Archive for October, 2010

How government pulls the contract out from under you

I’m not referring to the social contract, although that ground is fertile enough. I mean private contracts that businesses and their customers enter willingly.

I got to thinking about this topic when I read this Associated Press story, posted on AJC.com today, about the demise of free checking accounts. Here’s the first key passage:

Almost all of the largest U.S. banks are either already making free checking much more difficult to get or expected to do so soon, with fees on even basic banking services.

It’s happening because a raft of new laws enacted in the past year, including the financial overhaul package, have led to an acute shrinking of revenue for the banks. So they are scraping together money however they can.

(snip)

In the last year, lawmakers in Washington have passed a range of new laws aimed at protecting bank customers from harsh fees, like the $35 charged to some Bank of America customers who overdrafted their account by buying something small like a Starbucks …

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ICYMI: The Rent Is 2 Damn High (video)

Forget the Year of the Conservative Woman; 2010 is shaping up to be the Year of the Obscure Candidate’s YouTube Hit. If you haven’t watched Jimmy McMillan’s New York gubernatorial debate performance yet, you really should.

Now, a couple of questions of local relevance: Given that it’s extremely hard for even well-established third parties to get full ballot access in Georgia, would we be better or worse off if, as in New York, there were as many as 10 candidates for governor on the ballot?

And, in a related manner, what if we didn’t have the 50-percent-plus-one vote requirement? Anyone who won a plurality of the vote would be declared the winner without a runoff — e.g., Karen Handel would be the GOP nominee for governor today.

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Now it’s the GOP’s turn to show what it learned

In the weeks following Barack Obama’s election as president, we read and heard all about how he would not make the same mistakes that Bill Clinton did early in his first term. Those mistakes cost Democrats the majority in the House for 12 years and the Senate for most of that time, leaving Clinton largely to work with Republicans in Congress on their issues rather than continuing to pursue, for example, HillaryCare.

As Democrats prepare to lose perhaps more seats two weeks from today than even their 54-seat disaster in 1994, it’s pretty clear that they didn’t learn all their lessons.

If we assume that the GOP will take over at least the House majority (a majority in the Senate seems like a long shot), the question becomes: Did Republicans learn more from the Clinton era than Democrats did?

This article in today’s Wall Street Journal suggests that some of them may have:

A number of House Republicans, including some who are likely to be in the leadership, are pushing a …

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Multiculturalism gets das boot

When even the Germans are giving up on the concept, everyone else needs to sit up and pay attention. From the Associated Press:

Germany’s attempt to create a multi-cultural society has failed completely, Chancellor Angela Merkel said at the weekend, calling on the country’s immigrants to learn German and adopt Christian values.

Merkel weighed in for the first time in a blistering debate sparked by a central bank board member saying the country was being made “more stupid” by poorly educated and unproductive Muslim migrants.

“Multikulti”, the concept that “we are now living side by side and are happy about it,” does not work, Merkel told a meeting of younger members of her conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party at Potsdam near Berlin.

“This approach has failed, totally,” she said, adding that immigrants should integrate and adopt Germany’s culture and values.

“We feel tied to Christian values. Those who don’t accept them don’t have a place here,” said the …

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A streetcar not desired

Honk if you’ll still be stuck in traffic after we build this (from the AJC’s Washington correspondent, Bob Keefe):

In a major coup for the city of Atlanta, the U.S. Department of Transportation has agreed to grant the city of Atlanta $47 million for the proposed downtown streetcar project, according to U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Atlanta.

Lewis’ office said he got confirmation of the award in a conversation with DOT Secretary Ray LaHood on Friday morning.

“In my conversation with Secretary LaHood this morning he reiterated his belief that it was a good and necessary project and one that deserved federal funding,” Lewis said in a statement. “Not only does this project offer citizens and visitors to the downtown area another option for transportation, it will also provide green jobs and support economic development.”

City officials have been pursuing funding for the streetcar line, which will run east-west connecting the MLK site with Centennial Olympic Park, for months. Lewis, …

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About those ‘racist’ tea-party signs? Yeah, not so much

From the Washington Post:

A new analysis of political signs displayed at a tea party rally in Washington last month reveals that the vast majority of activists expressed narrow concerns about the government’s economic and spending policies and steered clear of the racially charged anti-Obama messages that have helped define some media coverage of such events.

Emily Ekins, a graduate student at UCLA, conducted the survey at the 9/12 Taxpayer March on Washington last month by scouring the crowd, row by row and hour by hour, and taking a picture of every sign she passed.

Ekins photographed about 250 signs, and more than half of those she saw reflected a “limited government ethos,” she found — touching on such topics as the role of government, liberty, taxes, spending, deficit and concern about socialism. Examples ranged from the simple message “$top the $pending” scrawled in black-marker block letters to more elaborate drawings of bar charts, stop signs and one poster with the …

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No Superman, nor much more waiting, for school choice

There are no superheroes coming to save the day for students in America’s failing schools, cautions the heart-wrenching new documentary, “Waiting for ‘Superman.’ ”

No superheroes, but students who want choices do face enemies. In fact, they — well, their lawyers — appeared before the state Supreme Court Tuesday.

I’m not talking about teachers unions, whom “Waiting” largely fingers as the obstacles to education reform. They are a huge impediment in some places but the situation’s different in Georgia, and in any case the problem is much broader than that. It covers all those in the education establishment who put preserving their fiefdoms above giving students their best chance at a good education.

And if that doesn’t sum up the school systems suing to overturn the law creating Georgia’s Charter School Commission, I don’t know what does.

Legislators created the commission in 2008 because local school boards were reluctant to approve these …

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A Georgia Dem runs against … Nancy Pelosi? (Click to see video)

Complete with hippie images:

Here’s an edited transcript with additional reporting that Politico’s Ben Smith posted (h/t: I also saw the video posted at Peach Pundit):

“Georgia is a long way from San Francisco,” drawls the narrator, over images of dancing hippies.

“Jim Marshall doesn’t support Nancy Pelosi,” says the narrator, citing a finding that Marshall voted with Republican leaders 65% of the time.”

Marshall a similar figure to the one Rep. Bill Owens, an Upstate New York Democrat, did yesterday, making a similar claim. By another measure, Marshall voted with Democrats 88% of the time.

Marshall “worked and ovted against Pelosi’s trillion dollar health care bill,” brags the narrator, adding that he was endorsed by the NRA, Right-to Life, and the Chamber of Commerce.

“They wouldn’t have anything to do with a Nancy Pelosi suporter,” the narrator concludes.

Running against Pelosi, so to speak, is one thing. But an endorsement from those evil foreigner-lovers at the Chamber …

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Tips on cutting government from a man who really did it

If the Republicans win a majority in one or both chambers of Congress next month, and are as serious as they say they are about balancing the budget by reducing the size of government, their leaders will make a phone call to a man named Maurice McTigue.

McTigue was a member of the New Zealand Parliament during the 1980s and ’90s and the head of a number of that nation’s government ministries. I met him on a couple of occasions when I worked in Brussels and heard him speak about his experiences in cutting government waste. His speeches were spell-binding — not because of some lofty rhetoric, but because of their incredible, real-life substance.

One example: After the government privatized the nation’s forests, the Ministry of Forestry went from 17,000 employees to 17.

That’s not a typo. The ministry’s staff was really cut by 99.9 percent.

I was reminded of McTigue because he contributed to a three-part piece on cutting government that was published in Reason Magazine and posted …

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Gone hikin’

I’ll be back Monday, Oct. 11.

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