Weekend MARTA Commute

I use MARTA to get to work sometimes.  During the week the commute is usually pretty easy (if slow when compared to private transit). But weekend MARTA service is the worst.  Often, unannounced maintenance is being performed on the rail lines.  Sometimes the North Springs line only runs from the Lindbergh station, which results in an additional delay to my commute.

Since I cannot be certain that the East/West trains will arrive in time for me to catch the first northbound train of the day, I choose to walk to the 5 Points MARTA station.  This involves a 20 minute passage through streets where homeless people are just beginning to wake up.  That really doesn’t bother me.  I walk quickly, stay vigilant as to my surroundings, and keep 911 ready on my speed dial just in case there is an actual bad guy wanting to confront me. But since most bad guys stay up late at night and collapse when the sun is about to rise, I don’t worry obsessively.

I’ve learned to cope with MARTA’s deficiencies and bear them up with good humor. However one recent MARTA commute to work was much worse than the others.  Herewith are my notes from the trip:

Timeline of my Saturday morning commute

05:43 Left home. (Walked to MARTA station).

06:05 Arrived at 5 Points MARTA station.

06:07 Northbound Doraville train arrives. (The northbound train to North Springs [my train] is departing from Lindbergh station today due to maintenance.  It normally departs from the Airport.  So today I will have to change trains at Lindbergh.  This will delay my arrival at work by about 10 minutes.)

06:12? Train stops at Civic Center station (2 stops north of 5 Points Station).  A beggar from the Peachtree Pine homeless shelter boards and asks for eighty-five cents, saying that only one church came by with provisions for the homeless overnight.  He’s met with silence, but for one old lady who yells out “Get a job at McDonalds!”

06:15? Driver announces there will be a delay due to a door problem on the train.  Driver walks the length of the train twice to check a faulty door.

06:20? Train departs Civic Center station.

06:25? Train arrives at Arts Center station (3 stops north of Civic Center station).  Driver announces a delay due to a train stuck on the tracks just north of us.

06:30? Driver announces train is out of service.  Passengers exit.

06:40? Another northbound train arrives.  Passengers board.

06:42? Driver announces that this train is also out of service.  Nearly all passengers (about 200) simultaneously groan or curse, then depart train.  I permit myself a one finger salute to the surveillance camera.

06:45 MARTA employees on platform announce that buses are waiting to shuttle everyone to the Lindbergh MARTA station.

06:47 My bus departs Arts Center station.

06:55? Arrive at Lindbergh station. Even though I’m aggravated, I still enjoy people watching.  At the station there are a number of bewildered white, senior citizen, non-MARTA riders dressed in pink trying to get to the starting point for a breast cancer charity walk.  And there is a black, 6 foot 2 inch, 30 year old metrosexual with extremely arched eyebrows in heavy lip gloss, a pleated white blouse, and girly sandals.

07:10 Train to North Springs departs.

07:25? Arrive at Sandy Springs station.  Walk to the office.

07:35? MARTA announces on its ‘MARTA See & Stay’ application that due to maintenance problems rail service has been discontinued between the Lindbergh and Arts Center stations.  Shuttle buses are being used to make the connection instead.

07:40  Arrive at office building and realize I left my work badge at home.  A coworker gets me access to the building.

07:43 Arrive at my office.  Total commute time: 2 hours. (My usual MARTA commute is 1 hour (including the short walks). My usual commute via motorcycle (including removing locks on the bike and its warm up time) is 25 minutes.

That about sums up the trip.  Most MARTA rides aren’t so bad. They’re just longer than private commutes.

With more people using the same transit service you’re using, you have to expect to see humanity in it’s good and bad forms – people have bad days, there are extremes of dress, some people have mental problems, others are simply rude.  Then there are the regular riders who are just trying get through life without using a car.  There are people who only use MARTA for airport shuttles, or to attend sporting events and big conventions.  They are deathly afraid of the city and having to share a ride with poor people. And yes, there are poor people…  But with gentrification, many of them have been pushed to poor suburbs where the transit systems pale in comparison with the just passable service of MARTA.

A couple of weeks ago, MARTA increased the frequency of trains on the north/south rail lines. And it is likely to do the same on the east/west lines as well as the bus routes.

MARTA’s technical efficiency and usefulness to commuters have improved in recent months with insourcing of previously outsourced jobs and the addition of the nice new phone application ”MARTA See & Stay”.

As more prosperous people move into the city, no doubt the local and state governments will try to improve their quality of life. Too bad they aren’t willing to do so for the poor people being displaced.

The city of Atlanta (excluding the suburbs and the newly formed ‘fake’ cities around it) is experiencing a surge of growth in high end apartments and condominiums.  Unfortunately, the surge is being accompanied with a surge in cars and congestion on city streets.  As usual, a city and a state in the South refuses to act in behalf of the community good with transit options.  For some government leaders acting in behalf of the mass good is akin to Communism.  Others would call such action Democracy.  Whatever you want to call it, a lot of us city dwellers simply want it done!

Snowjam Atlanta 2014 – Mayor Reed and MARTA Rail

Grady Curve in 2014 snowjam.

Grady Curve in 2014 snowjam.

On Tuesday, January 28th snow and ice came to Atlanta.  Businesses, governments, and schools considered the well being of those under their jurisdictions and decided to send people home early.  They didn’t want them to get stuck in the snow.  What actually happened was gridlock.  You see, everybody was sent home at the same time…

Now normally schools, corporations, and government offices stagger their operating hours, which lessens the impact of rush hour.  As it turned out, most people spent hours in traffic, some kids had to bed down at their schools, cars were abandoned on the freeways, and over 1,200 wrecks occurred.

Politicians and media pointed fingers at each other.  For me the most maddening aspect of this finger pointing was the singling out of Atlanta’s mayor, Kasim Reed, for criticism.  Hate radio (called in some circles “talk radio”), and national media outlets which know little about the city complained about the mayor’s handling of the crisis.  In the mayor’s defense lets set some matters straight:

1. The city of Atlanta only holds 1/10th of the metro areas population, and about 15% of it’s area.

2. A large percentage (possibly the majority) of the area’s corporate offices are outside the city limits.

3. The metro area is fragmented into dozens of government jurisdictions which love the Atlanta name, but refuse to be part of the city proper.  These same government leaders ducked responsibility for their contributions to the traffic jam. (The fragmentation of Atlanta is primarily the result of greed, as well as racism.  You see, people in formerly unincorporated bedroom suburbs recently incorporated into “fake cities” in order to avoid contributing to the common good of Atlanta with their taxes.)

4.  Besides all of the petty fiefdoms that make up Atlanta, there are many school systems.  (Some of these grew dramatically in the civil rights era, when whites fled integration in the City of Atlanta.)

5.  Atlanta is the base for numerous government employees – local, state, and federal.  In fact some have said that we have the second largest number of federal employees, ranking just behind Washington D.C.

With all of the above in mind, people should remember that the mayor is responsible for a small part of the greater metro area.  Additionally, he can’t tell corporations what to do with their employees.  Those corporations should have sent their employees home either very early or much later, in order to ease the flow of traffic.  The mayor is not responsible for state or federal employees.   Lastly, the mayor is not responsible for the many school districts in the region.

Also, criticism of the mayor’s handling of matters can be divided into two aspects: One, simple ignorance of the metro area.  And two, agenda driven criticism – people who find fault because the mayor is black and he does not support the so-called ‘conservatism’ of their politics.

Oh and about the commute, some of my co-workers had commutes which lasted 9 – 13 hours.  My own commute was 1 hour. You see, I use mass transit, the city’s train system.  Many of the thousands who were stuck in traffic for hours on end while listening to hate radio complaints about the mayor are the same people who vote against expansion of the metro area’s mass transit rail system MARTA.  Oh well, let them continue to pay the price for their vote by sitting in traffic and paying the costs of owning and maintaining their multi car households….


A Cemetery’s Sales Pitch Critiqued

Crest Lawn Cemetery’s Sales Pitch

Crest View Cemetery 016

Cemetery sales organizations typically rely on colorful but cloying speech to sell their product.  They seem to prey on the emotions of grieving survivors and those who know their end is near. It really is maddening to read their websites, what with all their bad writing, distortions, and sometimes even lying about the history of their grounds and those who are interred there.

A side note about the dearly departed, how do we know that even though one’s headstone says ‘loving husband and devoted father’ that he wasn’t loving of other women, and devoted to drinking, philandering and other vices?  How do we know that most people of his time didn’t rejoice at his passing?

Herewith are quotes from the Crest Lawn Cemetery websites http://www.dignitymemorial.com/en-us/overview.page and http://www.dignitymemorial.com/crest-lawn-memorial-park/en-us/history.page   (Incidentally, the cemetery is in northwest Atlanta on Marietta Boulevard). I underlined the BS words and phrases and added a few comments. 

“Crest Lawn Memorial Park was established in 1916. Situated on approximately 145 acres, replete with rolling hills and established trees, (So it looks like any other part of Atlanta, minus the traffic) Crest Lawn provides a tranquil place to honor the memory of loved ones. Our park also includes a variety of blooming trees, shrubbery and seasonal flowers. (Again, it looks like the rest of town, just with headstones added.  Oh and most parks don’t have dead people, they tend to have jungle gyms and swingsets, and maybe a beer stand when there’s a festival.) Adding to the appeal, (Graveyards have appeal?  That sure ain’t my scene!) Crest Lawn offers gravesites and a mausoleum with breathtaking views of the Atlanta skyline and other beautiful features throughout the park. (The writer should have probably avoided using the word breathtaking when talking about this place… And for the life of me I can’t figure out what beautiful features they’re referring to.  I guess someone will soon be making a breathtaking joke about me soon!)

Serving the greater Atlanta community for generations, Crest Lawn fosters a rich culture and an abundance of history. (This place is not even 100 years old, but it has served generations, just not a lot of ‘em. And who does it foster cultural activities for? the dead??? Also, do they foster history? Lastly, does not-even-200-year-old Atlanta have an abundance of history when compared to other cities?) The heritage of the rolling heights (steep, big assed hills) of Crest Lawn Memorial Park goes back to post-colonial times in the late 1700s. Atlanta’s highest vantage point was owned by the eminent Casey family, and was known as Casey’s Hill. The height advantage and near proximity to the Chattahoochee River caused Casey’s Hill to be the focal point in the Battle of Atlanta in July 1864. (Most historians would probably consider the main battle of Atlanta to be the one that happened below Little 5 Points [depicted at the Cyclorama in Grant Park]) Two historical markers at Crest Lawn Memorial Park tell of the events that took place. Weathered infantry trenches and unmarked Confederate graves poignantly remain this day. (If they’re unmarked how do you know what’s poignant? Where do you look for unmarked poignant graves? How do you know that one part of the lawn is more poignant than another part?) The ear splitting roar (the really loud noise) of cannons and smell of gun powder no longer linger, (Duhhh!  It’s been almost 150 years since shots were fired there!) but the astute eye can still make out the jagged brick outline of cannon retort (Damn! Are those things still firing or retorting??? I need to up my house insurance!) on Joe Johnston Hill, which is now the home of eight Crest Lawn Memorial Park interment gardens. “Fighting” Joe Johnston was replaced by General Hood, who has a garden named in his honor.  (A lot of people considered Johnston to be a wuss, more noted for retreating than fighting. In fact the rebel president fired him for not putting his men on the firing line more often when Sherman was coming to town.  Oh and they named a garden after the man that lost the battle and was responsible for placing many men in graveyards, or as they might say in the context of this website, gardens.)

The more recent history of Crest Lawn Memorial Park began in 1912, (Does history begin?  And is 1912 recent?) when J. M. Clark and W. E. Beckham established the Atlanta Cemetery adjacent to Casey’s Cemetery. Construction of the Memorial Mausoleum began in 1913 and was completed in 1915. The mausoleum holds 600 crypts and includes 12 family rooms and features marble crypt fronts, marble tile floors and a marble altar in the Chapel area.

Today, Crest Lawn Memorial Park sits on 145 acres and is a member of the of the Dignity Memorial® network of funeral, cremation and cemetery service providers. Our experienced and knowledgeable staff is able to serve families of all faiths, beliefs, cultures and and backgrounds.” (Indeed! Just last year it was announced that a gay section was being provided on the grounds. But they still haven’t added a Muslim section!)

In fairness to the writers and management of Crest Lawn, helping survivors through the burial process is worthy.  Care of the cemetery gives the dead dignity, even if they can’t appreciate the effort. And survivors are honored by having their departed in well kept grounds. But guys please consider giving up all the rosy sounding sweet sales talk about your graveyard. Just present the cemetery honestly and with respect to your clients. They’ll appreciate the respect much more than the sales pitch.

Another Georgia Town Requires Guns (The Unspoken Fear)

On April 1, 2013 Nelson, Georgia became the second city in the state to (in name) require gun ownership by heads of households.  The law is symbolic.  There is no requirement to buy a gun and there is no penalty for not having one.

Nelson followed in the footsteps of another north Atlanta suburb, Kennesaw, which enacted a similar ordinance in 1982.  Kennesaw passed its ordinance as a political response to an anti-gun law which had recently been adopted by Morton Grove, Illinois.

Note – Nelson’s population is 90% white, Kennesaw’s is 59%.  Of course, back when Kennesaw passed it’s gun law in 1982, the town had a much lighter complexion.  And even though a few more blacks and Hispanics have established homes in the area, the underlying distrust of and even outright discrimination against them continues. In 2009, Kennesaw settled a racial discrimination suit for $1.8 million while denying any wrongdoing.

A common fear among the area’s white population (mostly whispered and rarely spoken out loud) is ‘minorities are dangerous and we must arm ourselves against them’.  For these people, African-American and Mexican are terms interchangeable with criminal and illegal.  On the surface, they will tell you that they aren’t prejudiced and that they have known ‘a few good black people’, but the deep rooted fears inculcated by their forebears and their distance from any sizable minority population prevent any meaningful trust from being developed.

Questions which do not seem to have been explored by the media are:

Would those towns have passed mandatory gun ownership laws if they had had sizable minority populations?

Would they have even considered mandatory gun ownership if whites had been in the minority?

Would they want their black and Mexican neighbors to have guns?

And what will happen when and if these groups begin arming themselves just like their white neighbors?

Fear driven agendas can only result in harm.  The time may very well come in which all these guns result in society’s suicide.








Who’s honored with statues at the the Georgia capitol?

John Brown Gordon monument at the Georgia capitol

The Georgia state capitol with John Brown Gordon in the foreground

I have often passed the capitol building in downtown Atlanta and noticed that it had a few statues on its grounds. Being a native Southerner, I suspected that the men represented were probably prominent Confederate soldiers and segregationists of past eras. Well, there is some truth to that. But there is so much more to the story. There are conservatives and progressives represented. There is one memorial to a man who was both. One monument depicts the progression of a class of people from the depths of oppression to a higher level of social acceptance. Lastly, there is a replica of a much more famous statue which welcomes the poor and oppressed and celebrates basic freedom.

At the front and center of the statehouse, is a prominent statue of Thomas E. Watson. Watson was a political powerhouse in his day. In 1890, he was elected to congress as a Democrat. He soon broke with the Democrats and turned to the Populist party. The Populists advocated many positions which would be considered politically liberal today. He described economic conditions of his time as “modern Feudalism.” He spoke of wealthy men who “had marched to wealth and power over the thousand desolate farms, abandoned homes and broken-hearted men and women.”

In the early part of his political career Watson derided segregation and the political oppression of blacks. He spoke of the concept of white supremacy as a tool of the rich which was used to divide lower income peoples, black and white, and thus permit the oppression of both. In 1892, two years after his defeat in a congressional election, he stated in an article entitled The Negro Question in the South, “You are made to hate each other because upon that hatred is rested the keystone of the arch of financial despotism which enslaves you both. You are deceived and blinded that you may not see how this race antagonism perpetuates a monetary system which beggars both.”

However, after a second defeat in 1894, he seemed to have second thoughts about permission of the black vote. By the early 1900′s he was advocating disenfranchisement of blacks from the voting booth.

In 1915, he complained about untaxed donations to black colleges and universities:

“Consequently when Carnegie, Rockefeller, or Ogden or some other millionaire Northerner donates millions to negro colleges in Georgia, and other States, these huge donations are to enjoy exemptions from public burdens.

“While young negro bucks are attending college in Atlanta, or at Hampton, or at Tuskegee, white men, with coats off, will be at work in the fields producing the money to pay the taxes of Booker Washington, the colored aristocracy who live so bountifully upon the gifts of Northern philanthropists.” (The Jeffersonian, July 15, 1915)

He remained a Populist, but he pushed through his liberal ideals as secondary to the maintenance of the racial class system of the South. Doing so, he became a political king maker in Georgia politics, engineering the successful election (along with appeals for black disenfranchisement) of another relative progressive, Hoke Smith, to the governor’s office in 1906.

Nearly always distrustful of Jews, by 1913 through his newspaper, The Jeffersonian, Watson was leading the charge against Leo Frank, a Jewish man who had been charged with killing a young woman in an Atlanta pencil factory. When Governor John Slaton commuted Frank’s death sentence to life imprisonment in June 1915, Watson was enraged. He published diatribes against Slaton and derided Franks character. On August 17th, Frank was hung from a tree in Marietta, Georgia, by a mob that included a former governor. Five years later, Watson was elected to the U.S. Senate as a Democrat. He died before completing his term.

What I find most interesting about his statue on the statehouse grounds is its use as backdrop for news conferences by politicians of every political stripe and skin color. This man who advocated policies that have been demonized for generations by men and women of the political left and right occupies the most prominent location on the capitol grounds.

Update 1/30/14

The statue of Tom Watson was removed from the capitol grounds on November 29, 2013 (the day after the Thanksgiving holiday).  It has been placed in a small park across the street which is most noted for it’s homeless people.  But the statues of four other racists remain.

At the corner of Mitchell and Washington streets stands a monument to Civil War governor Joseph Emerson Brown and his wife.  Brown led the state into a confederation of states opposed to the national government in 1861.

Civil War Governor Joseph Emerson Brown

Civil War Governor Joseph Emerson Brown

In December 1860, when writing about the dangers of the “Black Republicans” and the election of Abraham Lincoln to the presidency, Brown said:

“They (poor Southern whites) are a superior race, and they feel and know it. Abolish slavery, and you make the negroes their equals, legally and socially (not naturally, for no human law can change God’s law) and you very soon make them all tenants, and reduce their wages for daily labor to the smallest pittance that will sustain life. Then the negro and the white man, and their families, must labor in the field together as equals. Their children must go to the same poor school together, if they are educated at all. They must go to church as equals; enter the Courts of justice as equals, sue and be sued as equals, sit on juries together as equals, have the right to give evidence in Court as equals, stand side by side in our military corps as equals, enter each others’ houses in social intercourse as equals; and very soon their children must marry together as equals. May our kind Heavenly Father avert the evil, and deliver the poor from such a fate. So soon as the slaves were at liberty, thousands of them would leave the cotton and rice fields in the lower parts of our State, and make their way to the healthier climate in the mountain region. We should have them plundering and stealing, robbing and killing, in all the lovely vallies of the mountains. This I can never consent to see.” (Joseph Brown’s Open Letter, December 7, 1860)

Two things strike me as interesting in this quote. First, Brown feared something that is considered basic today, something considered basic by some Americans of his own time such as Thaddeus Stevens, and by common men in other parts of the world – the equality of men (something referred to in the American Declaration of Independence). Even the Bible mentions that “God is not partial, but in every nation the man that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him.” (Acts 10:34, 35) But Brown implored the ‘Heavenly Father to avert the evil’ of men applying the Golden Rule.

Second, he was concerned that freed slaves would leave the humid regions and go to the mountains. But when you go to the Appalachians today, you’ll probably find many more Mexicans than African-Americans. In fact in most places in the mountains you’re unlikely to meet any black people apart from tourists…

Joseph Brown must have deeply instilled his racial beliefs in his son, later governor Joseph Mackey Brown. Joe junior went on to participate in the lynching of Leo Frank.

In 1928, a monument was erected to Joseph Brown on the Georgia capitol grounds, a man who hated the Golden Rule and who rebelled against the authority of the United States.

The picture at the start of this article features the image of John Brown Gordon. Gordon was a notable Southern general during the Civil War (aka The War Between The States, or The War of The Rebellion, depending on your point of view). By war’s end he was a 33 year old major general in Robert E. Lee’s army.

After the war and Reconstruction (which he vigorously opposed) he went on to become a governor and later a senator.

While serving as governor, he also headed the state’s Ku Klux Klan, at least in name. He may not have directly participated in terrorist actions against African-Americans or whites who did not support white supremacy, but he certainly went along with such conduct. Of course, the plaque beneath his statue makes no mention of that aspect of his life.

Plaque beneath the John Brown Gordon monument

Plaque beneath the John Brown Gordon monument

Since his death, parts of two streets bearing his name (Gordon Street and Gordon Road) have been renamed Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard and Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive.

Prominent twentieth century senator Richard Russell is represented on the capitol grounds with a statue situated midway between the monuments of Joe Brown and Tom Watson.

Richard Russell monument

Richard Russell monument

Prior to his election to the U.S. Senate in 1936, he served as Georgia’s governor from 1931 – 1933, taking his seat at the age of 33. His term in the senate ended with his death in 1971. While there he headed the Armed Services Committee for 16 years and helped bring the Centers for Disease Control to Atlanta. He seems to have been leary of sending American troops to Vietnam, but once America was committed, he supported the effort wholeheartedly.

Russell used the filibuster to block civil rights legislation, though he appears to have had no personal animosities to African-Americans. And he did not support violent suppression of their rights.

3 term Governor Eugene Talmadge

Three term Governor Eugene Talmadge

Eugene Talmadge served Georgia as governor three times and was elected a fourth time, though he did not live to take office after the last election. Many in his time, considered him a demagogue on par with Huey Long of Louisiana. He summarily removed some state officers by means of military force and he criticized Richard Russell as a tool of Franklin Roosevelt and a proponent of the New Deal. The New Deal, Talmadge believed, was the beginning of the end of white supremacy in the South. In addition, he attempted to block agricultural price supports and social welfare programs. Lastly, he tried to prevent Georgians from participating in the Social Security program.

Thirty-five year old Ellis Arnall, defeated the fifty-eight year old Talmadge in the governor’s race of 1942. Arnall was probably Georgia’s most progressive governor ever, even surpassing Jimmy Carter. The website newgeorgiaencyclopedia states, “He reformed the state penal system, repealed the poll tax, lowered the voting age, revised the state constitution, established a teachers’ retirement system, and paid off the long-existing state debt. Promising to end gubernatorial dictatorship in the state, Arnall led efforts to create eight constitutional boards in an effort to reduce the power of the governor. He also created a merit system for state employees and the State Ports Authority.”

His support of the progressive Henry A. Wallace as the Vice Presidential candidate of Franklin Roosevelt in 1944, helped doom his political career in Georgia. Wallace was known for his dislike of racism and his support of labor. Harry Truman succeeded Wallace as VP. Of course, many of those who supported Truman came to regret their decision when he initiated integration of America’s armed forces.

Arnall further cemented his political death by refusing to evade the Supreme Court’s decision that whites only political primaries were illegal. Talmadge defeated him in the 1946 governor’s race after denouncing Arnall as a race traitor.

1940’s Governor Ellis Arnall


Governor and later President Jimmy Carter

Governor and later President Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter is honored by a statue on the capitol grounds. Enough has been written and said about him to allow me to skip historical commentary apart from one thing. When he ran for governor in 1970, he appealed to the racist inclinations of some white voters by saying that as governor he would invite segregationist Alabama governor, George Wallace, to address the Georgia General Assembly. Of course, in the end he proved to be very progressive on racial matters and he has since been vilified by conservative talk radio in Georgia.

Below you see the one monument to the struggles of Georgia’s African-Americans. It stands about 4 feet high on what appear to be concrete cinder blocks in a somewhat remote location on the capitol grounds.

African-American monument on Georgia capitol grounds

African-American monument on Georgia capitol grounds

While the monuments to segregationists and a Klansman loom large, the monument representing the struggles of nearly half of the state’s population is small and looks flimsy.

The state’s most prominent citizen ever, Martin Luther King Jr., has no statue at the capitol. But the city renamed a street right beside the statehouse in his honor, taking that approbation away from the Klansman governor.

Lastly, among the statues to be found on the statehouse grounds is a miniature Statue of Liberty.

Replica of the Statue of Liberty

Replica of the Statue of Liberty

I wonder how the rulers of Georgia really feel about this inscription:

Inscription for the replica of the Statue of Liberty on Georgia capitol grounds

Inscription for the Statue of Liberty on Georgia capitol grounds (click the picture to enlarge)