Archive for February, 2011

Child prostitution, sex trafficking back on legislative agenda

Maybe good things really do come to those who wait.

A year ago, a bill designed to help free the hundreds of young girls (and some boys) trapped as sex slaves in Georgia died quietly in the Legislature.

In part, the bill fell to a wrong-headed objection: that changing the law to treat children under 16, who can’t legally consent to sex in Georgia, as victims of child prostitution instead of perpetrators amounted to “de-criminalization.”

But the bill also drew critics who agreed with its goals but feared it might have the unintended consequence of making it harder for police officers to intervene if they saw a likely underage prostitute standing on a street corner.

Now, legislators are back with an even stronger, more far-reaching bill that tackles much more than the problem of child prostitution.

HB 200, introduced this week by Republican Rep. Edward Lindsey of Atlanta with bipartisan support, takes aim at human trafficking — for sexual exploitation as well as other types of …

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Here in Georgia, too much Carolina in our minds

One thing I’ve noticed since moving back to Georgia is how many people here spend an inordinate amount of time fretting about North Carolina, and specifically Charlotte. They’re building high-speed rail in North Carolina. They’re building light rail in Charlotte. They’re spending more money on incentives to lure businesses. They just landed the Democratic National Convention in 2012.

(Notice how many of the supposed superiorities in our northern neighbor concern left-wing causes; you don’t hear much about North Carolina leading the way in cutting red tape or privatizing inefficient state-government functions.)

But it seems not every tarheel is sold on the “North Carolina model” we in Georgia are supposed to find so impressive. Behold this speech by one of the top Republicans in the North Carolina Senate, Bob Rucho, as transcribed by the Charlotte Observer:

Here we are in a situation where we’ve got double-digit unemployment. And the reality is that it’s probably close to 17 …

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Heavily subsidized Georgia ethanol plant closes

A Georgia biofuels company has drawn the attention of noted corporate-welfare critic Timothy Carney in the Washington Examiner:

To turn wood chips into ethanol fuel, George W. Bush’s Department of Energy in February 2007 announced a $76 million grant to Range Fuels for a cutting-edge refinery. A few months later, the refinery opened in the piney woods of Treutlen County, Ga., as the taxpayers of Georgia piled on another $6 million. In 2008, the ethanol plant was the first beneficiary of the Biorefinery Assistance Program, pocketing a loan for $80 million guaranteed by the U.S. taxpayers.

Last month, the refinery closed down, having failed to squeeze even a drop of ethanol out of its pine chips.

The Soperton, Ga., ethanol plant is another blemish on ethanol’s already tarnished image, but more broadly, it is cautionary tale about the elusive nature of “green jobs” and the folly of the government’s efforts at “investing” — as President Obama puts it — in new …

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A sign of movement in Egypt

It appears that the Egyptian army — the power behind Hosni Mubarak’s throne, and almost certainly the final arbiter in the process of naming his replacement — has decided it’s time for the protests to end and for the next chapter in this story to begin in earnest. From McClatchy Newspapers:

Besieged by two weeks of protests, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s regime has offered once-unthinkable political concessions and started negotiations with its fiercest adversaries.

Some things in Egypt, however, don’t change so quickly.

The Egyptian military has rounded up scores of human rights activists, protest organizers and journalists in recent days without formal charges, according to watchdog groups and accounts by the detainees. While most arrests have been brief — lasting fewer than 24 hours — experts say they’re a sign that the regime’s notorious tradition of extrajudicial detentions is continuing even as Mubarak appears to be on his way out of power.

Arbitrary arrests by …

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Remembering Reagan and the ’seven fat years’

Sunday marks the centennial of Ronald Reagan’s birth. I prepared for the occasion by rereading much of “The Seven Fat Years,” Robert Bartley’s 1992 account of the roots, policies and results of Reaganomics.

AP Photo / Bob Galbraith

Ronald Reagan, Los Angeles, 1990 (AP Photo / Bob Galbraith)

I know: It doesn’t sound very festive of me. But the book is an essential reminder of what Reagan did and why — and how his admirers today can build on his legacy.

Bartley, who died in 2003 after directing the Wall Street Journal’s editorial pages for three decades, begins his story in August 1971. That’s when President Nixon, among other things, froze wages and prices and ended the fixed price for gold that had prevailed since the 1940s.

Thus began the era of “stagflation,” a combo of low economic growth and high inflation. When Reagan entered office in 1981, inflation topped 10 percent; unemployment was on its way to double-digits, too; and growth had averaged less than half of the nation’s postwar trend for …

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Senators: Army, feds turned blind eye to Hasan’s radicalism

It turns out that political correctness can be deadly. That’s the upshot of a Senate investigation into Maj. Nidal Hasan — the Army officer-turned-jihadist who killed 13 people and wounded another 32 at Ford Hood, Texas, in November 2009.

The committee issued its conclusions Thursday. Reports the Christian Science Monitor:

According to the report by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I) of Connecticut, chairman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, the committee’s top Republican, some Army officials had raised concerns about Major Hasan’s extremist behavior at Fort Hood and even referred to him as “a ticking time bomb.”

A cursory FBI investigation followed, but between poor coordination with the Defense Department and a failure to use all the intelligence available, nothing was done, according to the report.

The report provides insight into a larger problem, says Matthew Levitt, a former FBI counterterrorism specialist: the US government

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Testing the idea that social cons are in retreat

I don’t disagree with what the AJC’s Political Insider wrote about the shift in influence among Georgia’s conservatives, from the religious right to more libertarian types. And the same dynamic was present in the tea-fueled Republican resurgence last year that saw the supposedly regionally limited GOP win big well beyond the Bible Belt.

The question, as the Insider recognized, is how long this dynamic lasts. Even as tea partyers were taking the initiative last year, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels was roundly criticized on the right for broaching the idea of a “truce” on social issues while we sort out the nation’s fiscal mess.

Operating on the belief that social conservatives will still have a large say nationally in 2012 is former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, the subject of an interview and column today by the Washington Post’s George Will:

In 1994, when Rick Santorum was a second-term Pennsylvania congressman seeking a U.S. Senate seat, a columnist asked him how he was going …

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Board politics are the least of Atlanta schools’ problems

You may be familiar with the biblical admonition against looking at the speck in your brother’s eye when there’s a log in your own. But what about ignoring the log in his eye, yet obsessing over his speck?

That’s what seems to be happening with some do-gooders’ narrow focus on the Atlanta school board.

The log in the eye of Atlanta Public Schools is a pervasive cheating scandal being probed by local, state and federal law enforcement. It’s a scandal that might lead to criminal charges for some educators.

It has raised questions about the Atlanta schools’ backers in the business community, who endorsed nearly all school board members and then coordinated an inadequate inquiry into the cheating allegations.

It has tarnished the woman who was once said to put the “super” in superintendent, Beverly Hall. She not only accepted statistically improbable gains in test scores and disputed graduation rates — and the trophies and grant money that came with them — but, an AJC …

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Is budget discipline getting real bipartisan support?

Two recent developments on the budget-balancing front. First, from the Hill newspaper:

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) announced Tuesday that he will co-sponsor a Constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget.

He is the first Democrat to sponsor such a measure in many years.

Udall is introducing his balanced budget amendment bill with Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.). The bill would require that spending not exceed revenue in any given year.

Udall’s move is being taken as a sign of the unusual momentum deficit hawks enjoy in this Congress compared to previous years. It comes on a day when the Democratic head of the Senate Appropriations Committee, long-time earmarker Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), announced a two-year ban on earmarks in his committee. Udall had pushed for such a ban in the last Congress.

The Udall bill would also limit federal spending to the historical average of 20 percent of gross domestic product in a given year. It currently stands at 24.7 percent. …

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Mubarak’s leaving, but the crowds say they aren’t

It was just one week ago that Egyptians, inspired by Tunisia’s example, started protesting their own repressive, decades-old regime. It’s a measure of how irresistable a force the protesters have become that Hosni Mubarak, the once-immovable object, said in a televised speech today that he would step down when his term ends later this year — and that they don’t consider this development, unthinkable even 10 days ago, to be sufficient.

Reports the Associated Press:

Watching [Mubarak's] speech on a giant TV set up in Tahrir square, protesters booed and waved their shoes over the heads in a sign of contempt. “Go, go, go! We are not leaving until he leaves,” they chanted, and one man screamed, “He doesn’t want to say it, he doesn’t want to say it.”

The Wall Street Journal adds this reaction from the country’s strongest opposition group:

The Muslim Brotherhood, which is working with a coalition of opposition groups, was quick to say Mr. Mubarak’s pledge to step down months from now …

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