Archive for September, 2012

Gone weddin’

Not for me; I’m already married. My brother is, too, but next week he and his wife will have a special second marriage ceremony in her hometown: Shangrao, China.

Late September/early October of a presidential-election season is not the time of year I’d have picked to be away from work for a week and a half. Among other things, I’ll miss the first debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

But it’s important to them, and to me, that as much of our family as possible is there to celebrate with them. So you’ll have to find someone else to parse that debate with. (Not to worry, I’ll be back for their second debate and the vice-presidential debate, and everything that comes after that. But commenting will be in moderation starting now, and until I return.)

In the meantime, wish them luck as a couple — and all of us luck surviving that 14-hour-plus flight. And I’ll see y’all back here when I return on Monday, Oct. 8.

– By Kyle …

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Well, well: What’s this about a $50 million problem at MARTA?

This morning’s big AJC headline — in the print edition, it read “Audit: MARTA spends $50 million too much” — was one of the least surprising things I’ve ever read in our paper.

Not because of some anti-MARTA bias on my part. Rather, it’s because MARTA officials told me as much, almost 2.5 years ago.

In the first part of my special series on MARTA back in May 2010, I wrote:

As you may have heard, MARTA now faces a $120 million budget hole. Believe it or not, the agency projected as early as in 2006 that it would be short $60 million by now, even though revenues were forecast to rise for a decade. Problem was, expenses piled up even faster.

One might summarize the financial history of MARTA (and most public entities) this way:

The economy takes a turn for the worse; MARTA’s budget, which already assumed some operating losses, goes from tenuous to disastrous. Officials warn of (take your pick) drastic, draconian, devastating service cuts unless someone, anyone, finds $50 million …

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The real statistics for Georgia’s charter schools

Of all the worthless statistics that get thrown around in the charter-schools debate, perhaps the least important is the comparison between all charter schools and all traditional public schools statewide.

It’s a favorite figure among opponents of the constitutional amendment on this November’s ballot, which would affirm the state’s ability to create public charter schools. Among those who have trotted it out is state schools superintendent John Barge.

Here’s the statistic: In the 2010-11 school year, 73 percent of all Georgia public schools met the federally mandated adequate yearly progress, or AYP, while only 70 percent of all charter schools did.

With results like that, why bother with charter schools? Right?

While Barge and his fellow travelers in the educational establishment are correct about this figure, it is entirely meaningless in the current debate.

Utterly, wholly, completely meaningless. Irrelevant. Misleading, in fact.

For starters, that 73-to-70 comparison does …

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Is America in trouble no matter who wins the presidency?

Last Friday, I spoke to a local chapter of the Optimist Club. This Friday, I’m going to make sure no one who reads my blog can possibly have any shred of optimism remaining.

Just kidding. Sort of.

In an election season in which the presidential campaigns take turns making mistakes, making one wonder if either candidate really wants to win this thing, Sean Trende at Real Clear Politics lays out a case that neither side should want to win.

It’s the third in a three-part series; the first two installments were an argument for why Barack Obama will be re-elected, and an argument for why Mitt Romney will unseat him. The third piece boils down to: Be careful what you wish for.

Trende cites four factors that, at this point in time, suggest the winner of this election will see his party (or, in Romney’s case, himself) get rocked in the 2014 midterms and 2016 presidential election.

1. The economy. After reviewing the way we have not sprung back from the most recent recession the way we …

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GDOT tries low-cost innovation as alternative to adding lanes

A few months ago, I wrote about the way Washington state has used variable speed limit signs on certain stretches of its highways to slow down traffic ahead of congested areas — thereby avoiding accidents, delaying the onset of gridlock and keeping traffic flowing freely for longer.

Now, it appears we’re going to try a similar tactic along I-285. From the AJC:

The state Department of Transportation on Thursday voted to install variable electronic speed limit signs on the northern half of I-285, where the speed limit will change depending on congestion.

On the southern half, where there is less traffic, the speed limit will simply be raised to 65 mph. DOT officials cautioned the speed limit is still 55 mph all the way around until the project is complete.

The roadway was designed to accommodate higher speeds.

“It’s the principle that it will help to reduce accidents,” said DOT’s chief engineer, Gerald Ross. “And in high speed times — off-peak — you won’t have people jumping in …

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It’s the spending! Romney muddles the message on non-taxpayers

Politicians are not always good at the “telephone” game. Witness Mitt Romney.

“Telephone,” as you may remember from your childhood, is the game in which one person whispers a phrase to another person, who whispers it to another, and so on, until the last person in line. When the message reaches the final set of ears, it’s usually been misspoken so many times as to be unrecognizable to the original speaker.

That game came to mind this week when a video surfaced, depicting Romney speaking at a May 17 fund-raiser in Boca Raton, Fla. Romney is recorded saying, in part:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it …

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About the legend of Henry Ford and the middle class

Andy Kessler has a great op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal explaining why President Obama’s policies regarding government handouts and tax rates on wealthy investors are wrong-headed. It’s worth reading in its entirety. But along the way, he dispenses with a popular myth about Henry Ford, wages and the middle class:

In his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C., this month, President Obama said, “We believe that when a CEO pays his auto workers enough to buy the cars that they build, the whole company does better.” …

This myth — that you can just give money to the middle class and good things happen — is widely shared and is at the basis of a lot of government policy. And it is why the recovery is stuck between lack and luster.

Let’s go back. Henry Ford is popularly credited with inventing the middle class by doubling his workers’ salaries to $5 per day in 1914. A multiplier for the economy, right? Wrong.

The year before, Ford revolutionized …

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2012 Tuesday: What Romney got right about Obama and dependency, where he went wrong

So it appears that, with the Muslim world burning and reports that some but not all embassies were on alert for possible security threats on the 9/11 anniversary last week, with unemployment still so high and the Obama administration’s policies still so ineffective that the Federal Reserve has resorted to a new round of printing money — with all that, we’re nevertheless doomed to another round of debate about another “gaffe” by Mitt Romney.

That gaffe consists of Romney’s remarks, during a a closed-door fund-raiser four months ago, when he said, in part:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. …

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Balfour case raises a bigger question of ethics

A common objection to certain ethics reforms, particularly a cap on gifts legislators receive from lobbyists, is that voters can judge for themselves if representatives cross the line.

House Speaker David Ralston used to argue thus against a gift cap. He reversed course and endorsed a total ban on gifts after voters in July’s primaries overwhelmingly rejected the no-limits status quo.

I think Ralston had it half-right before (the transparency of gift reports helps the public know who’s lobbying whom) and has it half-right now (transparency alone is insufficient, and a limit is necessary). I prefer a gift cap to a gift ban.

Once there’s a limit, it should be up to the voters to decide if a frequent gift recipient should serve in the Legislature. But serving in the leadership? That’s for legislators to decide — and to demonstrate their own ethical standards.

If you followed the news last week, you probably know where I’m going with this.

Last Tuesday, the AJC reported a Georgia …

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Poll Position: How should Obama respond to embassy attacks?

The big story this week was the series of attacks on U.S. embassies across the Middle East and North Africa: from Libya, where our ambassador was killed, to Egypt, Yemen and, today, Tunisia and Sudan. In Libya, the government is cooperating with the investigation into the murders of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. The responses from the other countries have been mixed, but they have been rather tepid on the whole.

How should Obama respond to the attacks on our embassies?

  • Cut foreign aid (255 Votes)
  • Pursue the killers in Libya; otherwise, lie low (173 Votes)
  • Stop issuing travel visas for people from those countries (130 Votes)
  • Bomb ‘em (108 Votes)
  • Economic sanctions (106 Votes)
  • Too soon to say (102 Votes)
  • Cut diplomatic ties (91 Votes)
  • Increase foreign aid (5 Votes)

Total Voters: 517

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President Obama made a mistake Wednesday evening when he said of the Egyptian government, which has been in place less than three months, “I …

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