Archive for November, 2010

For John McCain, ‘Don’t ask’ debate strikes close to home

U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

The single most important obstacle in Congress to repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is probably U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who has become the de facto leader of those who oppose the change.

With that in mind, take a look at the following video, targeted at the link between teen suicides and anti-gay bullying. One of its themes is the argument that adults, by treating gay Americans as second-class citizens, in effect legitimize homophobia and harassment of gay teenagers by their peers.

Pay particular attention to the older blond woman who appears at 0:50, 0:57 and 1:11 minutes. As she points out pretty bluntly, “Our political and religious leaders tell LGBT youth that they have no future. They can’t serve our country openly. …. Our government treats the LGBT community like second class citizens — why shouldn’t they?”

The woman, unidentified in the video, is Cindy McCain, wife of the …

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Ga. schools probably best they’ve ever been, yet not good enough

Bashing public schools — or as some label them, “government schools” — is a favorite pastime for many in Georgia. And there’s no question that our schools are not as good as they ought to be and have to be.

By any number of measures, we have a lot of work to do. But in listening to critics of public education, it’s important to ascertain motive: Are they critical in hopes that it will drive improvement, or in hopes of undermining public education as an institution?

It’s also important to keep things in perspective. If our schools aren’t as good as they should be, they’re probably better than they have ever been at any point in Georgia history. That’s not the narrative you hear when people start reminiscing about the good old days, but it’s probably true.

Back in “the good old days,” poorly educated students disappeared from the classroom and reappeared in the blue-collar work force without anybody really noticing. That’s no longer the case, because …

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On the FairTax, the Laffer Curve and the election

Back in 2007 and 2008, I invested a good bit of time investigating the merits of the FairTax. Like others who have looked into the proposal, I concluded that it was unworkable and a bit of a scam. I also noted that in all those years in which the Republicans controlled the U.S. House, the proposal had never even received so much as a subcommittee hearing, despite the fact that scores of congressmen had signed on as cosponsors.

Clearly, even its own proponents weren’t serious about trying to get it passed into law. It was a scheme to sell books and build a political following, I concluded, pledging never to waste time writing about it again. I haven’t, and I won’t.

However, because the topic comes up here from time to time in comments, I’ve created an archive of my FairTax columns accessible through the front page of the blog. I’ve also created links to the two-part series debunking the Laffer Curve published earlier this year.

As a final piece of housekeeping, I haven’t …

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White House sounds retreat on tax cuts for the rich

UPDATE: Obama spokesman Dan Pfeiffer says:

“The story is overwritten. Nothing has changed from what the President said last week. We believe we need to extend the middle class tax cuts, we cannot afford to borrow $700 billion to pay for extending the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, and we are open to compromise and are looking forward to talking to the Congressional leadership next week to discuss how to move forward. Full Stop, period, end of sentence.”

So we’ll see. For the record, I’m not convinced by the latest White House “clarification.”

(update posted 11:01)


The White House has apparently chosen to surrender rather than fight on the issue of extending tax cuts for the rich:

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s top adviser suggested to The Huffington Post late Wednesday that the administration is ready to accept an across-the-board continuation of steep Bush-era tax cuts, including those for the wealthiest taxpayers.

That appears to be the only way, …

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A salute to all veterans — and that means ALL of them

Today is Veterans Day, the day set aside to honor those who have proudly served this country in military uniform. That honored contingent represents all that is America. In the ranks, you’ve got a white kid from the hills of West Virginia standing next to a black kid from inner-city Houston next to a former high school cheerleader from South Dakota, each of them ready to fight for their country when duty calls. Millions of Americans have answered that call over the decades, men and women of various races, creeds, ethnic backgrounds, political beliefs, and yes, of sexual orientation as well.

By next year, maybe those Americans in that final group will no longer have to deny their own existence in order to serve their country.

From The Washington Post:

“A Pentagon study group has concluded that the military can lift the ban on gays serving openly in uniform with only minimal and isolated incidents of risk to the current war efforts, according to two people familiar with a …

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Keith Olbermann, Tucker Carlson and Justice Alito

Not being privy to Keith Olbermann’s arrangement with his employers at NBC, I haven’t felt confident in commenting on the specifics of his short suspension for making political contributions. In general, though, I think media companies are well within their rights to insist that their employees cover the fray, comment on the fray but not participate in the fray. (Olbermann has suggested that such requirements are probably not legal, but I think he’s wrong on that point.)

But if that kind of distance can be required of media figures, what do you make of this, from Lee Fang at

Last night, the American Spectator — a right-wing magazine known for its role in the “Arkansas Project,” a well-funded effort to invent stories with the goal of eventually impeaching President Clinton — held its annual gala fundraising event.

The Spectator is more than merely an ideological outlet. Spectator publisher Al Regnery helps lead a secretive group of conservatives …

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Obama: ‘America is not … at war with Islam’

Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation, is also a nation of immense diversity, comprising more than 300 ethnic groups speaking more than 700 languages or dialects. While more than 80 percent of its people profess a faith in Islam, religious freedom is guaranteed in the Indonesian constitution and practiced in its daily life.

President Obama, who lived in Indonesia as a child, drew upon that tradition of diversity and tolerance in a speech delivered there earlier today. And while he was speaking to Indonesians and less directly to the larger Islamic world, I think he was also reminding his fellow Americans to honor our own traditions of tolerance.

“Innocent civilians in America, Indonesia, and across the world are still targeted by violent extremists. I have made it clear that America is not, and never will be, at war with Islam. Instead, all of us must defeat al Qaeda and its affiliates, who have no claim to be leaders of any religion – certainly not a great, world …

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In Georgia, a politically freighted pledge of allegiance

From my colleague Jim Galloway at Political Insider:

“In an apparent nod to state sovereignty, Senate Republicans will require members of their chamber to recite the pledge of allegiance to the state flag of Georgia every morning they gather – after a daily devotional and a pledge to the U.S. flag.”

A pledge to the state flag?

The requirement was adopted last week in Macon at a meeting of the GOP Senate Caucus, the same meeting in which Republican state senators Tommie Williams and Chip Rogers led a successful coup against Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, stripping him of many of his powers.

Williams, as Senate president pro tem, and Rogers, as majority leader, now have a lot more authority over Senate operations. It surely isn’t coincidental that Williams and Rogers were also co-sponsors of a radical states’ right resolution I wrote about last year:

“The resolution goes on to endorse the theory that states have the right to abridge constitutional freedoms of religion, press and …

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Take a seat on a ‘death panel.’ Here’s your first case

There were — and are — no “death panels” in President Obama’s health-insurance reform legislation. No panel of federal bureaucrats is going to sit down and decide whether Trig, Sarah Palin’s son, deserves to live or die because he has Down’s Syndrome, as his mother once suggested.

In fact, that whole false “death panel” controversy illustrates the intellectual bankruptcy of much of this country’s political debate as well as our inability to deal with complex moral and financial issues.

Consider the example of Provenge.

Provenge is a cancer vaccine, a very expensive cancer vaccine. It has been approved by the FDA for treatment of patients with advanced stages of prostate cancer. It is expensive in part because it cannot be mass produced — each dose is prepared individually, using a patient’s own immune cells.

Provenge does not cure prostate cancer. In trials, it succeeded in extending the lifespan of those with advanced prostate cancer by an average of 4.1 months. The …

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Ga. 400 toll decision still sticks in voters’ craws

“… our elected representatives lie and have lied to the people of Georgia many times, most recently with the extension of the toll on Georgia 400,” the e-mail read. “Why should we believe they wouldn’t use this trauma tax to erect another mule statue in Perry, or fund another ‘Go Fish’ program? The politicians cannot be trusted.”

The message and its angry tone were typical of a barrage of responses to a column last week (“Why would we balk at $10 to save 700 lives?”) about the defeat of Amendment 2 on last week’s ballot. The amendment would have assessed a $10 annual fee on vehicle registration, with all revenue dedicated to a statewide trauma care system expected to save 700 lives a year.

The themes of distrust in state government and anger at excess taxation ran deep in e-mail after e-mail. Readers voted against Amendment 2, they explained, because Georgians already pay higher and higher taxes to an inefficient state government that would probably just …

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