Archive for November, 2009

Army Corps of Engineers sticks finger in Atlanta’s eye

The US Army Corps of Engineers, not often known for swift action, seems suddenly to have sprouted winged feet.  Unfortunately for the Atlanta metropolitan area, the Corps’ new-found efficiency appears designed to stab the area in the back.   In a decision announced shortly before Thanksgiving, the lieutenant colonel heading the Corps’ Mobile District, which oversees the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River Basin, decided to kowtow to the federal judge whose July 17th order threatens to shut off Lake Lanier as a source of water for most of the greater Atlanta area in three years. 

The Army suddenly has decided that its previously-announced revisions to the applicable Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which process had been ongoing for nearly two years already, must now be quickly revised to accommodate the federal judge’s draconian ruling.  The Corps also decided that its Master Water Control Manual for the ACF Basin, which it had not in the past viewed …

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Arming ships beats UN whining

While bureaucrats at the United Nations continue to wring their hands and whine that arming merchant ships in order to defend their crew and cargo from well-armed Somali pirates infesting the waters off the Horn of Africa will only lead to more violence, at least some US-owned ships are arming their crews and actually employing force to repel the increasingly violent maritime invaders.  In the latest episode that has been made known publicly, the Maersk Alabama, which was actually boarded and overtaken by pirates earlier this year (until US Navy SEALS mounted a successful counter-operation), employed both lethal and non-lethal force in thwarting a second capture.

Despite the fact that pirate attacks off the Somali coast have skyrocketed since mid-2008, U.N. bureaucrats and even some U.S. officials maintain that arming ships is not a good idea because it may lead to an “arms race” with Somali pirates.  This argument ignores the fact that these modern-day buccaneers already …

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The dark side of “going green”

Under the politically correct, “going green” umbrella, the city of Atlanta has created a convenient mechanism for thieves and hackers to gain access to individuals’ private data.  The city also has made it easier for companies to track citizens’ spending habits and gain access to other private, personalized information maintained by the city on each homeowner.  One way this is being made possible in Atlanta is a pilot recycling program called “ReCART,” an acronym for “Rewards for Collecting All Recyclables Together.”  

Marketed as a tool for “going green,” with this program, merchants and companies vie for consumer information and track spending habits. Not only that, but through the use of radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips, this new pilot program would have very personal information of the homeowner or resident just sitting on their front lawn — literally. 

The city of Atlanta has contracted the services of RecycleBank to handle recycling …

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Environmental soap opera along US-Mexico border

A soap opera is playing itself out along our southwest border; a comedy of errors with serious repercussions for efforts to stem illegal immigration into the United States from Mexico.  The contest is pitting federal officials with responsibility for enforcing environmental and endangered species laws, against those responsible for monitoring and enforcing border security.  Thus far, the environmentalists appear to be winning.

Three years ago, President George W. Bush signed into law a measure mandating construction of a fence along the US-Mexico border.  Combining physical barriers along part of its length, with high-tech “virtual fence” mechanisms in other, more remote areas, the project has been plagued with cost overruns, lengthy delays, frequent breaches, and expensive repairs. 

Yet perhaps the most serious monkey wrench that has been lobbed into this massively expensive and complex project, is the one that pits the Department of Homeland Security against a …

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Really dumb legislation — “cyberbullying prevention”

Knee-jerk reactions by the Congress to particular problems have given us some really bad laws over the years.  However, one of the worst examples of such reactive legislation to come down the pike in a long time, has to be something called the “Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act,” introduced earlier this year by US Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.).  Thankfully, the bill’s author has secured the support of less than a dozen co-sponsors, a fact that greatly diminishes the chances it will pass the House and eventually be signed into law.  However, other really bad legislative proposals have snuck through both houses of Congress with little obvious supprt, and been signed into law by various presidents wanting to prove themselves as “tough on crime” as the legislators who voted for the proposals.

This “cyberbullying” proposal is particularly hare-brained; but, as with many such proposals, it tugs at the heartstrings and cites for its justification a particularly …

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Time to revisit firearms policies on military posts

This month’s tragic — and probably preventable — mass shooting at Ft. Hood, Texas, certainly raises questions about why a lone shooter was able to unload not one but several magazines of ammunition over a several minute period – shooting  and wounding more than 30 soldiers and killing 13, at a heavily restricted US Army base.   Just as legitimate questions were raised following the mass killings on the Virginia Tech campus in 2007, both military personnel and civilian citizens alike ought now to be asking of themselves and our elected and appointed leaders, not only whether the perpetrators of such carnage could reasonably and appropriately have been identified in advance and prevented  from carrying out their obviously well-planned mass murders; but also, whether it makes sense to disarm a captive group of citizens (at Virginia Tech, the student body; at Ft. Hood, the military personnel assigned to the base).

In the case of Ft. Hood, it is important to bear in mind …

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Rand disciple spreads her word

It has been a generation since one of the 20th century’s most widely read and well-known philosophers, Ayn Rand, died. And it has been more than a half-century since her most well-known novel, “Atlas Shrugged,” was first published. Yet Rand’s philosophy of objectivism, based on the moral value and supremacy of rational self-interest and free-market capitalism, is enjoying a major revival of interest.
Yaron Brook heads the Ayn Rand Institute, headquartered in Irvine, Calif., but this 48-year-old Ph.D. permits little grass to grow under his feet. His zeal to spread the philosophy and ethic of Rand takes him across the country and around the world. It brought him earlier this month to Atlanta.
In addition to delivering to students in a packed Georgia Tech classroom a speech containing the elements of Rand’s philosophy, Brook fielded tough questions for over an hour. He parried with the students on topics ranging from the industrial revolution to global warming, and from …

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Your DNA up for grabs

In a recent ACLU case, Lily Haskell was arrested for attending a protest of the Iraq War, but was never charged with anything.   When she was required by police to provide DNA, she requested a lawyer, and at that point she was told that she would be charged with a misdemeanor if she did not provide a DNA sample.  This raises the question: why was a person who was only exercising her right as an American to protest, treated the same as every other criminal in America.  For merely attending a protest event, she was arrested and forced to provide DNA to law enforcement.   What happened to Ms. Haskell can and is happening to people across our nation.  Government is finding any excuse possible to collect your DNA. 

All levels of government are beginning to maintain databases of citizens DNA.  Whereas in the past, the fingerprint was the method that law enforcement used to identify criminals; now, government is using any excuse necessary to extract and store one’s DNA. …

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Random police stops increasing fast

An African American male construction worker trudges up the steps to the front porch of his house in a middle-class neighborhood of New York City; it is dusk and he’s had a hard day on the job at a construction site.  Dressed in work clothes, dog-tired, and with tools in hand he wearily approaches his front door.  As he fumbles with his keys to unlock the door of his house, a man dressed in a police uniform approaches and begins questioning him.   Quickly dismissing his initial thought that this was an Ashton Kutcher “punked” incident, the homeowner realizes he is being interrogated by a real police officer with a real gun ready at his side.

This scenario is not hypothetical.  It happens hundreds if not thousands of times each day in cities and communities across the country; and it is occurring with increasing frequency. Police are randomly stopping more than one million people, mostly minorities, throughout major U.S. cities each year.  Simply walking down the …

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Constitutional Ignorance Reigns Supreme on Capitol Hill

Hello – is there anybody out there who still believes our leaders in Washington care about what the Constitution of the United States says?  Or what it was intended to mean?  Or even that it exists?  If there actually is anybody out there who still believes this, recent discussions on Capitol Hill about proposed federal legislation should dispel such thought from the minds of even the most die-hard optimists.

Legislation dealing with the delivery and cost of health care in the United States is nearing votes in both houses of the Congress.  Although differing significantly in their details, the primary proposals in both the House and the Senate establish clearly it will be the heavy hand of the federal government, not patients and their doctors, who will be controlling health care decision-making in the decades to come. 

With such a massively expensive and substantively far-reaching piece of legislation being debated at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, one would hope …

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