Archive for May, 2012

On policy, what distinguishes Mitt from George W.?

If I had the chance to ask Mitt Romney just one question at a debate or press conference, it would be pretty simple and straightforward:

“How do your economic policies differ from those that were championed by George W. Bush for eight years?”

I’ve read Romney’s economic platform and position statements and have followed his public statements closely. I am not aware of any position taken by the former Massachusetts governor that deviates in any substantive way from the policies pursued under He Would Must Not Be Blamed.

If that is incorrect, I would be happy to be corrected.

The same is true of foreign policy. That shouldn’t be surprising, I suppose, given that Romney’s foreign-policy team is dominated by former acolytes of Dick Cheney. But in both cases, Romney has yet to explain to the American people why almost identical policies to be pursued by an almost identical cast of characters will produce a different outcome this time.

– Jay Bookman

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Will Romney help to fight ‘prairie fire of debt’?


“When the men and women who settled the Iowa prairie saw a fire in the distance, they didn’t look around for someone else to save them or go back to sleep hoping the wind might blow another direction. They knew that their survival was up to them. A prairie fire of debt is sweeping across Iowa and our nation and every day we fail to act that fire gets closer to the homes and children we love.”

– Mitt Romney, campaigning in Iowa Tuesday

So I have a few questions:

Would Mitt Romney — he with $250 million in estimated wealth, the $100 million trust fund set aside for his sons and the $21 million in investment income last year alone — accept paying higher taxes as just PART of a larger national effort to stop this “prairie fire of debt” that threatens our nation’s survival?

Of course, nobody expects them to stop the fire on their own. They’re going to need a lot of help, and government spending is of course going to have to be cut. But given the apparent severity of this …

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What’s a (gay) guy gotta do to get some respect?


Tracy Thorne-Begland

Driven by what he calls “a sense of service to your country for a higher purpose,” Tracy Thorne-Begland served for 20 years as a Navy fighter pilot. Following an honorable discharge and after earning his law degree, the married father of two has worked as a prosecutor for the last 12 years in Richmond, Va.

Earlier this year, Thorne-Begland was nominated to become a district court judge in Richmond, a position that requires confirmation by the Virginia General Assembly. His sponsor in the House of Delegates, a Republican from Richmond, calls him “absolutely well-qualified” for the judgeship.

“He’s been doing his job and he’s been doing it well. He’s been protecting us from criminals,” Delegate Manoli Loupassi said. “I have known this man for a very long time and I believe that he absolutely will carry out the duties of his office in a dignified way and a correct way.”

Last night, however, Thorne-Begland’s nomination was rejected, falling 18 votes short of …

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Senate filibuster makes Washington unaccountable

The U.S. Senate, supposedly “the world’s greatest deliberative body,” has all but ceased to function. Judges aren’t being confirmed, executive appointments aren’t approved and basic legislation cannot be passed because of egregious abuse of the filibuster.

The situation has become intolerable. When a new Senate convenes in January, it ought to adopt proposed reforms that would make a filibuster much harder to invoke and sustain, and that would require it be done much more publicly.

Those changes ought to be made regardless of which party controls the Senate.

Until now, Senate leaders of both parties have balked at trying to reform the filibuster rule, in part out of a misplaced sense of tradition. However, there is nothing traditional in how the filibuster is now being abused. There is nothing in Senate tradition — and certainly nothing in the U.S. Constitution — that requires a 60-vote majority to pass even routine legislation. But as the chart below illustrates, that has …

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Sanctions putting real crunch on Iranian leadership

Tighter sanctions imposed on Iran are having a serious effect, the Washington Post reports. They’re having trouble selling their oil or getting it to market, and without oil revenues, the entire Iranian economy is threatened, as is the ability of the fundamentalist regime to maintain its grip on power:

As The Post reports:

An (International Energy Agency) report issued Friday said Iranian crude output was still relatively high, at 3.3 million barrels a day in April, down slightly from last year. But the agency said much of Iran’s unsold production is ending up in onshore and floating storage.

Estimates of Iranian crude added to floating storage in March and April have ranged from 450,000 to 800,000 barrels a day, the IEA said. An additional 20 million to 25 million barrels have been added to onshore storage facilities in recent months.

While countries such as Turkey and South Africa appear to have ramped up imports from Iran ahead of the July 1 sanctions deadline, some …

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GOP strategy on defense: Spend more, LOTS more

Last year, we spent more on our military than at any point since World War II, even after adjusting for inflation. But according to House Republicans, it isn’t enough.

Instead of cutting defense spending after our withdrawal from Iraq and pending wind-down from Afghanistan, they want to increase it. As U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., a member of the House Armed Services Committee, told CNN, “we’re moving dangerously close to the point where I don’t think we’ll be able to guarantee the security of the United States of America.”

That is also the position of GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Instead of drawing down the number of active-duty personnel after the buildup to handle deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, Romney proposes to increase active-duty troop levels by 100,000.

Romney also wants to spend a minimum of 4 percent of our gross domestic product on defense each year. In 2016 alone, that would mean an 18 percent increase — roughly another $100 billion a …

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Gay-marriage debate just a matter of time

NOTE: This post incorporates some material contained in earlier posts. It is published here as the electronic version of my Sunday AJC column.

Back in the mid-’80s, a gay-rights victory was defined as getting government to take the AIDS crisis seriously. Fighting for gay marriage was almost incomprehensible. So it was an important sign of progress when President Obama announced this week that after years of qualms, he too has come to support the right of gay couples to marry.

“When I meet gay and lesbian couples, when I meet same-sex couples, and I see how caring they are, how much love they have in their hearts, how they’re taking care of their kids,” he said in an interview. “When I hear from them the pain they feel that somehow they are still considered less than full citizens when it comes to their legal rights, then for me, I think it just has tipped the scales in that direction.”

The personal evolution that Obama describes is probably common to a lot of people. As long …

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For all the mothers out there, especially mine

– Jay Bookman

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Hittin’ the road on family business

Another boy gone into the family business, Justin Townes Earle — son of Steve, namesake of Van Zandt — does his heritage proud on “Harlem River Blues,” which I believe is a song of his own writing. A lot of musical strains, cultures and generations come together quite nicely here.

Speaking of generations, I gotta go fetch a college girl home, so have a good weekend, y’all, and be good for goodness’ sake.

Just not TOO good.

– Jay Bookman

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Why are the Catholic bishops investigating the Girl Scouts?

What in the name of Juliet Gordon Low is going on here?

Apparently lacking anything closer to home that might be worthy of investigation, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has launched an official inquiry into the Girl Scouts.

According to the Washington Post, “Potentially at stake is whether troops can continue meeting in Catholic churches, and whether many Catholic girls, who make up a quarter of the nation’s 3 million Girl Scouts, will continue in scouting as the organization marks its 100th year.”

And what exactly have the Girl Scouts done to attract such scrutiny? Nobody really knows for sure, and the bishops aren’t being clear. Over the past few years, we’ve seen sporadic outbursts of conservative anger at the Girl Scouts over alleged connections to Planned Parenthood and similar groups, but Scout leaders say such rumors are ridiculous and no evidence to the contrary has ever been produced.

But where did it come from? Where this misbegotten seed germinate?

Well, …

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