Saturday, January 12, 2013

Interesting trivia about U.S.

Each year a multitude of facts about the United States and its people is released as the "Statistical Abstract of the United States."    Here are some facts I found interesting:

1.  More people are injured on toilets than in skiing or snowboarding accidents.

2. Student loans have tripled since 1982.

3.  Utah has the highest percentage of homes with internet access (82%), while Missouri has the lowest (57%).

4.  Airport security agents seized 11,908 box cutters from people boarding airplanes.

5.  Liquor stores outnumber bookstores by 3 to 1.  The average household spends $100 annually on reading materials and $2,504 on other forms of entertainment.

6 .  Book club members (5.7 million) are outnumbered by avid birdwatchers (5.8 million).


Our sterling politicians

Georgia politicians -- and in this case that includes Democrats as well as Republicans -- are determined to have taxpayers help the Falcons finance a new superdome with a retractable roof.   Now, mind you, the current sports dome is only 20 years old, and it would be torn down.

They probably have all kinds of economic data to show that it would be a good investment, bringing in tourists for big sports events and conventions.  And that it would be a hotel/motel tax, mostly paid for by the visitors.  The sports-pushers conveniently hide the fact that millions for infrastructure construction and maintenance would still come from us.

But that's really beside the point. The point is that there are so many things the state needs far worse than we need a bigger and better place to play football 

What is the message to struggling citizens when you take away their social assistance and refuse to expand Medicaid -- claiming the budget can't afford it -- and then turn around and pledge $300 million, plus all the infrastructure costs, to gild a private enterprise lily?

Evidence of the tone-deafness is in the AJC article this morning.   A statewide survey reveals that 72% to 21.7% oppose the deal.   This follows an earlier poll of Atlanta residents who are against it by 67%.

It's the attitude of those pushing it though that tells the tale.  Quoting the AJC article:
"Some lawmakers suggest a vote . . .  [by the legislature] couldn't go forward if they listened to constituents' concerns" [italics added].

If they listened to constituents' concerns !

What a terrible prospect -- to allow the people to have a say in such matters.

Professional football before public schools?    Fire teachers but build a world class superdome?   Attracting the SuperBowl to Atlanta, but denying health care to our own poor people?

Bah Humbug !!!


Another Georgia congressman embarrasses us

Georgia Rep. Paul Braun was embarrassment enough, with his infamous declaration that evolution and the Big Bang theory "are lies straight from the pits of hell."   This man is a graduate of our state medical school and a member of the House Science Committee.

Tonight, viewers were reminded of his statement by Cynthia Tucker and Al Sharpton on MSNBC when talking about the latest embarrassment to the state by another of our congressmen.

This time it was Phil Gingrey who, without any apparent reason, ressurected Todd Akins' claim that women aren't likely to get pregnant as the result of "legitimate" rape because their bodies "have a way of shutting it down."    Gingrey gratuitously brought it up and said that Akins was partly right.   And, to add insult to the embarrassment, Gingrey added:   "I'm an ob-gyn doctor, so I know what I'm talking about."

Georgia has three doctor-congressmen -- Tom Price is the other.  All are ultra-conservative, and these two are just plain nuts.   Not only are they political embarrassments, but they bring shame to the medical profession as well.


Friday, January 11, 2013

2016 ?

It's nuts . . . but what's new about that re our political system.

They're already polling for the 2016 presidential race -- and President Obama hasn't even been inaugurated for his second term.

But I'm as bad as the rest, because I'm writing about this early poll.   The short answer is that Hillary Clinton is way out ahead of any mentioned opponent except Chris Christie.

First, her favorability rating overall is 54% to 39%, which is very good;  and among Democrats it is 79% to 15%, which is phenomenal.

At this point, her closest Democratic challenger would be Joe Biden, who she leads by 57% to 16%.   Two governors, Andrew Cuomo of NY and Martin O'Malley of MD didn't even make it up to 5%.

Republicans Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Paul Ryan trail her by as much as 14% points.  Only Christie, still popular from his handling of Superstorm Sandy damage, comes close.   Clinton leads the big guy 44% to 42%.

It's way too early.   She may not run.   A lot can change before it's time to vote.

 But, if she wants to be president, she's got a good chance -- much better than in 2008 -- unless another Barack Obama emerges out of nowhere, as in 2008.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A modest proposal on gun control

Let's cut to the end here.    Enough of all this hair-splitting about exactly what the 2nd Amendment means by "right to bear arms."   Let's take that as a given and simply define what "arms" means.

Now, let's also assume that the most vehement zealots for owning guns also are high on the "original meaning" of the Constitution.   That is, it means what it meant in 1791, not what those same words might refer to today.

So let's say that individuals have the right to own weapons that were available in 1791 when the 2nd amendment was adopted.

That would be the musket -- a long gun, antecedent to the rifle, which had to be loaded from the front end of the muzzle.   Gun powder, wrapped in a twist of paper, and the bullet were stuffed into the end of the musket, then packed down with a long rod inserted into the end of the musket.   A really good shooter could get off about four shots per minute and have to re-load between each shot.

Here's the modest proposal.   Let there be no restrictions on the sale, ownership, or carrying privileges of muskets.   That should satisfy the 18th century definition of "right to bear arms."

And then regulate the hell out of all other guns.

Problem solved.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Down on our lawmakers #2

It's not quite the plunder of the barbarians.  No, that's a bit too strong.  But Georgia is not a state with higher intellectual and cultural aspirations.

A case in point.   The governor and the legislature have decimated the budget for the state archives, so that they have been opening only a few hours a week, with almost no staff to assist people wanting to look up family records.   The official records of the state are not being tended to, and there was even talk of closing the archives entirely.

Yet that state is on the verge of agreeing to share in the cost of a new, billion dollar SuperDome for the Falcons -- a privately owned professional football team that makes millions of dollars every year.    They say, don't worry, a hotel-motel tax will take care of that, coming from visitors, not residents.

Easy for the politicians to say that.   More careful financial analysts say otherwise.   That new tax on visitors would go to pay for the cost of land.   But it would also cost the state millions of dollars in infrastructure and maintenance (roads, etc.) to support the project.  That would come from the budget that our state taxes make up.

Fortunately for the archives -- and for the preservation of our state history -- the University of Georgia has come through and is going to take the archives.  So they will be preserved and available for scholars and families -- and hopefully out of the hands of politicians, although UGA is a state school and depends on state money, which can be cut.

Many years ago my mother made trips to Atlanta and spent many hours in the state archives, researching her family ancestry.  Some interesting things turned up, and now we have that genealogy.   Left to Gov. Deal and his capitol cronies they wouldn't have been available for the likes of Sarah Rogers Roughton.


PS:  While we're at it:   How about a hotel/motel tax to support our world class symphony orchestra and chorus with a new symphony hall?  In contrast to football that lines the pockets of millionaires, the ASO asks those same people to give millions to support the non-profit orchestra, which struggles and recently had to downsize its number of players.   Which is more deserving of government help?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Georgia at the bottom in government ethics

This is not about individual ethical violations, but about our inadequate laws of ethical regulations for our state government officials.

Forty-seven other states have either conflict-of-interest guidelines or open-meeting laws for state legislatures;  many have both.   Georgia, along with Tennessee and Oklahoma, has neither.

We do have laws that limit how much lobbyists can spend on legislators while the legislature is in session -- which is, what? . . .  40 days a year, I think.    So they just do all the wining and dining the week before the legislative session begins.

When you have all of the state government officers and control of both legislative houses controlled by one party, you are asking for ethical troubles.

For once, I'm not saying the Republicans are worse.   There were years when Democrats had control of everything, and they didn't see fit to establish such ethical regulations.   The fact that it's now the Republicans doesn't mean they're categorically worse -- not on this issue, anyway.

It's said that we get the government we deserve.   If that's true, then we deserve to be cheated, because we elected them.   So we should do something about it.    Nothing's likely to happen until we have more of a balance between the power of the parties in the state.

One more reason to vote Democratic in the next elections.


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Hagel for DoD #2

A further reason for wanting Hagel to be the next DOD Secretary:   it's got the Republicans in an uproar -- opposing one of their own -- supposedly because of his stand on Israel.

So what is his stand on Israel?   Strong support for the state of Israel in reality, but little stomach for pretending Israel is always right in his public statements.   In other words, in my opinion, a realistic position, rather than a 'politically correct' one -- politically correct, that is, for those who kowtow to the mentality of "Israel, right or wrong."

Although the opposition ostensibly is about his position on Israel, the same people would probably think he's not sufficiently hawkish on fighting wars.   An early critic of the war in Iraq (after initially voting for it as a senator), he would probably support Obama's wish to end the war in Afghanistan, sooner rather than later.

All of which makes his a desirable choice for Secretary of Defense, IMHO.


The debt ceiling is not a negotiating item

Jason Linkins on Huffington Post skewers those who "enable" the loonies who treat the debt ceiling as a negotiating weapon, threatening to hold the U. S. economy hostage in order to get their way on spending cuts.

The enablers he refers to are not just those in Congress who are gearing up to fight President Obama.   Here's what he says:
"But the enabling isn't just happening in Congress, it's happening in the media, as well, which is why another thing I would like to make clear is that those who see debt ceiling lunacy as a legitimate side in a debate or just one more interesting point of view among many are just as culpable in what could be a pending economic calamity as the lunatics themselves. I'm not alone in this concern."
He then quotes Greg Sargent on how the media has incorrectly framed the debate:
"Indeed, you can read through much of the coverage and come away with the sense that this is a typical negotiation: Democrats want a rise in the debt ceiling; Republicans want spending cuts; therefore, the two sides are squaring off for a game of chicken to see who can extract more from the other. That’s not what’s happening at all, and any accounts that portray it as such present a deeply unbalanced picture."
Linkins goes on:
"Exactly right: we should not be talking about a "debate" over the debt ceiling, or portraying a rise in the debt ceiling as a thing that Democrats "want" or are bargaining to obtain. I require oxygen to continue respiring. Oxygen is not something I "want" or am bargaining to obtain. Give me oxygen right now or I die and that's that. The rise in the debt ceiling is similarly necessary, because Congress has already agreed to spend a certain amount of money, and according to this dumb ritual, must now affirm their intentions to fulfill their previously agreed-to obligations. This is not a matter for debate . . . "
Is it really that simple, though?   Of course the debt ceiling is as he says it is.   But I think Republicans want more than just a hostage-like negotiating ploy.  They want it also to carry the implication that it has to do with future spending.  Well, in a way it does -- in that the more you fight about raising it now to pay for debts already incurred, the more you will be cautious in how much more future debt you incur -- because the next debt ceiling raise will be coming. 

So the real fight should be over whether to get rid of having to vote to raise the debt ceiling?  If Congress votes to appropriate the money, shouldn't the executive simply be authorized to arrange for loans to pay for it -- without having to fight with Congress to agree to pay for what they have appropriated?

Perhaps that just too simple and logical.