Archive for March, 2009

Defenseless in National Parks — Again

Thanks to the gun control lobby, people who might be attacked while visiting any of our vast and often remote national park areas have once again been rendered largely defenseless. A ruling March 19th by a federal judge in Washington, DC, has at least temporarily overturned a rule issued in December by the Bush Administration. The ruling by the Bush Interior Department would have allowed campers, hikers and other persons travelling through or in any of our national park areas, to possess a loaded firearm to defend themselves, so long as they complied with the firearms laws of the state in which the federal park was located. Now, thanks to the judge’s ruling, a person may only possess that firearm if it is unloaded and packed away where it is not readily accessible. In other words, now you can only possess a firearm for self defense while hiking in a national park if the gun is kept somewhere and in such condition that it is not available to defend yourself!

The judge’s …

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Prescription Drug Records at Risk

My home state of Georgia may soon join those states that have enacted “Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs,” thereby making individual citizen’s prescription records subject to easier state and federal government snooping. Already nearly three dozen states have such programs in place, a primary reason for which is to receive federal grants.

In Georgia, the legislation is being pushed by Republicans, and the bill (HB 614) passed the state House by a wide margin earlier this month and awaits action in the Senate.

The prescription-drug monitoring program this legislation creates would result in a massive database of prescriptions for patients throughout Georgia, to be gathered and accessed without any basis to suspect the patient or the prescribing doctor of any wrongdoing. The prescription and over-the-counter drugs that would be required to be monitored and reported include all those contained on federal and state controlled substances schedules; including, for example, …

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Let Congress repay taxpayers for bonuses

The latest furor over the AIG bonuses has revealed the 111th Congress for what it is — the Keystone Kops of the 21st century. Take Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.

After the AIG bonuses came to light last week, the good senator said he had no idea where the amendment to the stimulus bill that contained language permitting the bonuses came from. A short time later, when the first explanation failed to fly, he admitted actually having a hand in placing the language in the final version of the legislation.

But he said he was utterly clueless that the language, which was given to him by the administration’s financial brainiacs (read Treasury Secretary Geithner, and others), would have the effect of allowing AIG employees to obtain bonuses to which they were contractually entitled. Like police inspector Claude Raines in Casablanca confronting Humphrey Bogart in his casino, Dodd was “shocked and amazed” something like this would go …

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Obama’s Iran Overture Has Merit

In a carefully-scripted but bold videotaped message to Iran last Friday, President Obama clearly signaled that the United States was ready to open a dialog with Iran.  There is much to commend such a move to Tehran and to Washington.

Obama’s message made clear that our government was not extending a blank check to the Iranian regime.  Rather, he clearly implied that for a dialog to move forward, support for terrorism and violence must stop.  And, while Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, seemed to throw cold water officially on the American President’s olive branch, a careful reading of his public response — like a careful reading of Obama’s words — indicate there may be room for both sides to maneuver to the negotiating table.

Considering that the bellicose tactics pursued by the former administration of George W. Bush failed to achieve the desired results of brow beating Iran into renouncing its belligerent policies, Obama’s more measured moves should be welcomed …

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Red light camera update

Ever since various municipalities began the widespread deployment of red light cameras at trafffic intersections in the 1990s, government officials in those jurisdictions have claimed the use of the cameras to catch alleged scofflaws and issue them tickets with heavy fines attached, had nothing to do with raising revenues. Whenever criticized for the privacy-invasive or other constitutional infirmities with such techniques, government advocates of the cameras invariably would declare that the cameras were put in place and maintained solely for safety purposes. Yeah, sure.

Now, if anyone still doubts that local governments use red light cameras to raise revenue, all they have to do is read that a number of jurisdictions, including Gwinnett County in suburban Atlanta, Georgia, are curtailing their deployment of the devices because — are you ready for this — they “no longer pay for themselves.” In other words, the number of tickets and fines generated by the red light cameras …

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‘Well-Being Index’ fails to gauge happiness

President Obama just can’t seem to decide whether he’s an optimist or a pessimist. His public speeches and discussions swing wildly from doom and gloom to hope and light; depending, it seems, on his political agenda. However, if the new president decides in the future to don his Pollyanna hat, he will find support in a new “happiness index” making the rounds of congressional districts across the country.

This new index, labeled a “Well-Being Index” by the organization that created it — Healthways — is but the latest feel-good elixir about which citizens and elected officials can bloviate and help mask the need to take tough and fundamental decisions about the future of our country.

It is far easier for members of Congress to pat themselves on the back for having a “happy district,” than it is, for example, to vote to cut pork barrel spending for their district (which may make constituents “unhappy”).

Healthways touts its index as a new way to “hold every leader, whether …

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Time to start openings with Cuba

It’s been a full half a century — five decades, 50 years — since a relatively small band of Cuban insurgents forced Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista to abdicate and flee his Caribbean homeland, clearing the way for Fidel Castro to assume powers every bit as extensive as those wielded by the man he replaced. Love him or loathe him, you gotta give Fidel Castro credit for perseverance and political longevity. The “Maximum Leader” remained in power as head of the island nation from the time his band of revolutionaries toppled Batista on New Year’s Eve 1959, until illness nearly felled him in 2006 (he is now 82). His slightly younger brother Raul (77 years old) now heads Cuba’s government.

Washington severed relations with Havana in 1961. Since 1962 the U.S. has maintained a strict embargo on trade with Cuba, and our government prohibits most travel between the two countries. While the embargo has caused hardships for Cuba’s citizens, it has clearly failed in its political …

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Good riddance to “Brand Atlanta”

Every so often — but not very often — a government does the right thing. Even though such a move may be accidental, or while it may come after the governmental entity has wasted significant taxpayer money, it’s always a welcome move. Thus it is with the city of Atlanta. After spending some $8 million since late 2005 on a “Brand Atlanta” marketing campaign that had featured the forgettable slogan, “Every Day is Opening Day,” and the even less-memorable theme song, “The ATL,” the city has decided to stop funding the campaign.

Although the “Brand Atlanta” program apparently will continue, it will now be forced to do so without access to the city’s tax cofers. This is, of course, good news for Atlanta taxpayers. Those of us who live and work in the greater Atlanta metro area, and who are proud to call Atlanta (not “ATL”) home, can only hope that the city will use the funds thus saved by no longer paying to “brand” itself, to instead fund truly worthwhile and essential …

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Obama’s tax policies hurt nonprofits

While America’s and metro Atlanta’s nonprofits are not facing the dire circumstances staring many of our country’s large manufacturers and major financial institutions in the face — scenarios that include bankruptcy and nationalization — neither do these vital community resources benefit from the “too-big-to-fail” mentality that has prompted the federal government to commit billions of taxpayer dollars to shore up failing institutions such as Citigroup and AIG.

In fact, America’s nonprofits are facing lean times that are likely to be made worse, not better, as a result of policies being championed by the Obama administration.

Those in the nonprofit arena expecting a sympathetic ear in the new administration — after all, these are agencies helping precisely those seemingly in synch with the new president — were sadly disappointed when his spending plan was revealed to Congress. Arguing that tax laws allowing for charitable deductions “unfairly” benefited the wealthy, the …

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