Archive for November, 2010

Federal workforce grows fatter and richer

While our economy has been sputtering these past two years, with many businesses struggling just to stay afloat, Washington has been gorging itself by dramatically increasing the number of government jobs – 141,000 since President Barack Obama took office – and offering salaries that continue to outpace those in the private sector. 

A report by USA Today found that the number of government workers earning more than $150,000 has increased significantly in recent years. In 2005, 12,399 government workers earned more than $150,000 annually; a number that has since ballooned nearly fourteen-fold to 171,689. Workers who have been with the government between 15 and 24 years have seen their salaries rise by 25% over this same time period, far outpacing the economy’s 9% inflation rate. 

Including benefits, the average federal government employee now earns $123,000 annually; double that of their counterparts in the private sector. It should come as no surprise that seven of the 10 …

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At TSA, the hits just keep on coming

Perhaps the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recently has received reliable intelligence that al Qaeda has been busy recruiting cancer survivors as sleeper terrorists, and grade-school students travelling with their parents as suicide bombers.  Or maybe TSA’s leaders recently reminded the agency’s many thousands of security screeners that using common sense when deciding which airline passengers to subject to the most intrusive and demeaning security check possible, would result in an unsatisfactory rating on their next performance evaluation.

Whatever the reason, and despite a rising tide of criticism and resistance from the travelling public, the parade of  horror stories emanating from airport security check points continues.

A North Carolina breast cancer survivor was forced to remove her prosthesis during a “pat-down.”  At Detroit Metropolitan Airport a male bladder cancer survivor was forced to remove his urostomy bag, during his screening by a TSA agent so …

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Critics of terrorist verdict are off base

Critics are blasting the Obama Administration because Ahmed Ghailani, the Tanzanian-born terrorist recently tried in a federal court in New York, was convicted on only one count of terrorist-related activity.  Some are even calling for Attorney General Eric Holder to resign or be fired.  Their criticisms, however, ring more of politics than legal understanding; and both Holder and President Obama should resist their efforts. 

Yes, Ghailani was convicted on only one of the 285 counts charged against him in the indictment; and all related to the 1998 bombings of United States’ embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 223 people.  But that does not mean the jury system failed us or that the sky is now going to fall on us, as some of the critics imply. 

Ghailani was captured in Pakistan in 2004, and is one of more than a dozen suspected terrorists who had been held in detention facilities at the United States Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to be transferred to the United …

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Opt-Out

Have Americans finally had their fill of the heavy-handed tactics of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)?  Are parents en route to Disney World fed up with having their three-year olds brought to tears by manhandling TSA employees?  Will senior citizens stop consenting to be prodded and poked while seated in a wheelchair from which movement may be quite painful?  Are adult air passengers finally ready to declare, “enough is enough?”  

TSA has greatly increased the number of full-body scanners at airports across the country, and instituted a program of aggressively hand- searching passengers who decline the full-body x-rays.  Whether these indignities finally will prompt the travelling public to rebel, however, remains to be seen.  

After all, for every traveler who realizes that a full body scan or physical body search conducted after they already passed a weapons and explosives detection device, adds little if anything to their safety, there are others who shrug …

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A streetcar named nowhere

The City of Atlanta recently announced that the United States Department of Transportation would provide a grant of $47.6 million to partially fund a $72 million streetcar project that will stretch from Centennial Olympic Park to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center. 

Members of the Atlanta City Council, Rep. John Lewis and some local business owners are hailing it as an “innovative” project that will reduce gridlock and create jobs. But if history is any guide, those hopes will fade much like the streetcars that ran in the city until 1949. Common sense will tell you the same thing.  

The idea that this project is going to reduce gridlock is laughable. This streetcar will service a relatively short stretch, a little over a mile, in an area designed to attract tourists; the Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola and the CNN Center will be among the stops. But while this streetcar is running in this small section of the city, hundreds of drivers each day will still be sitting in …

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Deficit reduction plan flops

In the New Testament, Jesus taught that those of the earthly kingdom would be cast into the darkness accompanied by “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  Judging by the hue and cry that accompanied the recent release of the draft proposals issued by the co-chairmen of the presidential Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, many in the nation’s capitol on both sides of the aisle believe themselves already cast out of the kingdom. 

The Commission was set up earlier this year by President Obama, and has conducted its fiscal analysis of the spendthrift ways of Washington under the bipartisan leadership of former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson and former Clinton budget director Erskin Bowles.  Their draft “Co-Chair’s Proposal” was released on November 10th and hit liberal and conservative groups alike with the proverbial two by four.  The resulting weeping and gnashing of teeth arose because the proposal on the surface cuts into programs long-sacred to both sides.  It would in …

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Google’s not-so-private growing pains

Just a couple of years ago, looking up the definition for the word “Google” in the dictionary would have been an exercise doomed to failure.  Yet few people today exhibit any hesitancy in using “Google” not only as a noun to describe the world’s number one internet search engine, but just as easily to employ it as a verb. 

Google is one the most important communications phenomena of this early 21st Century.  The ever-increasing speed with which Google is able to sort and display for the computer inquisitor answers to the questions he or she poses, is matched only by the awesome depth of those responses – from the mundane to the truly exotic.  

Yet, just like major technological innovations before it, Google in many ways is paying a steep price for its success.  How the company deals with these problems – particularly those involving privacy concerns — will to a large extent define its success in the coming biennium, in the marketplace and with government regulators and Capitol …

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Bush’s apologia offers little new

If you have been keeping up with the news lately, then no doubt you have noticed George W. Bush has come out of his self-imposed exile to promote his new memoir. While I understand the ex-President’s publisher has to make money off its investment, this self-serving apologia provides nothing more than an excuse for supporters of the ex-President to reaffirm their support and to blast his successor.  In terms of substance or historic insight, the book is pretty thin gruel.

In his promotional interviews, Bush claims the low point of his presidency was not when his administration used cherry-picked evidence to convince the Congress to invade Iraq, or when he deliberately gutted constitutionally-protected liberties of American citizens.  According to the new Mr. Bush, the nadir of his tenure in office was when a rapper accused him of being a racist on national television during a benefit for victims of Hurricane Katrina. Bush can perhaps now sleep well at night, serene in the …

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Have Gun, No Vote

The right to vote is an aspect of American life we all take for granted. We expect to be able to show up at our polling place every other fall and cast our ballot for the candidates we believe will best represent us in our local government, in the state legislature, or in Washington, DC. That is, unless you are a uniformed police officer attempting to exercise your right to vote at a voting precinct in Bangor, Maine supervised by an idiot. 

James Dearing, a Bangor, Maine police officer, showed up two weeks ago – in his regular uniform — to cast an in-person absentee ballot at Bangor Civic Center; the only early voting location in the city.  He had voted many times in the past with no problem. 

Upon entering the polling place, however, Dearing was confronted by Wayne Mallar, the election warden, and told to surrender his weapon to another officer before he would be permitted to vote. Dearing declined, and was not allowed to cast his ballot. 

On-duty police officers had been …

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A Check-list for the New Republican Majority

Congratulations are in order for the Republicans. After four years wandering in the political wilderness, the GOP recaptured control of the House of Representatives and nearly the Senate as well. 

The now-majority party was booted out in 2006 after six years in control of both the executive and legislative branches of government. Government grew at an extraordinary rate during that time, causing many fiscal conservative voters to stay home four years ago.  This year, those same voters, still eager to see the federal government shrink, came out in droves and voted for the Rs. 

Republicans, however, are sadly mistaken if they conclude that last week’s impressive electoral victories are a vote of confidence in their ability to govern. Clearly, voters are upset with Democrats, and for good reason. But since our political system spurns third parties, Republicans are simply enjoying the fruits of being the only viable alternative. 

Divided government is not a bad thing; far from …

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