Archive for May, 2010

Crime is down, even in Arizona, without harsh laws toward illegal immigrants

Here is an unexpected bit of good news: Crime continues to drop around the country. Though many criminal justice experts had expected crime to rise during a deep and wrenching recession, the opposite has happened, according to The Wall Street Journal:

Violent crime fell significantly last year in cities across the U.S., according to preliminary federal statistics, challenging the widely held belief that recessions drive up crime rates.

The incidence of violent crimes such as murder, rape and aggravated assault was down 5.5% from 2008, and 6.9% in big cities. It fell 2.4% in long-troubled Detroit and plunged 16.6% in Phoenix, despite a perception of rising crime that has fueled an immigration backlash.

The early figures, from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, indicate a third straight year of decreases, along with a sharply accelerating rate of decline.

“It represents a break in the pattern of the relationship between crime increases and economic downturns,” said Richard …

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Schools need more money to stop teacher layoffs. Why won’t Congress help?

WASHINGTON — Apparently, teachers aren’t worth saving.

That’s the cold political calculation that has taken hold in the halls of Congress, where a last-ditch effort to funnel extra education money to the states isn’t getting much traction. Members of Congress are focused on saving their own jobs, and they fear giving teachers a lifeline could prove costly in the mid-term elections.

The White House and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have been lobbying for an additional $23 billion in aid to states, which would be used to prevent the layoffs of as many as 300,000 teachers nationwide — including thousands in Georgia. Duncan has called the layoffs, which would hit schools harder than at any time since the Great Depression, an “education catastrophe.”

The teachers’ pink slips have already roiled the Georgia governor’s race, where a forum that featured three of the Democratic candidates last week was dominated by criticism of the cuts, according to the Savannah …

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Obama should tell all on Sestak

The White House is just making more trouble for itself with its refusal to come clean on the Sestak affair — Joe Sestak’s claim that he was offered a job in the administration if he would not run against Arlen Specter, the party-switcher who won Obama’s backing in Pennsylvania’s Democratic primary for Senator. As all political junkies know, Sestak won the primary. He ran a savvy campaign, tying Specter to George W. Bush and painting himself as an outsider.

To boost his outsider creds, he announced during the campaign that the White House had tried to lure him out of the race with a job offer. And he repeated that claim over the weekend.

The White House, meanwhile, has played a dumb and damaging game of admitting, sort of, that some kind of offer was made, without saying exactly what. From the WaPo editorial page:

“NOTHING inappropriate happened,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs says about the job offer that Rep. Joe Sestak, now the Democratic nominee for a …

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The end is near for “don’t ask, don’t tell”

It seems that the United States is on the verge of marking another milestone in the nation’s long march toward full equality for all of its citizens: the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’. Because of a deal negotiated among the White House, gay activists and the Pentagon, Congress could vote on a repeal this week, leaving actual implementation of the policy for next year, after the Pentagon has completed its study on how repeal will affect troop ‘readiness.’ From the WaPo:

President Obama has endorsed a “don’t ask, don’t tell” compromise between lawmakers and the Defense Department, the White House announced Monday, an agreement that may sidestep a key obstacle to repealing the military’s policy banning gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the armed forces.
The compromise was finalized in meetings Monday at the White House and on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers will now, within days, vote on amendments that would repeal the Clinton-era policy, with a provision ensuring that …

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Unemployment benefits make people lazy? Not so

A favorite conservative talking point is the notion that giving people who lose their jobs unemployment benefits makes them lazy and unlikely to look for work. Republican Senator Judd Gregg repeated that assertion on CNBC this morning. Happily, the well-respected economist Mark Zandi was on the air with him and tactfully disagreed.

But Republicans have done such a good job of spreading that nonsense that even Democrats have begun to buy into it. US Rep Kathy Dahlkemper (D-Pa.) gave credence to that half-baked idea in an interview with the Washington Post:

Many Democrats also are scrutinizing emergency spending on the economy. Dahlkemper, facing a well-funded Republican car dealer in the blue-collar district she seized from the GOP in 2008, said businesses back home complain that they want to start hiring but are getting few applicants because Congress has repeatedly extended unemployment benefits.

“Now, whether that’s true or not, I’m still trying to decipher,” she said. …

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Conservatives want a government takeover of BP?

As frustration grows over the mounting oil spill disaster, there is an odd bit of political cognitive dissonance coming out of some quarters: some conservatives are suggesting that the federal government take over BP and clean up the oil spill. Aren’t conservatives opposed to government takeovers of private business?

On Face the Nation yesterday, Sen. Lamar Alexander raised the idea:

But Alexander isn’t the only one making that suggestion. As Louisiana officials grow desperate watching a mess that is killing not only beaches and wetlands but also jobs and a way of life, many of them are also suggesting that the feds take over. Louisiana, mind you, is a Deep South state that elects politicians who are usually deeply suspicious of the federal government. According to the New Orleans Times Picayune:

With each criticism of BP and the federal government’s inability to force the company to move faster when oil is spotted coming ashore, local officials have started to clamor for …

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Poisoned fisheries, spoiled beaches: Price of our addiction to petroleum

Oil washes ashore in Grand Isle, La., Friday, May 21, 2010.

Oil washes ashore in Grand Isle, La., Friday, May 21, 2010.

WASHINGTON — It’s the time of year when I start to think longingly of my favorite playground — the Florida Panhandle, with its sugary white beaches bordered by the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico. By now, the weather is just right, the water warm, the breezes mild.

Oh, there’s one thing I forgot to mention — tar balls.  This year, beachgoers might be wading into oily gook generated by the catastrophic oil spill, which is spewing out 5,000 barrels of oil a day. Or 95,000 barrels a day. No one really knows. And no one knows how long it could take to plug the underwater well.

You’d think that a disaster unfolding as we watch, helplessly, would stir the chilly, polarized waters of Washington politics, perhaps churning up a sense of urgency over energy legislation. If anything illustrates the dangers of our addiction to petroleum, this metastasizing-by-the minute mess does just that.

But the strange …

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Mexican president wants a ban on assault weapons in U.S. because our guns are killing his cops

While many Americans — especially in Arizona — are furious over the flow of workers from Mexico into the United States, Mexican President Felipe Calderon is unhappy over a steady stream of imports going in the opposite direction: guns from the United States flowing into Mexico.

Addressing a joint session of Congress yesterday, Calderon asked that the ban on assault-type weapons be reinstated. As the Washington Post’s editorial page noted:

Mr. Calderón, who has been in Washington for a state visit, made a powerful case. Over the past three years, Mexican authorities have seized some 75,000 weapons used in crimes; more than 80 percent of those they were able to trace came from the United States. Mr. Calderón argued that the surge in violent, cartel-related crimes coincided with the 2004 repeal of the U.S. assault weapons ban.

“I fully respect, I admire the American Constitution,” Mr. Calderón said. “And I understand that the purpose of the Second Amendment is to …

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A lesson for Rand Paul: Under Jim Crow, black folks’ money didn’t matter

Even conservative Republicans like Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) are very uncomfortable with Rand Paul’s initial musings about the Civil Rights Act of 1964. DeMint, a tea party supporter, knows that the movement is already stuck with the perception that racism against the first black president animates some of its supporters.

So Paul spent yesterday dancing back so fast from his previous remarks that he’s probably still out of breath. One blogger mused, “How long will it be before Rand supporters affirmative action?”

From the WaPo:

Later Thursday, in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, he went further. Asked specifically whether facilities should have had the right to segregate their lunch counters, as was common in the South, he said, according to the CNN transcript, “I think that there was an overriding problem in the South so big that it did require federal intervention in the ’60s. And it stems from things that I said, you know, had been going on, really, 120 years too long. And …

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“My mom doesn’t have any” papers

For more than a decade, there has been a glaring disconnect between fierce opponents of illegal immigration and nitty-gritty reality. While activists insist that the government take control of the borders and deny so-called amnesty to illegal immigrants already here, they have no realistic solution for the eleven million or so living among us.

That dilemma was brought heart-wrenchingly into view yesterday, when First Lady Michelle Obama visited a suburban Washington, DC elementary school with Mexican First Lady Margarita Zavala. From the Los Angeles Times:

At one point, Mrs. Obama took questions from a dozen second-grade students who sat in a small circle on the gymnasium floor at the New Hampshire Estates Elementary School in Silver Spring, Md.

“My mom said … Barack Obama is going to take away everybody that doesn’t have papers,” one girl told the first lady.

“Yeah, well, that’s something that we have to work on, right?” Mrs. Obama replied. “To make sure that people can be …

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