Archive for December, 2009

In Copenhagen, China doing a darn good Lieberman impression

From the New York Times:

COPENHAGEN — President Obama called on world leaders to move swiftly to address climate change, and, in a direct challenge to China, pressed for a global climate change accord to include a way to monitor whether countries are complying with promised emissions cuts.

Speaking just hours after arriving here for what is supposed to be the last day of high-stakes talk to address global warming, Mr. Obama told those gathered: “The time for talk is over.”

He said that it is crucial “to hold each other accountable” for commitments.

“We must have a mechanism to review whether we are keeping our commitments, and to exchange this information in a transparent manner,” Mr. Obama told a plenary session of some 119 world leaders at the Bella Center.

“These measures need not be intrusive, or infringe upon sovereignty,” he said, in a direct reference to the concerns expressed by Chinese officials, who have been balking at proposed verification …

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Sometimes Scrooge has a medical degree and an Aussie accent

from Science Codex:

Santa should share Rudolf’s snack of carrots and celery sticks rather than brandy and mince pies and swap his reindeer for a bike or walk, says a public health expert in the Christmas issue published on (British Medical Journal) today.

Dr Nathan Grills, from Monash University in Australia, says the current image of Santa promotes obesity, drink-driving, speeding and a general unhealthy lifestyle. He argues that “Santa only needs to affect health by 0.1% to damage millions of lives” and that it would be better if his popularity was used to promote healthy living.

Grills carried out a review of literature and web-based material to assess Santa’s potential negative impact on public health – there were no peer reviewed publications on this issue.

The investigation revealed very high Santa awareness amongst children. Indeed among American school kids Santa Claus was the only fictional character more highly recognised than Ronald McDonald, says the …

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Ralston chosen as GOP speaker nominee

I’m at the state Capitol, covering the election of a new House speaker in the GOP caucus. Just rode up to the third floor in the elevator with outgoing Speaker Glenn Richardson.

It was a quiet ride.

UPDATE: Three candidates for speaker, as expected. Hembree, O’Neal and Ralston.

Speaking on behalf of Ralston, Rep. Willard stresses the fact Ralston has been happily married for 33 years. And that he has an even temperament. Richardson sitting in the caucus listening.

Mike Coan, nominating Bill Hembree, stresses need to put Georgia first again and serve ethically. Married to his high school sweetheart for last 18 years, will change the way they do business, an ethical and honorable man.

David Knight, nominating Larry O’Neal, takes a more aggressive approach. Says he had 30 percent black vote in his district yet barely won against a convicted criminal “in this age of Obama.” That’s a direct shot at Bill Hembree, who has a large number of black voters in his legislative district and …

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Governing not easy on Obama, Democrats

from the Wall Street Journal:

WASHINGTON — Less than a year after Inauguration Day, support for the Democratic Party continues to slump, amid a difficult economy and a wave of public discontent, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll….

In December’s survey, for the first time, less than half of Americans approved of the job President Barack Obama was doing, marking a steeper first-year fall for this president than his recent predecessors.

“For Democrats, the red flags are flying at full mast,” said Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who conducted the survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff. “What we don’t know for certain is: Have we reached a bottoming-out point?”

… But public displeasure with Democrats wasn’t translating directly into warmth for Republicans. Twenty-eight percent of voters expressed positive feelings about the GOP — a number that has remained constant through the Democrats’ decline over the summer and fall. Only 5% said their feelings toward …

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A heightened sense of urgency over health-reform debate

Senate Democrats are pushing for quick action on the health-insurance reform measure, and a new Washington Post/ABC poll suggests why:

As the Senate struggles to meet a self-imposed, year-end deadline to complete work on legislation to overhaul the nation’s health-care system, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds the public generally fearful that a revamped system would bring higher costs while worsening the quality of their care.

A bare majority of Americans still believe government action is needed to control runaway health-care costs and expand coverage to the roughly 46 million people without insurance. But after a year of exhortation by President Obama and Democratic leaders and a high-octane national debate, there is minimal public enthusiasm for the kind of comprehensive changes in health care now under consideration. There are also signs the political fight has hurt the president’s general standing with the public…

But Obama and the Democrats have had decidedly …

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O’Neal offers his version of Perdue’s $100,000 backdated tax break

State Rep. Larry O’Neal, a friend and ally of Gov. Sonny Perdue, is a leading candidate in tomorrow’s GOP caucus vote to replace Glenn Richardson as House speaker. O’Neal is a smart guy and well-respected by many of his colleagues, and his low-key presence might be just what the House needs after the volatile Richardson.

However, O’Neal’s candidacy is clouded by concerns about his role in a 2005 state tax law that gave Perdue a $100,000 tax deferral.

I wrote about the case at the time and did some of the original reporting behind the story. That column, dated Sept. 7, 2006, is available here. At the time, O’Neal refused to discuss the matter.

Yesterday, however, O’Neal did e-mail a letter to his fellow House Republicans which he claims “will clear my good name once-and-for-all on this issue.” Unfortunately, the letter dodges and in some ways compounds the questions raised in the original controversy:

1. O’Neal points out that the legislation in question was needed to bring …

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Obama takes important step to closing Guantanamo

From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — In ordering the federal government to acquire an Illinois prison to house terrorism suspects who are currently held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, President Obama on Tuesday took a major step toward shutting down the military detention facility that its detractors say had become a potent recruitment tool for Al Qaeda.

But even before White House officials had released a letter informing Gov. Patrick J. Quinn of Illinois of the plans to send a “limited number” of Guantánamo detainees to the Thomson Correctional Center, an empty super-maximum-security prison in northwestern Illinois, Republicans were gearing for what could be an emotional fight on Capitol Hill.

“The administration has failed to explain how transferring terrorists to Gitmo North will make Americans safer than keeping terrorists off of our shores in the secure facility in Cuba,” Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate Republican leader, said in a statement. …

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GWTW, Atlanta and the strange twists of history


“There was a land of Cavaliers and Cotton Fields called the Old South. Here in this pretty world, Gallantry took its last bow. Here was the last ever to be seen of Knights and their Ladies Fair, of Master and of Slave. Look for it only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered, a Civilization gone with the wind.”

History has such a funny way of playing tricks on you. Just when you think it’s headed in one direction, something or other has already come along and begun to alter its course profoundly, in ways that are visible only in hindsight.

Seventy years ago today, for example, Atlanta was throwing itself one helluva party. The occasion was the world premiere of a little movie called “Gone With the Wind,” and judging from eyewitness accounts, the event became a celebration of the highly romanticized Old South and a vindication of the stories that Southerners — or at least white Southerners — liked to tell themselves about the war and its aftermath, including …

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Banksters served water, humble pie at White House

According to the Wall Street Journal, banksters were “contrite” in their White House meeting with President Obama, just a day after he blasted them as “fat cats.”

Chief executives of the largest U.S. banks acknowledged Monday the “disconnect” between their expressed support for re-regulating financial markets and the work of their lobbyists to weaken any new rules.

The executives pledged during a White House meeting with President Barack Obama that they would personally intervene on behalf of the legislation.

Some of the CEOs said their lobbyists had taken stronger stands than they would have wanted, an assertion met with raised eyebrows on Capitol Hill. House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D, Mass.), chief architect of financial-overhaul legislation in that chamber, said in an interview he was “highly skeptical.”

The gathering permitted Mr. Obama to deliver his criticism of Wall Street directly to executives from American Express Co., U.S. Bancorp, J.P. …

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Signs of potential progress in the ATL’s water crisis

Asked about the water-war summit scheduled for today with his counterparts in Alabama and Florida, Gov. Sonny Perdue tried to lower expectations.

“I would hope that we [governors] have a group hug and come out of that meeting with an agreement,” Perdue said last week. But those seemingly optimistic words were undercut by his “I’m-pulling-your-leg” smile, suggesting that a deal was only slightly less likely than the highly implausible group hug.

Nonetheless, the fact that a meeting is taking place at all is progress.

Presumably, the meeting was scheduled because exploratory discussions among lawyers and staff for Perdue, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and Alabama Gov. Bob Riley found enough common ground to believe it would be productive.

Last week’s meeting of Georgia’s Water Contingency Task Force also produced grounds for encouragement, although you had to look a little hard to find it.

The task force — dominated by state business leaders — was appointed by …

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