Archive for March, 2011

GOP’s ‘no new taxes’ pledge will render deficit debate moot

From The Hill:

“Republican leaders in the Senate and House will not agree to tax increases in the guise of reform measures, according to a prominent conservative advocate for lower taxes.

Conservatives have grown increasingly worried that Republicans in Congress may accept a tax hike as part of a broader deal to reduce discretionary and entitlement spending.

But Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) have pledged to Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist they will not support any deficit reduction package that increases taxes….

Norquist said he has received the same promise from Sens. Tom Coburn (Okla.), Mike Crapo (Idaho) and Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), who are negotiating a deficit reduction package with Democrats.

“I’ve talked to the three guys in the room and they’ve promised not to vote any tax increases,” Norquist said.”

Well, somebody’s lying to somebody. Or at best, badly miscommunicating.

Crapo, Chambliss …

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Vouchers offer falsely simplistic answer to complex problem

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers expressed deep frustration with his fellow senators, more specifically his fellow Republican senators.

Citing international comparisons, Rogers pointed out that American students typically perform worse than their foreign counterparts on standardized tests in science and math. Even among underperforming American students, Rogers said, Georgia children generally perform worse than their counterparts in other states, ranking 46th or 47th.

Yet in a state Senate that Republicans dominate by a 36-20 advantage, the majority leader complained, he still couldn’t get enough votes to pass a bill that would significantly expand the use of vouchers to pay for private schools. As a result, Senate Bill 87, which Rogers calls “The Georgia Educational Freedom Act,” had to be tabled.

“It’s not me that’s losing today,” an angry Rogers said from the Senate floor. “The people that are losing in this state are the children, and they’re …

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In Libya, Obama playing the cards he’s been dealt

President Obama’s decision to join our European and Arab allies in launching air assaults against Libyan forces has been criticized by some as an ad hoc, patched-together reaction rather than a carefully thought-out strategy. And to a degree, they’re right. Sometimes, an unexpected and quickly changing situation does not permit the careful application of strategy. Sometimes, you just have to play your cards as they are dealt, recalculating risk and reward as each card is flipped your way. I don’t know how this is going to play out, but so far Obama seems to be playing his hand rationally and cautiously.

Sure, intervening earlier against Gadhafi on the side of the Libyan rebels might have proved more effective in military terms, but it also would have put the United States in the position of trying to dictate outcomes in the Arab world. And not intervening at all, as some on the left still advocate, was a cruel option at best. Had the coalition not acted when it did last week, …

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An early spring is the right time to highlight an early bloomer

It is such a nice day out there, and the weekend promises more of the same. So I was inspired to start looking for songs about spring to kick off our Friday night. Unfortunately, I kept finding nothing out there but sappy songs about chirping bluebirds and blooming daffodils and l’il puppy dogs, and I thought y’all deserved better than that.

Then I remembered this. There ain’t a word about spring in it. There ain’t a word in it at all. But it has the spirit of spring in it nonetheless. The guitar picker is a young rising star in the bluegrass world by the name of Sierra Hull. Enjoy, because they sure do.

(And please. If you want to talk politics, stick to the earlier thread. On this thread, it’s time to lay down the sword and shield and pick up something musical.)

– Jay Bookman

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Wisconsin anti-union law blocked by court challenge

Oh really now?

From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Madison — Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi issued a temporary restraining order Friday, barring the publication of a controversial new law that would sharply curtail collective bargaining for public employees.

Sumi’s order will prevent Secretary of State Doug La Follette from publishing the law until she can rule on the merits of the case. Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne is seeking to block the law because he says a legislative committee violated the state’s open meetings law.

Sumi said Ozanne was likely to succeed on the merits.

“It seems to me the public policy behind effective enforcement of the open meeting law is so strong that it does outweigh the interest, at least at this time, which may exist in favor of sustaining the validity of the (law),” she said.

The judge’s finding – at least for now – is a setback to Republican Gov. Scott Walker and a victory for opponents, who have spent weeks in …

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NRA desperate for ways to pretend it’s under attack

When state Sen. Jeff Mullis stepped into the well Wednesday to explain Senate Bill 102 to his colleagues, the first few words of his introduction were blunt if a bit unusual.

“This is a gun bill, an NRA bill,” the Chickamauga Republican said. “You’re either for guns, or you’re against guns.”

In other words, you will vote yes on this bill or you will face the wrath of the National Rifle Association. If you do not bow to the whims of the NRA, no matter how nonsensical they might be, you will be deemed to be against guns and against the Second Amendment. No personal judgment on such matters will be tolerated.

To be fair, parts of the bill are fine. Among other things, it would repeal the state’s current ban on carrying firearms in a place of worship. (Gun advocates had tried to get the ban overturned in federal court, but were rebuffed.)

Personally, I don’t have a big problem with that particular change. Taking a deadly weapon to church seems an odd choice, but …

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Western, U.S. militaries prepare to intervene in Libya

UPDATE (6:40): The Security Council has voted to approve “all necessary measures” other than invasion to halt the Libyan government’s assault on its own citizens.

The UN Security Council is supposed to vote this evening on whether to authorize a no-fly zone — and perhaps even a no-drive zone, targeting tanks and other military vehicles — in Libya, as requested by the Arab League. Fears that China or Russia would veto the resolution have apparently been overcome.

Moammar Ghadhafi, on the other hand, seems eager to crush the remaining opposition, warning that “there will be no mercy.”

“We are coming tonight,” he warned the rebellious city of Benghazi. “You will come out from inside. Prepare yourselves for tonight. We will find you in your closets.”

U.S., French, British and perhaps Arab forces are reportedly prepared to enforce the resolution almost immediately upon passage.

Ghadhafi has an answer for that too.

“Any foreign military act against Libya will expose all …

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Record earnings another sign of fat times … at least for a few

From Bloomberg:

“Record earnings fueled by the highest profit margins since 1993 are giving executives more leeway than ever to boost dividends as the bull market enters its third year.

Margins will climb to 8.9 percent in 2011, the highest level in at least 18 years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg on non-financial companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index through March 11. Greater profitability combined with dividend cuts during the credit crisis have pushed earnings to 6.53 percent of the gauge’s price, or 3.5 times more than its payout rate, close to the record 3.6 multiple in January.

A total of 95 companies led by Aetna Inc. (AET) and Carnival Corp. have raised dividends as the fastest economic expansion in six years and five straight quarters of earnings growth increased confidence among chief executive officers. Of the 380 that pay dividends, 378 are forecast to maintain or increase them, according to data compiled by Bloomberg using options prices, …

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Battle lines drawn; government shutdown looms larger

Twenty-two Senate Republicans, including Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, have signed a letter to President Obama in which they threaten to hold debt-ceiling legislation hostage unless they get immediate action that reduces spending on Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare:

“Strong leadership is needed now to ensure that our entitlement programs can serve both current and future generations. Without action to begin addressing the deficit, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for us to support a further increase in the debt ceiling.”

Oddly, however, other than their demand for “strong leadership,” the senators offer no specifics. What kind of ransom are they demanding? What changes would they like to see? What exactly is their proposal?

They have none. Instead, they want President Obama to take the lead and propose changes by the artificial deadline they have set, and so far the president shows no sign of playing that game.

Obama has made his position quite clear: Yes, a …

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State Senate votes to allow vote on Sunday liquor sales

The Georgia state Senate, after almost four hours of debate, has voted 32-22 to approve legislation that allows local jurisdictions to decide for themselves whether to allow Sunday retail sales of alcohol. Senate Bill 10 will now go to the state House of Representatives, where passage is considered probable.

Gov. Nathan Deal has also said he would be willing to sign the measure. So maybe at least that much will get done.

– Jay Bookman

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