Satan.  It was a triumph of truth over collective fraud, sin, ambition, and false power that seems to accrue to all institutions, too often including the church. Yes, faith in Jesus overcomes the sins of all who believe, but the most uplifting aspect of the Easter story is that salvation is an individual acceptance of the Truth – that truth being that acceptance of Jesus as one’s personal savior overcomes everything else that we face.

Let’s return to John 18, verse 37.

37 Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

Who on that awe-filled and awful day was of the truth and heard His voice? Was it an institution, a mob, a bunch of disciples, or a legion of soldiers? Is and was the TRUTH individual or collective? Has the truth been better served since that day by the institutions of man or by different men, women, and children of faith through the generations? Those last hours on Golgotha are informative.

One of the criminals being executed saw not truth, but took a collective, demanding approach to salvation. He saw the three condemned men as a group with the same problem - death - and the same interests in escaping it, yet saw the situation from the viewpoint of the corrupt establishment. This part of the story comes from  Luke 23, verse 39.

 39 One of the criminals who were hanged there was [a]hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the [b]Christ? Save Yourself and us!”

Ah, here is perhaps the most beautiful part of the Easter story and certainly the most inspirational for sinners such as each of us, for there was one man on that brutal hill who was of the truth and he heard the voice of Jesus.

40 But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving [c]what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come [d]in Your kingdom!” 43 And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”

That criminal admitted the truth about what he had done and the truth that Jesus was the greatest of all truths and the way to salvation. It was a personal, individual profession of simple faith. It lifted that man, judged by society and law as a criminal, to heaven that day. That was enough for him. That is enough for me……and you.

Salvation is not by the state, clergy, or any other failed or failing human institution. None of these collectivist entities can obtain it for you.

Reach for Jesus. Leave them to their worldly power, just as that thief rose to heaven that day and left those chief priests to their momentary temporal triumph.

Tomorrow morning the sun will rise on a very dangerous world of men not remarkably different than that morning more than two thousand years ago. What is different is this:

“He has risen.”

So might it be for each of us.

No government needed. That is the truth.

You don’t have to be a condemned thief to be desperate to get it, nor is any institution empowered to get it for you.

Got it?

Brother Al Gray... High Reverend of The First Church of What's Happening Now

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