Archive for February, 2010

For conservative activists, it’s manifesto mania

Another week, another manifesto proclaiming conservative principles for America.

Today’s edition is titled the Mount Vernon Statement, and it includes some heavy hitters from the conservative movement: Edwin Meese, Ed Feulner, Tony Perkins, among others.

In light of the explosion of conservative manifestos as we enter the 2010 election season — says there are at least seven — it may be tempting to portray them as the attempts of various center-right groups to grab the reins. I think it’s a little more complicated than that.

The Mount Vernon Statement, for one, is pretty broad and generic. Not much for anyone to quibble with there, except to the degree that far-lefties who fancied themselves ascendant in the past year have demonized words like “market.” But it is a bottom line.

The debate will come in the platforms stacked upon that one. So far, elected Republicans haven’t laid out anything explicit, only hinted at something approximating a warmed-over Contract With …

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Is this how unions die?

Slate’s Mickey Kaus suggests that, now that they have an ownership stake to think about, the United Auto Workers may be rethinking the way they’ve always approached, well, auto workers:

News that workers at the plant making batteries for the new Chevy Volt might not be union (UAW) members provoked this wacky, largely uninformed thought: Maybe the UAW doesn’t really want the future Chevy workers to be unionized. Why? Because the UAW has basically cut a deal with GM that protects its existing members in their $28 an hour (plus benefits) jobs, but give new, future hires a much worse deal: $15 an hour jobs. If those new workers are UAW members, they will be able to lobby within the union (and, more significantly, vote) to equalize the pay of the old-timers and newcomers at some intermediate level– say $22 an hour. Why would existing UAW members want that? Better to keep the newbies out and exploit them for all they are worth in order to subsidize the cushy, unsustainable deal the …

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In Afghanistan, a battlefield miracle

I’ll settle it: Lance Cpl. Andrew Koenig had a very good Monday. From The Wall Street Journal:

MARJAH, Afghanistan—It is hard to know whether Monday was a very bad day or a very good day for Lance Cpl. Andrew Koenig.

On the one hand, he was shot in the head. On the other, the bullet bounced off him.

In one of those rare battlefield miracles, an insurgent sniper hit Lance Cpl. Koenig dead on in the front of his helmet, and he walked away from it with a smile on his face.

“I don’t think I could be any luckier than this,” Lance Cpl. Koenig said two hours after the shooting.


The Casper, Wyo., native was kneeling on the roof of [a] one-story outpost, looking for targets.

He was reaching back to his left for his rifle when the sniper’s round slammed into his helmet.

The impact knocked him onto his back.

“I’m hit,” he yelled to his buddy, Lance Cpl. Scott Gabrian, a 21-year-old from St. Louis.

Lance Cpl. Gabrian belly-crawled along the rooftop to his friend’s side. He patted …

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In the interest of fairness

I have criticized President Obama for basing his budget projections on rosy economic scenarios, so it’s only fair to look at whether Gov. Sonny Perdue is doing the same thing here in Georgia.

That’s the charge leveled on Peach Pundit, and at least some of the budget figures questioned there do smell a little funny.

The governor’s 2011 budget (which covers July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011) assumes a 4.5 percent increase in individual income tax revenue and 4.9 percent growth in funds from the general sales tax. Those two taxes account for about two-thirds of the state’s total revenues, and those two increases represent an addition of more than half a billion dollars.

Granted, we’re talking about rising from a fairly low trough — individual income tax revenues have fallen by more than 18 percent and sales tax receipts by almost 15 percent from their peaks earlier this decade. They are forecast to remain lower than they were even two years ago.

But with revenues continuing to fall …

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The minimum expectations for this year’s Legislature

Seventeen of the Legislature’s 40 allotted days for 2010 are behind us, but the most important business still lies ahead. Here’s what this voter wants legislators to accomplish before leaving town.

1. Something other than budgeting death by a thousand cuts. Many state officials will tell you that, after more than $3 billion in budget reductions and with temporary federal dollars keeping state spending afloat, it’s time to shut down some programs altogether.

“When you just go across the board, across the board, across the board,” says House Majority Leader Jerry Keen “it hurts some agencies to the point of not being effective.”

Budget writers, the St. Simons Republican adds, have to ask themselves, “Are there things we just can’t do anymore? Not that they’re inherently bad, but we just can’t afford to do them anymore.”

For the future, a bill requiring periodic reviews of each state agency’s functions and budget would be a big help.

2. A firm …

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One man’s list of the top 25 conservative journalists

My former colleague Tunku Varadarajan ranks the right-wingers today at The Daily Beast. It’s an interesting list, certain to provoke some debate. For instance: No Charles Krauthammer?

In descending ascending [corrected from original text -- KW] order:

25. Caitlin Flanagan, The Atlantic

24. Mary O’Grady, The Wall Street Journal

23. Marc Morano,

22. Glenn Reynolds,

21. Laura Ingraham, radio host

20. Joseph Rago, The Wall Street Journal

19. Mark Steyn, freelance writer

OK, I don’t want to be a spoiler; check out the rest of the list for yourselves and then let me know what you think. Who’s missing? Whose inclusion surprised you?

(And please, no condolences about yours truly not making the cut…I just couldn’t take the salt in the wound…)

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The tea party as a force for changing politics

Next week marks the first anniversary of the Rant Heard Round the World: CNBC reporter Rick Santelli’s televised tirade about federal bailouts, including the statement, “We’re thinking about having a Chicago tea party in July.”

The tea parties started well before July and spread far beyond Chicago. The Tea Party Patriots alone boast 1,000 affiliated groups, with more than 70 in Georgia. Another group held what it called the first National Tea Party Convention last weekend in Nashville.

It was the political phenomenon of 2009, and perhaps 2010. Yet questions still abound.

Who will lead the tea partiers? (Sarah Palin?) Isn’t this just a front for Republican organizers? Has the movement split, given that some tea party groups stayed away from the pricey Nashville confab?

All of which miss the point.

Tea partiers share some core themes: limited government, free markets, individual liberty and responsibility. But there’s more to them than that.

Listen to tea partiers …

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CRCT cheating scandal: No reason to stop testing

The governor’s office today reported the results of an impressive and eye-opening investigation into cheating on the state’s Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, or CRCT. In a nutshell: Shocking levels of cheating were discovered at 74 (or 4 percent) of the state’s elementary and middle schools; the vast majority of those 74 schools are in the Atlanta city and Dougherty County systems. (You can read more about the investigation, methodology and results here and here, and you can search the data here.)

We will see fallout from this investigation for weeks and months to come. But let’s go ahead and clear up one thing: The results, devastating as they are, provide no excuse for ending testing and accountability measures.

The ability to identify cheating when it takes place is a crucial element of any testing system; if anything, the state should have been doing this kind of work before now. But better late than never.

The rationalization that teachers and principals are bound …

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What Greece can teach us

Greece’s problems concern us more than you think.

Germany is expected tomorrow to endorse a bailout of sorts for a Greek government whose recklessness has endangered the euro, the only currency besides the dollar that can be credibly called a global reserve currency. As the largest country that uses the euro, Germany has both the motivation and the wherewithal to keep Greece’s exploding debt from bringing down the Old World’s still-new currency.

I won’t try here to explain or predict all of the knock-on effects this could have for the dollar or our economy, although there are many. For instance, questions about the euro have sent investors fleeing to the dollar, perhaps keeping the dollar artificially high and masking problems that we eventually will have to confront.

I only want to make a very simple observation about what gets spendthrift governments in the end — including, potentially, the U.S.

For years, the most profligate European welfare states stayed afloat in part by …

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Cue the Obama speech about bipartisanship

And the lecture about putting an end to politics where “the only goal is to see who can get the most embarrassing headlines about the other side.” From the AP:

Even the White House’s top spokesman is getting in on the act of mocking former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin for looking to talking points written on her palm during a speech to “tea party” activists.

Robert Gibbs showed the words “hope” and “change” on his hand as he started his daily briefing with reporters on Tuesday.

Many in the room, where President Barack Obama had spoken just moments before about the need for bipartisanship, groaned at the political shot.

Palin spoke Saturday in Nashville and photographs and video show she had “energy,” ”tax” and “lift American spirits” on her hand. During one question, she looked down at the palm of her hand for a cue.

In her speech she mocked Obama’s use of teleprompters.

Yes, the president talked about bipartisanship just before Gibbs’ stunt.

Granted, …

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