Archive for February, 2011

Are national Democrats ready to abandon the South?

NOTE: This column, which draws heavily on a piece posted last week, is published here to serve as the electronic version of today’s AJC column and to allow newspaper readers to comment if the wish.

The 2010 midterms were a disaster for Democrats almost everywhere, but the carnage was particularly high here in the South.

Take Georgia. Every Democrat running statewide lost by double digits, and Republicans won historic margins in both the state House and Senate. The humiliation got even worse after the election, when nine legislators elected as Democrats — including the Democratic House caucus chair — switched parties.

The performance was so dismal that Mark Schmitt, executive editor of the liberal American Prospect magazine in Washington, believes the Democrats should write off the South as a lost cause.

“It’s not a tough call,” Schmitt wrote last week. “… The divorce is final. And largely for the good, as congressional Democrats will no longer have to twist their policies …

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Ayn Rand cultists make a movie; Hollywood shrugs

For years, Ayn Rand’s awful novel “Atlas Shrugged” has been rumored as a movie, with actresses from Barbara Stanwyck to Farrah Fawcett to Charlize Theron to Angelina Jolie supposedly in line to play the leading role.

Now it’s finally been made, starring … someone named Taylor Schilling. Here’s the trailer of what is supposed to be the first of a trilogy. Presumably, the trailer hits the movie’s highlights, so judge for yourself.

The movie has an official release date of April 15, a day no doubt intended to symbolize the coercive power of government “looters” over heroic, free-market “producers.” Then again, it’s also the day that the Titanic sunk and Lincoln died, which is probably a more appropriate note given that the movie can’t even get a distribution deal.

It seems that movie distributors and theater owners — pursuing their rational self-interest and letting the market work as the sole legitimate arbiter of quality — simply don’t believe that a bad movie based on a …

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GOP hoping to induce mass economic amnesia

Mitt Romney at the 2011 CPAC convention (AP photo)

Mitt Romney at the 2011 CPAC convention (AP photo)

At last weekend’s CPAC convention in Washington, Mitt Romney laid out the GOP’s basic economic argument going into the 2012 elections: It’s all Barack Obama’s fault:

“President Obama has stood watch over the greatest job loss in modern American history, and that, my friends, is one inconvenient truth that will haunt this president throughout history…. You’ve seen the heartbreaking photos and videos of the jobs fairs around the country, where thousands show up to stand in line all day just to have a chance to compete for a few job openings that probably aren’t as good as the job they held two years ago. These job fairs and unemployment lines are President Obama’s Hoovervilles.”

I’ve noted before that the Republicans intend to try to rewrite recent economic history, hoping that by relentlessly repeating a lie they can cause voters to “misremember” what actually happened. Romney’s claim — “Obama has stood watch over the greatest …

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Travelin’ music that says a lot without saying a word

Given the topic of the most recent post, I thought it might be appropriate to kick off tonight’s festivities by breaking out the home-grown stuff — the batter-dipped, chicken-fried, smothered-and-covered boys from down Macon way, performing one of the top five rock instrumentals of all time. It also happens to be one of my favorite travelin’ tunes — something about “Jessica” just makes the miles, and the years, just peel away.

Ladies and gentlemen, The Allman Brothers Band!

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Is it time for Democrats to write off the South?

Mark Schmitt, executive editor of the liberal American Prospect, believes the time has come for Democrats to write off the South as a lost cause and concentrate its efforts elsewhere.

“In 2012, the president’s strategists can choose between trying to reproduce Obama’s narrow wins in the affluent corners of the South (not including Florida) or attempting to hold on to swing states like Nevada and Colorado, where Democratic senators in 2010 won on support from well-organized Hispanic voters and the labor movement. It’s not a tough call. It would be almost impossible to make the case for investing political resources in the South. The divorce is final. And largely for the good, as congressional Democrats will no longer have to twist their policies beyond recognition to accommodate Southern Democrats who are doomed anyway.”

Well, as someone who has covered politics here for two decades, let me disagree. In fact, let me point out that Schmitt’s essay contains a good bit of raw …

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GOP torn between anti-immigrant fervor, business

As expected, Georgia’s political leadership is suddenly having second and third thoughts about waging an all-out war on illegal immigrants. They’re being reminded by influential and powerful interests that their own rhetoric notwithstanding, illegal immigrants are actually an integral part of the state’s economy, particularly in rural agricultural areas.

As a congressman, for example, Nathan Deal was a strong advocate of forcing businesses to verify the legal status of every new hire through the federal government’s E-Verify program. He also campaigned on that proposal as a candidate for governor, But this week, Deal confessed to sudden doubts about the program’s utility.

“There are questions being raised whether or not the E-Verify system is what we all assume that it is — easily used, reliable and accurate,” Deal told reporters, suggesting that he had not previously been aware of such questions.

That’s hard to believe, because doubts about the program are longstanding. For …

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Mubarak says he’s staying … this is going to get ugly

UPDATE: 6 p.m. Egyptian authorities are saying that Hosni Mubarak has ceded almost all authority to his vice president, Omar Suleiman, while remaining titular head of state. The Egyptian street seems to be saying, “sorry, “that ain’t good enough.”

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Dictators, it is said, never die in their beds. Mubarak may have just ensured that he will not be the exception to that rule.

And sadly, a lot more pictures are going to be added to this website.

– Jay Bookman

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Mubarak stepping down as military moves to fill vacuum

Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak is reportedly stepping down. Gen. Hassan al-Roueini has told thousands of protesters in Tahrir Square that “All your demands will be met today.” Associated Press says Mubarak will address the nation tonight.

The New York Times does not exactly interpret the news as a victory for democracy:

CAIRO — Egypt’s armed forces on Thursday announced that they had begun to take “necessary measures to protect the nation and support the legitimate demands of the people,” a step that suggested the military intends to take a commanding role in administrating the strife-torn nation.

There was no immediate confirmation that the army intended to replace the government named by President Hosni Mubarak, but protesters gathered in Tahrir Square appeared to welcome reports that the military had replaced the civilian government they have steadfastly opposed.

Television images on Al Jazeera showed the masses in Tahrir Square cheering the news, waving flags and chanting: …

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Donald Trump, roadside memorials and stupid politician tricks

Donald Trump, a man who disguises his bald spot slightly better than he hides his enormous ego, has now been confirmed as a speaker at this weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference. Last night, he told CNN that he is serious about wanting to run for president:

“I love this country. I hate what’s happened to this country. We’re a laughingstock throughout the world. We’re not respected.”

I hope he runs. Because there’s nothing like putting a President Donald Trump into the White House to restore a nation’s self-respect.

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The Georgia Department of Transportation has announced a ban on all roadside memorials to traffic accidents, explaining that they’re a distraction.

Big ginormous billboards proclaiming the charms of nude dancers? Fine and perfectly legal. In fact, state legislators are once again pushing a bill to let billboard owners clearcut publicly owned trees on large swaths of publicly owned right of way in front of their signs, as well as ban highway …

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Legislators fend off English-only drivers’ tests

I don’t often get a chance to say good things about the Georgia Legislature, but since they’ve given me a shot, I better take it:

From the AJC:

A move to require Georgia’s driving test be given only in English stalled Wednesday after a majority of the House approved an amendment that effectively gutted the bill.

House Bill 72 would require the driver’s license exam be given in English for permanent residents of the state.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. James Mills, R-Gainesville, said the issue was safety. But freshman Rep. B.J. Pak won over lawmakers with his amendment that required the state only to update its sign test to include the most common English words used on digital signs.

The issue had nothing to do with safety. Nothing whatsoever. Under Mills’ original proposal, the driver’s test would continue to be given in its current 14 languages to foreign-born drivers who are applying for their first Georgia drivers’ license. After 10 years, those drivers would have to be …

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