Archive for October, 2010

A Majority, If You Can Keep It

The Republican Party, which in 2006 was unceremoniously deprived of its last majority in the House of Representatives, is virtually certain to regain that advantage with next Tuesday’s mid-term election.  The still-unanswered question is whether the GOP will use that majority to trim federal spending and cut federal power, or behave as it did when it enjoyed a majority during the first six years of President George W. Bush’s eight years in office, and dramatically increase both federal spending and power.

The answer may lie in the response Benjamin Franklin gave to a fellow Philadelphian citizen in 1787. The famous octogenarian was asked what form of governing structure the Constitutional Convention then meeting behind closed doors had decided upon – “a Republic or a Monarchy?”– Franklin famously replied, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

Now, 223 years later, similar questions about the fundamental direction in which America is headed, are being asked; largely in the context …

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Washington Tackles Street Sign Crisis

Apparently flush from having solved the many economic and national security problems facing the country, the federal government has set its sights on resolving a major national issue that has festered far too long — requiring local governments to replace the lettering on street signs so they appear in all capital letters only.  The reasoning behind this vital project appears to be a conclusion by Washington that the country’s population is either too old or too illiterate to decipher street signs printed in upper and lower case letters.  Or perhaps its genesis lies in an important national security directive that terrorists will find it more difficult to locate targets if the nation’s street signs are thus altered.

Of course, as usual this new mandate is unfunded, leaving cash-strapped local governments to pay for the new signs, which cost in the range of $30 to $100 a piece. While that many not seem like a lot of money, it will cost millions for larger cities to comply with …

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Tobacco tax hike looms for Georgia — again

At Leona Helmsley’s trial on charges of tax evasion in 1989, her housekeeper testified the former hotel magnate haughtily claimed that, “only the little people pay taxes.”  Thanks to action by soon-to-be ex-Gov. Sonny Perdue, and many of his colleagues in the Georgia General Assembly, many of us “little people” likely will be hit with higher taxes.

In June, Perdue signed legislation creating the mis-named “Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians,” an 11-member group that has been traveling the state, meeting with everyone from special interest groups looking to preserve tax exemptions carved out for them, to concerned citizens hit hard by ever-increasing tax burdens.

The council and its work should be viewed skeptically by citizens of the Peach State; especially given Perdue’s record for raising taxes. Shortly after his inauguration in 2003, for example, Perdue proposed a $762 million tax increase. The Governor had to choose between tough spending cuts and …

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“Smile, Officer,” you’re on Candid Camera

New developments in modern technology, coupled with a burgeoning social media network and a 24/7 news cycle, have combined to create a cottage industry of  amateur videos that are shedding much-needed light on everything from politicians’ gaffes to police abuses.  And law enforcement officers especially are not taking kindly to the unwanted scrutiny.

Perhaps the most well known example of this is an incident that took place on a rail platform in Oakland, California on New Year’s Day in 2009. Transit officers were responding to a fight and while attempting to detain one of the suspects, who was unarmed; an officer pulled his weapon and fatally shot the man in the back. The incident was captured on video by witnesses, and later was used to convict the officer of involuntary manslaughter.

It may also be that the same video evidence saved the officer from a more serious charge, as experts in the trial testified he mistakenly thought he was pulling his taser, not his …

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Burned-down House is Government’s Fault

Liberals have been beside themselves over an incident in Obion County, Tennessee where firefighters allowed a small home to burn to the ground because the homeowners had failed to pay a $75 annual fee for fire protection; an option given to each resident of the county. In typical fashion, the blame for this has been summarily placed on conservatism, libertarianism, and even Ayn Rand. The real culprit here is the government, not the private sector.

 Most people expressing anger over this unusual incident have not been honest with the details about this incident; and their demagoguery is not going to rebuild the home that burned down. 

The homeowners did call the fire department once they realized the blaze could not be put out with a garden hose; the call was ignored. Firefighters did respond to a call from a neighbor, who had in fact paid their fee, once the flames threatened their property. By this time, the fire had consumed most of the non-payer’s home.

Here are the facts …

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Early voting is a dumb idea

In America’s never-ending search for convenience over substance, voters in most states can now avoid lines on Election Day and cast their votes days, if not weeks, before a campaign has concluded.  And while the two major parties are adjusting their electoral tactics to take into account early voting, as a nation we should really ask ourselves if this is a good idea.

Early voting has fundamentally changed how elections are conducted and campaigns are run, not just in my home state of Georgia, but across the country. At least a third of voters, up from 25 percent in 2008, are expected to take advantage of laws in 31 states that allow them to cast their ballot as far out as a month before a general election.

Of course, the emphasis on early voting brings a greater need for funding to run ads, organize grassroots activists and “get out the vote” efforts, which are now as important in late September and early October as they are in the final week of a campaign. We are seeing …

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Earmark pledges ring hollow

While campaigning in Florida for a Republican House candidate, Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) told a crowd that his caucus would propose weekly spending cuts should they win the majority in the upcoming mid-terms. Such a promise is welcomed in this day of trillion-dollar budget deficits, but actions speak louder than words and we are seeing signs that this newfound fiscal conservatism may be short lived.

In March, House Republicans enacted a caucus-wide moratorium on earmarks, specific line items that are inserted into spending bills, obviously an easy position to assert when your party is in the minority. But in recent days, Republicans have showed signs that they are not going to hold themselves to that same standard in the likely event that the take control of the lower chamber. In fact, the Pledge to America, the politically safe document Republicans are campaigning on this year, makes absolutely no mention of earmarks.

While earmarks do not account for a significant …

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Feds looking to ban all cell phone use in vehicles

America’s Nanny-in-Chief is at it again. Ray LaHood, a former Republican Congressman and now Transportation Secretary in the Obama Administration, is considering a ban on any use of a cell phone while driving.

“I don’t want people talking on phones, having them up to their ear or texting while they’re driving,” LaHood explained in an interview last week with Bloomberg. This and other public statements by LaHood make clear it is his personal view that people should not talk on the phone at all while driving, that is the basis for his anti-cell phone zealotry. The draconian ban LaHood is contemplating would extend even to hands-free sets and new technologies being developed by struggling American automakers to attract new buyers.

LaHood’s crusades against what he perceives as social ills includes bans on texting while driving and mandating seats belts on schools buses. But this latest trial balloon of his, which comes at the same time President Barack Obama is traveling the …

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The “State Secrets” Sham

For decades our government has hidden behind the “state secrets doctrine” to pull the wool over the eyes of Americans. This obscure legal tactic has been used by presidents of both major parties since the early 1950s to quash lawsuits by private parties.  Although crafted originally as a way for the government to protect against having to reveal legitimate national security information, the doctrine has become instead a shield to prevent the government from having to answer for itself violating the law.

Most recently, the doctrine has been invoked by the Obama Administration to quash lawsuits challenging the government’s use of rendition — a procedure whereby suspected terrorists are sent (often by a private company under contract with a federal agency) to other countries to be tortured; something illegal under U.S. law.

It is time to rethink and curtail the use of this tactic, although the current composition of the Supreme Court makes such a result unlikely.

The problem with …

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Obama’s latest “green” boondoggle

President Barack Obama is not letting the failure of his administration to secure passage of the multi-trillion dollar cap-and-trade legislation before the Congress broke for its election recess, slow his effort to impose “green” mandates on businesses and consumers. 

Just last week, it was reported that the Administration was preparing to intervene yet again in the marketplace; this time by placing a host of new energy regulatory mandates on producers of household and commercial appliances, and threatening fines for failing to comply.

In addition to these restrictive mandates, the administration will offer loans and tax breaks to companies producing these “green” alternatives.  Incentives would be offered to consumers to buy these appliances, which they would not otherwise be inclined to purchase because of their higher cost and less desirable performance.

Any incentives, whether offered to the consumer or the business gaining an unfair advantage in the market, will of course …

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