Archive for September, 2011

Chris Christie still resists that lovely Siren’s call

With only 43 percent of Republican voters saying they’re satisfied with their party’s presidential field, pressure is growing on N.J. Gov. Chris Christie to enter the race.

Christie continues to say no.

Christie has said repeatedly that he doesn’t believe he is ready yet to be president, and you have to admire that honesty. But to turn that around a little bit, he also probably understands that his own party isn’t ready for him.

Christie believes illegal immigrants should be given a path to citizenship, and as a U.S. attorney was one of the least aggressive in the country in going after those in this country without permission. He understands that global warming is real and is being driven by man. He backs civil unions for gay couples and has strongly condemned discrimination against Muslim Americans. After he received harsh criticism for appointing a well-respected Muslim lawyer as a judge, he was equally harsh in brushing it aside, saying “It’s just crazy, and I’m tired of …

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Toll-road experiment imposes rationing via cost

NOTE: This contains some material posted earlier on this blog. It is posted here as the electronic version of today’s AJC column.

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Some traffic-reduction schemes are better than others. A deep recession, for example, seems to do the trick nicely, although for a host of other reasons it’s not a recommended approach.

In July, for example, Americans drove 6.7 billion fewer miles than they had a year earlier, a reduction of 2.5 percent, according to the Federal Highway Administration. That’s the fewest number of miles driven in the month of July since 2002.

According to an annual report by the Texas Transportation Institute, the reduction has been even more stark here in Atlanta. According to the TTI report, drivers in the metro region drove 9.5 percent fewer miles last year than they did five years earlier, a trend that would have been unthinkable back in 2005.

Thanks to that reduction, Atlanta traffic congestion has “improved” to 13th worst in the country, down from fifth. …

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The flat-out paranoia of the NRA and Wayne LaPierre

Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, gave me a call at home the other day. In the taped message, my friend Wayne warned me that unless I and other patriotic Americans stepped forward to stop it, the dastardly United Nations, with Iran, China, North Korea and other evil countries behind it, would soon come into our country and into our very homes, strip the Second Amendment out of the Constitution and “take away every pistol, and rifle and shotgun” that we owned.

Riiiggghhht. I just have one question though:

How is the UN going to accomplish this? Are they going to import little bulbous-headed men from Mars toting rayguns to take away our weapons? If so, I’m clinging to my copy of Slim Whitman singing “Indian Love Call” and you can’t have it until you pry it from my cold, dead fingers. Nosireebob.

Look, I recognize that the boundary between serious and seriously crazy has shifted considerably in recent years. But doesn’t this kind of …

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Pakistan: America’s friend and America’s enemy

Because we live in a time when the extraordinary has become ordinary, few people even batted at eye last week at remarks by America’s senior military official, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

In testimony to a Senate committee, Mullen publicly accused Pakistan — an American ally and recipient of $2 billion a year in military aid — of helping to carry out both a deadly, high-profile attack on the U.S. embassy in Kabul and the truck bombing of a NATO base that wounded 77 soldiers.

The Pakistan-based Haqqani network, which carried out the attacks, “acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency,” Mullen told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“With ISI support, Haqqani operatives planned and conducted that truck bomb attack, as well as the assault on our embassy,” he continued. “We also have credible evidence that they were behind the June 28th attack against the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul and a host of other smaller …

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Math doesn’t work on privatizing Social Security

Over the years, most if not all of the current Republican presidential field have advocated reforming Social Security by guaranteeing the benefits of those in or approaching retirement while giving younger Americans the option of putting at least some of their contributions in personal or private accounts.

Rick Perry, for example, has called Social Security “a monstrous lie” for young people, although he has backed off that recently. Michele Bachmann last year also talked of wanting to wean younger Americans off the program, although she too has softened that rhetoric. In the 2008 primaries, Mitt Romney repeatedly endorsed the privatization approach suggested by President Bush, repeating that support in his 2010 book. (Yes, he too has now changed his tune to a degree.) And Herman Cain has consistently advocated using the example of Chile as a model for how to privatize the program here in the United States.

Like President Bush in 2005, however, none of the candidates addresses …

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In the big leagues, September can be very cruel

As September began, the Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox were cruising to all-but-inevitable spots in the post-season. Today, after a month of some of the worst baseball by contending teams in MLB history, they are perilously close to going home early in what would be a pair of record-setting collapses.

Rick Perry can surely relate.

Gov. Rick Perry greets pitcher Mike Jackson after throwing out the first pitch in a 2001 Astros game (AP photo)

Gov. Rick Perry greets pitcher Mike Jackson after throwing out the first pitch in a 2001 Astros game (AP photo)

A month ago, the Texas governor was a formidable political figure. Within days of entering the GOP presidential race, he enjoyed double-digit leads in the polls, a growing campaign treasury and the enthusiastic backing of a Republican base excited to have a viable alternative to Mitt Romney.

“If (Rick) Perry can prove that he can perform on the national stage,” I wrote in late August, “the nomination is all but his and there’s nothing Romney can do about it.”

But Perry has done the opposite. In a series of debate performances, each one …

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Metro voters at least open to transportation tax

It would be great if next year’s region-wide referendum on a new transportation tax were to pass by the margin suggested in a newly released AJC poll. According to Mason-Dixon pollsters, 51 percent of registered voters say they would approve the one-penny tax, with just 36 percent opposed.

In fact, if repeated next year, such a result would be more than great. It would be downright shocking.

That’s not a reflection on the merits of the poll, which probably offers an accurate snapshot of public sentiment as it exists today. The only problem is, the vote won’t be held today. Given that Mason-Dixon found that just 29 percent of metro voters are even somewhat familiar with the proposed tax, a lot of minds are destined to change, one way or the other, in the months to come.

In fact, if the referendum does pass, I’d bet it would be by fewer than five percentage points. At the moment, even that would be a bit of an upset.

However, the poll results do offer a lot of pleasant surprises …

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‘It’s the end of the world as we’ve known it,’ how ya feeling?

Earlier in the week, I was trying to decide which John Coltrane cut I was going to post tonight, given that this would have been the saxophonist’s 85th birthday. Then, well, news happened. R.E.M. announced it was disbanding, which means Trane got pushed aside.

Sorry John (although the guys at R.E.M. are big fans of yours, I hear).

I came to R.E.M. relatively late, at least compared to a lot of folks here in Georgia. But from my first exposure I marveled at their distinctive sound and the fact that somehow, they could come off both lush and economical in their music. Their lyrics were special as well, often funny if absurdly opaque, reaching for and sometimes attaining poetry.

More than any band I can think of, you always wanted to know what their next album would sound like, because it was bound to head off in a new and interesting direction. Following their career was a musical adventure, and after 31 years it has now come to an end.

Thanks, guys. Here’s one of my favorites, …

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You’re gonna cut entitlements? Suuurrrre you are

Granted: The national debt is a serious challenge to our economic prosperity and national security, and according to every budget projection, the problem will become even more serious in the years ahead.

So what are we going to do about it? Cut entitlement spending?

No, you’re not.

Not by enough to matter, anyway. If you want proof, take a look at how quickly that Texas tough guy, Rick Perry, has tried to backpedal on all that bluster about Social Security. And at this point, remember, he’s still running in the Republican primary, where such views are supposed to be popular.

On the other hand, if looking at Rick Perry is more than you can bear, you can also look at this:

ssmed

Look at those numbers. If your plan for solving the debt crisis is to cut entitlements, you have no plan to solve the debt crisis.

The poll was conducted on behalf of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, which is grounds for approaching it with caution. However, it was conducted …

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An American soldier booed at GOP debate

At last night’s GOP debate, a soldier serving in Iraq asked an important question of Republican candidates for president:

Let me list several quick points:

– It’s important to note that not all or even most of the audience booed the soldier. But some clearly did. More importantly, the number of those booing is less important than the fact that none of the candidates on the stage dared to rise in the soldier’s defense and ask that he at least be given a basic level of respect for serving this country. All they saw was gay. As far as I can tell, the only candidate to have personally condemned the booing since the debate occurred has been Jon Huntsman.

– The mere act of appearing on that video took a degree of courage that those booing anonymously could never muster. (I’d also suggest that those who question the ability of gay soldiers to fight and defend this country might not be so willing to say so in this man’s immediate presence.)

– Finally, can you imagine the uproar if …

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