Archive for the ‘Georgia Legislature’ Category

Beverly Hall indictment a stunning turn of events

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2009 Superintendent of the Year Beverly Hall

It shouldn’t be so stunning, but it is.

Former Atlanta School Superintendent Beverly Hall — a one-time national superintendent of the year who ran the Atlanta school district with an authoritarian hand — has been indicted on racketeering and other charges, as have 34 other administrators, principals, teachers and others, in the Atlanta cheating scandal.

If convicted, Hall faces as much as 45 years in jail, and the grand jury has recommended that bail be set at $7.5 million. Given that Hall is not a great threat to flee the country and poses no danger to anyone, that bail recommendation sounds exorbitant. Frankly, it sets off warning signals that the case itself may be an overreaction, but we will see.

I’m not trying to defend Hall by any means. If she did do the crime, she should do the time, although it is possible that the charges will be bargained down if she admits guilt and returns the bonuses “earned” through cheating. As it …

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North Koreans get a little reminder

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An angry North Korea has cut the last remaining military hotlines with South Korea, raising tensions between the countries still further.

“There do not exist any dialogue channel and communications means between (North Korea) and the U.S. and between the North and the South,” the North Korean regime announced. “Not words but only arms will work on the U.S. and the South Korean puppet forces.”

That came after previous statements from the North Korea military claiming that its missiles “are assigned to strike bases of the U.S. imperialist aggressor troops in the U.S. mainland and on Hawaii and Guam and other operational zones in the Pacific as well as all the enemy targets in South Korea and its vicinity.”

“They should be mindful that everything will be reduced to ashes and flames the moment the first attack is unleashed.”

The United States has now responded with a message of its own, announcing that it sent two nuclear-capable B-2 Stealth bombers from Whiteman Air Force Base …

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Health-care costs consuming our national future

In fiscal 2013, the federal deficit is projected to be 5.5 percent of GDP, a level that according to many in Washington threatens our basic solvency and that must be addressed by any means possible, as long as “any means possible” does not include tax increases.

Meanwhile, Americans spend 17.6 percent of GDP on health care, more than three times our deficit. Much of that money is of course considered well-spent, keeping ourselves and our loved ones alive and healthy. But here’s the problem:

By any measure that you care to use, U.S. health-care spending vastly outstrips those of our competitors in the industrialized world. Here’s the comparative data, as compiled by a new report by the International Federation of Health Plans, a global network of health-insurance companies:

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If we reduced health-care spending to the level of the average member of the 34-member Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, we would offset our deficit entirely and free up another …

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U.S. boots on the ground in Syria? Only as a last option

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Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican and head of the House Intelligence Committee, told the world Sunday that “I think that it is abundantly clear that that red line has been crossed” by Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons against its own people, and that small numbers of U.S. forces must be put on the ground in Syria to fend off impending chaos in that country.

“Our Arab League allies talk to us frequently, and they are as frustrated as I have seen them because of the lack of U.S. leadership,” Rogers said on “Face the Nation.” However, the Obama administration says it has no conclusive proof that chemical weapons have been used in the conflict.

That echoes demands made last week by Lindsey Graham and John McCain, both of whom insisted that President Obama intervene militarily in Syria, including using US troops.

“Absolutely, you’ve got to get on the ground,” Graham said. “There is no substitute for securing these weapons, I don’t care what it takes. We need partners in the …

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What the Dixie Chicks said …

For the record, the Dixie Chicks were banned from country music stations — and from the country music genre in general — because 10 years ago, lead singer Natalie Maines dared to tell an audience in London that “we don’t want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas.”

That’s all it took, here in the land of the free and home of the brave.

UPDATE: Here’s a comprehensive, well-written piece in Texas Monthly outlining the Chicks’ rise and fall, and where they are now. A taste:

“The short answer to what happened is known in band lore as the Incident. In March 2003, on the brink of the Iraq war, Natalie told a London audience that the Chicks were ashamed that George W. Bush was from Texas. Prior to that moment, they looked like surefire enshrinees to the Country Music Hall of Fame, poised, perhaps, to become the biggest act in the genre’s history. In barely five years, their first three records had sold 28 million copies. …

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Rand Paul offers proof that elections do change things

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THEN ….

“We’re the only country that I know that allows people to come in illegally, have a baby, and then that baby becomes a citizen. And I think that should stop.”

– Rand Paul in 2011, arguing in favor of a constitutional amendment that he co-sponsored ending “birthright citizenship” for children of illegal immigrants born in this country.

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AND NOW …

“On immigration, common sense and decency have been neglected for far too long. Let’s secure our borders, welcome our new neighbors, and practice the values of freedom and family for all to see… Republicans need to give birth to a new attitude toward immigrants, an attitude that sees immigrants as assets not liabilities.”

– Rand Paul, in a speech today to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

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THEN …

“I do agree with Milton Friedman: You can’t have open borders in a welfare state. We’ve got a pretty considerable welfare state. So it’s not just about normalizing the 11 or 12 million here, it’s whether or not, while you’re …

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If Rand Paul is your party’s future, it has no future

Rand Paul, the junior senator from Kentucky, is drawing attention as a potential Republican candidate for president come 2016, part of a new generation of GOP leadership.

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But ladies and gentlemen, Rand Paul is also a bit of a nut. The deep streak of paranoia that he displayed for almost 13 hours on the Senate floor last week would, in ordinary times, disqualify him as a party leader, let alone a potential president. But sadly, these are not ordinary times.

Let’s start by admitting that the stunt itself was a nice piece of political stagecraft. The one-man, TV-friendly filibuster gave Paul the opportunity to play Jimmy Stewart, a lone hero standing up in defense of the Constitution. It’s the type of role that Paul covets.

However, if you’re going to grandstand on the national stage like that, shouldn’t you have something sane to say?

According to Paul, he rose to address the nation because he was deeply, seriously concerned that the Obama administration might start using …

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As share of GDP, corporate profits highest since 1950

From The New York Times:

“So far in this recovery, corporations have captured an unusually high share of the income gains,” said Ethan Harris, co-head of global economics at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “The U.S. corporate sector is in a lot better health than the overall economy. And until we get a full recovery in the labor market, this will persist.”

The result has been a golden age for corporate profits, especially among multinational giants that are also benefiting from faster growth in emerging economies like China and India.

…. As a percentage of national income, corporate profits stood at 14.2 percent in the third quarter of 2012, the largest share at any time since 1950, while the portion of income that went to employees was 61.7 percent, near its lowest point since 1966. In recent years, the shift has accelerated during the slow recovery that followed the financial crisis and ensuing recession of 2008 and 2009, said Dean Maki, chief United States economist at …

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GOP willingness to swallow defense cuts is historic

In hindsight, President Barack Obama made one major if understandable miscalculation in the 2011 budget-sequester process. Needing something that would force congressional Republicans to negotiate when the time came, he and his advisers crammed some $500 billion in defense-spending cuts into the bill, believing that congressional conservatives would compromise to avoid implementation of those cuts.

He was wrong. Some Republicans — led by John McCain in the Senate and by House Armed Services chair Buck McKeon, among others — have indeed tried to rally great outrage at the cuts. For example, according to a fact sheet put out by McKeon’s committee:

“In the midst of the most dynamic and complex security environment in recent memory, sequestration would severely diminish America’s global posture. An additional 100,000 soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen would be separated from service. Those reductions would lead to:
– The smallest ground force since 1940
– A fleet of fewer …

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Yawn … yet another budget crisis looms

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When a picture is worth a thousand words, go with the picture.

As my colleague Mike Luckovich depicts so well, the sequester is yet another in what is now seems like a never-ending series of artificial budget crises in Washington. What was once extraordinary has become ordinary.

The sequester, for example, is the bastard child of a previous crisis in 2011, when Republicans threatened to push the country into default by refusing to raise the debt ceiling. To get past that crisis, Washington created the sequester, timing the new crisis for after the election and designing it to be so painful to both parties that when the time came, Democrats and Republicans would surely be forced to compromise to avoid it.

They underestimated their own — or each other’s — intransigence. House Republicans have passed a plan to replace the sequester by gutting a series of government poverty and social service programs, in other words putting the burden entirely on those already …

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