- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

Jan. 25

Morning News, Savannah, Georgia, on Obama and Israel:

President Barack Obama is cementing his reputation as the least pro-Israel president this nation has ever had.

Last week, the White House announced that Obama will not meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he comes to Washington in March to address Congress.

It’s the first time an American has openly snubbed a leader of this nation’s closest ally in the Middle East.

That’s shameful. It’s also dangerous to this nation’s security and to Israel’s.

It’s clear that the two leaders dislike - if not detest - one another. But they always must be willing to talk, and at any time. The only people who benefit when Obama and Netanyahu don’t communicate are America’s and Israel’s enemies in this region.

There are plenty of them.

Especially Iran.

Iran is on a hot political roll lately. So are its proxies. Iranian-backed Houthi rebels control the Yemeni government. Iran’s influence in Syria continues is rising, as Tehran seems to have saved the once teetering regime of Bashar al-Assad. Hezbollah is making mischief in Lebanon and elsewhere, according to Iran’s bidding.

This political momentum isn’t just making Israel increasingly nervous. Other U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States are worried. If events continue to go Iran’s way, and it is allowed to acquire its own nukes, that part of the world could explode. Israel knows it.

But the White House doesn’t.

Netanyahu is speaking to Congress because House Speaker John Boehner invited him. The White House wasn’t involved. …

The president has opposed a bipartisan bill in Congress that would put teeth in the effort to force Iran to give up its nuclear program. Although Obama has vowed to veto such a measure, there’s a chance that enough Republicans and Democrats could vote to override it. That’s another reason why the White House won’t give Israel’s leader the time of day.

Obama’s leadership in the Middle East has been abysmal. Maybe he’s not openly hostile to Israel. Yet he’s not doing that nation - or, his own - any favors by snubbing Netanyahu or going soft on nukes. The only beneficiary is the country that’s gaining strength - Iran.




Jan. 25

The Times, Gainesville, Georgia, on two states recovery:

In the last two weeks, we’ve seen two different “state of” speeches, from leaders with widely disparate views. Both offered a list of priorities amid a recovering economy, setting goals to better the lives of those they serve. Each was greeted with applause from supporters, grim faces and still hands from foes.

Yet President Barack Obama’s State of the Union and Gov. Nathan Deal’s address to Georgians each took different approaches, and likely will have different results.

It starts with their limitations. Deal manages a budget that can’t spend money the state doesn’t collect, according to the Georgia constitution. That restriction doesn’t apply to leaders in Washington who continue to let the red ink flow.

Yet Deal’s agenda goes before a Republican legislature that is likely to pass most, if not all, of his plan. Obama faces a new GOP majority in Congress that will greet his ideas on the floor as they did his speech: with thumbs down. So while the issues he poses may be worth debating, his rhetoric won’t result in real policy anytime soon.

Obama’s catalog of new benefits sounds great on paper: free tuition to community college, paid sick and parental leave for all workers, a higher minimum wage and tax breaks for the middle class. No one is against any of that.

The problem is it all needs to be paid for, either by a government already running a massive deficit or by a private sector still struggling to regain its footing after a long, deep recession. Right now, anything that could undermine the economy’s slow and uncertain recovery is a bad idea.

An effort to rebuild the middle class by tackling income inequality is valid, yet the president’s plan is based on reshuffling wealth through increased investment taxes on the wealthy. Soaking the rich may sound good at election time and resonate among many who feel left out of free market prosperity, but could do more harm than good in the long run. …

First, we need to define who is considered “the wealthy.” Heirs, athletes and entertainers are part of this group, sure, but most people of considerable means earned it by launching, owning and running businesses that provide most private sector jobs. Many small-business owners already are turning their pockets inside out to get by, and are weary of being looked at as an ATM by politicians solely focused on buying votes.

Obama’s definition of “middle class economics” is to tap into their success even more, a losing game that won’t ultimately help workers.

So while big companies like McDonald’s and KFC may be able to afford higher wages and benefits, they likely would pass those costs on in the form of higher prices. Those who earn more pay could find their paychecks eroded by the higher cost of food and other necessities.

But what about the owner of a local shop with a couple dozen low-wage workers? He or she doesn’t have the margins to increase payroll costs without serious pain. That leaves only bad choices: Eliminate jobs, cut back workers’ hours, delay expanding the business or raise prices, or perhaps a combination of all of it.

Sick pay surely is an issue worth addressing; no one should suffer a job or pay loss from an illness, nor be allowed to spread it to others. …

Here in Georgia, Deal’s budget is less constrained by the cuts made necessary in years past during the recession, and seeks to boost funding for education, transportation, child welfare and justice reform. An expanding economy would create more jobs, with better pay and benefits and, in turn, produce more tax revenue to pay for the state’s needs.

That’s why leaders at all levels should increase middle class buying power more effectively by growing the whole economy, not just pieces of it. That opens the path for opportunity to everyone by creating a “rising tide that lifts all boats.”

We certainly don’t need government driving the economy back into the dumps by trying to pick and choose the winners based on how they vote. In that scenario, those dinner bills would be left unpaid and we’d all be lined up in the kitchen waiting to wash dishes.




Jan. 27

The Augusta (Georgia) Chronicle on law enforcement reform:

The “law enforcement reform” package the state’s Democratic lawmakers are pushing in Atlanta is a mixed bag of proposals. A couple are good, and one is profoundly awful.

The half-dozen measures promoted as the Peach State’s progressive response to the outcry over high-profile police incidents in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y., were announced last week by Sen. Vincent Ford, D-Atlanta.

Let’s start with the good, beginning with Fort’s own Senate Bill 45, which would curtail police’s ability to carry out commando-style “no-knock” raids on people’s homes. It’s being called “Bou Bou’s Law,” after Bounkham “Bou Bou” Phonesavanh, the Habersham County toddler badly burned last year by a SWAT team’s flash grenade that landed in his playpen during an early-morning search for a suspected drug dealer - who wasn’t in the home.

Fort’s law would not allow police to execute a no-knock warrant except in circumstances when announcing their presence would “pose a significant and imminent danger to human life or imminent danger of evidence being destroyed.”

We’re as pro-law enforcement as they come, but police shouldn’t storm houses in the dead of night unless it’s absolutely necessary. Kicking in doors unannounced is dangerous business for people on both sides of the door. How are citizens, especially innocent homeowners, supposed to know whether nighttime intruders are police or criminals?

Police should be held to a higher standard before they serve no-knock warrants. State Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, thinks so, too. He’s a former sheriff’s deputy whose separate House Bill 56 would prohibit such raids between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., and would require them to be reported to the state.

The previous effort to reform no-knock warrants - after a botched drug raid in 2006 that killed a 92-year-old Atlanta woman - stalled during the 2007 session. Hopefully, between Fort’s bill, Tanner’s bill or a combination of the two, that won’t stall this year.

Another reform-package measure we support is Senate Bill 46, which would require all Georgia police officers be equipped with audio/video recording devices by 2017. Civil liberties advocates say - and we agree - that “body cams” would help keep officers more accountable. …

The Fort-sponsored Senate Bill 49 is an attempt to gut the statute that protects Georgians’ rights to use force in self-defense situations before retreating.

The bill was a bad idea when it was trotted out in past sessions - amid the furor over Florida’s Trayvon Martin case - and it hasn’t gotten any better with age.

Law-abiding citizens absolutely have the God-given right to defend themselves. It’s a natural right the government cannot rescind because it was never its to offer.

And while retreating sometimes is preferable to fighting in many instances, people are under no natural obligation to do so. Nor should they be under legal obligation. Leave Georgia’s “stand your ground law” as-is.

S.B. 45 and S.B. 46 deserve the General Assembly’s full consideration, but S.B. 49 deserves a procedural coup de grâce.



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