Archive for January, 2013

In the end, it’s not about race, it’s about people


Race is a complicated topic. Race in the South is more complicated still. And race in the South in the 1960s had more layers of complexity than Lance Armstrong has lies.

Take, for example, the photograph above, in which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is being arrested by Laurie Pritchett, the big, blustery police chief of Albany, Ga. It was a scene repeated many times during the civil rights movement, in towns all over the South, as King led the crusade to end segregation. But there’s a lot more going on in that photograph than first impressions and stereotypes might lead you to believe.

Beginning in November of 1961, Albany had become the national focus of civil rights protests. Led by King, who had been invited down to Albany from Atlanta by the town’s black leadership, black citizens used an endless string of non-violent mass protests and sit-ins to demand their constitutional rights and an end to segregation. The on-going movement attracted reporters from around the world to …

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Chip Rogers’ price a cool $150,000

From Kristina Torres of the AJC:

Former state Sen. Chip Rogers will start his new job Tuesday earning a lofty $150,000 – making him the seventh executive at Georgia Public Broadcasting earning six figures annually, despite a rather pedestrian title: “Executive producer, community jobs program.”

The position, like others at GPB, is paid solely through state taxpayers’ money. But it is more than Gov. Nathan Deal and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle each make in their public jobs.

And it is more than what some of Rogers’ new colleagues made in the last fiscal year, including GBP’s vice president for radio and its chief information officer.

Rogers, of course, is the former Senate majority leader whose crank theories — land-use planning is a UN conspiracy to take over the country; Georgians must be legally protected from microchips being implanted in their brains — made him an embarrassment. His colorful business dealings — claiming that he could not be held liable for a major loan …

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Black Keys hitting the right keys to see y’all home

In hindsight, I’ve fallen into a Friday theme of featuring younger artists who are revitalizing and reinterpreting traditional American genres, from soul to bluegrass to blues. Here’s another great example, the Black Keys, from Akron, Ohio, hitting that sweet spot right between rock and roll and blues in their song “Howlin’ For You.”

– Jay Bookman

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House GOP blows smoke to cover hasty retreat

As face-saving efforts go, this one’s pretty meager.

Breaking from a three-day private conference, House Republicans today acknowledged that they are retreating from their demands for major entitlement cuts in return for raising the debt ceiling. But they do have conditions.

First, they will agree to extend the debt-ceiling limit only for three months, meaning that they intend to put us through this vapid exercise time and again, a process that should do wonders for confidence in the financial markets. It’s petty gamesmanship, particularly from a party that has done so much whining about government-caused “uncertainty.”

Second, they will extend the debt ceiling further if and only if the Senate passes a budget resolution by April 15.

And if the Senate doesn’t do as the House demands by passing a legally meaningless budget resolution? Will the House retaliate by forcing a default on our national debt, pushing the economy into a likely recession?

No. It will not. And people …

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GOP leaders moonwalk away from debt-ceiling Armageddon

Slowly, painfully, political reality has begun to dawn on Washington Republicans and their supporters: If they force a major battle over the debt ceiling — a battle that they have acted oh-so-eager to fight — they are guaranteed to lose, and to lose badly.

Such a battle would be fought against superior forces, and on ill-chosen ground. The president’s approval rating are consistently above 50 percent; Congress has an approval rating of 14 percent. While Republicans still hold the House majority, they lost seats in the 2012 election and acknowledge that they held onto the majority only because of gerrymandering. Majorities of Republican voters reject key proponents of the GOP agenda, including cuts to Social Security and Medicare. In fact, 63 percent of GOP voters say the congressional GOP is out of touch. (That’s a Rasmussen number, by the way.)

And according to a new AP poll, 80 percent of Americans say that refusing to raise the debt ceiling, as House and Senate Republicans …

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Guns, hot sauce and testosterone a spicy mix

In 2006, researchers at Knox College in Illinois performed a study on college men ages 18 to 22. Here’s how the study abstract reads:

“We tested whether interacting with a gun increased testosterone levels and later aggressive behavior. Thirty male college students provided a saliva sample (for testosterone assay), interacted with either a gun or a children’s toy for 15 min, and then provided another saliva sample. Next, subjects added as much hot sauce as they wanted to a cup of water they believed another subject would have to drink. Males who interacted with the gun showed significantly greater increases in testosterone and added more hot sauce to the water than did those who interacted with the children’s toy.”

The men were told that they were being studied to determine whether paying close attention to a task altered their later sensitivity to taste. They were tested for initial testosterone levels, and half were then asked to dismantle and reassemble the old “Mousetrap” …

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Second Amendment is not license for treason, armed revolt

According to some, the primary purpose of the Second Amendment is to ensure that citizens have enough firepower to overthrow the federal government, should it become necessary to do so. If the government ever loses its fear of such a revolt, the theory goes, our liberty ends and tyranny begins.

Let me be blunt: That is mythological claptrap. But like a lot of mythological claptrap, it can push weak-minded people — the Timothy McVeighs of the world — to do stupid and dangerous things.

It is certainly true that when the Second Amendment was drafted back in the 18th century, it was plausible to believe that an armed citizenry could be a check on overweening government power. Back then, there wasn’t much difference in the weapons available to private citizens and the weapons available to the military. It could have been, and sometimes was, a more or less even fight.

Today, that is no longer the case, and it hasn’t been the case for a century or longer. Around the world, …

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Obama’s gun-safety agenda a great place to start debate

The list of legislative proposals and executive actions outlined by President Obama is, as he promised, wide-ranging and ambitious.

Among other things, it includes a proposal to put as many as 1,000 federally funded, armed police officers in schools; boost the identification and treatment of the mentally ill; and fund research through the Centers for Disease Control into possible links between “media images, video games and violence.”

Each of the above steps endorsed by Obama has also been advocated by the National Rifle Association and other conservative groups. However, as the president noted, this is a problem too profound and complicated to be addressed successfully by such policies alone.

The most controversial and ambitious proposal is the banning of assault weapons. The gun lobby points out that under the president’s proposal, other weapons possessing similar firepower would not be banned, raising questions about the motivation and effectiveness of such a ban.

However, …

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The ever-subtle geniuses at the NRA strike again

The National Rifle Association is not exactly renowned for its subtlety and sense of decorum. It does not persuade; it bullies. It does not discuss; it shouts. And decades of exposure to its own shouting have left it tone-deaf.

The NRA’s newest ad continues in the long tradition.

As the NRA apparently sees it, it is hypocritical and elitist for the president to protect his two daughters against kidnap efforts or physical attack by enemies foreign or domestic unless every other child in America also gets his or her own personal Secret Service detail.

– Jay Bookman

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How subparagraph (3) undercuts Senate ethics reform

If you were under the illusion that ethics reform was basically a “done deal” in the 2013 General Assembly — if you thought that our elected officials finally understand the impropriety of accepting lavish meals, hospitality and other gifts from lobbyists — the new ethics rules approved by the state Senate Monday ought to clarify the situation.

The rules, adopted by a vote of 42-12, look fairly straightforward at first. They state, for example, that “no senator shall accept any gift, other than those specified in subparagraph (3) of this paragraph, with a value in excess of $100 from a registered lobbyist.”

Ahh, but what does that pesky “subparagraph (3)” say?

Among other things, it lists several occasions on which the much-ballyhooed $100 limit doesn’t apply. For example, it doesn’t apply to “expenses for admission, registration, food, beverages, travel, and lodging attributed to participating in events, seminars, or educational programs sponsored by or in conjunction with a …

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