Archive for the ‘National news’ Category

Facts, not emotions, must guide post-Newtown debate

I have deliberately waited to comment on the horrific mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., for a variety of reasons. Not least was the abundance of wrongly reported “facts” early on that made it difficult for someone hundreds of miles away from the story to feel confident about even the basics of the case; this story was not exactly the news media’s finest hour.

Still more important is the impropriety, in my view, of too soon devoting words at a time such as this to anything other than the victims and their families. They deserve better than to be gathered up as evidence for a policy debate within mere hours of their terrible deaths.

Eventually, though, those of us outside Newtown have to grapple with whether there is something we can do to prevent the evil and the insane among us from committing other such acts of wickedness.

As someone who is generally opposed to making our gun laws stricter, and who believes proponents of gun control have spent years making their case to the …

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‘Emergency’ Sandy relief bill shows Washington’s fiscal folly

Alternate headline: “This is why we’re screwed.” The Obama administration and Senate Democrats have proposed $60.4 billion in spending, some of which may not have anything to do with helping people recover from the superstorm that hit the Northeast this fall. But the entire lot is being rushed through as part of the “emergency” spending package that has to be passed RIGHT NOW according to Democrats — even though, according to the Congressional Budget Office, only about one-third of the money will be spent in the next 21 months.

What else is the dough going for, if not for immediate relief? Jamie Dupree has the full list of items on his AJC.com blog. ABC News reports that millions of dollars are for federal agency spending that is unrelated, or only tangentially related, to Hurricane Sandy. Another $13 billion of it is tabbed to help mitigate future disasters. Those particular mitigation measures may or may not make sense, and it’s hard to know which are worthwhile and which …

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Yes, anti-poverty programs do keep some people poorer than they should be

Kudos to the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof for not only daring to question whether anti-poverty programs might actually harm some people more than they help them, but for doing some on-the-ground reporting about how that happens in specific individuals’ lives. His entire piece from Sunday is well worth reading, but here’s the crux of it:

This is painful for a liberal to admit, but conservatives have a point when they suggest that America’s safety net can sometimes entangle people in a soul-crushing dependency. Our poverty programs do rescue many people, but other times they backfire.

Some young people here don’t join the military (a traditional escape route for poor, rural Americans) because it’s easier to rely on food stamps and disability payments.

Antipoverty programs also discourage marriage: In a means-tested program like S.S.I., a woman raising a child may receive a bigger check if she refrains from marrying that hard-working guy she likes. Yet marriage is one …

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Twinkies and abortion: Two from the ‘I hope you’re happy’ files

One from each side of the ideological spectrum. I’ll start with a smack upside the religious right’s collective head:

According to Rasmussen Reports, in a survey conducted after a presidential election in which abortion rights and the stupid statements of two GOP Senate candidates featured far too heavily, 54 percent of Americans describe themselves as “pro-choice” versus 38 percent who say they’re “pro-life.” This is in sharp contrast with Gallup’s finding back in May, in which half of respondents said they were “pro-life” versus 41 percent who were “pro-choice.” In fact, Gallup’s annual survey on the topic hasn’t found such a sharp pro-choice majority since 1995.

It will be interesting to see what Gallup finds on the question next May, after election-related passions have cooled. But to the degree the Rasmussen survey shows the consequences of changing what it means to be “pro-life,” I blame those right-to-life groups that have pushed politicians to oppose exceptions for …

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An important connection to make on Veterans Day

Today we salute all Americans who served our country in the armed forces. As overseas deployments (we hope) decrease in the coming years and more of today’s troops become veterans of the military, seeing that they have the attention, care and opportunities they have earned through their service will be one of the most important challenges America faces both morally and economically.

To that end, I’d like to remind everyone about the work of the Georgia Warrior Alliance. The alliance seeks to help both active-duty soldiers and veterans navigate the web of help available to them and to make sure they have the training they need to find a place in a tough job market. I’ve written before that this is both an obligation and an opportunity for Georgia, with our large active-duty and veteran populations, and our vast and diverse resources in the some of the very fields that would benefit them and could help our state develop in the future.

If you or someone you know is a veteran or …

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Hurricane Sandy prompts two sharply divergent views on how society should respond

It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Occupy Wall Street, the group alleged to be the left’s answer to the tea party. But you might hear more about these messages yesterday from the group expressing apparent approval of the wrecked state of New York City post-Hurricane Sandy:

Go outside. Meet your neighbors. Talk. Share a meal. When capitalism retreats, our communities flourish. #sandy #nyc

No subways. No electricity. No chains. #capitalism #sandy #nyc

As capitalism halts, we experience “an exceptional period of mutual support and common care.” http://ow.ly/eSX4t #sandy #nyc @StrikeDebt

I don’t think the person tweeting from the OWS account really believes things would be better in a world with so much physical destruction (although, in light of the way OWS treated the Manhattan park where it held its famous rallies last year, I may be giving him/her too much credit). I do, however, think these messages betray an astounding lack of recognition that free-market capitalism …

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Mickey Mouse meets Luke Skywalker

Forget the presidential election and Hurricane Sandy. There is only one breaking story today:

“Disney to Acquire Lucasfilm Ltd.”

It’s a $4 billion cash-and-stock deal that only matters to you if you’re a Disney shareholder or George Lucas himself. The part that is attracting the most buzz is this line:

STAR WARS: EPISODE 7 feature film targeted for release in 2015.

Episodes 8 and 9 are scheduled to follow, with two to three years between each film.

I grew up watching the original Star Wars trilogy. But, in light of the three prequels that came out between 1999 and 2005 and featured the likes of Jar Jar Binks, I’m afraid to say my initial reaction to this news is somewhere between this:

and this:

If there is hope — ahem, “A New Hope” — it’s this: Lucas said it was time for him to pass the series on to “a new generation of filmmakers.” Which means he won’t be involved. Which means the next three movies might stand a fighting chance of being good in the hands of new filmmakers …

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Could this election turn on the effects of a mega-storm?

My thoughts and prayers this morning are with people in the path of Hurricane Sandy and the other storms converging on the Northeast Corridor. My sister lives in Brooklyn, and a number of my friends from my WSJ days live in New York City, Washington and elsewhere. One estimate I heard on the radio this morning was that 50 million to 60 million people stand to be affected. Folks, that’s 16-19 percent of the country’s population. Let’s hope it doesn’t end up as the super-storm so many meteorologists have predicted.

In the political world, both presidential campaigns are adjusting their campaign schedules to account for the storm, out of concern for the safety of residents and staffers in the places lying the storm’s path. It’s an old adage that Election Day weather has the power to change election outcomes. But we’ll have to wait and see if that’s the case this time, given that both campaigns are acting similarly (as opposed, for instance, to John McCain’s unilateral, ill-fated …

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On Newsweek’s going out of print

I suspect many of you could imagine this morning’s news that Newsweek plans to end its print edition after 80 years hitting close to home for a dead-trees journalist like myself. It doesn’t, and here’s why.

I graduated from college in 2001. Although that was right when a lot of print media outlets were making Internet-related mistakes, I was under no illusions that hard-copy newspapers would be around for my entire career. Two more decades of papers hitting driveways seemed about right to me.

About a decade later, I’m not yet prepared to give printed media no more than 10 years to live. But a couple of things have become clear:

1. Digital is not a death sentence: On the contrary, the era of online journalism has seen a proliferation of media outlets. Some are better than others, some have lasted longer than others. Which leads me to …

2. Quality, not the medium, is what matters: Good, relevant, unique content will attract readers whether it’s delivered in print or online. We …

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To boldly go how no man has gone before

Sometimes, amid the smallness and caution that our politics often is, it’s worth stepping back in amazement at something big and daring that a fellow human being has done. From the New York Times’ write-up of one of the more incredible things anyone has done in a long, long time:

ROSWELL, N.M. — A man fell to Earth from more than 24 miles high Sunday, becoming the first human to break the sound barrier under his own power — with some help from gravity.

The man, Felix Baumgartner, an Austrian daredevil, made the highest and fastest jump in history after ascending by a helium balloon to an altitude of 128,100 feet. As millions around the world experienced the vertiginous view from his capsule’s camera, which showed a round blue world surrounded by the black of space, he stepped off into the void and plummeted for more than four minutes, reaching a maximum speed measured at 833.9 miles per hour, or Mach 1.24.

He broke altitude and speed records set half a century ago by Joe …

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