Archive for December, 2012

With New Year, a chance to dump ‘negative waves’

In cultures around the world, the arrival of a new year means more than the mere changing of the calendar. It is a time of cleansing and renewal, an opportunity to set past disappointments aside and to look ahead with optimism.

But let’s be honest: These are not the easiest of times in which to set aside fear in favor of optimism.

The financial meltdown of four or five years ago lingers like a hangover from a holiday party that went on much too long. The economy continues its slow recovery; Georgia’s unemployment rate last month was 8.5 percent, down a full percentage point from a year earlier and down almost two full percentage points from 2010. But it is sign of diminished expectations when a statewide jobless rate of 8.5 percent is considered evidence of progress.

And as too many of our fellow Americans know, those cold, impersonal numbers hide deep personal pain, loss and frustration. The American dream and its inherent promise that hard work will be rewarded no longer …

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Some travelin’ music to get us all home safely

We just spent a magical New England Christmas with my sister Lee Ann and her family, along with a gathering of the extended Bookman/Halunen clan. It was a perfect week, complete with a snowy Christmas Day, but life and home beckon. We’re now headed back to the ATL to kick off the new  year.

My brother-in-law and host, Reino, is among other things an avid amateur guitar player. In fact, one of the highlights of the holiday came when Reino presented a miniature electric guitar, complete with miniature amp, to his 5-year-old grandson, Nathan, with promises of guitar lessons to come.

Reino’s favorite blues guitar player is the late Gary Moore of Northern Ireland, best known in this country for his stint with Thin Lizzy. So in tribute to Reino and Lee Ann, and in thanks for their great hospitality, here’s Mr. Moore, performing one of his solo hits:

– Jay Bookman

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Christmas morning smiles all around

Welcome to Savannah's first Christmas, with a proud great-grandpa looking on.

Welcome to Savannah's first Christmas, with a proud great-grandpa looking on.

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Merry Christmas to all

– Jay Bookman

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In upstate New York, gunman targets, kills firefighters

For families of at least two firefighters in upstate New York, Christmas 2012 took a dark, ugly turn this morning.

WEBSTER, N.Y. (AP) — The police chief in Webster, N.Y., says that four firefighters were shot while responding to a blaze in the town near Rochester and that two are dead.

Chief Gerald Pickering says “one or more shooters” fired at the firefighters Monday morning. Officials say they had arrived at the scene of the blaze near the Lake Ontario shore around 6 a.m.

It’s not the kind of story that you want to be posting on Christmas Eve. But this is the reality in which we live, and which — we are told by some — we are helpless to improve upon.

I do not accept that.

– Jay Bookman

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‘Now the time has come; there is no place to run’

As we all know, the Mayan long-count calendar comes to an end today, at the winter solstice of the 13th b’ak’tun. And there are three basic interpretations of what happens next:

A.) Nothing.

B.) A new era begins, dramatically different from that which came before.

C.) It all ends. Everything. Kaput. Finito. Put a period on that sucker.

"I swear, these people will believe almost ANYTHING!"

"I swear, these fools will believe almost ANYTHING!"

Option A, while most likely, is also the least amount of fun. Totally boring.

Option B, on the other hand, offers far more opportunities for exploration. Might we really be at the dawning of a new age? There are some who say we might very well be.

Consider, for example, the fact that the last time the Mayan long-count calender flipped over was some 5,129 years ago. And what was happening around that time frame?

A lot, as it turns out. Roughly 5,000 years ago, the Stone Age ends. Early agriculture begins in North Africa. Troy is founded. Betty White is born. Stonehenge is built. Cities …

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NRA hasn’t changed its blustering self

I had to smile, and not happily, when I read this from Politico:

“The National Rifle Association stunned Washington observers Friday when the group’s CEO announced a plan to install armed guards at every school in the country — its response to the Connecticut shooting last week that left 20 children dead…

… Close observers had expected the NRA to strike a more cooperative tone at the unusual press conference, as pressure is mounting in Washington for reform.”

I don’t know who these “close observers” might be, but most people who have paid attention to the NRA over the years are not stunned or surprised in the least. “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” NRA executive Wayne LaPierre told the press conference, in statements that could have been scripted five years ago.

LaPierre did make valid points in his statement about the need to improve school security and, oddly, about the dangerous Cult of Guns. But he made not the slightest nod toward …

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House conservatives obsessed with playing Samson

Wile-E-Coyote_falling

Last night, rebellious Republican congressmen sent Plan B to outer space, banished their speaker to the corner and sent a message to the American people that yes, we really are this crazy.

In the end, voting for permanent tax cuts for 99.81 percent of Americans turned out to be unacceptable to those obsessed with maintaining 100 percent ideological purity. Downtrodden millionaires and billionaires must be protected, whatever the cost.

121205_boehner_ap_605Afterward, Speaker John Boehner seemed to throw up his hands in frustration at his own caucus.

“The House did not take up the tax measure today because it did not have sufficient support from our members to pass,” Boehner said in a prepared statement. “Now it is up to the president to work with Sen. Reid on legislation to avert the fiscal cliff.”

Boehner made no public statement and took no questions.

On critical issues of taxation and spending, this represents an enormous loss of clout for Boehner. To get future fiscal-cliff legislation through …

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Man, I would not like to be John Boehner these days

John Boehner is not acting like a confident man.

Yesterday, the House speaker made a curt, 52-second public statement regarding fiscal-cliff negotiations and then turned and left the room, unwilling to take a question.

Later in the day, the AJC’s Daniel Malloy saw Boehner in a heated discussion with a handful of Georgia Republicans on the House floor. Asked about it later, they told Malloy that Boehner was pleading with them to support his so-called Plan B, which would raise taxes only on those with annual incomes of more than $1 million. At best, they seem unconvinced.

The speaker’s proposal — floated as a way to demonstrate that House Republicans are “serious” about deficit reduction — is scheduled to be voted on today. There’s a chance that it will go down to defeat if enough of Boehner’s fellow Republicans refuse to support it on grounds that it raises taxes, if only on the top 0.19 percent of earners.

It’s also interesting to note that Pope Grover I of Norquist has …

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The mundane facts behind Benghazi tragedy emerge

A gunman preens for the camera while the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi burns in the background. (AP)

A gunman preens for the camera while the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi burns in the background. (AP)

As expected, the independent Accountability Review Board investigation into the tragic death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi has found more than enough blame to go around.

But before we get into the details, let’s get the various conspiracy-theory stuff out of the way:

– The board, led by retired diplomat Thomas Pickering and retired Admiral Mike Mullen, former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, once again made it clear “that there was no protest prior to the attacks, which were unanticipated in their scale and intensity.” However, because its work was focused on the attack itself, rather than its aftermath or the politics involved, the board did not discuss whether U.S. officials had legitimate intelligence reasons to believe that such a protest had occurred or whether politics played any role in how the tragedy was presented to the …

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