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Staff Editorials

What's disgusting?

In the fashion world, they call the popular color of the moment, the “new black.” In the world of psychology and biological evolution, disgust is the new black.

A piece in the New York Times notes numerous books and studies have recently come out, telling us more about the reason we go “Yuck!”

One “disgustologist” explained researchers are paying more attention to what we find revolting to gain insight into psychological disorders. They want to know more about why some things gag the average person.

As pointed out in the Times article, disgust is a fairly important emotion/sensation. Disgust leads to a lot of behavior involving hygiene, diet––not to mention dating and marriage.

The article noted disgust is used in marketing campaigns. For example, tying toilet images into efforts to promote hand-washing greatly improves the odds someone will thoroughly wash hands before preparing or eating food, thus decreasing the spread of germs.

Some of the researchers focusing on the evolutionary nature of disgust said the common idea of being disgusted by certain substances, such as excrement, is a holdover from the earliest humans avoiding things likely to make them sick. In caveman times up through the earliest civilization, our early ancestors couldn’t tell you about microbes or bacteria, but they developed a disgust gene that told them not to get drinking water downstream from the bathroom spot.

More than just staying away from stuff that is gross, disgust behaviors also come into play in social decisions such as choosing a mate and with moral issues – where people will say they are disgusted by certain actions.

The Times article, Survival’s Ick Factor (written by James Gorman and available at the Times website, notes that serial killer, Jeffrey Dahmer, is the perfect trifecta of disgust study. (1) He killed people (disgusting morals). (2) He ate the people he killed (disgusting culinary choice). And (3) He did plain ol’ disgusting things to the victims (disgusting social choice).

Contrary to the idea of disgust-used-to-discourage is the notion that some companies and industries go to great lengths to hide disgusting parts of their processes. Take for example the regular saying that compares all types of processes to making sausage, which is apparently a fairly disgusting sight. For sausage, along with hot dogs, chicken strips, bologna, SPAM and most any other processed meat, would we eat it if we saw how it was made?

Probably not, or at least not as often. Similarly with snack products that use a lot of artificial colorings. If they came in whatever color they would be uncolored, would we be as anxious to eat that whole bag of processed cheese snacks?

To aid in further research of disgust, we’d like to suggest some things we find gross.

Things we find disgusting:

• Roadkill – the fresher it is, the worse it looks.

• Overflowing, clogged toilets.

• Anything that comes out of anyone’s nose.

• Male politicians who wear any of the following––hair gel, mousse, makeup, hair dye, gold necklaces or bracelets.

• Too big of people in too small of clothing.

• Public displays of affection.

• Most reality television programs.

• Rats, opossums, whether living or dead.

What do you find disgusting? Comment on our website, under the editorial section,


Great things are happening here

Too often that which is good is overshadowed by that which is bad. And, goodness knows, there is plenty of bad stuff happening in the world these days.

But great things are happening right here in Pickens County. We need to take a moment to remember these accomplishments and to think of other things we have inadvertently not included on this list.

1.            A whole lot of giving going on – The Thrift Store announced last month they had just given away their $3 millionth dollar to the benefit of people in this area. That is quite a pile of cash from a group that operates solely on volunteer and community service work and sells mainly old couches, clothes and whatever else people donate. Aside from the cash generated, no small benefit of the Thrift Store is that most of the stuff taken in and put up for sale would have ended up in a landfill otherwise. That’s recycling at its finest.

2.            Joy, Joy, Joy at their House At the end of 2011, the Joy House announced strong year-end giving and a generous matching pledge pushed them over the top with funding to complete a boys home/school at the Joy House campus on Cove Road. Joy House founder Steve Lowe said the real blessing is that the Christian ministry can now accept eight teenage boys into its program, up from the four that could previously be served. Over the years ahead, that expansion amounts to a lot more boys given a place to get their life on solid footing before they reach adulthood.

3. On the other side of the county - The Good Shepherd Ranch, with little publicity, has created a Christ-centered institution to help boys who cannot live with their biological parents. Founder John Smith welcomes troubled boys to stay until they graduate.

4.            And, still focusing on the youth -  The Boys and Girls Clubs around here have shown they are serious in their intent and effort to build a much-needed youth club on the grounds of Roper Park. The group announced they have $1 million in hand of the $2 million needed for the planned 23,000 square foot youth center that will serve both elementary school children and teenagers in two separate areas.

These are just a few recent events, ours to be thankful for in this community. These are great things, but they are not isolated. Rather, they signify the type groups we have operating here and the kind of people hereabouts still making an impact, regardless of any general feeling concerning the world at large.

We also have:

The Rotary Club at work on a new youth park facility for the county.

The Hope House taking in young people with nowhere else to live as their parents try to sort through their own issues (with some help from the court).

CARES, the food pantry, feeding way too many people.

The Pickens County Developmental Disabilities Ministries, pressing hard to open and staff a new supervised home here for adults with developmental disabilities.

Jasper’s Burnt Mountain Center, providing training and supervision through its daily program to developmentally disabled citizens, enabling them to find meaningful work that produces a positive impact on the community at large.

Habitat for Humanity working on new homes and chances.

And these are just the groups that came readily to mind. Undoubtedly with this much going on in Pickens County, we are blessed for certain. Looking from here, things don’t seem nearly as bad as they are often portrayed in the wide wide world.

Editor’s Note to whichever group we somehow overlooked: Sorry, it wasn’t intentional.


Iowa schmiowa

Iowa’s week in the limelight is slowly fading to black as presidential candidates set their sights on the next stops on the caucus/primary trail.

Despite Iowa being relegated to the presidential campaigning back burner for another four years, the state’s caucus maintains a staying power we feel is unwarranted. Mitt Romney beat out the rest of the presidential field January 3 by a razor thin margin, and now many are saying he will be the Republican nominee since he eked out a victory in a state of cornfields.

Let’s not be so sure.

We have to remember that the Iowa Caucus is a bizarre event that is about as accurate a predictor as a game of heads or tails. The Caucus does a better job at snuffing out candidacies than making accurate predictions about who is going to win the party nomination.

The Iowa Caucus didn’t gain notoriety until 1972 after a series of articles about the way non-primary states such as Iowa choose their candidates.

Leading up to the Democratic primary of 1972, Maine’s Sen. Edmund Muskie was leading. Muskie received the highest percentage of the vote in Iowa in 1972, but challenger, Sen. George McGovern, came in a strong second. Taking second place gave McGovern increased media attention, and he was ultimately nominated by his party that year.

Then in 1976, the Iowa Republican Party moved their caucus to the same date in January, creating what is now a media juggernaut in the cornfields every presidential election year.

So the media pays close attention to the Iowa Caucus, because candidates now pay close attention to it. And the candidates pay close attention to it, because, while it offers only sporadically correct insight into what the future holds, it has the potential to give candidates the same momentum McGovern received.

But in our opinion, the Caucus is overhyped. Iowans are not an accurate representation of the national demographic, and frankly, the caucus voting body involved is incredibly small, with just 120,000 voters casting ballots on the Republican side this year.

What this means is that if a presidential candidate uses the Iowa Caucus as an indicator of their chances for ultimate success and drops out of the race, only a tiny fraction of the population has decided if the rest of the nation gets the opportunity to vote for that candidate.

This fact becomes more disturbing after reading The Gazette, a newspaper out of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. According to that publication, pre-caucus polls show that nearly half of Iowans go into the caucus undecided, to be swayed by the campaigners that are allowed at caucus sites.

In a recent article, The Gazette’s editorial board says that while Iowans value the opportunity to be the first in the nation to “winnow the field,” the board feels the caucus is held too early to be accurate. They say many Iowans are tapped out after a long holiday season and are, by and large, unfocused on the presidential race.

What’s more, it has been reported that the Iowa Caucuses and their snowballing importance have been blamed for the excessive corn ethanol subsidies that benefit that state.

But our critique of Iowa isn’t really Iowa’s fault. We would likely feel the same way about any one state that went first. If would be difficult for any of the 50 to offer an accurate cross-section of the nation’s demographic. And the same issues would likely arise in regard to caucus voting-body size and unfair subsidies that benefit that particular state.

We like the suggestion of the nation’s former Democrat VP, Walter Mondale. His idea would split the nation into regions for voting a primary at two-week intervals. That would increase voting-body size, help make the demographic more representative, and discourage unfair subsidies and kowtowing to a particular state’s interests.

For the time being, it seems we’re stuck with this ridiculous Iowa tradition, but we’re keeping in mind that while traditions can be made, they can be broken as well.


Where have all the nicknames gone?

Watching simultaneously the Republican primary race, the NFL playoffs and continued coverage of military’s efforts in Afghanistan, one can’t help but wonder: Where have all the nicknames gone?

In fact, looking over the past few decades, one might say there is a disturbing scarcity of nicknames in popular culture.

Where are the Ol’ Hickories, Mean Joe Greens and Desert Foxes lately? The Desert Fox, now that was a nickname that got a country excited. True, it denoted German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, who fought for the wrong side in World War II, but at least it got you fired up to fight against a Desert Fox.

David Petraeus, current CIA director, and a four star general active in both Iraq and Afghanistan, needed a nickname. Apparently he was sometimes referred to as King David by the Iraqis and some of the coalition forces, but the name didn’t make its way into common usage. A headline referring to King David would have left most Americans looking for some Biblical connection.

The current crop of Republican presidential wanna-be’s are surely nickname worthy.  Though her campaign has now ended, Michele Bachmann was a woman in need of a moniker. And Mitt Romney, there’s a guy who would look a lot more down to earth if someone would just dub him “the Romnster” or something like. Sounds so working class, and he could use a touch of that. The only guy already fixed is Newt Gingrich. His first name is perfect already.

In sports, we’re similarly lackluster lately in naming our stars. Drew Brees, the New Orleans quarterback gets a pass, his name being pretty cool already. But Tom Brady is just Tom Brady, and even Tim Tebow is just Tebow. The Detroit Lions had Megatron (Calvin Johnson, formerly of Ga. Tech), but that’s about it for any of the teams making the postseason.

No present nickname reaches the level of public recognition of some earlier ones still remembered by sports fans. Magic Johnson might as well have been that Laker great’s real name. (In fact, he was born Earvin––good call moving to Magic.)  And there was Babe, Babe Ruth, the blessed nickname of George Herman Ruth. Don’t forget the Golden Bear (Jack Nicklaus). Those were names you could get excited to watch.

These days,  the world of rap music still shows the American public appreciates nicknames. Look there for names like Snoop Dog, Jay-Z and Puff Daddy (or whatever he calls himself lately).

It’s the rest of modern culture that has either gone so bland or over-marketed that our nicknames have sagged. In politics, maybe everyone has gotten too nasty to use any nicknames except slurs. Back in the 1800s, at one point, you had Ol’ Hickory (Andrew Jackson) as president. His V.P. was Martin Van Buren (The Little Magician, if you liked him; Van Ruin, if you didn’t).

In modern times, the last good nickname was Ike for Dwight Eisenhower, and that wasn’t so much a nickname as just shortening his long last name. While catchy, Slick Willy for Bill Clinton or Tricky Dick for Richard Nixon don’t count. Those weren’t nicknames as much as put-downs.

The idea positive nicknames might be brought back for politics is too much to hope for. We’re likely stuck with negative and thoroughly un-imaginative titles for a while.

But maybe in sports, an area of life we still have fun with, we could free our imaginations to find a “Bear” (Paul Bear Bryant) on the sidelines or a "Sweetness" (Walter Payton) running the ball with a Mean Joe Green on defense.

One can only hope there’s still creativity and desire enough left in America to have some heroes with cool names in 2012.


Georgia jobs should be top priority for legislature

When the legislature convenes next week, the number one focus should be on job creation for Georgia – not the budget. Budget should be a close second.

It is important that Georgia get its spending in line, but at this point, with unemployment remaining intractably high, further drastic budget cuts are not what we need. The state has already cut and cut and laid off, and cuts are to the bone in many areas. Rooting out waste is always welcome, but we still need people working for the DOT, the parks or the State Patrol, and we need Georgians at work.

Something is surely rotten in the Peach State where it comes to jobs. The nation as a whole continues to struggle with unemployment, but in Georgia the problem is dishearteningly acute. Based on recent Bureau of Labor Statistics figures, Georgia appears to have a solid claim to the very worst employment environment in the nation.

Figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and crunched by the New York Times ranked all 50 states and the District of Columbia in three jobs categories: How much employment has grown since each state’s low point in the economic downturn that began in 2009; The change since the pre-2009 peak in each state’s employment figures; The change since November 2010.

Georgia was respectively 51st in job creation since the low point; 47th since the peak and 50th in jobs created since November 2010.

Georgia was the only state to be in the bottom five in all three categories.

What this shows is that even as other states that lived and died by real estate and homebuilding have managed to get something else rolling to soften the blow, Georgia has not.

Georgia, particularly in former-growth areas like Pickens County and North Georgia, had all its eggs in one basket: new homes. Our unemployment rate in this part of the state was 9.6 percent in latest state figures, down from 11 percent a year ago – an improvement hardly worth noting.

According to Labor Department figures, Georgia’s job market was first slammed by the fact homebuilding dried up in Dixie. But unlike Florida and Arizona, who also rode high on home construction that began in the late 1990s, Georgia doesn’t seem to be able to find another path.

Further, Georgia has worked harder at trimming public jobs, which is good for yearly budgets but bad for those looking for work. Local government jobs in our state have been cut back about three percent, according to Labor statistics. Nationwide, the number of jobs in government has been trimmed to 2006 levels.

You can see this clearly in Pickens County, where the schools have been able to hold the line on taxes despite state cutbacks, by eliminating almost 100 positions between 2008 and 2011. The system reduced its employees from 766 in October of 2008 to 673 in September of 2011.

With private industry struggling to pick up the slack, we need a plan to see that when we cut from public payrolls in Georgia there is somewhere else to turn for employment. If state and local governments cut to save taxpayers in one step but add to unemployment rolls in the next, we’re no better off and likely much worse––depending on the skills of those hired/fired and other job particulars.

Early budget figures for the upcoming legislative session, presented by the governor, seek another two percent in cuts following massive cuts last year. We hope the legislature will look at the employment impact of such cuts and find a happy medium that won’t worsen the jobs situation.

We’re not arguing for the state and schools to maintain bloated bureaucracies forever just to keep Georgians off the dole, but we are strongly encouraging the legislature, when it convenes next week, to think jobs first, budget second during this General Assembly.