Archive for June, 2010

Obama, McChrystal and the Afghan withdrawal timeline

Of all the things America didn’t need at the moment, a seemingly irreparable divide between President Obama and his top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has to rank pretty highly. Yet, that’s just what we have following the release of some disdainful comments that McChrystal and his team made about the president and members of his administration to Rolling Stone magazine (read the article here — note that I’ve updated the link so that it goes to Rolling Stone’s own website … and be forewarned that it includes language we wouldn’t print in the AJC).

Perhaps we should have seen this coming. I defended McChrystal last September when he told “60 Minutes” that he’d had very limited contact with the president since taking command in Afghanistan. His comments then, I believe, were straight-forward answers to straight-forward questions. The Rolling Stone article appears to be another animal altogether. Americans have to be “disappointed” — to use McChrystal’s …

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Georgia scorecard: One senator, 13 reps earn A’s

Another reminder that the primaries are less than a month away: scorecards and voter guides are beginning to appear.

The Georgia chapter of Americans for Prosperity, which champions limited government and free markets, has a new scorecard for the 2009-10 Legislature, and unfortunately for lawmakers the grades weren’t put on a curve: A’s were given to just one senator and 13 representatives who actually cast votes on the issues that were scored.

That’s one senator out of 56 and 13 representatives out of 180:

Sen. Judson Hill (R., Marietta)

Rep. Timothy Bearden (R., Villa Rica)

Rep. Charlice Byrd (R., Woodstock)

Rep. David Casas (R., Lilburn)

Rep. Clay Cox (R., Gwinnett County)

Rep. Mark Hatfield (R., Waycross)

Rep. Billy Horne (R., Newnan)

Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R., Cassville)

Rep. Alan Powell (D., Hartwell)

Rep. Bobby Reese (R., Sugar Hill)

Rep. Austin Scott (R., Tifton)

Rep. Martin Scott (R., Rossville)

Rep. Jay Shaw (D., Lakeland)

Rep. Daniel Stout (R., Hiram)

The seven …

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Is Obama holding border security hostage to politics? UPDATED (again)

That is the very serious charge made by Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl at a town-hall meeting Friday. It’s a very serious charge because, as Kyl points out, securing the border is not an optional duty for the president of the United States.

Here’s the clip, with the relevant remarks beginning at the 3:17 mark:

And here’s a (very) partial transcript:

KYL: I met with the president in the Oval Office, just the two of us …. Here’s what the president said. The problem is, he said, if we secure the border, then you all [Republicans] won’t have any reason to support comprehensive immigration reform. (Audible gasps from audience.) In other words, they’re holding it hostage. They won’t want to secure the border unless and until it is combined with comprehensive immigration reform.

As you can hear an audience member say in the background, “comprehensive immigration reform” in this case most likely means some form of amnesty.

As of this morning, the White House had not yet commented on Kyl’s …

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Georgia’s schools need courageous reform, not bingo cash

Repeat after Thurbert Baker: We need more money for education, but I don’t have to pay for it. We need more money for …

Now snap out of it. Both premises are false, and the second one illustrates how we got into the fiscal mess we face.

Baker, Georgia’s attorney general and a Democratic candidate for governor, last week unveiled a plan to introduce state-operated bingo and spend the proceeds on public schools.

Within a decade, Baker says, bingo could pump $2 billion annually into Georgia’s schools. That’s more than twice what our existing gambling monopoly, the state lottery, provides. We’re led to believe that this astounding sum won’t cannibalize the lottery or (further) endanger the HOPE scholarship.

But spending more money on schools, until the last recession, has not been a problem in Georgia. Adjusted for inflation, Georgia’s education spending rose from just under $6,500 per student in 1991 to almost $8,600 in 2005, according to the Center for an Educated Georgia. …

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Oil spill: If Republicans are smart …

… they’ll stop trying to attack President Obama by apologizing to the only figure less popular in this fiasco — BP — and start talking about the numerous problems with the oil spill response that have resulted from our feds-first, locals-take-a-number approach.

In his column today, David Brooks lists a dozen examples of local officials, with local knowledge of the lay of the land and what’s needed to protect the coast and its people, who have been greatly frustrated by dealing with Washington’s top-down bureaucracy.

If you talk to elected leaders from Louisiana to Florida, they fill your ears with tales of incompetence — of advice that was not heeded, of red tape stifling effective operations, of local knowledge that was cast aside and trampled.

(snip)

Some of this rage is unavoidable when you have a crisis that no one can control. But it’s also clear that we have a federalism problem. All around the region there are local officials who think they know their towns best. They …

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Praise for Barney Frank; apocalypse feared near

Many blog readers have asked why there hasn’t been closer scrutiny of the role the rating agencies (Moody’s, Fitch and Standard & Poor’s) played in the financial meltdown. To which I’ve always said: Good question.

Now, it appears that Barney Frank — yes, the same Barney Frank whose risky approach to subsidized housing via Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac also contributed greatly to the crisis — may have pushed Congress to take a step to remedy the rating agencies problem. From The Wall Street Journal (requires subscription):

Leading the House negotiating team in a conference committee, Mr. Frank persuaded his Senate counterpart, Chris Dodd, to break the cartel of the credit-ratings agencies. These government-anointed judges of risk … put triple-A ratings on junk mortgage paper during the housing boom. When the boom turned to bust, the apparently safe assets were revealed to be anything but, with disastrous consequences for investors.

The results were so bad because government …

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Obama’s green push: Houston, we have a problem

President Barack Obama’s lackluster national address Tuesday provoked as many questions as it answered. Here’s mine:

Why the moon landing?

Why did our hippest president ever — the president who wields his own BlackBerry and who ran campaign ads against his 2008 opponent for not being tech-savvy — try to summon our national gumption for a “mission to unleash American innovation and seize control of our own destiny” in energy by referring to something that happened four decades ago?

The past 40 years have given us the microprocessor, Google, cloned sheep, myriad lifesaving drugs, the iPod — wonders even to those who witnessed the moon landing.

But the generation Obama called upon isn’t old enough to have anticipated or watched Neil Armstrong’s giant leap for mankind. We grew up in an era when our ability to pull off such a feat was already proven.

Obama may as well have evoked the Bell telephone. Except that, unlike moon landings, we still make phone calls (wirelessly now, …

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Presenting the Moocher Index

Dan Mitchell of the Cato Institute posted an interesting table on his blog today. Subtracting each state’s poverty rate from its participation rate in federal welfare programs (as compiled by the Center for Immigration Studies), Mitchell found what he calls “a measure of how many non-poor people are signed up for income-redistribution programs,” a.k.a. the Moocher Index. (Hint: If you’re looking for Georgia, you have to scroll down almost to the bottom.)

moocher-index

There aren't many moochers in Georgia after all

It’s a fairly unscientific exercise, and Mitchell notes a number of caveats in his blog post. But it is interesting because it appears to turn on its head the conventional wisdom that Southerners, while claiming to be conservative, also take a disproportionate amount of money from the feds.

In absolute-dollar terms, that may still be true. But Mitchell’s Moocher Index suggests that the propensity of non-poor people in many Southern states to enroll in welfare programs is …

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Oil spill worse for Obama than Katrina for Bush??

In Louisiana, at least, it may be true.

This poll from left-leaning Public Policy Polling may prove nothing more than the notion that the present crisis is always the biggest crisis. But the result is nonetheless stunning:

Our new Louisiana poll has a lot of data points to show how unhappy voters in the state are with Barack Obama’s handling of the oil spill but one perhaps sums it up better than anything else — a majority of voters there think George W. Bush did a better job with Katrina than Obama’s done dealing with the spill.

50% of voters in the state, even including 31% of Democrats, give Bush higher marks on that question compared to 35% who pick Obama.

Overall only 32% of Louisianans approve of how Obama has handled the spill to 62% who disapprove. 34% of those polled say they approved of how Bush dealt with Katrina to 58% who disapproved.

Respondents were quicker to blame BP than Obama, which only makes sense. But quicker to disapprove of Obama’s handling of the oil …

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About China’s alleged green leap forward

Comparisons of China’s commitment to the environment and “clean tech” to our own are popular these days, including in the comments threads on this blog. Shikha Dalmia, fresh off a trip there, offers some very interesting observations about the problems with the Chinese brand of greening.

While much of China does appear cleaner than expected, Dalmia writes:

None of this should come as a huge surprise, although it is contrary to the thinking of Western environmentalists for whom economic growth equals environmental havoc. The reality is that, as economies advance, their environment naturally improves. Rising productivity reflects an ability to extract more from less, something that automatically leads to resource optimization.

Indeed, thanks to technological advances and rising energy efficiency, China at the turn of this decade had three times better resource utilization than in 1978. This is not to deny that modernization and growth can generate new forms of pollution. But …

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