Archive for July, 2009

So much for Obama’s ‘premature emasculation’

From the Washington Post:

The Senate voted Tuesday to kill the nation’s premier fighter jet program, embracing by a 58-40 vote margin the argument of President Obama and his top military advisers that the F22 is no longer needed for the nation’s defense and a costly drag on the Pentagon’s budget in an era of small wars and growing counter-insurgency efforts.

The decision was a key policy victory for Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who has been campaigning against the plane since April as a centerpiece of his effort to “fundamentally reshape the priorities of America’s defense establishment and reform the way the Pentagon does business — in particular, the weapons we buy, and how we buy them,” as he put it in a Chicago speech last Thursday.

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This birther nonsense becoming a big problem for the GOP

Here’s Mike Castle, a Republican congressman from Delaware, trying to deal with the birther nonsense at a town hall meeting back on June 30. It really gets a little spooky when the woman hijacks the meeting with an impromptu demand for the Pledge of Allegiance. It’s hard to imagine a more vivid example of how easily false patriotism can trump reason and common sense.

Apparently, CNN’s Lou Dobbs — always on the lookout these days for a fringe issue to ride — is also jumping on the bandwagon.

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Research on cell-phone-use-while-driving quashed by feds

You’ve seen it done.

You’ve done it yourself.

And you probably know that it’s dangerous.

However, research compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and now released thanks to a lawsuit documents the high risks involved in using the cell phone while driving. (We won’t even go into texting, which tanks the danger to whole ‘nother level.)

According to the New York Times:

The highway safety researchers estimated that cellphone use by drivers caused around 955 fatalities and 240,000 accidents over all in 2002….

The research mirrors other studies about the dangers of multitasking behind the wheel. Research shows that motorists talking on a phone are four times as likely to crash as other drivers, and are as likely to cause an accident as someone with a .08 blood alcohol content.

The three-person research team based the fatality and accident estimates on studies that quantified the risks of distracted driving, and an assumption that 6 percent of drivers were …

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The philosophical fraud of the ‘Thune amendment’

Right now, the U.S. Senate is debating an amendment proposed by John Thune of South Dakota — and co-sponsored by Georgia’s Johnny Isakson — that would require states to recognize concealed-weapons permits issued by other states, even if the laws in those other states might be considerably weaker.

For example, New York, a state that has chosen to enact very strict concealed-carry laws, would be forced to honor permits issued by Georgia, a state with very lax laws in that regard.

Philosophically, that seems a strange position for a states’-rights Republican like Thune, don’t you think? As a matter of principle, shouldn’t states have the right to set their own laws on such matters of public safety, without mandates from the federal government that interfere with their sovereignty?

As Brian Montopoli reports at a CBS News blog:

“In response to the introduction of the amendment, families of the victims of the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings placed a full-page ad in the Richmond …

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The death knell sounds for universal health coverage

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The rush to throw dirt on the ‘failed Obama presidency’

Back on Feb. 4, a whole two weeks into the Obama presidency, Victor Davis Hanson at the National Review was already proclaiming it a disaster:

“We are quite literally after two weeks teetering on an Obama implosion—and with no Dick Morris to bail him out—brought on by messianic delusions of grandeur, hubris, and a strange naivete that soaring rhetoric and a multiracial profile can add requisite cover to good old-fashioned Chicago politicking … Obama is becoming laughable and laying the groundwork for the greatest conservative populist reaction since the Reagan Revolution,” Hanson wrote.

Two weeks. A whole two weeks into a presidency, and it was already over. The idea that such a premature verdict could be rendered by a historian, someone supposedly trained to take the long view of events, made it even more ridiculous, a classic case of personal hatred overriding analysis.

And Hanson made it quite clear he wasn’t kidding:

“This is quite serious. I can’t recall a similarly …

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“One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”

Where were you when Apollo 11 landed on the surface of the moon the night of July 20, 1969? What do you recall about that moment, and about those times?

I was just a kid, living at the time on Cape Cod, where my father was stationed. I stayed up late to watch the moment with my mom, along with Walter Cronkite no doubt, and the moon never looked the same to me afterward. Even now, it’s a little strange to look up and think that men once walked its surface.

Of course, a lot of Americans weren’t even alive back then and thus have no memory of it. So I’d also be curious about their perceptions of the space program and the moonshot. Is it just an obsession from another era, like Hula Hoops and peace signs? Or is it a more lasting achievement, an actual “giant leap for mankind” that deserved the hoopla it generates?

UPDATE: You’ll see a lot of press coverage today on the moon shot, and for good reason. But at Time magazine, Jeffrey Kluger has a nicely done feature on the “moon …

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Let’s do the time warp again!

Walter Cronkite is all over my TV set. The Watergate Hotel is back in the news. Tomorrow is the 40th anniversary of the walk on the moon. And Tom Watson is leading the British Open. Are we back in the ’70s?

I just hope this doesn’t mean they’re bringing disco back.

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Water decision leaves metro Atlanta high and dry

Yesterday’s ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson, denying metro Atlanta access to water stored at Lake Lanier, leaves the metro region up the creek.

Let me be more specific: Up a bone-dry creek.

The potential impact of the decision is disastrous. Magnuson ruled that with the exception of Buford and Gainesville, the metro region has no right to withdraw water from Lake Lanier, and no right to store water there against future drought.

The state was given three years to get try to get Congress to alter its authorized purposes for Buford Dam. If it is unsuccessful, Magnuson ruled, “the operation of Buford Dam will return to the ‘baseline’ operation of the mid-1970s. Thus, the required off-peak flow will be 600 cfs and only Gainesville and Buford will be allowed to withdraw water from the lake. The Court recognizes that this is a draconian result. It is, however, the only result that recognizes how far the operation of the Buford project has strayed from the original …

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A little bittersweet travelin’ music tonight

A friend of mine by the name of Paul Hemphill, a tall, lanky guy from Alabama, died last weekend after a bout with cancer.

Paul was a very good writer, and an even better person. I don’t have any adventures with Paul to recount, although others do, because by the time I got to know him, most of his adventuring days were behind him. But he was a kind, straight-talking man of great wisdom, wit and humility. That ain’t half bad.

After leaving the newspaper business, Paul took up honest work as an author, and he was damn good at it. One of my favorites was “Lovesick Blues: The Life of Hank Williams,” a gently told tale about another lanky kid from Alabama. It’s a damn fine piece of work. I read it a few years back when I was on a reporting trip along the Gulf Coast during and after Hurricane Rita.

At night I’d read Paul — sometimes by the little domelight in my car, where I had to sleep because all the hotel rooms were filled with refugees from Katrina and Rita. You can hear …

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