Note to Legislature: Nothing’s ‘historic’ until it passes

According to leaders of the Georgia House, the ethics-reform plan that their chamber passed overwhelmingly last month is an achievement of historic proportions. In fact, it “represents without overstatement or understatement the most ambitious change in ethics laws in modern times,” as state Rep. Rich Golick described the plan to a Senate committee this week.

It’s fair to say that Senate leaders were not impressed.

One day after Golick’s presentation, senators proceeded to dump most of the House plan and replace it with their own, very different plan. This was described by one senator as “an historic ethics proposal with the potential to change the culture” of state government.

Setting aside their alleged historic nature, the approaches championed by the two chambers have little in common. The House has passed what it claims to be a total ban on lobbyist expenditures, although as senators like to point out, that “ban” includes significant loopholes. According …

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In Florida, the sheen has worn off Marco Rubio

It’s WAAAAYYYY too early to put much credence in polling for the 2016 presidential race, but I did find a new Quinnipiac poll out of Florida intriguing for another reason.

The headline number out of the poll puts Hillary Clinton well ahead of Florida native sons Jeb Bush (51-40) and Marco Rubio (52-41), which adds to the thought that the presidential race would be Clinton’s to lose, should she choose to run. But again, a lot can change between now and then.

The real number that drew my attention was Rubio’s favorability rating. Just 41 percent of Florida voters told Quinnipiac that they approve of his performance as senator, which would be a deeply troubling number for a politician merely trying to win re-election. For someone eying a run for president or being mentioned as his party’s next great hope, it’s downright startling. I don’t know what Barack Obama’s numbers were in Illinois in 2006, but I bet they were a lot higher than that.

(Public Policy Polling produces similar …

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Ga. Senate race illustrates GOP dysfunction

Georgia’s 2014 Republican Senate primary is still 16 months away, but already it is more eloquent about the problems faced by the GOP than anything contained in the “autopsy” released this week by the Republican National Committee.

The central figure in the story is shaping up to be U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, Republican from Georgia’s 10th Congressional District. To put it bluntly, the man is as nutty as a Stuckey’s pecan log. He makes Todd Akin and Richard Mourland, two GOP Senate candidates doomed to defeat in 2012 by their extremism, seem almost moderate by comparison.

So far, Broun is the only announced candidate to replace retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss. But two other members of Georgia’s GOP congressional delegation, Phil Gingrey and Jack Kingston, are planning a run as well. A fourth Georgia congressman, Tom Price, is reportedly having second thoughts about the race, perhaps seeing more opportunities in House leadership. Other candidates may enter the race as well.

It is …

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Taking on the Big Banks is a job for BOTH parties

The Dodd-Frank law attempts to outlaw bail-outs of huge banks that would otherwise be considered “too big to fail,” meaning that they are so large that their collapse would threaten not just the U.S. economy but the global financial structure as well.

(The banks in question are JP Morgan Chase, BankAmerica, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Morgan Stanley.)

But the fact remains that those six banks are still, in fact, too large to be allowed to fail, and everyone in banking knows it even if they do not admit it. Attorney General Eric Holder has acknowledged that the banks may even be “too big to prosecute,” because again the economic impact of doing so would be enormous:

“I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even 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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Misled into a mistake, a decade later

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Note: This incorporates material from a post published earlier on this blog. It is posted here as the electronic version of a column published in today’s dead-tree edition of the AJC.

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Ten years ago today, the United States launched an unprovoked invasion of another country, an attack that was justified by claims of dire threats that our leaders knew to be false and exaggerated. More than 4,000 of our sons and daughters were to die as a result of that decision; tens of thousands more live today with physical and psychic wounds that have changed their lives forever.

The last of our soldiers to die in that war was named David Hickman. He was a recently married 23-year-old Army specialist from Greensboro, N.C. He was killed Nov. 14, 2011, by an improvised explosive device, a term that by the end had became all too familiar. The death toll continues even now within Iraq, with an average of a dozen people a day dying from political-related violence. More than 60 …

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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, …

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Rand Paul rushes to lead immigration-reform parade

From Roll Call:

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is expected announce his support for comprehensive immigration reform and a path to citizenship in a speech Tuesday morning.

On the heels of the Republican National Committee’s post-election autopsy report, which encouraged Republicans to support broad immigration law changes, Paul is expected to say that party members need to embrace reform or deal with being out of political power for decades.

“Republicans need to become parents of a new future with Latino voters or we will need to resign ourselves to permanent minority status,” Paul said according to excerpts from the speech. “The Republican Party has insisted for years that we stand for freedom and family values. I am most proud of my party when it stands for both.”

“Republicans need to give birth to a new attitude toward immigrants, an attitude that sees immigrants as assets not liabilities,” Paul said.

Paul’s scheduled speech would come a day after release of a major …

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The unspoken secret at the heart of the GOP report

Rereading the RNC’s post-election autopsy, I remain impressed by its candor and honesty. However, I am also struck by the limitations of its honesty, by the things that authors of the report were forced to leave unsaid because they would strike much too close to home.

In three separate sections, the report repeats the following statement, word for word:

“The Republican Party is one of tolerance and respect, and we need to ensure that the tone of our message is always reflective of these core principles.”

In four separate sections, when discussing outreach to groups outside the GOP’s current small tent, the document’s authors repeat a second statement, again word for word, as if proposing it as a mantra:

“We need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate we care about them, too.”

“Tone” is also a word that pops up repeatedly as a major challenge.

– “Too often Republican elected officials spoke about issues important to the Hispanic community …

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GOP takes a surprisingly frank look at itself

Republican ConventionReince Priebus, head of the Republican National Committee, has been pushing what he calls an “autopsy” of the GOP in the aftermath of its fifth popular-vote defeat in the last six presidential elections.

The autopsy was released this morning, and Priebus and his colleagues deserve a great deal of credit for candor in acknowledging the party’s problems and what it will take to correct them.

Boiled to its essence, the message is “Let’s join the 21st century.” In fact, much of the report will be familiar to those who read this blog on a regular basis. Here’s a quick digest, divided by subheads:

THE PROBLEM:

“Republicans have lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections. States in which our presidential candidates used to win, such as New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, Iowa, Ohio, New Hampshire, Virginia, and Florida, are increasingly voting Democratic. We are losing in too many places….

Public perception of the Party is at record lows. Young voters are …

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