Archive for May, 2012

The bait-and-switch tactic driving Georgia’s education debate

The school-choice and voucher movement has long tried to sell itself to the public as a public-spirited crusade to allow low-income, often minority and inner-city students to escape bad public schools.

However, critics of the movement have long suspected that it was something else entirely. They have argued that the movement was actually an ill-disguised scam to divert public taxpayer money to private schools that serve a middle-class clientele, with the plight of poor students being used as a cynical cover.

Sadly, there is overwhelming evidence that in Georgia, the second interpretation is the correct interpretation.

The biggest success of the school-choice movement in Georgia came in 2008, when the state Legislature passed a “scholarship program” supposedly intended to help lower-income students attend private schools. Under the law, individuals and corporations who donate to a “student scholarship organization” can receive a dollar-for-dollar credit against their state …

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Facebook, patriotism, taxes and fair play

Eduardo Saverin, who became a billionaire as a co-founder of Facebook, has renounced his American citizenship and instead become a citizen of low-tax Singapore.

The decision means that Saverin will save at least $67 million in federal taxes; by some accounts, his long-term tax savings may be several times that much. Naturally, that decision has brought harsh criticism both of Saverin’s opportunism and of existing law that encourages such tax-driven citizenship transfers.

Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I don’t think of citizenship as something that ought to be so fungible. Just as you don’t run off to Canada to avoid the draft, you don’t run to Singapore to avoid your taxes. You meet your obligations.

But even if that doesn’t bother you, even if you want to judge the situation in strictly business terms, Saverin and others in his situation are taking financial advantage of this country and its citizens. Out of our sense of self-interest, we ought to take steps to defend …

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Afghanistan and somber reality

After his meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Chicago over the weekend, President Obama reiterated his support for a plan calling for Afghan troops to bear more and more of the military burden, culminating in a withdrawal of U.S. and other NATO combat troops by 2014.

At that point, he said, the Afghan war “as we understood it is over.”

“The Strategic Partnership Agreement, this NATO summit, are all part and parcel of a shared vision that we have in which Afghanistan is able to transition from decades of war to a transformational decade of peace and stability and development,” Obama said.

That’s the kind of thing that political leaders are expected to say on such occasions, but “a transformational decade of peace and stability and development” remains extremely unlikely for Afghanistan, and all involved know it. We have inflicted a long series of defeats on the Taliban opposition, but we have not defeated them. That’s in large part because the Taliban are an integral …

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No, Speaker Ralston. Ethics reform is not a partisan issue

If you believe House Speaker David Ralston, ethics reform is a liberal cause backed by liberal groups and the liberal media, and conservatives who join the campaign for ethics reform are being played for suckers in an attempt to divide the Republican Party.

“In times of great majorities like we enjoy now, we must remember that there are those around us who seek nothing less than to divide us. There are those who would sow the seeds of dissension and discord in order to advance a self-absorbed agenda that’s not consistent with the best interests of our party.

Let me be very clear. Regardless of the course that others may take, as for me and the people’s House of this state, we are going to stand united, working hard, standing Republican shoulder to Republican shoulder, to make Georgia a better state — and not align ourselves with media elites and liberal special interest groups. …”

That statement — uttered by Ralston at the state GOP convention in Columbus Friday — is …

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Travelin’ music for those headed “Home”

It’s mid-May and the warm weather is here. Of course, it’s been here since February, so it’s no big deal I guess. The march of the seasons are now summer to spring and then back to summer.

But hey, I don’t mean to get all political on a Friday afternoon. It’s just that it’s neighborhood festival time again in Atlanta. This weekend offers Tunes from the Tombs in historic Oakland Cemetery, with bands playing at five different stages scattered through the property. We attended at last year’s inaugural event and had a (sur)real blast. Nothing makes you more grateful to be alive than sitting in a cemetery drinking a cold beer, enjoying the sun, the music and the company.

And two weeks from now comes the Virginia-Highland Summerfest, featuring more live music and beer in addition to hundreds of craft and artist booths. Among the highlights will be Lousiana’s own Marc Broussard, featured in tonight’s video.

Before we get to that, though, I’d like to make a quick announcement. I …

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The ‘Obama-hates-America-and-hates-white-people’ industry

"Gee, I really wish they wouldn't do that."

"Gee, I really wish they wouldn't do that."

One of Mitt Romney’s biggest challenges as the Republican nominee will be trying to suppress the strain of brain-eating crazy that has infected parts of his party and the conservative movement. He can’t reject it directly — he has neither the political standing nor the strength to do so — but he also can’t let it poison his campaign in the minds of independents and moderates.

But it’s not going to be easy.

Yesterday, for example, Romney was forced to repudiate a proposed ad campaign by a GOP SuperPAC that would have focused on President Obama’s ties to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, suggesting that Obama is in some vague way “anti-white.”

To his credit, and to the credit of John McCain before him, Romney wanted nothing to do with such an approach, which was to have been funded by TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts. Part of his rejection is pure pragmatism: Romney, like McCain, understands that such an approach would be politically …

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Weird news of the day: Top Ga. Republicans back major tax hike

Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, is campaigning around the state for passage of the regional transportation tax. He is also helping to raise private contributions to fund voter outreach in support of the plan.

And he’s not alone.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, also a Republican, has hit the speaking circuit as well, warning that the state cannot simply cut its way to prosperity but instead must be willing to invest in itself in order to grow. Passage of the TSPLOST, he says, is critical to that growth.

U.S. Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, also Republicans, have also expressed public support for passage of the TSPLOST, which if approved by voters in July will impose a one-penny sales tax for 10 years to build transportation infrastructure.

Think about that: The four most high-profile Republican officeholders in Georgia — all four of whom have signed the infamous pledge to oppose “any and all efforts to increase taxes” — have expressed public support for a tax hike. In the case …

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Donna Summer, 1948-2012

You almost needed to be there.

– Jay Bookman

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A demographic tipping point? No, a mere statistical blip

From the Washington Post:

For the first time in U.S. history, most of the nation’s babies are members of minority groups, according to new census figures that signal the dawn of an era in which whites no longer will be in the majority.

Population estimates show that 50.4 percent of children younger than 1 last year were Hispanic, black, Asian American or in other minority groups. That’s almost a full percentage point higher than the 49.5 percent of minority babies counted when the decennial census was taken in April 2010. Census Bureau demographers said the tipping point came three months later, in July….

“Eventually, when the economy returns, we’re going to get more immigrants, maybe not from Mexico but from other parts of the world,” (William Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution) said. Without so many youthful immigrants, he added, the United States would look more like Japan, with its disproportionate share of elderly citizens.

“We were already …

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Let’s unleash the true power of the job creators!

With a net worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $1 billion, venture capitalist Nick Hanauer is very successful at what he does. Among other smart moves, he was an early investor in Amazon.

Like many of his peers, Hanauer has strong opinions about the wisdom of taxing the rich and the importance of what have come to be called “job creators.” Here’s part of what he had to say on the subject in a recent speech (full text available here):

“I have started or helped start, dozens of businesses and initially hired lots of people. But if no one could have afforded to buy what we had to sell, my businesses would all have failed and all those jobs would have evaporated.

That’s why I can say with confidence that rich people don’t create jobs, nor do businesses, large or small. What does lead to more employment is a “circle of life”-like feedback loop between customers and businesses. And only consumers can set in motion this virtuous cycle of increasing demand and hiring. In this …

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