Archive for February, 2011

House GOP still demanding its budgetary pound of flesh

“The pound of flesh, which I demand of him,
Is dearly bought; ’tis mine and I will have it.”

– Shylock
“The Merchant of Venice”

Is the goal to do what’s best for the country?

Or do Republicans in Washington simply want their promised pound of flesh from the government, regardless of the consequences?

Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics and a former economics adviser to John McCain, reports that passage of the budget cuts demanded by House Republicans “would reduce 2011 real GDP growth by 0.5% and 2012 growth by 0.2%. This would mean some 400,000 fewer jobs created by the end of 2011 and 700,000 fewer jobs by the end of 2012…. Significant government spending restraint is vital, but given the economy’s halting recovery, it would be counterproductive for that restraint to begin until the U.S. is creating enough jobs to lower the unemployment rate.”

Last week, a private study by Goldman Sachs produced for its investor clients estimated that passage of the GOP budget …

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Do state-regulated monopolies need more power over regulators?

Despite a state law that bars them from making direct campaign contributions, public utilities in Georgia are not exactly voiceless. At the Public Service Commission, at the General Assembly and in the governor’s office, they wield enormous influence and pretty much get whatever they want.

In 2009, for example, when Georgia Power demanded the right to start charging ratepayers for nuclear power plants years before those plants start producing electricity, the company put more than 70 registered lobbyists on its payroll to plead its cause at the General Assembly. Sure enough, despite protests from experts at the PSC and elsewhere who warned it was a bad deal, the company got what it wanted.

As a result, you’re now paying higher electricity rates today for plants that won’t provide you with a kilowatt of electricity until 2017, and if that investment goes sour, you — not the company — will be on the hook to repay it.

The man who sponsored that bill, state Sen. Don Balfour of …

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Obama almost 2-1 favorite to win re-election

Will President Obama win re-election in 2012?

Karl Rove concedes that his chances are pretty good. “I consider him a favorite, albeit a slight favorite,” Rove told Politico. “Republicans underestimate President Obama at their own peril.”

Mike Huckabee, a potential challenger, isn’t among those making that mistake.

“The people that are sitting around saying, ‘He’s definitely going to be a one-term president. It’s going to be easy to take him out,’ they’re obviously political illiterates – political idiots, let me be blunt,” he said.

That may explain why Huckabee and others haven’t been eager to jump into the race. I suspect they’re waiting to see how the coming budget confrontation plays out between Obama and Washington Republicans before making their final “go/no go” decision

At Intrade, “investors” can “invest” in markets trying to determine the chances that Arctic ice in 2011 will be greater than that in 2007 (43 percent), whether physicists will observe the elusive Higgs …

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A tribute to natural talent for the Travelin’ Music home

A lot of singers — not all, these days, but a lot — have good voices. But every once in a while you hear a gift so unique that it makes you pay attention immediately. Aretha was such a voice. Barbra Streisand was such a voice. Dinah Washington too.

And now Adele.

BTW, this one is dedicated to Miss Julie. Yesterday we marked our 32nd year as husband and wife, with many more to come, I’m sure.

– Jay Bookman

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Broun issues belated condemnation of “shoot Obama” question

U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, a Republican from Georgia, has just released the following statement:

“Tuesday night at a town hall meeting in Oglethorpe County, Georgia an elderly man asked the abhorrent question, “Who’s going to shoot Obama?” I was stunned by the question and chose not to dignify it with a response; therefore, at that moment I moved on to the next person with a question. After the event, my office took action with the appropriate authorities. I deeply regret that this incident happened at all. Furthermore, I condemn all statements—made in sincerity or jest—that threaten or suggest the use of violence against the President of the United States or any other public official. Such rhetoric cannot and will not be tolerated.”

That’s nice. It would have been even nicer if Broun’s condemnation had come immediately, in person, rather than in a statement released three days after the event, and only after it had drawn national attention. Eyewitnesses at the event — …

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Time running short for both Beverly Hall and state investigators

Yes, Beverly Hall deserves to be fired as superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools.

But with just four months left on her contract and three months left in the school year, and with no credible replacement available, firing her now wouldn’t make much sense.

Terminating her contract would cost the district too much financially. The process would take valuable time and energy better put to other uses, such as finding a permanent replacement. It would also add political strain on members of an argumentative school board still trying to find a way to work together and avoid a disastrous loss of accreditation.

In a way, it’s remarkable that Hall has lasted this long. Evidence of widespread cheating by district personnel would have been enough to force the ouster of many other superintendents, but Hall’s reputation as an educator and administrator initially protected her.

However, it has been Hall’s dismissive, self-protective reaction to that scandal that has been most …

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In Florida, chilling testimony against guns on campus

From The St. Petersburg Times:

Sen. Greg Evers this morning postponed discussion of a controversial gun bill (SB 234) that, among other things, would allow people to carry weapons onto college campuses after the father of a killed Florida State University student showed up to oppose the bill at a Senate committee hearing.

Ashley Cowie, a 20-year-old sophomore studying interior design, was killed January 9, 2011 at a fraternity party when another student accidentally discharged a rifle, according to police. Dr. Robert Cowie described the incident during emotional testimony, telling the Senate Criminal Justice Committee that a bullet from an AK-74 went through his daughter’s chest and struck a second student. He held back tears as he said how Ashley’s identical twin sister Amy tried to perform CPR at the party to keep her alive. Amy was “looking at the whole in her sister’s chest with blood gushing from her mouth and she knew she was already dead,” Cowie said. “But she felt …

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GOP spending plan would send economy into tailspin

“As part of our effort to liberate our economy from the shackles of out-of-control spending, the House will soon vote to cut discretionary spending by over $100 billion over the last seven months of this fiscal year.”
– House Speaker John Boehner, Feb. 17.

From the Financial Times:

“The Republican plan to slash government spending by $61bn in 2011 could reduce US economic growth by 1.5 to 2 percentage points in the second and third quarters of the year, a Goldman Sachs economist has warned.

The note from Alec Phillips, a forecaster based in Washington, was seized in the ongoing US budget fight by Democrats as validating their argument that the legislation approved by the Republican-led House of Representatives last Saturday would do significant damage to the US recovery…

The Goldman analysis also points out that a potential compromise deal with $25bn in spending reductions this year – a more likely scenario – would lead to a smaller drag on growth of 1 percentage point in the …

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Where Wisconsin governor leads, few are following

From The Washington Post:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, whose efforts to curtail the rights of public-employee unions have thrust him into the national spotlight, is pushing other new Republican governors to follow his lead.

He said he communicates regularly with Ohio Gov. John Kasich and has spoken with Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval. And Walker has suggested that his counterparts in Michigan and Florida seek to address their budget problems in part by demanding major concessions from public workers.

“There’s a lot of us new governors that got elected to do something big,” Walker said this week. “This is our moment.”

In Indiana, where Republicans came close to enacting union-busting legislation until Democratic legislators fled the state, GOP leaders are singing a different tune. The bill should never have been introduced — “It was a mistake,” said Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, a potential GOP presidential candidate, calls the …

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Obama abandons defense of federal gay-marriage ban

The Obama administration has announced it will no longer try to defend Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act from lawsuits alleging the law is unconstitutional. (The law forbids the federal government from recognizing any marriage other than that between a man and a woman.)

The decision is big news, but probably not as big as some have suggested. In real terms, it probably doesn’t change much at all. As Attorney General Eric Holder noted in the announcement:

“Section 3 of DOMA will continue to remain in effect unless Congress repeals it or there is a final judicial finding that strikes it down, and the President has informed me that the Executive Branch will continue to enforce the law. But while both the wisdom and the legality of Section 3 of DOMA will continue to be the subject of both extensive litigation and public debate, this Administration will no longer assert its constitutionality in court.”

In other words, it’s still law, and despite concerns about …

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