Archive for April, 2011

Did I hear something about a wedding?

williamkate-1

I saw a great tweet earlier today:

“i honestly don’t care about a wedding where I wasn’t invited and doesn’t have an open bar.”

My sentiments exactly.

In fact, I got a kick out of the website of the Guardian in the UK. Today’s homepage is of course dominated by news and photos of the royal wedding, but the Guardian offers a convenient button labeled “Republicans click here,” Republicans in the British context meaning those who oppose the monarchy.

Click it, and poof! — you get a homepage with absolutely no mention of the Windsor-Mountbatten/Middleton ceremony. Like it never even happened.

Clearly, though, hundreds of millions if not billions don’t share my attitude. The confluence of princess fantasies, wedding porn, the lingering grip of the British Empire on the public imagination and a celebrity culture ensures it became a much-watched media extravaganza.

Given all that, I sifted through my memory banks for an appropriate song to kick off the evening’s festivities, and …

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GOP: The birther craze was Obama’s fault

You know, the shamelessness required to utter things like this is just mind-boggling.

“We’re borrowing four and a half billion dollars a day and this president is more worried about birth certificates, Oprah Winfrey and fundraisers at the Waldorf Astoria,” (RNC Chairman Reince) Priebus complained on “CNN Newsroom” Thursday, a day after the president released his long-form Hawaii birth certificate and then jetted to Chicago for a long-scheduled interview with the daytime queen of talk.

“It’s maddening and I just wish the president would engage in the real issues that are affecting America.”

After years in which members of Preibus’ party and its right-wing media remora complain bitterly that Obama has refused to release his “long-form” birth certificate, spinning absurd fantasies in which a large portion of the GOP base eagerly swallows, the president finally relents and forces release of documents that any rational person already knew existed.

And suddenly it’s the …

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King & Spalding withdrawal a hollow ‘victory’

NOTE: This builds on a post published earlier. It is posted here as the electronic version of today’s AJC column.

Silk-stocking lawyers tend to cringe when they see their firm’s name in the headlines. It’s one thing if a high-profile client makes the news, but when the firm itself becomes the story, it’s seldom good.

It wasn’t for Atlanta-based King & Spalding, which made national headlines this week. By putting itself in a predicament from which it had no face-saving escape, the firm damaged its own reputation and allowed critics to question its adherence to one of the core values of its profession. Not a good week.

The problem began earlier this month when King & Spalding partner Paul Clement, based in Washington, D.C., agreed to represent House Speaker John Boehner and his colleagues in a case involving the Defense of Marriage Act.

That law, passed in 1996, forbids the federal government from recognizing any marriage other than that between a man and a woman. So while …

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No circumstance to circumscribe the circumcised

The political quirks of San Francisco have made it a favorite target of conservatives, but I’ve never been tempted to join in the sport. I mean, sure, the folks in Baghdad by the Bay can be a little out there at times, but if you don’t like it, you don’t have to move there, right?

It’s still a great city to visit, and if fate dictated that I had to live the rest of my days looking out over Fisherman’s Wharf and the Golden Gate Bridge, I guess I could probably live with that.

But still:

“Will a circumcision ban in San Francisco make, um, the final cut and appear before voters this November?

Proponents of the ban took 12,265 signatures to the Department of Elections today and should learn within a month whether 7,168 of them indeed came from registered city voters. If so, the city will have another one of its classic only-in-San Francisco measures to debate.

Wearing pins reading “May the foreskin be with you,” the backers of the ban gathered at City Hall to turn in their …

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Why voucher advocates are allergic to standardized tests

In Pennsylvania, Republican legislators are pushing through a school vouchers bill that would divert increasingly scarce state education dollars to private and parochial schools. The move itself is controversial, but at the moment I’d like to focus on one particular aspect of the debate, as reported by the Hazleton Standard Speaker:

“The panel defeated an amendment by Sen. John Blake, D-22, Archbald, to have choice students who attend a private or parochial school take the Pennsylvania State Standardized Assessment given periodically in public schools. That way there would be an equitable standard to measure academic performance, he added.”

Now why would school-choice advocates reject a proposal to have voucher recipients take the same test as their public-school peers? That seems peculiar. If a private school accepts money from the state, it ought to at least be willing to demonstrate that taxpayers are getting value out of that investment, right? If you want to be good …

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Thoughts and prayers for those caught in storm’s fury

Tuscaloosa News/Dusty Compton

Tuscaloosa News/Dusty Compton

They predicted it was going to be bad, in terms you rarely if ever hear from meteorologists, but the devastation wreaked last night is still shocking in scale and scope. Eleven dead in Georgia, more than 100 killed in Alabama, 30 or more in Mississippi.

There’s not much to say about that much grief and heartache, except to offer solace and comfort to those who survived and, for the many of us who are largely unaffected, to take note of our good fortune. It’s humbling to be reminded that everything we have can be snatched from us so quickly and so randomly, by forces that are well beyond our control.

Such forces come in many forms. Last night, for many, it came in the form of a tornado, and they’re going to need a lot of help putting things back together.


– Jay Bookman

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Bush official: Debt ceiling foes are ‘al Qaeda terrorists’

From The Hill:

“Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill compared lawmakers trying to block raising the debt ceiling to “al Qaeda terrorists.”

“The people who are threatening not to pass the debt ceiling are our version of al Qaeda terrorists. Really,” O’Neill, Treasury secretary in the Republican administration of George W. Bush, said Wednesday in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s InBusiness with Margaret Brennan.

“They’re really putting our whole society at risk by threatening to round up 50 percent of the members of the Congress, who are loony, who would put our credit at risk,” O’Neill said.”

O’Neill, you may recall, was fired in 2002 after warning the Bush administration that a second round of tax cuts, following the initial round in 2001, would create a huge deficit, especially with a new war in Iraq underway.

After O’Neill brought up his concerns to his friend Dick Cheney, the vice president infamously responded:

“You know, Paul, Reagan proved that deficits …

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It ends not with a bang, but a whimper

birth

Of course, it’s an obvious forgery.

Or something like that.

From the official White House statement:

“The President believed the distraction over his birth certificate wasn’t good for the country. It may have been good politics and good TV, but it was bad for the American people and distracting from the many challenges we face as a country. Therefore, the President directed his counsel to review the legal authority for seeking access to the long form certificate and to request on that basis that the Hawaii State Department of Health make an exception to release a copy of his long form birth certificate. They granted that exception in part because of the tremendous volume of requests they had been getting.”

Or as Obama himself put it this morning:

“We don’t have time for this kind of silliness. We’ve got better stuff to do.”

This changes nothing, of course. The birther nonsense was born out of a deep conviction in some quarters that Barack Obama “ain’t one of us,” that he …

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Petraeus to lead CIA; Panetta moves to Pentagon

Leon Panetta, a longtime congressman, former chief of staff to President Clinton and now director of the CIA, will be nominated to replace Robert Gates as secretary of defense, according to the Associated Press.

Gen. David Petraeus, now leading the NATO effort in Afghanistan, will reportedly replace Panetta at the CIA. That’s an interesting move on several counts, confirming that Petraeus intends to follow the Colin Powell/George Marshall model and be a major policy player in Washington for years to come, while staying clear of electoral politics.

The low-key Gates, initially appointed by President Bush to replace the discredited and more flamboyant Donald Rumsfeld, has been the right man in the right place for a long time now. Nobody’s irreplaceable, and Panetta brings his own strengths and credentials to the job. But it’s hard to conceive of someone doing a better job than Gates did during a particularly challenging time in the Pentagon.

– Jay Bookman

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Is a Mitch Daniels candidacy being ‘Trumped’?

The announcement by Haley Barbour that he will not seek the 2012 GOP presidential nomination was a bit of a disappointment, and I mean that seriously.

No, I don’t think Barbour would have made a good president, and I doubt he would even have been a top contender for the nomination. But he did have — how should I put this? — an appreciation for basic reality and seriousness that too many other candidates in the GOP field do not.

At one point in their careers, the same could have been said of Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney, but since those two former governors volunteered for Extreme Makeover, Political Edition, they’ve emerged almost unrecognizable and have repudiated their former selves. I’m not sure who they are anymore, and I’m not sure they know who they are.

The only remaining potential candidate with a firm grounding in this factual universe is Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. While I wouldn’t vote for him against President Obama, I could certainly envision Daniels as …

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