Archive for December, 2011

A little history and herstory to kick off the weekend

Last week we toyed around with old school and new school. So let’s try a little old school and WAY old school, kicking the night off with an ancient blues number written by Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe McCoy. It’s a song about the Great Mississippi Flood of ‘27 that flooded tens of thousands of square miles over months at a time and probably changed this country more profoundly than any single event other than the Civil War, even though most Americans are barely aware it occurred.

More recently of course, some long-hairs from England went and copied the song and made it famous. But rather than play that version, I thought we’d change it up a bit and post the Led Zeppelin version as covered by a group right out of Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love.” Just for fun, you know.

Have a great weekend all….

– Jay Bookman

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TSA officers the target of congressional pettiness

I don’t like petty little bullies who pick on people beneath their station to make themselves feel better.

Consider, for example, HR 3608, introduced yesterday by U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee and co-sponsored by Lynn Westmoreland and Phil Gingrey, both Georgia Republicans. It’s a petty little bill put to a petty little purpose.

Seeking to tap into public frustration with airport security screeners, HR 3608 would do just two things: First, it would strip employees of the Transportation Security Administration of the right to be referred to as officers. Calling them “officers” is apparently too good for them.

Second, the bill would strip TSA officers of the badges that they wear on their uniforms, again to remind them of their proper and very low place in the scheme of things. No reason to let them get “uppity” or take professsional pride in their duty.

Look, I’m no great fan of airport security screening, and there are plenty of examples of bad judgment …

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Memo provides insight into ethics probe of Gov. Deal

UPDATE @12:15 p.m.: Walls has just posted a second item, detailing the less-than-aggressive investigation conducted by the state Office of Inspector General into any possible role played by Gov. Deal in the removal of Kalberman and Streicker. As Walls also notes, the state inspector general reports directly to the governor.

Jim Walls, a former AJC colleague, an excellent investigative journalist and now operator of the Atlanta Unfiltered site, has unearthed some interesting information to update a story regarding the state ethics commission, Gov. Nathan Deal and federal investigators.

Some of you may recall a strange chain of events last summer in which the then-director of the ethics commission, Stacey Kalberman, and her chief investigator, Sherylin Streicker, were forced out of their jobs after seeking to subpoena records from Deal’s gubernatorial campaign. (See blog items here and here.)

The story at the time was that their removal was budget-related and had nothing to do …

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Forcing jobless to work for non-profits adds insult to injury

Given the economy, you may know someone — a friend, family member or maybe a former colleague — who has been forced to accept unemployment benefits. I know I do.

In fact, we probably know more people in that circumstance than we realize, because it’s not the kind of thing that people like to talk about. They aren’t proud of accepting unemployment, not in the least. They have not only lost the income that they and their families relied upon, many have lost the career that gave them their identity. Having to accept unemployment only adds to the sense of embarrassment and failure.

State Sen. John Albers, Republican of Roswell, feels their pain. Or so he claims. He has sponsored a bill that would require the jobless to “volunteer” at a nonprofit for at least 24 hours a week as a condition of receiving an unemployment check, just so they feel better about themselves. He calls it “The Dignity for the Unemployed Act.”

Personally, that title reeks of condescension, as does the bill …

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GOP leadership blocks congressional insider-trading ban

Remember that push to ban “insider trading” by members of Congress?

It’s been squished. Squashed. Skuttled. Squelched. Smothered like an order of Waffle House hash browns.

As Politico reports, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Spencer Bachus, who had been pushing the bill, was called into Eric Cantor’s office and told in no uncertain terms to make sure the bill was killed.

Bachus has dutifully done his master’s bidding.

Bachus, an Alabama Republican, had been skewered by a recent “60 Minutes” investigation that documented how he used information culled from high-level congressional meetings during the ‘08 financial crisis to make tens of thousands of dollars in profits. The so-called STOCK bill — Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge — was to have been his redemption.

He will now remain unredeemed, and insider trading among members of Congress will remain unrestrained.

– Jay Bookman

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Multiple victims in new Va. Tech shooting; gunman still at large

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I just pulled the above update off the website of Virginia Tech, which four years ago was the site of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, with 32 people killed. Given that history, you have to believe that campus police there have a very muscular plan in place to deal with such situations.

Some Georgia legislators, backed by a group of students at Georgia Tech, believe that the answer to such crisis is to let students keep and carry guns on campus, and have once again begun lobbying for a bill that would allow students to carry firearms on the state’s college campuses. University officials, alarmed at the notion of untrained students firing wildly, and of the volatile mixture of college kids, alcohol and firearms within easy reach, continue to reject the notion.

I know we all hope that the Virginia Tech case is resolved quickly. But I suspect you’re going to hear echoes of this latest Va. Tech incident for months here in Georgia.

– Jay Bookman

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Romney camp in ‘near panic’ over Newt, and for very good reason

Is Newt Gingrich a realistic threat to win the GOP nomination?

The Romney campaign certainly seems to think so. Ron Fournier, writing in National Journal, reports that “Romney’s campaign is in a state of near panic.” The campaign put together a conference call with reporters featuring prominent GOP officials who lambasted Gingrich in terms that you rarely hear within a political party:

“The speaker is running as a reliable and trusted conservative leader. What we’re here to say, with reluctance, but clearly, is he is not a reliable or trustworthy conservative leader,” Sen. Jim Talent told reporters on a conference call arranged by the Romney campaign.

After that bit of throat-clearing, former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu ventured beyond the bounds of a typical political attack, signaling how seriously — and, perhaps, desperately — the Romney camp is taking Gingrich’s rise. He called Gingrich’s criticism of Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan, beloved by most conservatives, “an …

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The GOP reality show proving discouraging even to Republicans

To some conservatives, politics is a conflict less about good government and how to fix problems than it is about government “reflecting our values.” I don’t usually subscribe to that notion, but after watching this ad from Rick Perry, I might have to change my mind.

The values on display in that little 30-second snippet are not my values, and not those I associate with the country I love. In that America, you don’t drag religion center-stage in a political fight and use it as a weapon against your enemies, and you don’t unite your supporters by smugly identifying a particular group for scorn and repression, as Perry does with gay Americans. The pastoral setting and mellow music featured in the ad can’t disguise the undercurrent of nastiness that runs through it, a nastiness that conflicts with the religion that is being touted.

In facts, ads like that may help explain why the GOP presidential field doesn’t seem to be wearing well on people, even Republicans. For example,

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What does big money say about ‘Obama is socialist’ meme?

We’ve all heard and read the rhetoric: President Obama has made it impossible to make a profit in this country and as a result the wealthy are going to take their money elsewhere and leave the United States high and dry. It’s usually accompanied by talk of corporate income tax rates and overregulation and in some cases socialism and Marxism and hating America.

There are various indicators to prove that’s so much garbage. There’s the fact that corporate profits have reached an all-time high under Obama, as expressed in this chart from the St. Louis Federal Reserve:

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And then there’s the fact that the stock market has risen by more than 33 percent during Obama’s presidency, more quickly than under any previous U.S. president in history:

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And now there’s this as well: A poll of international investors conducted by Bloomberg reports that the United States is by far the investors’ favorite investment climate, cited by more than twice as many investors as the next two countries, …

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In Georgia, leaders plot class warfare on the middle class

With the state economy stuck in neutral, Georgia legislators are coming up with all kinds of neat ideas to restore growth and jobs. But it’s funny — in a not-so-funny way — how many of the ideas are founded on the same general theme:

They want to take money out of your pocket and give it to other people who don’t need it as much as you do.

We have, for example, the concept of CAPCOs. Under legislation that has already cleared the state House, up to $125 million of taxes that would otherwise be paid by state insurance companies would be diverted away from state government and given away to private investors. And no, I’m not exaggerating.  It would almost literally be given away. The investors in question — taking no risk themselves — would get to keep those tax dollars, as well as any profits the investment might produce.

In the terminology favored by state legislative leaders, this is an economic development proposal. In the terminology of most other people, it is a Stealthy …

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