Archive for February, 2011

Of course, Gov. Deal is backing down on illegal hiring

Don’t tell me you’re surprised that Gov. Nathan Deal is having second thoughts about cracking down on businesses that hire illegally. I’m certainly not.

Deal is playing the very same game that Georgia’s elected officials have played for years — excoriating illegal immigrants on the campaign trail but refusing to pass tough laws that would force employers to hire legally.

Here’s the dirty little secret that everybody knows but no one wants to admit: some Georgia industries, including agriculture, are utterly dependent on illegal labor. No matter how much farmers are willing to pay, few Americans are going to take on the back-breaking, bone-wearying miserable labor of picking peaches or Vidalia onions. Georgia needs those undocumented workers.

As I wrote in a column last year:

During the go-go ‘90s, construction managers, agricultural concerns and carpet manufacturers demanded the cheap, pliant labor that illegal immigrants were happy to provide.

In 1998, the …

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Obama can win because of GOP’s lunatic fringe

Why did Miss. Gov. Haley Barbour praise President Obama’s political skills on “Meet the Press” yesterday?

In a discussion about Obama’s reluctance to engage in the Wisconsin labor battle, Barbour said: “The president is one of the greatest politicians in the history of the United States.”

Even faint praise for the president seems odd from any Republican pondering a run for the Oval Office. Is this a sign that Barbour won’t run? Or is it an early attempt to build an excuse for the defeat Republicans fear they will face in 2012?

As Politico notes,

Just four months after posting historic election gains, Republicans are experiencing a reality check about 2012: President Barack Obama is going to be a lot tougher to defeat than he looked late last year.

Having gone from despondency in 2008 to euphoria last November, a more sober GOP is wincing in the light of day as they consider just how difficult unseating an incumbent president with a massive warchest is going to be, even with a …

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The challenge of a new black history museum

TO MY READERS: Please read the post before you comment. Then comment responsibly

WASHINGTON — Can Lonnie Bunch bring black history out of its ghetto?

Will the new National Museum of African-American History and Culture, which he heads, lead to “reconciliation,” as Atlanta Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis predicts? Or will it merely exacerbate the perception of a separate experience outside the nation’s central story?

Bunch was appointed founding director in 2005; he has spent the years since working to build a national museum dedicated to the contributions black people have made to the great American experiment. He says the facility, scheduled to open on the National Mall in 2015, should be a place “that provides people the opportunity to go deeply into the African-American experience and understand that. . .it is a quintessentially American experience.

“What I’ve learned as a historian is how central African-American history is to everything (the …

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A government shutdown would cost taxpayers millions a day

A fiery group of House Republicans doesn’t seem to mind the prospect of shutting down the federal government in the name of cutting spending. They firmly believe the public is on their side, according to Politico:

It all adds up to this: Republicans have less to fear from a government shutdown now than they did when they endured the blame 15 years ago — at least that’s the thinking in some GOP circles.

“The context is dramatically different,” said former Rep. Bill Paxon (R-N.Y.), who was one of Gingrich’s top lieutenants. “We didn’t run on an agenda of the kind of fiscal reform that the Republicans talked about last November. I don’t think anybody is surprised or taken aback by the fiscal agenda that congressional Republicans have pursued.”

That’s the sort of overreach that is bound to get an energized majority in trouble. The voters did not elect them to shut down the government. No matter how much anti-government rhetoric voters use, they will be furious if …

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Obama gets the message on gay marriage

Republican leaders in Congress are furious with President Obama over his decision to stop defending the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, angrily accusing the president of playing politics to satisfy an important Democratic constituency — gay rights activists. For once, I agree with the GOP: Obama is playing politics.

Here’s the rub: The Defense of Marriage Act was a blatantly political ploy when Republicans shoved it through Congress in 1996 — a shameless measure meant to whip up social conservatives during Clinton’s re-election campaign. The legislation also had the effect of forcing Clinton to take a position on the issue. After he had infuriated the military with his attempt to allow gays to serve openly, he didn’t dare veto it. He signed it into law. The national GOP put a plank endorsing DOMA into its platform.

The intervening years were filled with vicious gay-baiting, when Karl Rove and his conservative allies introduced anti-gay-marriage amendments to state …

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Palin can dish it out, but she can’t take it

Earlier this week, Politico wrote about a trove of e-mails, contained in an unpublished manuscript written by Frank Bailey, a former aide to Sarah Palin, which show the former governor as the petty, vindictive, self-centered and hyper-sensitive personality any halfway attentive observer has long known her to be.

With an enemies list which would put Richard Nixon to shame, Palin is obsessed with every perceived slight, every criticism, every mention of her that is less than glowing praise. She goes after not just liberals, Democrats and the “lamestream media,” as she calls us, but also Republican bigwigs who, she believes, are unfair to her:

“Yes, (Newt/GOP) are egotistical, narrow-minded machine goons … but all the more reason God protected me from getting up on stage in front of ,5000 political and media ‘elites’ to praise him, then it be shown across the nation.” Palin wrote in the e-mail.

“At some point Newt would have shown his true colors anyway and we would …

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Voters don’t like Wisconsin governor’s union-busting

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-union antics are spreading to other Republican governors, who have chosen to portray public employees as largely responsible for gaping budget shortfalls. (Wisconsin doesn’t have a huge shortfall, by the way. It has a deficit, but it’s hardly gaping.) From the WaPo:

The budget fights initiated by Republican governors represent a multi-state effort by like-minded politicians to solve budgetary problems in part by weakening public employee unions and demanding significant concessions from workers. After the November elections, Republicans now control many more state legislatures and governorships.

Although the particulars may differ – some governors are seeking to end collective bargaining rights, others are not – the state executives share both a political philosophy and a conviction that the public is prepared to support these measures if they help fix long-term budgetary problems.

That approach has won raves from union-hating conservatives, …

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If Wisconsin unions are bad, what about police?

Police officers and firefighters may work for the government, but they are not “gum’mint” employees. In other words, they inhabit a separate space in the unconscious mind, just as military personnel do. So when conservatives start lambasting “gum’mint” employees, they probably don’t include public safety personnel and soldiers in the mix.

Neither, apparently, does Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. He wants to bust employee unions by destroying collective bargaining. He doesn’t want to accept any wage or benefit concessions from teachers or janitors or secretaries. He won’t negotiate, even though a study has shown that Wisconsin’s public employees make less than their private sector counterparts.

But Walker has asked nothing of police and fire fighters. Is he trying to win their votes while punishing the unions who voted for his opponent? From the news Web site Channel3000:

Walker’s bill would strip state and local government employees, including teachers, custodians and game …

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Social Security should not be privatized

Republican deficit hawks are recycling one of their old favorites: privatizing Social Security. While many veteran GOP pols are reluctant to tackle the popular entitlement, others believe that George W. Bush’s idea remains the best way to approach the issue.
They are wrong, and a Saturday Wall Street Journal story shows why. The WSJ interviewed couples who had responsibly put money in the stock market through their company 401(k)s. Many don’t have enough for a comfortable retirement, but those with defined pensions are better off.
(If you are a retiree living comfortably with the benefit of Social Security and a defined pension, please resist the impulse to comment smugly about how smart you were. You were lucky.)
From the WSJ

The 401(k) generation is beginning to retire, and it isn’t a pretty sight.

The retirement savings plans that many baby boomers thought would see them through old age are falling short in many cases.

The median household headed by a person aged 60 to 62 …

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Paul Broun’s hypocrisy on black children

Yesterday, on the floor of the House, one of Georgia’s leading mossbacks, U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, (R-GA), gave a speech denouncing Planned Parenthood and professing to care about black babies lost to abortion. I wish I believed that Broun cared about black babies, but I know better.

In an earlier post, I wrote about the sort of hypocrisy Broun and others are up to on abortion:

If those same activists were concerned about the welfare of children once they emerged from the womb, I’d be more willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. There are, certainly, some among anti-abortion activists who campaign dutifully on behalf of poor children — notably the clergy of the Catholic Church.

But, generally speaking, there’s a glaring contradiction in the ideology of anti-abortion proponents: They are passionate about the fetus but indifferent — if not hostile — to actual babies who need a generous social safety net. The same voters who protest Roe vs. Wade usually oppose …

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