Archive for October, 2011

So, how’s that fancy toll-lane project working for you?

The public’s frustration and outrage over the state-imposed HOT lanes on I-85 has been entirely predictable. So too has been the state’s mishandling of the issue.

Georgia’s transportation leadership has long treated voters more as sheep to be manipulated than as customers to be heeded. Roads, for example, have traditionally gone not where they were needed, but where they would do politicians the most good. And that high-handed approach has been particularly noticeable when it comes to toll-road policy.

The history is familiar: Back when the decision was made to build Georgia 400 as a toll road, angry citizens were bought off with the pledge that tolls would end once the bonds were retired. Yet when the time came, that high-profile promise was broken. The State Road and Tollway Authority — a body chaired by the governor, and under the governor’s total control — simply voted it out of existence.

Then there’s the time a few years ago when, with very little fanfare, the state …

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This is like Ann Coulter calling you skinny

OK, just how far right has the modern Republican Party gone?

Would you believe …

– Jay Bookman

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Rick Perry’s whacked-out ‘tax-reform’ plan

Gov. Rick Perry’s proposed tax-reform plan is not merely “loco”. As they say in Texas, it’s muy loco.

In the first place, it creates two tax structures that would co-exist side by side — the current system and a flat 20-percent system. Taxpayers would be able to choose which system they prefer to pay taxes under.

Perry’s proposed flat-tax system includes a standard deduction of $12,500 a person. It retains the mortgage-interest deduction for all those earning less than $500,000. It includes deductions for charity and for state and local taxes.

So pretend that you’re a family of five with an income of $88,500, roughly twice the median household income. You pay $15,000 a year in mortgage interest, make $2,000 a year in charitable contributions and pay $9,000 in state and local taxes. Under Perry’s plan, you would pay not a penny in federal income taxes. This, from a man who has been going around the country complaining that too many Americans pay no income taxes (even though …

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Why did Romney react so harshly to news of Iraqi withdrawal?

Last week, after President Obama’s announcement that U.S. troops would leave Iraq by the end of the year, GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney responded with a particularly harsh attack:

“President Obama’s astonishing failure to secure an orderly transition in Iraq has unnecessarily put at risk the victories that were won through the blood and sacrifice of thousands of American men and women. The unavoidable question is whether this decision is the result of a naked political calculation or simply sheer ineptitude in negotiations with the Iraqi government. The American people deserve to hear the recommendations that were made by our military commanders in Iraq.”

To many ears, the outburst seemed overwrought and tone deaf. From the beginning of our negotiations with Iraq dating back to the Bush administration, the most difficult stumbling block has been the guarantee of legal immunity for U.S. troops stationed in that country. The Bush administration wanted to ensure that if our …

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More evidence that Iraq, Afghan wars have stretched too long

From the LA Times:

Domeij-165

A U.S. Army Ranger from San Diego has been killed in combat in Afghanistan, the Pentagon announced Sunday.

Sgt. 1st Class Kristoffer Domeij, 29, was killed Saturday in Kandahar province when his unit was attacked by the enemy with an improvised explosive device.

Domeij enlisted in the Army in 2001 and joined the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington in 2002. He was on his 14th combat deployment.

—————–

Fourteen combat deployments in a 10-year military career. (According to the Pentagon, Domeij enlisted in July 2001, before the terror attacks of that September.) You have to wonder what that does to a person, and to his family. Even had he survived, that’s an awful lot to ask of a soldier, and the soldier’s family. (Sgt. Domeij leaves behind his wife, Sarah, and daughters Mikajsa and Aaliyah.)

Also killed in the attack were 1st Lt. Ashley White, 24, and Pfc. Christopher A. Horns, 20.

– Jay Bookman …

Continue reading More evidence that Iraq, Afghan wars have stretched too long »

Climate-change skeptic: ‘You should not be a skeptic.’

Richard Muller, a physics professor at Cal-Berkeley, has been a celebrated skeptic about the true extent of climate change.

Muller has questioned whether the data had been skewed by the “heat-island effect.” He has had his doubts about the so-called “hockey stick,” which shows global temperatures rising much faster since the early 19th century than at any point in the last thousand years. In the past, he has called the hockey stick “an incredible error” and “the artifact of poor mathematics.” And he has been quite harsh in his condemnation of fellow scientists involved in the s0-called ClimateGate scandal:

“I frankly as a scientist — I now have a list of people whose papers I’m won’t read anymore. You’re not allowed to do this in science. This is not up to our standards.”

So Muller, acting in the best traditions of science, decided to redo that work. He put together a top-notch team that included Saul Perlmutter, who just recently won the Nobel Prize in physics, and Judith …

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Ga. legislators succumbing to rainmakers’ spiel

Back in the old days, a breed known as “rainmakers” would travel rural, unsophisticated areas of the country promising that — for an upfront fee of course — they could bring rain to drought-stricken farmland. If you read Sunday’s story by the AJC’s James Salzer, you might come to the conclusion that the breed has never gone away entirely. It has merely changed its sales pitch.

As Salzer reports, out-of-state companies have come to Georgia pitching what they call CAPCOs. It works like this:

1.) Thanks to a new law, insurance companies are given the right to contribute up to $125 million to private CAPCOs that otherwise would have been paid to the state. (The insurance companies are later repaid a share of that $125 million as an inducement to participate).

2.) CAPCO operators — the people pushing the plan in Georgia — use the $125 million to invest in local small businesses. They get paid management fees for handling the money. Even though it’s not their capital at risk, they …

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Tonight, travelin’ music that is very well-traveled indeed

I posted a more traditional, sedate version of this much-traveled song earlier, in the post about the coming end of U.S. military involvement in Iraq. It began its life as “Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye,” an early 19th-century Irish folksong that bewails the fate of Irishmen lured into fighting on Britain’s behalf overseas.

From there it became a favorite song of the U.S. Civil War, insinuating itself into the American military tradition as “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again.” As kids, we used to sing our own playground parody of the song, in that case about ants that go “marching down, to the ground, to get out of the rain….”

And here, with their own much-different version, the great English band the Clash, from 1979:

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Romney: Iraq withdrawal ‘astonishing failure’ by Obama

This is how Mitt Romney responded to today’s announcement by President Obama that all U.S. troops — except those needed to guard the U.S. embassy — would be brought home by the end of this year:

“President Obama’s astonishing failure to secure an orderly transition in Iraq has unnecessarily put at risk the victories that were won through the blood and sacrifice of thousands of American men and women. The unavoidable question is whether this decision is the result of a naked political calculation or simply sheer ineptitude in negotiations with the Iraqi government. The American people deserve to hear the recommendations that were made by our military commanders in Iraq.”

It is hard to describe the utter foolishness of that remark.

The current agreement requiring the United States to leave Iraq by the end of the year was negotiated and signed by President Bush in 2008. Bush pushed hard to get a long-term extension, but in the end he failed because the Iraqi Parliament …

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Obama: By end of year, ‘America’s war in Iraq will be over’

President Obama:

“As promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of year.  After nearly 9 years, America’s war in Iraq will be over. Over the next two months, our troops in Iraq– tens of thousands of them — will pack up their gear and board convoys for the journey home. The last Americans soldiers will cross the border out of Iraq with their heads held high. proud of their success and knowing that the American people stand united in our support for our troops. That is how America’s military efforts in Iraq will end. “

UPDATE AT 3:35:

Here’s the response of Mitt Romney, the GOP frontrunner:

“President Obama’s astonishing failure to secure an orderly transition in Iraq has unnecessarily put at risk the victories that were won through the blood and sacrifice of thousands of American men and women. The unavoidable question is whether this decision is the result of a naked political calculation or simply sheer ineptitude in negotiations with the Iraqi …

Continue reading Obama: By end of year, ‘America’s war in Iraq will be over’ »