|January 03, 2013||The Agitator #55||3 comments|
|December 20, 2012||The Agitator #54||4 comments|
|December 13, 2012||The Agitator #53||4 comments|
|December 06, 2012||The Agitator #52||no comments|
|November 29, 2012||The Agitator #51||6 comments|
|November 15, 2012||The Agitator #50||3 comments|
|November 07, 2012||The Agitator #49||1 comments|
|October 31, 2012||The Agitator #48||2 comments|
|October 24, 2012||The Agitator #47||6 comments|
|October 15, 2012||The Agitator #46||6 comments|
To say that the murder of Donna Kristofak is tragic would be a gross understatement. I have no idea what was going on in her personal life and marriage; how her husband, John Kristofak, could so viciously kill her is something incomprehensible. What leads to that kind of anger and premeditated reaction is part of the unexplainable human condition. It’s a safe bet that John Kristofak will almost certainly die in the Georgia prison system.
In reading the blogs associated with this story and listening to comments from various people, there is a lot of hostility directed toward Cobb Superior Court Judge, Adele Grubbs. The focus seems to be that she sentenced Kristofak to four years and five months probation, and seven months in jail. The judge then released Kristofak crediting him with the seven months he spent in the Cobb County jail for aggravated stalking and family violence related crimes. Donna Kristofak pleaded with Judge Grubbs to keep her ex-husband locked up, expressing her fears that Kristofak would kill her.
What the MDJ stories did not report is if the plea the judge took was a deal struck between the District Attorney’s Office and Kristofak. That is an important piece of information to a complete understanding of the sentence Kristofak was given. What sentence did the prosecutor recommend to the judge? What evidence did the prosecutor have that manifested an imminent threat to the victim? What evidence did Kristofak present, other than having no prior criminal history, that he posed no threat? In no way am I pointing fingers at the DA’s office for what might seem to some a lenient deal. I am confident that the prosecutor’s office did their homework and whatever recommendations they may have made were based on interviews, facts, and evidence. I would be surprised if Judge Grubbs deviated from a prosecutor recommendation, but the MDJ did not report any of this so that the readers can draw their own conclusions.
It is a sad state of affairs that in our country there is so much spousal and child abuse, much of which goes unreported. How many women suffer in silence, quietly live in daily fear, do what they can to protect their children and themselves, and no one knows that this could be your neighbor? The MDJ story would also have been much more complete if it had talked with someone in the DA’s office to learn how many stalking/aggravated stalking cases are prosecuted each year, how many result in violence versus the effectiveness of the restraining orders. My uninformed guess is that the DA’s office sees a significant number of stalking cases. Prosecutors and judges probably hear cries for help from tormented women all the time, and from all that I have read over the years, Cobb County is one of the better places where the criminal justice system makes a meaningful difference, where the professionals make a sincere effort to listen. This was a case where things went terribly wrong, but I don’t think it is fair to blame the judge or the system.
For those who are always advocating long prison sentences for virtually every crime, I won’t argue the point. It is a fair perspective, especially if you have been a crime victim. But the other side of that argument is the cost to incarcerate felons. That cost includes more police that are paid what they are worth, more prosecutors, more judges, more training for everyone in the criminal justice system, and more judges. That’s before we get to the cost of building and maintaining jails and prisons. And that cost is staggering. This is another example of wanting a champagne system on a beer budget. Until those who complain are willing to pay for what they expect, they shouldn’t expect perfection. Wars are not won on the cheap, and fighting crime is no different.
Judge Grubbs has been around a long time. She has always enjoyed a solid reputation for fairness and meting out stiff punishment for those convicted of felonies in her court. A bleeding heart she is not. As a 27 year reader of the MDJ, I have read many stories about her. Among them is one involving her own personal tragedy with the loss of a teenage daughter in a car accident some years ago. Judge Grubbs is human with a broad spectrum of experience. She deserves better. Perhaps the MDJ can round out this story by addressing some of the questions I have raised.
The two most divisive issues in America are guns and abortion, opinions that are largely immutable. I generally try to avoid discussing either one because it doesn’t accomplish much if anything except to alienate people with opposing viewpoints. I would like to offer some observations, though, about guns in light of the Newtown, CT and other mass murder shootings over the past couple of years. Let me say outright that I am not for outlawing the possession of firearms for self-defense. But a logical question that follows is what kind of firearm should a citizen be allowed to own for his own protection and sport. The Supreme Court has upheld the right to own a gun, but the two recent opinions also acknowledged that the state had an interest in regulating guns. How far regulating can go has not yet been defined by the courts, but over time you can be sure that the law in this area will evolve.
The law today requires background checks for anyone seeking to purchase a firearm from a dealer. The big loophole is that there is no background check required for individual sales from one person to another, or if you buy a gun at one of the many gun shows around the country. Then there are the firearms that are stolen from people who legitimately possess them. Let some determined criminals find out that you have a stash of weapons and there is a good chance your home will be burglarized. I’ve heard arguments that if there had been armed teachers, administrators and janitors at Sandy Hook, maybe the killer would have been gunned down before he could have killed anyone, or at least not killed as many. I have to wonder if a teacher carrying a gun into school could always ensure that the gun was in a safe place at all times so that a curious student wouldn’t find it. It has astounded me that people who have permits to carry guns have been arrested at airports, and invariably they say the same thing, that they forgot that it was in their briefcase or handbag. My background and training with guns includes knowing at all times where your weapon is. No exceptions.
A killer hell bent on committing mass murder doesn’t have to go inside a school or other building to do it if he knows that people might be armed. He can wait for the school busses to arrive, and from a reasonable distance with an assault weapon on automatic he can take out quite a few people before anyone that had a gun would get a drop on him. Even then the guy with the automatic rifle is better situated to take out the guy who responds with a handgun. How often do we hear that we need more cops in the schools? I won’t argue that it might help, but in light of diminishing school budgets and the unwillingness of taxpayers to pony up more money, who is going to pay for it? Another thing to consider is that several hundred cops are killed a year with guns. And cops are trained not only in a variety of firearms, but also in self-defense tactics against an armed gunmen. I learned during extensive weapons training that action is faster than reaction, and the gunman who gets the drop on a cop, who ambushes him is the one who will probably complete his mission. Then there is the “suicide by cop.” How often are mass murderers either killed by police or commit suicide themselves once their damage is done? I don’t have the stats, but I feel confident that the number is high.
Another question that demands an intelligent response is why the Congress failed to ban Teflon bullets when it had a chance? These bullets pierce the protective vests that police officers wear. They have no legitimate purpose that I can think of such as for hunting or target practice. Pure and simple, these bullets are cop killers. After the Oklahoma City bombing a bill was introduced that would require microscopic identification numbers in the manufacture of all explosives. This too was defeated by Congress. How would such a requirement infringe on one’s second amendment rights or privacy? We register a myriad of things in our daily lives with no real concerns, but something as dangerous as dynamite causes concern with certain segments if a law were to require the ability to trace the manufacturer and purchaser.
Federal law imposes a lifetime ban on all convicted felons from possessing a firearm. How about the white collar criminal that never once manifested a propensity for violence? Shouldn’t this category of person be allowed to protect themselves? Another concern should be that there are so many untrained owners of guns who carry them in public. Do they know the capability of the weapon they carry? If they intervene in a robbery would they know if the bullet in that gun might easily pass through a perpetrator and kill or maim a bystander? Are they aware of the civil liability if they shoot and miss the bad guy and hit an innocent? Lots of questions.
Lastly, have the privacy issues been considered? Every time we have a shooting incident there is a call for more metal detectors, more cops, more screening, tighter security, more cameras (which requires someone(s) to monitor), changed traffic patterns, no parking zones, and on and on. Some of the more serious Second Amendment defenders seem willing to trade their privacy in order to keep their weapons. Perhaps we should have that debate. But for sure we have given up a lot. Those of us who have been around for a while remember the days or walking right up to an airplane with ticket in hand. Everyone knows that today’s airport experience doesn’t even resemble those simpler times, how demeaning it has become for those who have physical limitations among others. Try to gently explain something to a TSA employee and you could land you in jail. That part of your First Amendment is history. And once we give up a piece of our privacy, we can be certain that it will never return.
These issues are complicated, and taking an all or nothing position on either side will accomplish nothing. All of us need to review and reexamine the different issues that are part of a fabric with a lot of threads overlapping and running in different directions.
The proposed new Atlanta stadium is back in the news. It looks like it’s a done deal. At one point there seemed to be strong opposition to it, but some political pundits never wavered in declaring that it would happen. They must have known something that the less connected didn’t. The only unresolved issue as of this writing is whether the General Assembly will approve raising the debt ceiling for the Georgia World Congress Center from $200 million to $300 million. I’m betting that it will happen.
In order to pay for the bonds that would have to be issued, approximately $300 million, our elected officials are providing glad tidings during the Christmas season and telling us that we, the good citizens of the Atlanta metropolitan, won’t be paying for it. The Santa Claus in all this are the out of town visitors who will pay the hotel/motel tax. Such a deal! But there’s always more to the story. It is a hoax. How many cities in America have the same tax for their out of town travelers to pay for their stadia, coliseums, sports arenas, concert halls, aquaria, and other facilities? So if you don’t pay it on the home turf, if you are a business traveler or tourist, you will pay it somewhere else, but you will pay it. And the NFL owners are all part of this big game. The obvious question is that if the new stadium is such a grand bargain, where are all the venture capitalists and investors who seemingly would want to be part of the action and get a great return on their cash?
The second part of this hoax is that we are being told by our politicians that building the stadium will create jobs. Yet when I listen to His Porkulous, Rush Limbaugh---and he’s not the only one---I hear him repeat the mantra that the government doesn’t create jobs. Yet somehow government money pays for a lot of airplanes that Lockheed makes, and that means Lockheed is a pass through of tax money that goes to the workers, executives and shareholders. Since Lockheed has not built planes for the private sector for years, I think it’s fair to say that the government in this one instance alone creates a lot of jobs. Multiply that by a million or more government contracts, large and small, and pretty soon you have a lot of jobs that somehow the government has created. If anyone doubts it, just pay attention to the media and listen to your congressional delegation talk about all the government jobs that will be lost to budget cuts, including base closings that the Pentagon wants to eliminate. Former Governor Zell Miller recently wrote that the current stadium brought in billions of dollars in business and taxes. So again I ask, if it’s such a good deal where are the investors who like nice returns? Perhaps the Gwinnet Braves minor league stadium should be a warning. That too was touted as a money machine in the making, but it hasn’t turned out that way at all, and the local taxpayers may yet end up on the hook for any debt. The big time capitalists usually know what they are doing, and if they aren’t jumping in both feet first, I think it is a fair question to ask why.
I am all for building a new stadium if the private sector wants to pay for it. It will create jobs, both during the construction and for maintaining it over its lifetime. But why is it that the same segment of our political community which claims that the government doesn’t create jobs will turn around and argue the opposite when it’s politically convenient? And be sure that I am a big Lockheed supporter. We need their expertise and knowledge for our national defense. But there’s nothing wrong with being honest and admit that the government does create jobs, and that is a good thing. Doubters should talk to laid off government contractors and workers who can’t find work in the private sector or elsewhere with the government.
It has been live theater following the “fiscal cliff” negotiations---if you can call them negotiations---and how most of our elected representatives are oblivious to the American people. One of the more amazing things about it involves one person: Grover Norquist. By now most know that he heads up the Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), and has secured pledges from most Republican officials that they will never, ever vote for a tax increase under any circumstances. What is more remarkable is that anyone would sign such a pledge. Senator Saxby Chambliss recently said that he was going to do what was right for America and not be bound by a 20 year old pledge. That resulted in a phone call from Norquist in which Chambliss claimed that he did not apologize, and that he stood by his statement. A closer look at his statement, though, would mean having the ability to read a crystal ball, because it was more of a politician’s double speak. I guess a fair question is why would Chambliss or any official take Norquist’s calls or meet with him in person? What gives this guy, who isn’t even from Georgia, more clout to walk through doors than 99.9% of Chambliss’ constituents? Is there someone besides me that finds it galling that if we try to correspond with our senator we have the good fortune of getting a form letter/email response? Where does Norquist derive his disproportionate power to get this kind of access? And he isn’t even a big money player like Sheldon Adelson.
The Republicans are in a bind because of their no tax pledge. And while the fight continues Lockheed announced that it will shift a few hundred jobs to Ft. Worth. Whether this is just the beginning of downsizing the Marietta plant and building up the Texas sight is to be determined. But there is a lot of anger in Cobb County among conservatives at the loss of these jobs. And this is just a microcosm of defense jobs that are going away because of cutbacks and the Defense Department’s own declaration that many ongoing weapons systems are unneeded. It is confusing to try and figure out the logic of those who demand that Obama cut spending, but somehow building unnecessary weapons is important to local and state economies. In effect, what the defenders of this waste decry is that their “stimulus” package is hurting them, but Obama’s proposed stimulus to rebuild infrastructure is major league pork.
Meanwhile the Republicans want to cut back on Medicare payments to doctors, which they attacked Obama for doing during the campaign, and other programs that benefit the middle and lower classes. Student loans and food stamps are just two examples that are small potatoes compared to their sacred cows: Medicare Part D (which costs more than ObamaCare and TARP combined over a ten year period), loan guarantees to banks, agricultural subsidies, flood insurance subsidies, among others. And these are programs that add up to real money. Yet even the definition of “real” money is being revised. Many conservative bloggers claim that restoring the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy will “only” result in $100 billion over ten years. If that isn’t much money to be concerned about, I wonder why the same critics seem to think that cutting subsidies to programs like public broadcasting will have more financial impact, that somehow that is going to make a difference in the deficits.
It will be fun to watch how this all plays out. But the American people are going to pay for it one way or the other.
The demise of Hostess bakery has at least two segments of the American public unhappy: those who will miss the product and those who blame the unionized workers and consider them the cause of this eighty year old company’s ending to be their fault. Just maybe the explanations are a little more complicated and a little more nuanced.
Union bashing has taken on a new meaning since the recession, particularly public sector ones. But union membership is at an all-time low, probably down forty percent from its heydays. Public sector unions may comprise the largest segment of members today. They are really catching it, but overlooked is that many states and municipalities that signed agreements never kept their end of the bargain by paying into the pension funds as promised. I think it fair to ask why unions came to be, and the answer isn’t complicated. Employers created working conditions that were intolerable. Unions not only sought better pay, but they also sought collective bargaining to improve safety, reduce the number of hours, and to protect workers against what we call unfair labor practices. In time the unions acquired power and with it came abuses that we are all too familiar with. In other words, the power and abuses shifted from the employer to the union. That pendulum has in recent years has swung back again. Today on reactionary radio you hear the talk meisters say that workers should be grateful just to have a job, that they should shut up and take whatever comes their way from their employer, that life is tough, and that everyone has to bear the burden. One of these charlatans once made the mistake of disclosing that he is a member of the Screen Actors Guild (have any readers bought a full price Broadway play ticket over the years?), yet here he was blaming the unions for Hostess going under. While these worker bashers tout sacrifice, you can bet that the likes of Rush Limbaugh haven’t given up anything ($40 million/year for His Porkulous) while trashing the working stiffs.
Back to Hostess. A few years ago Hostess went through Chapter 11 reorganization. The unions agreed to pay and benefit cuts in order for the company to survive. Then Hostess was purchased by some private equity investors and new management put in place---none with food service experience but instead, financial engineers. And what was one of the first things the new team did? They doubled their pay and took seven figure incomes. I remember that in officer training we were taught that an officer never eats until the last enlisted man has eaten, and he never sleeps until the last enlisted man has a place to sleep. That is leadership 101. But the Hostess management team went the other direction. While their company was failing they demanded that the workers take cuts while they took more out for themselves. And from what I have read, the management did nothing to try and offset the changes in American eating habits, which was shifting to healthier food products. The big boys made no effort to enter the export market in a meaningful way, something they could have done considering that the product has preservatives that would not have impeded shipping, and they made no effort to produce goods that the public wanted. No, it was too easy to clean the company out at the top and tell the bakers, drivers, and other workers to eat the crumbs that they were only too lucky to get. They overlooked the simple fact that owners and workers have a symbiotic relationship, and setting the example at the top, talking and working with your people, taking care of those that do the daily routines, can produce amazing results. Delta is an example. There are many other unsung American companies that understand good management and good leadership, that they are all in it together, and that happy workers are productive workers.
The income disparity between the C - level managers and employees has grown from roughly 40:1 in the early 1980s to 300:1 today. If anyone thinks that this is healthy, that it is making America better, so be it. I couldn’t disagree more. We grew the largest middle class in history during and after WW II. This substantially contributed to the economy and benefited everyone. Middle class people could afford to send their kids to college, to buy homes, to own two cars, and contribute to the economic growth of our great country. Upward mobility jobs with rewarding careers were the American way of life if you were willing to work for it. With less disposable income today for the middle, there is less money being spent, and our consumer economy is hurting badly. It will get worse if better heads don’t prevail and figure out that we are all in this together, that we don’t ever want to become a nation of haves and have nots, that companies like Hostess could have survived, that Hostess is just a microcosm of a very bad trend.
Dr. Melvyn Fein, professor of sociology at KSU, writes a Monday column for the MDJ. No one will ever be confused about his political leanings. He is an unabashed Obama hater, and if you have read his writings over the years as I have, you will not likely have seen one kind word for the president. Oddly enough I have wondered if they know each other personally since Fein often refers to Obama by his first name. In his most recent column (November 12, 2012), Fein wrote a lamentation about Romney’s election loss. Amazingly, he described the election as the “most sleazy, dishonest, and mean-spirited political campaign… (to) prevail over decency and competence.” I have to wonder if Fein watched the Republican Primary debates in which Romney and his fellow candidates ripped each other to shreds with some of the most vulgar and personal attacks. I watched all of them in disbelief thinking that Obama would have a field day just replaying the sound bytes from them. But Obama didn’t. As is so typical with Fein’s columns, he is woefully short of facts, evidence or documentation for his assertions. Broad smears are a lot easier, although one would think that with his academic background he could do better. I also ask myself whether a student with a different political philosophy than Fein’s can get a fair shake in his class.
Fein says that the voters were “cheated, misled, and manipulated”, that they “opted for ideological purity over common sense.” Where does a PhD professor come up with this stuff? First, this comment---and in fact his whole commentary---is insulting and demeaning and not worthy of a tenured professor. I would ask the good professor to ponder just a handful of issues that some of us considered defining, and to offer a factual retort vice more calumnies against those who see the world differently than him. First, it mattered to many of us that Romney flipped and flopped on healthcare, abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and other social issues. Romney stated that he would have let GM and Chrysler go through bankruptcy. What he left out was that there was no private equity capital or venture capitalist money that would have jumped in. Even Ford, which took no TARP, supported the bailouts because they knew that the car parts manufacturers would have gone out of business without the other two carmakers. Second, Romney’s promise to repeal ObamaCare. The provision that has the opponents angriest is the mandatory buy-in. Yet it was Romney who rightfully said as governor that there would be no more freeloaders who got care at the ER and passed along the costs to those who had insurance. Somehow making everyone pay for their insurance is wrong, but many of the same people would insist that even the poorest pay some income tax (on top of whatever other taxes they pay).
Professor Fein seems to believe that those who think like him travel the moral high road, that they are more intelligent, more insightful, better informed, more discerning. Perhaps he forgets that people are people, and even good people make bad choices, do stupid things, and are uninformed. (The priest-pedophile scandal and sexual mishaps in Washington are illustrative.) I wonder if one of Fein’s like-minded thinkers, frequent MDJ LTE writer and blogger, “HFH” represents Fein’s views. In a blog responding to a LTE dated November 11, 2012, HFH stated, “People who think Mr. Obama is a Muslim are ludicrously mistaken. He is almost totally surrounded by far left, secular, socialist Jews. These people are the most hubristic, cynical, and mendacious folks on the planet. They mean no one any good, except themselves and their friends.” These are people from your side, Professor Fein. And there are many more where they came from. It would be interesting and educational if Professor Fein would focus his writing on what he is for and not so much what he is against. Providing facts and evidence---not just conclusions---would advance the ball of debate downfield.
I always enjoy listening to conservative/reactionary talk radio. Actually, I don’t really enjoy it, but I think it is important to try and understand viewpoints that are different than mine for the most part. Hurricane Sandy caused a lot of damage, made people homeless, put people out of jobs whose businesses were destroyed, and otherwise caused devastation to people’s lives. The costs of trying to restore some semblance of normality to the communities affected by the storm are staggering. Amazingly, there are reactionaries out there who don’t think that the federal government should pick up a large share of the bill to do this.
I am from Brooklyn and Staten Island. I have several relatives who still live on Staten Island, and I am intimately familiar with the geography of the island. I have been stunned by the flooding and devastation. It defies my imagination. People who have paid taxes all their lives find themselves facing staggering costs of repair, to rebuilding their homes, to rebuilding their lives. We haven’t heard yet how many people have temporarily or permanently lost their livelihoods, but we will and the numbers won’t be pretty. Reactionary radio and their followers never fail to talk about the need for staying in Afghanistan, to spend money on weapons that the Defense Department says we don’t need, to keep military bases open that the Pentagon says are obsolete, and more. But now there seems to be resistance to having the federal government contribute toward the cleanup costs of the storm. If I understand this thinking correctly, it’s okay to spend money to rebuild countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, but our own citizens are leeches for asking for help, the same citizens that have paid for the these foreign commitments and unnecessary defense costs.
The Bush administration began the bailouts of the banks and auto manufacturers. As distasteful as it was, I supported it. Sometimes you have to do things that go against every fiber in you just because it means survival. The banks have shown their gratitude by their extremely conservative lending policies. Recall too that Rush Limbaugh defended the bonuses that some of the beneficiaries of taxpayer largess took for themselves. But somehow it is “liberalism” and “typical tax and spend” Democrats who are now under attack because the states that have suffered the most from the storm need help from the federal government. Something is very wrong with this kind of thinking. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue; it should be an American issue where all of us support our fellow Americans who are desperately in need at the moment. To offer less goes against what once united us and made our country great.
Donald Trump has made a lot of money from commercial real estate ventures. I applaud him for it. That he is the son of a wealthy real estate developer who gave him a leg up should not be overlooked, and while that does not undermine Trump’s success, it rounds out an understanding of an important component of how he achieved it. And with his success and vast wealth he has been able to acquire a media audience for his political views. Amazingly, Trump was even taken seriously for a while as a presidential candidate. It didn’t last long the more he talked, and even respectable Republicans got chills every time he got in front of a microphone.
Last week, after much touting in the media, Trump delivered a major announcement. I thought that it was going to be something so monumental that all TV and radio broadcasts would be interrupted for it. It turns out that that The Donald wanted to put $5 million on the table for President Obama to direct to the charity(s) of his choice if he would make available his Columbia University and Harvard Law School grades, the sources of his tuition, and his State Department passport file. There was one caveat, though: all the documents would have to meet with Trump’s personal satisfaction. When Obama released his long form birth certificate, Trump seemed satisfied, but then the reactionaries went to work with all sorts of unfounded assertions, and Trump withdrew his acceptance of the birth certificate. I guess anyone with a big checkbook could make similar offers to any public official they have their sights on, which would accomplish nothing.
Now if Trump was really fair and balanced he would make a similar charitable offer to Romney. It would include Romney’s Selective Service records, his tax returns, undergraduate and law school grades, and documentation of who paid for his tuition. So a fair question to Trump is why the information he seeks from Obama really matters? Is it because he is trying to show that Obama is a beneficiary of affirmative action? That Obama was given his grades and admitted to the Harvard Law Review, not on merit, but because of his race? Is he suggesting that Obama’s tuition was paid for by a clandestine foreign power that had a crystal ball to know that one day he would run for president of the United States? How far does this nonsense go? I wonder where Trump was to challenge Clarence Thomas’ qualifications since Thomas admits that he was a product of affirmative action. I don’t recall Trump asking for Thomas’ grades, source of his tuition, or proof of his very heartfelt story of growing up in poverty in Pin Point, GA. Could it be that Thomas’ ideology lines up with Trump’s so it wasn’t important?
Trump is a graduate of New York Military Academy, but despite being in the draft mix during Vietnam he never served his country in uniform. I would ask him to produce his Selective Service records to see what deferments he took advantage of. But a bigger and more important question of this great benefactor is this: why don’t you just donate the $5 million, chump change to you, to the Sheppard Spinal Center’s program in treating severe head and spinal injuries of wounded veterans? This generous contribution would fund the program for five years. That at least would do some immediate good and perhaps assuage his conscience, if he has one, for ducking military service during Vietnam. Until I see his Selective Service records I have no reason to believe that he was nothing but a loud mouth, self-serving patriot who somehow bought his way out of service. I don’t need any more proof for that statement than he seems to need for his.
The MDJ published an editorial from The Macon Telegraph on Tuesday, October 23, 2012, about “Renewing Licenses…and the law of unintended consequences.” The day before I received in the mail my annual business license renewal form. The new Georgia Immigration Reform Act requires that anyone holding a professional license must prove that they are an American citizen each time the license is renewed. I say again---not once---but each time the license comes up for renewal. And that also includes the required annual county business license. Needless to say, this has resulted in a huge backlog in the Georgia Secretary of State’s office, where professional licenses are processed. Considering that the governor has ordered each state agency to cut their budgets and personnel, this has caused a lot of people some heartburn. What used to take a matter of days to a week or so can now take months. In the meanwhile new applicants cannot practice their profession, whether it is to cut hair, massage therapy, or any one of a long list of occupations that the state licenses. This really helps the economy. The Cobb County business license renewal paperwork has to be submitted this year by November 22nd to ensure that it will be processed in time to get your license by January 1, 2013. In past years you could complete the process in a matter of days before the end of the year with no problem.
We’ve heard from Republicans on the national and state level for years proclaim that excess regulation is killing small businesses. I’m not sure what regulations they are referring to because they never really say. If it’s the burden of the tax code, I wonder when they plan to do more than talk about it and actually pull together and pass serious tax reform legislation. Perhaps they should consider this immigration law as an example of the wasted time, which means money, that will be spent after proving once that you are legally here in the U.S. What is the logic behind this requirement? I asked two of our elected officials last year who voted for the law, both Republicans, the “why” question. You’ll never guess what they said, and you can’t make this stuff up: they hadn’t read the bill in the detail that might have alerted them to it. I suspect that there will be any number of current small business people and those about to go into business for themselves that will operate under the radar rather than comply with this unnecessary nuisance.
As a final point related to this topic, does anyone remember that the Cobb County commission quietly passed an increase in the business license fees last year? I never saw a word about it in the MDJ. I found out when I got my bill. And I thought that Republicans also supported no tax hikes because it hurt small businesses. My point is that the Democrats (I am not a Democrat) get bashed for tax hikes and increased regulation, but here are two egregious examples of Republicans talking out of both sides of their mouths.
During the vice presidential debate “Jumpin’ Joe” Biden said that neither he nor the White House knew that the consulate in Benghazi had requested increased security. The State Department did not notify the top chief executives of the request for reasons that we don’t know. I won’t second guess the State Department because I don’t know what they knew. What we do know is that the State Department had requested upwards of $300 million for increased security for its embassies. The Republican congress said no, a vote that included Paul Ryan’s. I am going to wait out the results of the several investigations looking into what occurred before concluding that the State Department’s security section got it wrong in how they prioritized which embassies and consulates got what. As for not notifying the White House of the request for a security augmentation, I can only wonder how many “emergency” requests are submitted daily from the Defense Department, Department of Justice, Homeland Security, and other agencies that deal directly with national security, and what the protocols are for kicking them up to the president. Limited budgets cause organizations to do triage, something that shouldn’t happen but does in these times of tight money, and where a large segment of our population doesn’t want to pay for the services that they want and expect.
I agree with Obama’s critics that the first reports about Benghazi concerning the video were wrong. But after that I go in a different direction. Intelligence gathering is both an art and science. We all know some of the incredible technology that our spy agencies use, but sorting through the voluminous information takes people and time. And we also know that HUMINT (human intelligence) is still as important as all the gadgetry. That too takes time to gather and process. There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle, a lot of moving parts.
I think it is fair to put the Benghazi intelligence failure in perspective. Intelligence failures in the this country are historic ranging from completely missing the North Korean attack on South Korea on June 25, 1950, to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Considering the untold dollar amount that is poured into intelligence gathering and spy craft, it’s hard to believe that things like this could happen, but they did and still do. How about the information that was known before 9/11/2001 that some of the terrorists were taking flying lessons but only wanted training in takeoffs? The schools reported this well before that black day, but somehow it fell through the cracks. The Tet offensive caught us by surprise. Anyone recall the great intelligence failure that led to the Iraq war? The two human sources in that fiasco, Ahmed Chalabi and the German source, Curveball, were both frauds and suspected of lying well before the March 2003 invasion. Our spy satellites, which had completely saturated the land mass of Iraq didn’t pick up any evidence of nuclear weapons or their transfer to another country. President Bush later admitted that there was no WMD---this after a few thousand American lives were lost, many more permanently injured, and countless Iraqis killed.
I am not making light of what happened in Benghazi. I am making light of much of the politicized attacks on Obama for it, especially when you put it in perspective of far more serious intelligence failures that have had much larger consequences. I can only wonder if a Romney-Ryan administration would have done things differently with the same budgetary constraints, if they would have been more prescient and able to avoid what happened. Perhaps so, but the historical record of intelligence failures certainly makes it a fair, non-partisan question.