Sunday, May 30, 2004

Magic Needs to Conjure Some Sponsors

NCPPR executive director David W. Almasi reminds us that a black face is less valuable than green dollars when it comes to integrating auto racing:
Former basketball star turned businessman/investor Magic Johnson is the newest black face in auto racing after the announcement that he will co-chair the Executive Steering Committee of NASCAR's "Drive for Diversity" program. The program seeks to recruit minority drivers and race crew members as well as draw more minority fans to the sport. Last year, NASCAR stopped giving unrestricted donations -- thought to total near $250,000 -- to Jesse Jackson after The National Center's Project 21 African-American leadership network and the National Legal and Policy Center exposed Jackson's apparent hustling of NASCAR for money while doing little more for the sport than raising the level minority animosity toward it.

It's great that high-profile African-Americans such as Johnson and former football star Reggie White are involved in trying to diversify what has thus far been a sport that largely attracts white fans and participants. It's also great to have corporate support for NASCAR's diversity program. But the real support is needed in the bank accounts of minority drivers. It costs millions to race, and NASCAR cannot provide that money. Corporate sponsors need to get behind good minority drivers if the sport is to be truly diversified.

While Johnson should be congratulated for helping raise the profile of these NASCAR's diversity efforts, the unsung heroes are Domino's, Sunoco, Miller Brewing, the National Guard, Kodak, Lowe's MBNA and Centrix. These are that companies that are already supporting minority drivers. Dominos, in particular, is supporting all four drivers currently enrolled in the "Drive for Diversity" program. Way to go!

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:00 AM

Worth Noting

This point made was made on Right Wing News:
In Afghanistan, we were told going in that the war would be long, difficult, and perhaps even unwinnable... our defeatist press was crying 'quagmire' & 'Vietnam' as we bombed our enemies into oblivion.
It is a observation worth remembering.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:03 AM

Saturday, May 29, 2004

June 6, Perhaps

Late Friday evening I finally got around to glancing through the Washington Post, which we (predictably) get by home delivery. I almost skipped a Special Section of the May 28 edition published to commemorate this weekend's dedication of the new World War II Memorial on the National Mall.

I figured the special section would mostly be stuff for tourists. Wrong.

Among with maps to the festivities, ads saying thanks to veterans and stories about the memorial itself is a montage, World War II Remembered, of personal recollections of the war. These are short stories by regular folks, not all of them soldiers. Some of them brought tears to my eyes.

I'm picking one out almost at random to provide a sample of the stories they collected:
I was a paratrooper with the 17th Airborne Division at an airfield in France awaiting "Operation Varsity," the Allied airborne invasion over the Rhine River on March 24, 1945.

The afternoon before the drop, I had received a letter from my mother that upset me greatly. She sensed that I was going into battle. "Son, I want you to be merciful," she wrote. "Never forget that the young man you are fighting has a mother who loves him and prays for him, just as I love and pray for you."

Infuriated, I thought: "Mother, what are you trying to do, bring about my death? I am trained to kill or be killed!"

At 3 a.m. the following morning, we were fed a last meal before the long, rough flight. The Germans were expecting our attack. The flak and groundfire was were the most intense of any airborne invasion in the war. Once on the ground, I was pinned down in an open field by machine-gun fire from distant farmhouses. A group of our paratroopers coming out of the woods saved me by causing a pause in enemy fire. I then joined in charging the farmhouses, only to find that they had been hastily abandoned.

Bringing up the rear as we passed the last farmhouse, I heard noises coming from a cellar. Convinced that some of the enemy were hiding there, I lifted the slanted, wooden cellar door cautiously and was about to toss in a grenade when I remembered my mother's plea: "Be merciful!" Instead, I shouted down for the Germans to surrender and come out with their hands up. There was silence.

My second shout brought stirring.

The first to come up was an elderly grandmother. Then another woman appeared, followed by four or five little children, until 14 women and children stood before me. I shuddered at the thought of what I might have done, and the burden it would have placed on my life, had I not received my blessed mother's letter.

--John Kormann, Chevy Chase (MD)
Read these folks, if not today, then bookmark it to read later. On June 6, perhaps.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 4:00 AM

Smiting August

James Lileks' Friday, May 28 Bleat is a must-read.

After rescuing Gnat from an evil shopping cart, in rapid-fire order he takes on Human Rights Watch, China, France, Germany, Russia, reveals director Roland Emmerich's Inner Michael Moore and caps it all with a coup de grace against the European Union.

It's a classic.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:45 AM

Friday, May 28, 2004

This Time, I Agree With Hollywood -- Sort Of

If viewing "The Day After Tomorrow" inspires you to take action, let it be this:

Go to the Envirotruth website and use the handy form to conveniently encourage Putin's Russia to stay out of the Kyoto Treaty.

The Hollywood left wants to spur us to take action. Let's listen to them -- this time.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 4:55 PM

"A Feeling of Fear is Spreading"

An Associated Press report on the case of Russian billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky contains worrisome details:
The 10-month investigation against Yukos -- the company Khodorkovsky transformed into one of Russia's largest oil producers -- and its shareholders is seen by many as retaliation for Khodorkovsky's political aspirations.

Ahead of December's parliamentary elections, Khodorkovsky openly backed several parties that opposed President Vladimir Putin. The businessman also became increasingly assertive on policy issues and publicly lectured the Kremlin for its weak stance on corruption...

"The authorities, as personified by Putin and his group, have two aims: to civilize society but also a slightly contradictory goal, to control it," said Igor Bunin, a political analyst with the Center for Political Technology. "With the help of the Yukos case ... authorities have eliminated the political and economic autonomy of Yukos, which in their opinion, presented a potential threat..

Analysts say the multi-pronged attack on Yukos may be an attempt to force Khodorkovsky to make a deal and give up his assets in exchange for a lighter sentence. He already resigned as head of the company last year in a futile attempt to shield it from the government's blows.

The alternative, the analysts say, could be a long drawn-out bankruptcy process that could cost Yukos' shareholders their billion-dollar fortunes -- and still end with Yukos in state control. Either way, analysts say, it would serve as an example to other business leaders...

Yevgeny Yasin, a prominent economic expert who served as economics minister in the 1990s, warned earlier this week that the Yukos affair should make all businesses -- and Russian citizens -- uneasy.

"A feeling of fear is spreading," he said.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 4:33 PM

How Dare He?

Our Ed Haislmaier, a board member and our health care and retirement security expert, suggested that we include this Boston Herald editorial, How Dare Al Gore Disgrace this Nation?, in the blog. Said Ed: "It's concise and well put." I agree. Here it is:
He never mentioned Nicholas Berg. Or Daniel Pearl. Or a single person killed in the World Trade Center. Nor did former Vice President Al Gore talk of any soldier by name who has given his life in Iraq. And he has the audacity to condemn the Bush administration for having "twisted values?''

Gore spent the bulk of a speech before the liberal group Wednesday bemoaning Abu Ghraib and denouncing President Bush's departure from the "long successful strategy of containment.''

Yes, the very same strategy that, under Gore's leadership, allowed al-Qaeda operatives to plan the horror of Sept. 11 for years, while moving freely within our borders.

Gore even had the audacity to defend the perpetrators of the prison abuse - by name - while denouncing President Bush for "humiliating'' our nation.

How dare he. How dare a former vice president of the United States go beyond disagreeing with the current president's policies - a right of anyone in this free country - and denounce Bush as "incompetent.''

How dare Gore say that Americans have an "innate vulnerability to temptation... to use power to abuse others.'' And that our own "internal system of checks and balances cannot be relied upon'' to curb such abuse.

And this man - who apparently has so much disdain for the nature of the American people - wanted to be elected to lead it?

It is Gore who has brought dishonor to his party and to his party's nominee. The real disgrace is that this repugnant human being once held the second highest office in this great land.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:49 PM

Some People Don't Trust This Story

In the Reuters article today by Tom Perry entitled Governing Body, U.S. Pick CIA Link Allawi as Iraqi PM, the following paragraph appears:
"It was unclear how far U.S. officials or Brahimi influenced the choice of a long-time exile known to few Iraqis and whom people in Baghdad said was an outsider they could not trust."
Translation: I know very little about why the Governing Council picked Allawi, despite the fact that as a journalist that's exactly the sort of information I should have, but my inadequacy as a reporter is not going to stop me from inserting an editorial statement that undermines Iraq's transition to democracy.

Also, notice the phrase: "people in Baghdad." Could he have written it any more vaguely?

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:45 PM

A Busy Vacuity, Hollow to the Core

Wow. Charles Krauthammer's opinion of the new World War II memorial certainly is harsh.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 4:02 AM

Kyoto is Anti-Environment

Check out the tremendously straightforward remarks by Russian economist and top Putin Advisor Andrei Illarionov on the Adam Smith Institute Blog.

The guy's a Russian Michael Crichton.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:23 AM

"Earthling, This Is the Last Chance to Purchase Your Safety..."

Just got an unusually amusing bit of hate mail:
I just read your critque of Gore's speech. What misleading crap. Of course since your rightwing idols are lying, cheating, fascist scum, it only stands to reason. Who ever heard of The National Center for Public Policy Research? This is just another ultra right conservative bullshit center that creates propoganda for right wing justification. Get a life.

David Everist
Signs of the Times Graphics
[email protected]
What's amusing about this is that if you put the author's email address into Google, you get a website offering to sell you vinyl Crop Circle Stickers (in a choice of thirteen attractive colors, no less) that you can use to deter aliens from abducting you.

The website says: "Earthling, this is your last chance to purchase your safety. Place these stickers on your car or notebook and maybe you won't be abducted."

This gentleman doesn't appear to be overly popular over at the John Kerry for President Blog. So I guess this letter is not a sign of an emerging belief in alien abduction among leftists generally.

That's a relief. We've got enough looney leftism already, what with Roland Emmerich claiming the Acropolis is turning into a ski lodge of the gods.

Addendum, March 11, 2006: Almost two years later, an indignant response arrives:
amy ridenour,

I am the guy you wrote about on May 28th 2004 calling me a "leftist Looney." You obviously don't know what you are talking about. I can now see why you get so much wrong. You make ridiculous assumptions regardless of the facts. I ran across your article about my "Crop Circle" vinyl designs site (which I took down for various other reasons) the other day when I Googled my name. I found it quite humorous since you got almost nothing right. You quoted my webmaster's sales catch phrase to humorously sell vinyl designs and took it to represent my political philosophy. LOL! No wonder you get so much wrong! I just like the crop circle designs and their formation is an idle curiosity to me and has nothing to do with my political philosophy. You are an idiot.

By the way, what do you think of your "Fuhrer" now that he has exposed his colors for the whole world to see? How long before you think he will be impeached and his entire administration held accountable for the crimes they have committed? As for my not being popular on Kerry's site so long ago, I only considered him the lesser of two evils and he would not be my choice for an alternative candidate in an obviously broken and corrupt system. All I can say is the Republican controlled Congress and their stolen 2000 and 2004 elections have gotten the people who voted for them just what they deserved.

David Everist

PS As far as aliens go, one of the only thing alien to the human race I can see anywhere is you and the people who think like you.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:20 AM

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Notes About Other Places

Daly Thoughts, the Blog of the Electoral College Breakdown 2004, has kindly linked to a post on this blog by my husband David Ridenour, our VP.

Dales' Electoral College Breakdown 2004, by the way, tracks the presidential polls based on what they predict about the Electoral College. It is a fast way to make sense of the poll data we get from the news. After all -- and as Al Gore would tell you -- the popular vote doesn't decide the presidency. Only the Electoral College counts.

Meanwhile, Sean at the always-worth-a-visit "Everything I Know Is Wrong" blog posted some very complimentary remarks about posts on this blog by our executive director, David Almasi.

Finally, as long as I am talking about other blogs, allow me to recommend this Life, Liberty, & the Pursuit of Happiness post to anyone who has wondered, as I have, about the news media's practice of referring to certain geographical locations as "holy cities" -- but not others.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:25 PM

Silent Running

Peter Roff of UPI is reporting that The Center for Public Integrity has created
a new page on its website to monitor 527 political committees.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:05 PM

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Under the Bridge

Peter Roff of UPI has reported that Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) has apologized for comparing some Republicans to the Taliban.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 9:07 PM

Where Is Al Gore?

I've received an e-mail asking the question: Does anyone know an address for sending a letter to Al Gore?

If anyone does, send me an e-mail at [email protected] and we'll share it.

ADDENDUM: I'm told Gore works at Metropolitan West Financial, LLC. They can be contacted at:

Metropolitan West Financial, LLC
11440 San Vicente Blvd., 3rd Fl.
Los Angeles, CA 90049
Phone: 310-979-6300
Fax: 310-979-6399

Gore also serves on Apple's Board of Directors:

1 Infinite Loop
Cupertino, CA 95014
Phone: 408-996-1010

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 4:24 PM

What is A German Soldier Worth?

This incident recounted in this Tasty Manatees blog story is unfortunate.

I have never been one of those who adhered to the convenient (for non-Germans) thought (pervasive in some quarters post WWII) that ethnic Germans were/are more likely to commit human rights abuses than other First World states and peoples. However, they're not less likely, either.

However, as Tasty Manatees notes, the Der Spiegel report alleging that Americans can't be trusted with POWs might not be entirely reliable. Der Spiegel has erred before.

This would be a good time for the German government to set the record straight.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 4:24 PM


Via the After Abortion blog comes a recommendation for this Dean's World blog post.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:35 PM

Explicit Toys

Executive director David W. Almasi finds some poor choices being made by one of America's largest toy retailers:
The Tom Cruise movie "The Last Samurai" received an R-rating largely because of its violent content. It's now on sale at Toys "R" Us. In a Sunday newspaper insert covering May 16-22, "The Last Samurai" was grouped with family-targeted movies like "The Haunted Mansion" and "Peter Pan" among the "hundreds of titles" to be found in Toys "R" Us stores at "Geoffrey's Box Office."

Online, Toys "R" Us is teamed up with Amazon. While the site is geared toward selling kid-friendly fare, it's still linked directly to Amazon's main site. As pointed out in an October 2003 National Policy Analysis, Amazon and other media and electronics stores routinely offer adult-themed videos for sale on-line without safeguards to keep them out of the hands of young people. Selecting the "all products" search field and typing in "Girls Gone Wild" (the infamous collections of girls exposing themselves on camera) on what was linked me to an Amazon catalog providing a selection of 78 DVDs and 44 video titles including "Dormroom Fantasies" and "College Co-Eds Mardi Gras." That's a problem.

Toys "R" Us is the largest toy retailer in the world, but it is losing out to Wal-Mart here in the United States. Wal-Mart refuses to stock some of Hollywood's racier titles like the Girls Gone Wild collection and even prevents people from purchasing R-rated DVDs at new self-serve check-outs without verification of age. That attracts family-oriented shoppers.

Any questions as to why some people prefer to shop Wal-Mart?

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:36 AM

GOP Terrorists?

From executive director David W. Almasi:
How soon people seem to forget. Liberals were apoplectic last February 23 -- exactly three months ago to the day -- when Education Secretary Rod Paige called the National Education Association a "terrorist organization." Democratic National Chairman Terry McAuliffe called it "hate speech" and called on Republicans to "immediately renounce" Paige's comment.

Now Democratic Senator Tim Johnson (SD) compared certain parts of the Republican Party to the Taliban at a campaign rally on May 23.

The only difference between Paige and Johnson thus far is that Paige apologized. Johnson thus far has steadfastly refused to do so.

And none of his colleagues have renounced his comments, including Terry McAuliffe.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:28 AM

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

No Caviar in Our Teeth

A good post today on the Life, Liberty, & the Pursuit of Happiness blog about proposals by Charles Krauthammer and Gregg Easterbrook in favor of raising gasoline taxes.

I agree with all of it.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:09 PM

Monday, May 24, 2004

Gas Prices Are About More Than Saudi Arabia

Correspondent Edward Kitsch recommends this fine article by former Delaware Governor Pete DuPont of the National Center for Policy Analysis in today's Wall Street Journal putting all the "gasoline prices are rising" news media stories in perspective.

An excerpt: spite of what you read in the paper -- outrageous gasoline prices entered into Google gets you 15,000 links -- its current inflation-adjusted price of $2 a gallon is about its median price over its 85-year existence, and with the exception of the 1980s spike, it has been steadily declining over the decades.

Better still, improving technology has increased the number of miles one can drive on a gallon of gasoline, to 22 in 2000 from about 13.5 in the early 1970s . So the cost of gasoline per mile driven has fallen nearly in half, from more than 13 cents to a bit more than seven cents. Meanwhile median income for a family of four (in inflation-adjusted dollars) has increased to more than $63,000 today from less than $46,000 in the 1970s.
The article contains a lot more of interest.

As a side note, the next time I hear a broadcast media report that gas prices are higher I think I might scream. The fact that gas prices have increased led the local radio news stories in DC today -- despite the fact that they've been reporting this story for over a week!

It would be different if they added new information to the story each day, but they don't.. It is always the same thing: Gas prices are over $2! People don't like it! And then they invariably talk about OPEC, as if OPEC production levels were only factor involved in the pricing of gasoline.

As Pete DuPont's article shows, there's a lot we Americans could do if we really care to reduce the price of gas at the pump. This isn't all about Saudi Arabia.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:43 PM

Kissy-Face Detente Aside, Ivan, We Enjoy Beating You

National Center Executive Director David Almasi is a fan of the article "Wimpy U.S. Olympic Committee Tells Athens-Bound Athletes: Curb Your Enthusiasm" by James Lileks.

A few quotes follow, but we recommend the whole thing:
The United States Olympic Committee has requested that our athletes curb their enthusiasm, since we are, you know, uh, hated...

Earlier this year the U.S. Olympic soccer team was having a qualifying match in Mexico; they were up against Canada; and they won. The United States won, whereupon the crowd started chanting "Osama! Osama!"

Seventeen Mexicans died in the Sept. 11 attacks. Twenty-four Canadians died in the Sept. 11 attacks. You remember that big apology from Vicente Fox, don't you? No?

The Olympics are supposed to be above politics, but that's nonsense... When the United States beat the Soviets at hockey in 1980, the political overtones were explicit: Kissy-face detente aside, Ivan, we enjoy beating you. We really do...

Sudan, which is ethnically cleansing its Christian blacks, could hoist its flag. China, whose treatment of Tibet birthed a million indignant bumper stickers, can run around with the flag held high. Russia can flatten Grozny, and its athletes can be assured of huzzahs and applause.

It's not that these governments are better than the United States. What counts is that they are not the United States...
Blogging fans will recognize that James Lileks is more than a columnist. He also runs a truly exquisite blog. I don't use the word "exquisite" (defined by Webster's as: "carefully selected or sought out; hence, of distinguishing and surpassing quality; exceedingly nice; delightfully excellent; giving rare satisfaction; as, exquisite workmanship") lightly.

My favorite Lileks posts are the ones about Gnat. Oh, and do buy the dang book. I did. It's great.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:08 PM

Right in the Middle of the Karbala Fighting

I received a quick e-mail from Joe Roche Sunday evening.

He could not write a long note, but he did give a clue as to his recent activities, saying "my battalion was right in the middle of the Karbala fighting."

He also recommended "a link from the NYTimes that is really surprising because it is right on the nose!"

(I don't know if he meant that as an editorial comment about the general quality of the New York Times' reporting, or if he was simply showing his enthusiasm over this particular article).

He also recommended this ABC News Online report.

Joe also had time to add a paragraph about care packages before signing off:
We're receiving more and more packages every day. We add them to our convoys to deployed units, so all the soldiers are getting things. I really hope somehow the thanks is sent out. I know some soldiers are trying to write to some of the people. It is really hard though. Mostly, the addresses get lost when we tear into the boxes and spread things out.
I think we can tell how much the boxes are appreciated simply from the phrase "tear into the boxes."

Anyone who is thinking about sending a care package to these troops can get information about it here; there also are many other ways one can send support to our troops deployed abroad.



Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:01 AM

Sunday, May 23, 2004

J'accuse, They Said, Ironically

The British left-wing newspaper the Guardian apparently thinks Americans give a damn about the opinion of effete Old Europe filmgoers.

A story titled "J'accuse" to this effect carries an astonishing sub-headline asserting that an Cannes film festival award to Michael Moore's anti-Bush film "may have changed the course of history."

How many divisions does the Cannes film festival have?

The article calls the award to Moore's film "...a spectacular rebuke to Republican and corporate America, a stunning exocet of scorn launched from the epicentre of old Europe."

They are a little full of themselves. This award represents a bunch of movie people from Europe restating something they say all the time: They don't like us, they don't like our values, and the really don't like us when we stand up for our values.

American moviemakers mostly don't like America. We sure as heck don't expect anything different from the French.

But before I end this, a note about the irony of the piece's headline:" J'accuse." For those who don't know history (let's include the Guardian here), this is a title of a famous newspaper piece condemning one of very many examples of French anti-semitism. Yet the Guardian uses the term against the USA's foreign policy -- which it despises in part because it believes we're too pro-Israel.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:56 PM

Enviro Guru Says: Adopt Nuclear Power or Suffer Gaian Dystopia

I'm getting a kick out of May 24 articles in the British newspaper the Independent.

It seems that the prominent Greenie James Lovelock has called upon his fellow members of the environmental left to abandon their opposition to nuclear power. Lovelock believes that global warming fears are understated and fears of nuclear power are exaggerated.

I'm enjoying the fact that a leading environmentalist is echoing something we've said many times before: If you truly believe carbon dioxide emissions are causing the planet to warm and that this warming would have dire results, you presently have two choices: nuclear power or shutting down much of the world's economic activity.

On this latter, narrow point, Lovelock apparently agrees with us. Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, according to the Independent, don't.

We, of course, believe that the theory that human beings are causing dangerous global warming is vastly overstated, but we like nuclear power's environmentally-friendly attributes nonetheless.

Lovelock, by the way, is a self-described "outstanding scientist" and "pioneer in the development of environmental awareness." He is credited by himself and others with creating the "Gaia Theory," the notion that, as Lovelock puts it on his website, "the planet Earth [is] a self-regulated living being."

The notion has been adapted by neo-paganists and New Agers, some of whom now worship "Gaia," regarding the planet Earth as a "goddess."

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:55 PM

Why Don't Mafia Dons Run Blogs?

The news media was all over the allegation that someone in the White House made public the fact that former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV's wife is affiliated with the CIA. But does the news media cooperate in the investigation to find out who did it?

Time magazine, NBC and Newsday won't.

The Washington Post reports that the Washington Post won't say. (Yes, you read that right. The Post talked to itself and didn't get a reply.)

More farce from the Post, which recently strongly implied that it didn't know the cause of death of one of its most famous columnists, Mary McGrory, when pretty much the entire newsroom had to know. The Post does this sort of thing all the time.

But back to the free pass on crime: Would a blogger be free to refuse to cooperate in a law enforcement investigation of an illegal action that he covered in his blog?

If no, then why should the establishment press be treated as though its journalists are above the law?

If yes, then Mafia Dons, drug dealers and other miscreants may soon start blogs. I would if I were one.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:19 AM

Just Do The Right Thing

Some interesting poll data from the Sunday Washington Post. An excerpt:
More than a third of Americans say they don't trust President Bush 'at all' as a source of information about the environment, according to a new survey of attitudes about the environment by the Global Strategy Group for the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Sciences. Kerry fares somewhat better, with 24 percent saying they don't trust him on the issue.

But before Kerry's campaign tries to make hay out of that finding, consider the flip side: Although 26 percent of Americans say they trust the president 'a lot' for environmental information, only 12 percent say they feel that way about Kerry.
The lesson for politicians? Don't bother approaching environmental issues from a political perspective. It won't help you anyway. Just do your issue homework, and then do the right thing.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:34 AM

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Hey Roland, Wanna Buy the Brooklyn Bridge?

National Center executive director David W. Almasi is critical of "The Day After Tomorrow" director's muse:
In an interview with SCI FI Wire, "The Day After Tomorrow" director Roland Emmerich admits he previously pledged never to make another disaster movie, but "when you find something that you can give people [a] message, but still make it an exciting movie... you kind of get very, very, kind of excited about something." What got Emmerich so excited? He read the book The Coming Global Superstorm by Art Bell and Whitley Strieber.

Yes, it's that Art Bell. Bell used to host "Coast to Coast AM" from his trailer located near Area 51 in Nevada, pumping out stories about aliens, monsters and government conspiracies to insomniacs nationwide. And, according to reviews of the book posted on Amazon, the factual basis of his book -- Emmerich's muse -- leaves much to be desired.

Interestingly, many reviews, though written years ago, suggest the book is more movie fodder than textbook.

It certainly doesn't sound like something to which Al Gore should be hitching his political reputation, but he seems to be doing so.

Here's what Amazon's layman critics said:
The Hanged Man from Fairfax: "I bought this expecting some science, some facts, some hard information. Instead, I got 'lost' civilizations, fuzzy facts, and (this was probably Strieber's contribution) a passable bit of science fiction. Pass on the book and stick to Weekly World News."

Charles D. Johnston from Atlanta, Georgia: "This book takes yelling 'Fire!' in a crowd to a new level. Using a combination of vague references to unknown writers, clearly slanted style, and half-science, this book is clearly commercial in intent and seeks to capitalize on the 'sky is falling' mentality that was so evident before Y2K. The authors are more interested in making money than real science..."

Jerald R. Lovell from Clinton Township, Michigan: "It's distressing to know that Barnum was right about one being born each minute... Anyone with the slightest knowledge of weather knows the scenario of ten feet of ice and all that other glop is impossible under the laws of physics... The book has its value, though, in that it does show the Dark Ages, where superstition reigned and truth hid, are never that far away. The authors should go back to tossing burnt sheep bones and reading tea leaves, and not masquarade as scientific seers... What a commentary on our educational system! I weep for the future."

A reader from Denver, Colorado: "...Superstorm is not even good science fiction. It is laughable, speculative, junk science and urban legends all thrown together..."

A reader from Ohio: "Great fun to read... but scientifically it's all hot gas."

A reader from Wooster, Ohio: "Before I read this book I had never heard of Art Bell or Whitley Strieber. Therefore, as a scientist, I read this book with an open mind... In my opinion, Strieber and Bell have hijacked the topic of potential weather-related global cataclysm, and used it as a vehicle to persuade the reader that advanced civilizations once existed on our planet and were lost in a violent climatic upheaval. They present legitimate scientific observations and as-yet unexplained phenomena (much of it unrelated to the topic of global climate) and casually link them to some of the more fantastic claims of pseudoscience. This book is worth reading for entertainment, but the reader should definitely keep in mind the saying 'you shouldn't believe everything you read.' The bottom line is this book is long on pseudoscience and speculations (more than a few of them outrageous) and short on substantial scientific information."

rb_748 from Brooklyn, New York: "This book contains all the hallmarks of the worst pseudoscience: no references or clear citations, misnomers galore..."

Jim Green from Torquay, Devon, United Kingdom: "This book reads like a poorly-edited screenplay for a crummy disaster movie. If it's that kind of entertainment you want, then fine. If, however, you're after a credible treatment of an important issue, then steer clear of these authors. The style is sloppy and repetitive, and it seems sensationalism is valued over serious research. A quote from p. 216 says it all: 'The two of us are amateurs.'"

Joel Foss from Lakewood, California: "If you're like a lot of readers, and you've been watching the news headlines about north pole ice melting, and increasingly harsh weather conditions, then you're looking for a book on global warming and it's possible effects. You're looking for a book that will tell you what scientists are saying; what tests they're doing; what indications they're looking at. You're looking for a book that will educate you a little without putting you to sleep. Well, THIS AIN'T THE BOOK! The author is a radio talk show host, not a science writer, and the book is about as educational as... a radio talk show! There is no attempt to explain; only to scare the reader..."

A reader from Rochester, New York: "Bell once again rehashes kindergarten-level scientific mumbo-jumbo to exploit current topics of interest, in order to capitalize on his fame and make a few extra bucks. Save your money and buy a book with some science content."

A reader from Olympia, Washington: "Baloney does not stick to paper very well. Not since Joseph Goebbels and the 'big lie' has there been such a gaseous expulsion of fairy tales masquerading as science..."

A reader from San Jose, California: "This authors mix wild and implausible speculation with pseudo-science to produce a book that, if anybody read it, would set the environmentalists back ten years. We just have to hope that few fall into the trap of reading it, like I did."

A reader from Troy, New York: "I enjoy a good 'wacko' theory book as much as the next person, but this book is a travesty. Arguments and assertions are made and never followed up. Veiled hints are made but never proven. Planetary cycles are alluded to but never stated succinctly. The writing is slack and there is no intellectual rigor..."

Dan Allison from Sunset Beach, Florida: "These two are QUITE the piece of work. America's most irresponsible broadcaster has teamed up with a guy whose career as a horror novelist was in the dumpster before he grabbed onto the UFO thing. The result is fear-mongering pseudoscience... Listen to their 'Coast to Coast AM' radio broadcast. Strieber is incessantly blaming capitalism for problems that, frankly, do not even exist. His calls for 'government action' are barely-disguised paeans for government control, collectivism, and restrictions on individual freedom. Bell, while slightly more conservative, will put ANY crackpot on the radio -- aliens, time travelers, you name it..."

Gary L. Scott from Aloha, Oregon: "The Coming Global Superstorm is science fiction pap. Light on fact and heavy on speculation extrapolated from junk science mixed with just enough facts to add some credibility to the book. Bell and Strieber have collected mountains of urban legends, folk tales and junk science, mixed it together and created yet another great book for the doomsday crowd."

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:36 AM

New Media/Old Media

We took a shortened version of the May 12 letter Spc. Joe Roche sent us from the front and sent it to newspapers nationwide. According to Google, the piece has been printed by at least one newspaper so far, the The Biloxi Sun Herald.



Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:18 AM

The Wedding Party

The blog on blogs, The Truth Laid Bear, posts this question from a reader on its main page: "'I don't think the blogosphere has thrown up nearly enough stylists of true distinction, incidentally. Do you?'"

The Bear answers "Kaus! Kaus! Kaus!" as in Mickey Kaus.

I suggest the post entitled "The Wedding Party" from Belmont Club is an answer by itself.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:01 AM

Friday, May 21, 2004

I Prefer My Sauce to Be Nonpolitical, Thank You Very Much

Something odd is going on over at Taco Bell. Maybe it is a joke by a Taco Bell employee who needs to be replaced. Or maybe the corporation is disfunctional.

I know one thing: I'm not putting any of my kids' college savings into their parent company's stock unless there is a reasonable explanation.

Here's the background. Alerted by the Ramblings' Journal blog, run by Project 21 member Michael King, who received a pointer from talk radio's incomparable Neal Boortz, I visited the website.

There the company informs the public that it is sponsoring a contest to find humorous sayings it can print on sauce packages. According to the main website and a May 19 Taco Bell press release, the solicited sayings must meet four requirements. They must be: simple, left of center, provide insight on the little things in life, and not exceed 70 characters.

Left of center?

Odd point number one is that a company with the customer base of Taco Bell (and its fellow subsidiaries of corporate parent Yum! Brands, Inc., which are KFC, Long John Silvers, A&W and Pizza Hut) would decide that its sauce packets are the place for left-wing political statements. Odd point number two is that the company would issue a press release alerting a nation that is 41 percent conservative that they are part of the vast left-wing conspiracy.

Odd point number three, though, is that the sample sayings Taco Bell provides aren't political at all (examples: "My other taco is a Chalupa," "Polly want a taco?"). So that raises the possibility that at least some significant personages at Taco Bell don't actually know what the phrase "left of center" means.

I telephoned Taco Bell for the scoop. That's a crusade in itself! The phone numbers one can glean from the website don't reach human operators. I tried the phone number for people who have a million dollars to invest as new Taco Bell franchisees, figuring that line at least would reach a live person. No such luck -- it just rings unanswered. The parent company's website wasn't helpful, either. Finally I got the idea to check the parent company's required filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, figuring they probably do share their phone number with the SEC. Yes! I downloaded their last filing, and found a phone number in it. Voila! A human answered and I was transferred to Yum! Brands' public relations, which in turn gave me the phone number for the Taco Bell press office.

I have not quite hit the informational jackpot, however, as the Taco Bell press office said it would have to call me back.

So there it sits. Are Taco Bell, KFC, Long John Silvers, A&W and Pizza Hut about to face a massive boycott (it won't be necessary to organize one; if Yum! Brands has decided to shill for the left its own sauce packets will spread the word enough to get a boycott going), or is the corporation simply a victim of a mischievous or ignorant employee who desperately needs more oversight?

Or maybe I am the ignorant one. Does "left of center" mean something non-political, when one is speaking of sauce?

I told Taco Bell's press person that I do not have a firm deadline for my opinion writing, but that I hoped to be able to hear back from them today. The ball is now in their court. Watch this blog for more details. If they call back, I'll share what they say. If they don't, I'll call them again.

ADDENDUM: Taco Bell called back. Nice folks. Very friendly. They mean the term "left-of-center" as "quirky," "off the beaten path" -- that sort of thing. What's more, they've been using the phrase "left-of-center" in public documents for three years now, yet the first time (that they know of) that anyone took it as a political statement was yesterday, when someone at the Wall Street Journal called them to ask about it.

So we shouldn't expect to see any calls for socialized medicine on Taco Bell sauce packets anytime soon...

I admit their choice of terms perplexes me, but I concede that I'm not the best judge of what terms are generally thought to be political and which are not. I've been living in the Washington DC area for over a quarter century. Here, everything is political. Everything but Taco Bell, that is.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:53 PM

Green Tax Break

Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell (D) has proposed starting a week-long 'green' tax break twice a year in Pennsylvania. Under the proposal, consumers purchasing appliances carrying the EPA's "Energy Star" designation would not have to pay state sales taxes during those two weeks.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:18 PM

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Believe Me, Brother

A tiny part of the latest installment in the Iraq the Model blog:
"Believe me brother when I say that the majority of Sadr city people are grateful for the Americans. We didn't fire a bullet at them when they entered our city. We gave them the reception of liberators and they are. Why would we fight them now!?"

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:22 AM

To The Point

Dr. Jack Wheeler, an old friend who has a remarkably keen understanding of international cultural trends, makes some interesting, even encouraging, observations about the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal en route to a larger point about the value of the blogging community.

A sample to whet your appetite:
"How many times... have you heard that Al Jazeera's satellite TV reports on whatever we are doing in Iraq are 'enraging the Arab world'? It turns out that vast numbers of Arabs in Iraq and elsewhere despise Al Jazeera as SNN -- the Sunni News Network, a worthless propaganda channel promoting Sunni imperialism."
If you read more, you won't be disappointed.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:01 AM

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Is It Just Me?

A question from husband David:
Is it just me, or has the mainstream media completely lost its grip on reality?

  • International terrorism is at a 35 year low; we've toppled a repressive, aggressive totalitarian regime; we put the architect of the Achille Lauro hijacking (in which American Leon Klinghoffer was killed) out of commission permanently; we've so frightened Libya that it has renounced terrorism and given up its weapons of mass destruction; AND we've shifted the frontlines of the war with terrorists from United States soil to Iraq - and they still say that the Iraq war is a distraction from the real war on terrorism.

  • Those of us who defend the choice to drive SUVs and other large vehicles but choose to drive fuel-efficient cars are called "anti-environment" while those who want to take that choice away but actually own large gas guzzlers are called "pro-environment."

  • If a handful of low-level subordinates out of several million working for you commit crimes, you should resign in disgrace. If you commit a crime yourself - say, by lying before a federal grand jury - you should stay.

  • President Bush has overseen the largest expansion of Medicare since its inception and the sharpest rise in federal spending since LBJ's Great Society. He left Judge Roy Moore twisting in the wind and added new regulations where they previously didn't exist... And he is said to be following an extreme right wing agenda that is polarizing the nation.

  • Evading the military to preserve one's "political viability" is considered a non-issue, while serving in the National Guard is called "draft dodging."

  • If you're an Iraqi terrorist at Abu Ghraib prison and you're humiliated because nude photographs have been taken of you, your ordeal warrants repeated page one newspaper coverage. If you're a female American soldier humiliated because nude photographs have been taken of you at the same prison facility, your experience warrants a tiny one-paragraph story buried in the few papers that care.

  • President Bush is said to lack intelligence. But at the same time, he's been accused of cooking up the Iraq War with his buddies in Texas and deliberately misleading the public and Congress to gain approval for the war. Which is he: dullard or evil genius? He can't be both.

  • Journalists dutifully reported Ted Kennedy's remarks equating U.S. management of Abu Ghraib prison with that of Saddam Hussein, but didn't mention that the acts of sexual humiliation by U.S. troops at the prison were only slightly more humiliating than acts that occurred after a younger, more vigorous Teddy had a few drinks.

  • The media led calls for Trent Lott to resign after he praised former segregationist Strom Thurmond, but the media was relatively silent when Senator Chris Dodd praised Robert Byrd, a former member of the KKK who has used the "n" word on network television in recent years.

  • When evidence of possible criminal acts by Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee were leaked to the press, the leakers, not the Senators, were considered the problem. But when evidence of possible criminal acts by U.S. soldiers at Iraq's Abu Ghraid prison were leaked to the press, the soldiers, not the leakers, were considered the problem.

  • As French officials were receiving accolades for insisting that Saddam Hussein was innocent until proven guilty, no one bothered to mention that they were advocating better treatment for Hussein than they give their own citizens. Under the French system of justice, one is considered guilty until proven innocent.

  • Europeans have called Americans "arrogant" and even equated our leaders with Adolph Hitler. Yet the news media singles out the Bush Administration's New Europe/Old Europe formulation for the poor state of U.S./European relations.

  • When the U.S. takes actions that will cost it hundreds of billions of dollars and perhaps thousands of lives, it is said to be pursuing an economically-driven agenda. When others take action from which they stand to make billions of dollars, it is said to be a principled stand.

  • When Janet Reno took responsibility for Waco, the mainstream media praised her. When Rumsfeld apologized for the prison abuses, the media called for his head.
  • Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:04 AM

    Tuesday, May 18, 2004

    I Guess Marshmallow Fluff is Out

    Call me wacky, but I don't think The Rough Woodsman blog is really talking about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches here.

    Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:34 AM

    Monday, May 17, 2004


    Dr. Pat Michaels takes apart the science in the movie "The Day After Tomorrow" in Sunday's Washington Post.

    Thanks to Instapundit for the pointer.

    Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:43 AM

    The Benefit of Brown: Providing Opportunity

    Today is the 50th Anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision. The black conservative group Project 21 has issued some publications and statements marking the event. Some excerpts:
    "The Supreme Court only opened the door to the dream. It is up to each individual to decide whether or not he will walk through that door... No matter the cost of one's personal sacrifice in the short run, it is worth it for every black person in America to walk through the door.'" - Project 21 member John Meredith

    "Our ancestors died in slavery, dreaming of the day when their descendents would be able to read, write and compete in this country on a level with the best of white children. That day has come, and far too many squander those opportunities." - Project 21 member Mychal Massie

    "By tearing down racial barriers to education, Brown let all children take advantage of the best in American learning. Once they applied themselves, black children could compete fairly in the job market. With added skills and wealth, the remaining racial barriers soon fell. There was an immediate improvement in black education. In 1960, the percentage of blacks with a high school diploma or more was just 20.1 percent. Those with at least college degree was only 3.1 percent. Both figures were less than half of the proportion of their white counterparts. By 2000, 78.5 percent of blacks had a high school education or better, and 16.5 percent had at least a college degree. White numbers rose to 84.5 percent and 26.1 percent, respectively. In 1990, black college graduates had an unemployment rate of only 1.9 percent." - David Almasi

    Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:13 AM

    Sunday, May 16, 2004

    Short, But Full of Events

    I know I recommended posts from the Iraq the Model blog just the other day, but I am going to recommend another post already anyway.

    Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:09 AM

    The Green, Green Privately-Owned Grass of Home

    The National Center's executive director David W. Almasi on lawn care:
    Want a quick example of how private property rights are the best way to protect the environment? Look out at your front yard.

    I just returned from a 10-day vacation. One of the last things I did before I left home was cut the grass. Within an hour of returning home, I was back out cutting the grass -- this time in 90-degree heat. I was also pulling weeds, planting vegetable seedlings in the garden. I then made arrangements for a professional service to come and do some fertilizer treatments. As I worked, three of my neighbors were also mowing. We all want to be proud of our lawns and not be a nuisance to others.

    Compare this to what I see on my commute to and from work. On one major road, the grass on the median strip is so high that I almost cannot see the oncoming traffic. While the grass is high in the median, the weeds are even higher and now in full bloom. Along the Washington Beltway, weeds and grasses are over waist-high. Who's in charge of cutting and tending to these areas? The government.

    Take this beyond my yard and my commute. Local governments, state governments and the federal government own a huge amount of land -- so much that they cannot adequately take care of it all. Homeowners, ranchers and businesses that own property, however, manage their property for reasons of pride and profit and most often go the extra mile to make sure that their land does not go fallow or cause harm. With government, neglect is often a write-off. It's also inconsistent. In the Washington area, a homeowner can be fined for not mowing, raking leaves or shoveling snow. If the government is lax in it's groundskeeping, well...

    Private ownership: pride and attention. Government ownership: the potential for neglect. Any questions?

    Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:54 AM

    What Will Be Shown?

    Blogger Roger Simon is reporting that Alhurra, the American Arabic-language television netowrk broadcasting in the Middle East, has acquired tapes and photographs of prison atrocities that occurred under Saddam's regime.

    Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:47 AM

    The Blog Item's Headline Says It All

    Check out this item, "I'm Not Holding My Breath That This Will Be Broadcast on CNN Over and Over," from the heartwarming CPT Patti blog. It provides another view of how the U.S. Army treats detainees.

    Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:31 AM

    Friday, May 14, 2004

    Perverse Incentives; Adverse Results

    We've just posted on the main website a piece by Senior Fellow Bonner Cohen, who explains to the uninitiated why so many people are frustrated with the Endangered Species Act. The essay has been reprinted in the Miami Herald and other newspapers; I'll excerpt a bit of it here:
    In the 30 years since its enactment, the Endangered Species Act has emerged as one of the most powerful, and ineffective, environmental statutes on the books.

    Of the some 1,260 species listed as "endangered" or "threatened" under the ESA, fewer than 30 have been taken off the list. And this is even worse than it looks. Some species were removed from the list because they became extinct; others, like the American alligator, were taken off because it was determined they were never endangered in the first place.

    These meager results, however, are not the worst aspect of the ESA. In rural America, far away from urban skyscrapers and suburban malls, the ESA has imposed severe land-use restrictions on property owners...

    Typical of the havoc the ESA has wreaked in rural America is the case of Ben Cone, Jr., whose father purchased 8,000 acres of timberless land on the Black River in North Carolina. Cone replanted the property with pines, carried out prescribed burns to control undergrowth, and selectively thinned his trees every few years to pay his property taxes and to turn a profit on his labor. Over time, his pines grew to such a height that they attracted the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, which brought him into direct conflict with the ESA.

    In testimony before Congress, Cone explained that "by managing [the property] in an environmentally correct way, my father and I created habitat for the red-cockaded woodpecker. My reward has been the loss of $1,425,000 in value of timber I am not allowed to harvest under the provisions of the Endangered Species Act. I feel compelled to massively clear-cut the balance of my property to prevent additional loss."

    ...The best way to serve the interests of both people and wildlife is to replace the ESA's rigid regulatory framework with voluntary, nonregulatory, incentive-based provisions....

    This would be very similar to how the U.S. Department of Agriculture "protects" highly erodible land on the nation's farms by offering to pay farmers to place some of their land in its Conservation Reserve Program for a set term of years and then paying the landowners for their cooperation. "If this can be done for habitats of nonendangered wildlife," says R.J. Smith of the Center for Private Conservation, "it can also be done to protect the habitats of endangered species."

    Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:27 AM

    Thursday, May 13, 2004

    Predictions: Wrong

    Says David Almasi:
    In the new film "The Day After Tomorrow," our "disrespect" for Mother Earth threatens mankind with extinction unless a brave climatologist can convince us to mend our global warming ways.

    The science behind the movie is dubious. But this hasn't stopped it from being used as a political tool by the likes of Al Gore and, who want people to see it as more of a documentary than the disaster film that it truly is. But none of this is new.

    The 1970s was full of films predicting a bleak future if we didn't mend our ways with regard to the environment. Let's consider Hollywood's track record from back then:
    "Soylent Green" (1973) -- In 2022, 40 million people will be living in New York City, real food is a delicacy (jam goes for $150) and a conspiracy is uncovered in which dead bodies are converted into foodstuffs. "Soylent Green is people!" Today, genetically-modified foods are feeding starving people around the world and helping fight disease. After liberal obstructionism is overcome, starvation may be considered a thing of the past. Prediction: wrong.

    "Logan's Run" (1976) -- In 2274, environmental devastation has driven humanity into domed cities. To control population, authorities have mandated no one is allowed to live past the age of 30, and the police strictly enforce the law. Even the ending of this film proved the late economist Julian Simon right. There's nothing man can do to the environment that the earth can't handle and survive. Prediction: wrong.

    "Death Race 2000" (1975) -- Four years ago, America was supposed to be so unruly that an extreme sport where auto racers battle each other to the death and score points by killing innocent bystanders had been created to prevent a revolution. Reality TV? The X-Games? Professional wrestling? Maybe this one actually came true!
    Joking aside, Hollywood is no great prognosticator. Movie-makers are not especially wise guides to public policy. But liberals are trying to use "The Day After Tomorrow" to promote the United Nation's Kyoto Protocol and the McCain-Lieberman bill in the U.S. Senate. Both would be costly mistakes that would do little to protect the environment but a lot to hurt our economy.

    Posted by Amy Ridenour at 6:00 PM

    Not On Your Life

    Today's Daily Mislead once again betrays's desperate desire to attack President Bush, even at the expense of both the truth and common sense.

    The publication today condemns Bush for "refusing to condemn[the Bush administration's] right-wing allies who are making light of the situation and defending torture."

    In an attempt to find something, anything, on which to condemn the President, mischaracterizes comments by Rush Limbaugh and Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) in a manner apparently intended to mislead readers into believing that the talk show host and Senator approve of all the inappropriate actions of some soldiers in the Abu Ghraib prison. in fact, both men have forcefully said they do not approve of those activities. Neither man has "defend[ed] torture"; both have condemned mistreatment of detainees.

    However, is it really the President's responsibility to monitor the public speech of every prominent American and issue condemnatory statements every time he disagrees with someone? Not on your life -- and I don't mean that phrase rhetorically.

    President Bush has a war on terror to win. He's President of the United States; not a media critic.

    If truly disagrees with Rush Limbaugh and Senator Inhofe, it can criticize the men. To do so credibly, it should start by telling the truth about what the men really believe.

    Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:37 PM

    It Sure Worked for Me

    Anyone who wants to feel better about what we are doing in Iraq should visit the Iraq the Model blog, run by three Iraqi brothers.

    Try this post in which the Iraqi blogger talks with an Iraqi doctor who worked at the Abu-Gharib prison under American management.

    Or this one in which an Iraqi describes joining the new Iraqi army.

    Or the blog's review of posts about George Bush on the public comments section on BBC Arabic.

    Or their other posts.

    Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:26 AM

    GIs Gone Wild? Not So Fast

    A comment from The National Center's executive director, David W. Almasi:
    First, it was the coffin controversy. Several big-name newspapers published photos of coffins they thought were coming back from Iraq. Instead, they'd been given archive photos of the remains of the Space Shuttle Columbia crew.

    Now, the Boston Globe has run photos from a cyberporn site and reported them as having been taken at the Abu Ghraib prison.

    Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:10 AM

    Wednesday, May 12, 2004

    A New E-Mail from the Front in Iraq: "I Ask That the American People Be Brave"

    I have just received an e-mail from Army Spc. Joe Roche, who was briefly able to take a break from the thick of the fighting against Al-Sadr's forces in Iraq to tell us what he is seeing and experiencing.

    Because I am fearful that I will alter the immediacy of his piece if I edit it, I am presenting it here intact (except I removed from the text the name of an injured soldier).

    The next time you see one of those photos from the prison abuse scandal story, remember that the soldiers in those photos are aberrant. This is what an American soldier is really like.
    Amy, I wrote this super fast, and I have no idea if you can or would want to use it. I have little time on the 'net, so from notes I've made while on missions talking to the guys, I rammed this out. Don't feel committed to using it, but just in case... I wanted to write to the American people about why our fight w/ Sadr is going so well and why they should not be seduced by the media/press image that this is somehow a disaster.

    Take Care.



    The fighting we are engaged in against the uprising of Muqtada Al-Sadr is one that is extremely sensitive and risks catastrophe. Had we entered this previously, it would not have been possible for us to win. Over the months, we have been involved in preparations and much planning. Thus, today we are scoring amazing successes against this would-be tyrant.

    I ask that the American people be brave. Don't fall for the spin by the weak and timid amongst you that are portraying this battle as a disaster. Such people are always looking for our failure to justify and rescue their constant pessimism. They are raising false flags of defeat in the press and media. It just isn't true.

    Last year in April while the main war was still going on to defeat Saddam Hussein's military, I myself gave a class to my company of the 16th Engineers about the threat posed by Sadr and the prospects for conflict with his militias. Though my fellow soldiers didn't appreciate having to attend a class at 8am on one of our last days before deploying to Baghdad, they can tell you that what is happening now is no surprise. I used open and general information that my superiors were already aware of.

    The basis of our evaluation over a year ago was that Sadr presented a formidable and possibly impossible threat. Last summer, as my unit covered Sadr City -- the sprawling part of Baghdad that Sadr controlled then -- his militias challenged us by making a show of force in defiance of the effort to open up Iraq society to the new freedoms. Sadr clearly demonstrated that he would deny Iraqis democracy and freedom in his quest for power. By the fall, he had most of Iraq's Shia leaders and the community at large intimidated and kowtowing to his bully tactics. In January through March, his arrogance and thuggery led him to pursue two further attacks upon the hopes for Iraqi freedom.

    He vigorously pursued courting and forming alliances with Iranian hard-liners. Upon returning to Iraq, he then welcomed many foreign fighters to train and assist his militia in terrorist tactics and guerrilla warfare.

    In fact, we almost went into full conflict with him back then, months ago!

    So our leaders, Paul Bremmer, Gen. Abizaid, and countless other US and Coalition leaders all over the land, acted w/ caution and care to secure for the US ever stronger cards against Sadr while simultaneously working to achieve four main goals.

    Now we today are in a climactic battle against him and his militia. When the remnants of Saddam's regime were in full uprising in Fallujah, Sadr thought his time had come to make his bid for total power and to oust the US from Baghdad. He was very wrong.

    It has been subtle and very well done by our leaders. You should be proud. It would have seemed impossible to have achieved our four main goals against Sadr even just a few months ago. Now today, despite the message of the pessimists who are misleading you into despair, we are have scored all the victories needed to bring this battle to a close. First goal was to isolate Sadr. Second was to exile him from his power-base in Baghdad. Third was to contain his uprising from spreading beyond his militias. And the last goal was to get both his hard-line supporters to abandon him, and to do encourage moderates to break from him. This has been done brilliantly, and now we are on the march in a way that just months ago seemed impossible to do. Sadr is losing everything.

    Goal one: His so-called Mahdi Army militia is fighting alone. We are out defeating them day and night, and all the time we find them exposed and vulnerable. The people of Baghdad, Karbala and Najaf are not supporting him. His forces are isolated.

    Goal two: His one-time powerbase, Sadr City in Baghdad, has been lost. Sadr has been exiled from there, and we have him on the run. He is trying to cloak his presence and activities in Najaf and Kut as planned, but that is damage control on his part. Yes we confront pockets of his followers. Just a couple days ago, I had to maneuver around such a crowd of 300 in Sadr City. The point is, though, we operate in Sadr City, and his followers are merely trying to raise the lost cause of his. It is perhaps better to understand why he is able to mobilize groups like this by seeing him as a mafia leader who is just sacrificing his own people in a mad last plunge to grab onto power. He is no different from any other thug in the world who manipulates and betrays his followers for his own lost cause. The critical thing to see, however, is that in Baghdad, Sadr is gone. He has been effectively exiled and we are destroying his one-time properties of power and abuse there.

    Goal three: Other Shia leaders are breaking from him now in large numbers. The overall Shia leader of Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, has left Sadr's call for jihad and uprising to flounder on deaf ears. Bremmer and Gen. Abizaid stunned the overall Shia community by negotiating a calm in Fallujah. That has tail-spinned Sadr and his efforts to intimidate Iraq's Shia leaders. They see the US hand is strong, and that therefore they are making a mistake in kowtowing to Sadr's terror and violence.

    Sadr is now running scared in Najaf. This is great. The Iraqi people of Najaf are offended by this Baghdad thug coming to their city and trying to hijack them into conflict with us. His militias have moved into Karbala too, and the same sentiment is being expressed by the people there. Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia are occupiers of those cities, and are insulting the most sacred sites of Shia Islam daily in their actions. Sadr's forces have stockpiled weapons in mosques and schools, and he continuously is going into the Imam Ali Mosque to call for jihad against us. This is offending Iraq's Shia leaders very much, and the Shia people are not following.

    Our units, in fact, are operating w/in 500 meters of the most sacred Shia religious sites in these cities, and you should notice that the local people are not resisting. This is what the pessimists amongst you are preventing you from understanding. Something like this would have been impossible before Sadr and his militia thugs went into there to hijack Iraqi Shia Islam. The people of Najaf and Karbala know we are not there to conquer and occupying the religious sites; we are there to liberate them from this would-be tyrant who is trying to hijack them. His uprising has been contained, despite Sadr's desperate efforts to expand.

    Goal four: Now Sadr's patrons and mentor in Iran are breaking from him. Grand Ayatollah Hossain Kazzam Haeri in Qom, Iran, is no longer backing him and has instead made it clear that Sadr's uprising is not sanctioned. Haeri is his mentor, and was a close intimate to Sadr's respectable father. The Teheran Times has run stories that are largely exaggerated, but still are making clear that Sadr's uprising is counter to Iranian interests and does not have the support of even one of Iran's grand statesman, Hashemi Rafsanjani.

    In lieu of this, Sadr has exploded increasingly desperate and offensive. On Friday, he offended perhaps the whole Muslim world when he issued a fatwa (a religious edict) that if his forces in Basra capture a female British soldier, they can keep her as a slave. And as I pointed out already, his militia thugs in Najaf and Karbala are keeping weapons in mosques and schools.

    In this, quite frankly, Sadr has done it to himself. He has compelled his would-be supporters amongst Iran's hard-liners to break from him and to put distance between Iran's interests and Sadr's uprising. Along with this, Shiites all over Iraq are breaking from Sadr and ignoring his frantic calls for jihad and slave-taking. Sadr has been abandoned.

    I'm not writing you blind to the casualties this is causing us. My battalion, the 16th Armored Engineers, should be home reunited w/ family and friends after serving a full year here. Instead, we are still here where the temp is reaching 115-125 degrees. And some of my fellow soldiers have fallen. Units of my battalion are right in the front of the fighting. Your prayers are needed. [A soldier] lost his eyes and a hand last week. The surgeons are trying to salvage his hand now by re-attaching it. This tragedy is a real nightmare. Another suffered shrapnel wounds in his abdomen. Others have been cut badly. Miracle of miracles, however, Sgt. Morales on Friday was shot in the CVC (helmet) -- the bullet ricocheted around his head and fired into the back of his seat, never cutting his skin!!!

    I'm telling you this because you need to know that your soldiers are working their hardest. My unit is just one of many in this fight. What you need to do is be strong and persistent in your faith with us. Sadr's militia is in panic and desperate, so they are dangerous, but you need to keep this all in perspective. The pessimists would have you believe this is a disaster. Don't listen to them. I think some of them feel that their reputations require our failure because they have been so negative all along, so they are jumping at every opportunity to sensationalize what is happening here as a disaster. Eliminating Sadr's threat is part of the overall mission and we are further ensuring the liberation of the Iraqi people. This has to be done, and we are doing it.

    Don't be seduced by those who would rather that we sit back and just enjoy the freedoms past generations of Americans have sacrificed to gain for us. This is our time to earn it. I remember President Bush saying after the September 11th attacks: "The commitment of our Fathers is now the calling of our time."


    Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:03 AM

    Tuesday, May 11, 2004

    Teachers' Union Needs Instruction

    From a United Federation Of Teachers union document about Social Security and Medicare comes this line critical of conservative plans to augment the current Social Security system with private retirement accounts:
    All experts agree that private individual accounts would exacerbate the situation and cause a multi-trillion dollar deficit that would have to be made up from general taxes.
    All experts agree with the left? All of them?

    Here's something Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said on the topic. Doesn't sound like he agrees. Maybe he's not an expert? The full-time employees of the Cato Institute's Project on Social Security Choice must not be experts, either. Semi-experts, perhaps. I could go on.

    Trustworthy analysis like this must be why Congress, in its wisdom, made union dues tax-deductible.

    Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:42 AM

    Monday, May 10, 2004

    The Commons: Green Magazine Afraid of Dissenting Views

    The Commons blog has a piece by Jonathan Adler tonight about E/The Environmental Magazine pulling an ad for the The Index of Leading Environmental Indicators, which is published by the Pacific Research Institute and the American Enterprise Institute.

    Apparently, these particular Greens are afraid that if people see both sides of an issue, they won't chose theirs.

    See Jonathan's post for more pathetic details.

    Posted by Amy Ridenour at 9:49 PM

    We Know the Sierra Club Doesn't Do Science, But Apparently it Can't Do Math or History, Either

    James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal's Best of the Web today has a hilarious point to make about a new book written by Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope.

    Taranto notes that Pope complains that President Bush has (supposedly) turned back the clock on environmental protection "a full century" -- and Pope complains that Bush has "abandoned the environmental principles first championed by President Theodore Roosevelt."

    But, Taranto points, out, "if Bush is trying to turn the clock back a century, that would be to 1904, when the president was... Theodore Roosevelt."

    Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:43 PM

    Rumsfeld Must Stay

    David Frum ha good points on the Rumsfeld-should-resign issue in his blog on National Review Online today.

    I continue to maintain that those who want Rumsfeld out have wanted him out all along; the prison abuse issue simply gave them an opening.

    Thanks to Power Line blog for the pointer.

    Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:00 PM

    Sunday, May 09, 2004

    The Day After Tomorrow

    I have a new op-ed out, on the topic of the new global warming disaster movie, and thought I would share an abridged version of it here:
    Promoters of the global warming disaster movie "The Day After Tomorrow" must believe we were born yesterday.

    The film focuses on a global apocalypse. Two hundred and ninety-foot tidal waves surge against Manhattan skyscrapers followed by a quick freeze that leaves Manhattan enshrouded in ice. Dozens of cities get hammered. A tornado levels Los Angeles, five-pound hailstones bombard Tokyo while San Francisco Bay freezes. It's a New Ice Age.

    It's also the latest brainstorm of German schockmeister Roland Emmerich, best known for "Independence Day" and "Godzilla."

    Those movies were enjoyable examples of the "sky is falling" fantasy genre. "The Day After Tomorrow," however, is the subject of a multi-million dollar PR campaign touting it as if it were a realistic warning of what could happen if we don't dismantle our economy to stave off global warming. Yet the extreme scenarios promoted by global warming theory advocates are supported more by politics than by science.

    Kyoto was rejected by President Bush because of its draconian economic burdens and because the treaty wouldn't prevent global warming. There is little scientific evidence documenting the need for a Kyoto-style crusade against climate change, anyway.

    Excepting the El Nino year of 1998, since about 1979, the Earth's temperature apparently has not been increasing. What minor warming the Earth experienced over the past century primarily occurred before 1940, when there were far fewer automobiles and power plants.

    The U.S., in any case, is not ignoring climate issues. The U.S. government spent over $3.5 billion on climate change in 2003 alone.

    Many of the horrendous events predicted by global warming scaremasters have no basis in reality. Even if global warming were to occur at the fast pace predicted by alarmists, it wouldn't unleash the New Ice Age predicted in "The Day After Tomorrow."

    Says scientist Andrew Weaver in the journal Science, "it is safe to say that global warming will not lead to the onset of a new ice age."

    Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:22 AM

    Friday, May 07, 2004

    The Commons

    There's a new blog in the neighborhood, "The Commons," a group blog of free-market environmentalists that is the brainchild of Iain Murray, blogmaster of the excellent The Edge of England's Sword blog.

    The Commons, named in honor of the concept of the tragedy of the commons, is dedicated to showing how environmental quality is best defended by free markets and property rights. It made its debut this evening.

    Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:27 PM

    Giving Aid and Comfort to the Enemy

    Thoughts from husband David:
    It is not Donald Rumseld who should resign, but Nancy Pelosi. If it is a resignable offense to avoid making public statements that could prejudice an ongoing military investigation, then it must be an offense to send a message to our enemies that we're not united behind our military leaders, that we're losing our stomach for the battle, and that what our enemies are doing is working. All of which Nancy Pelosi and her comrades have done.

    Rumsfeld is being held accountable for the actions of perhaps six individuals out of some several hundred thousand, while Nancy Pelosi can't even monitor her miniscule staff to make sure her employees do not violate campaign finance laws.

    There clearly are some politicians who are gleeful when things don't go well in Iraq. They put their narrow political interests above the welfare of the troops on the field. They have blood on their hands.

    Nancy Pelosi and all the rest who are playing this game should resign.

    Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:51 PM

    "His Actions Have Been Exactly What They Should Have Been"

    An excellent post at Everything I Know Is Wrong on the Rumsfeld-Should-Resign nonsense. Sean has more common sense than the entire New York Times editorial board, and his prose is better, too.

    Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:46 PM

    Nicer Mail

    From the mailbag:

    I saw the link you put up for Joe Roche's group to receive care packages. How can we find out about other folks serving in Iraq who also need care packages? I have a group of friends who would like to make this a project.


    Folks have written to tell me about these three sites, all of which I have visited and which can provide assistance:

    Keystone Soldiers
    Operation Military Pride
    Books For Soldiers

    These are quality sites worth visiting, even for those who don't plan to send care packages at this time.

    Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:05 AM

    Thursday, May 06, 2004

    Perjury is O.K.

    I'm watching U.S. Senator Jon Corzine of New Jersey explain to Sean Hannity that Rumsfeld should resign because the actions of some of his subordinates put the reputation of the United States in a bad light.

    Does he truly want that to be the new standard for all public officials?

    If so, it is quite a change in opinion from the days he which he thought Bill Clinton should remain in office, even after committing perjury.

    Posted by Amy Ridenour at 9:09 PM

    Inside the Beltway

    The Washington Times Inside the Beltway column today includes quotes from Joe Roche's letter about the soldiers' response to the prison abuse, as posted May 5 in this blog.

    John McCaslin, who writes the column, has a book, "Inside the Beltway: Offbeat Stories Scoops and Shenanigans from Around the Nations Capital" coming out next month. If it is as widely read as his column, he'll have a best-seller.

    Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:49 PM

    Will Moammar Gadhafi Go on International TV to Apologize for This?

    Will Moammar Gadhafi go on international television to express regrets for, and a full investigation of, the treatment of these prisoners?

    Will Le Monde run an anti-Libyan cartoon?

    Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:10 PM

    Speaking of Hostile E-Mail...

    I have the O'Reilly Factor on right now. The guest is Christopher Wolf, listed as representing the law firm of Proskauer Rose LLP.

    Small world. Another person from that very law firm sent the black conservative group Project 21, which we sponsor, race-based hate mail the other day.

    According to Google, Christopher Wolf wrote an essay published on entitled "Racists, Bigots and the Law on the Internet." The piece describes the legal limitations on prosecution for Internet hate speech and advises that the "best antidote" to hate speech is "more speech."

    So, in the spirit of taking his advice, here's some more speech:
    Dear Proskauer Rose LLP,

    It is rude to call black conservatives "Uncle Toms."

    Please inform your staff.

    Thank you.

    Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:10 AM

    Wednesday, May 05, 2004

    Apparently, We're Unpatriotic

    I received a rather odd e-mail a few minutes ago. It is from a fellow who considers our entire organization unpatriotic, and wants us to know that his soldier nephew thinks we're "a bunch of assholes."

    I gather the correspondent objects to our press release Amid the Nightline Controversy, Remember: Our Troops Are Doing A Great Deal of Good. He seems to think the press release is anti-soldier, and unpatriotic.

    The press release begins: "Believing that it is the best way to respond to ABC broadcaster Ted Koppel, The National Center for Public Policy Research today has posted on its website an extensive list of the achievements of just one of the many U.S. units operating in Iraq. On his April 30 broadcast Koppel will recite the names of all the Americans killed in combat in Iraq. The list recounts the achievements of the 16th Combat Engineer Battalion, part of the 1st Armored Division, which has been in Iraq since the war started and remains on active duty there at this time. It was provided by Spc. Joe Roche, who serves with the 285-soldier unit."

    This seems uncontroversial to me, but it really hit a nerve with this guy:
    The National Center for Public Policy Research:

    It amazes me that somehow you wish to draw controversy out of a simple reading of the soldiers who have died in Iraq. Shame on you for your simplistic opportunism to get press for your organization.

    My deceased father George Massie Gividen, Jr. will be inducted into the US Ranger Hall of Fame this July. He served as a Marine before he was accepted at West Point. Among his many citations and awards from the Korean War are the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver,Star, Soldiers Medal, Army Commendation Medal, and 5 purple hearts. He then taught at West Point and served in the Civil Service until he retired a few years before he died. If he were alive, he, like me, would have sat through every minute of the Nightline program paying his respects to those soldiers who have died over there.

    I spoke to my brother J. Richard Gividen, a retired Army officer. Though he missed it, he also wanted to see it. In fact I am sending him a copy. He also confirmed my father would have been glued to the television.

    My nephew, SPC Dustin Schafer with the 2nd Brigade Recon Troop Iron Horse, just got back from Iraq about a month ago. He told me he is shocked that someone would not want people to know about those that have given their life in Iraq--in fact he was injured while his driver died in a Humvee accident. His words about you--"what a bunch of assholes." His friends in his unit share his sentiments.

    As you can see my family is full of military people who all support the idea and spirit of this show. I teach government here in Texas and I tell my students daily the number of soldiers who have died. Why do I do this? Because I think they should know the sacrifice which goes on daily in their name. That at least for those couple of minutes they will soberly think and pay their respects. I do not see how an informed public is a bad public. Does this somehow make me a bad American? Does this make the members of my family bad Americans? I think not.

    Maybe you need to reexamine your beliefs and see if you really are pro-soldier, and pro-American. From here in San Marcos and Fort Hood, Texas, and from Arizona you are not looking to patriotic. I will be sure to mention your group as a fine example of partisan politics over substance to my class. Thank you for your time.

    J. Michael Gividen, MA
    [street address deleted]
    San Marcos, TX 78666
    I made several comments about the Koppel broadcast in this blog, available here, here, here, and here, but none of them urge people not to know about or pay respects to our military war dead, or take the position that "an informed public is a bad public." And there was certainly nothing obviously partisan about anything we said about Ted Koppel. Heck, I watched the show myself -- I just wanted it balanced with something about what those men and women died for.

    As I said at the time, the Nightline controversy really was much more about perceptions of Ted Koppel's entire body of work than it was about the soldiers and Marines. I'm not convinced even now that Koppel himself understands this, but the controversy over that broadcast played the useful role of making sure the broadcast could not be turned into an anti-war tool.

    We do get rather a lot of hostile mail here. It is not the first hostile e-mail that has me perplexed, and I don't suppose it will be the last.


    Posted by Amy Ridenour at 9:08 PM

    "I Hope People Don't Lose Faith in Us": A Soldier Discusses the Prison Abuse Incidents

    This letter about the prison abuse incidents, received May 4 from U.S. Army Spc. Joe Roche in Iraq, speaks eloquently without any need for further comment from me:
    Dear Amy,

    ...about the abuse at the prison. I'm at a place right now where there are thousands of U.S. soldiers. I went to breakfast and dinner at the KBR dining hall here. It is huge, hundreds of soldiers gathered to eat. Around us are large-screen tvs, and yes, the news was mostly about the prison abuse.

    Everyone is so angry. I mean, angry! It is as if those soldiers hurt us more than the enemies here in Iraq have. I don't think that if that RPG last week had hit and killed us in my hummwv, there would have been any of the damage done to our cause here that those soldiers have done. I remember when I worked for the University of Minnesota Police Department that when one police officer acted wrong and was captured on camera, anywhere in the U.S., it was as if all police everywhere were made the bad guys, blamed and hurt. Now I'm feeling that here.

    I can't tell you of the outbursts by my fellow soldiers at those pictures. For one thing, it is mostly swear words and I don't want to write that to you. Amy, this is a powerful blow to us.

    As you know, we have done raids and captured some of the top terrorists in Baghdad over the past months. My sister has some dramatic pictures of at least one raid. In all of those, we handled the enemy w/ respect. Our big bosses always pressed us on the Geneva Convention rules before raids, and we have taken many classes on ROEs (rules of engagement) and on the proper treatment of prisoners. There are rosters w/ all our names on them for these classes because dealing w/ prisoners is major concern of our leadership.

    My battalion has caught car bombers, weapons' smugglers, and those laying IEDs to kill us. We've even captured in raids those who fired mortars at our base on Baghdad Island. And EVERY TIME, we treated them w/ respect and took care to give them full medical treatment, food and clothing.

    Let me recount to you a story that [name and unit deleted] told Tom Ricks of the Washington Post when he visited last month. One day one of his best friends and another soldier were hit by an IED in a hummwv in front of him. They got the one soldier out who was badly injured, but the fire was so bad that they couldn't get his friend out. They don't know if he was alive as he burned, but they had to watch. Now, that street that this happened on was one where they had built schools, improved much infrastructure, many many projects to make it a better and safer place. ...When the IED blew, across the street were some of those very same neighborhood people cheering. They cheered as our fellow American burned and the other one was dragged out. Now, these are tankers, and they have big BIG guns, and all were ready to fire. The soldiers, all of them seeing the tragedy of the attack, and seeing the sick group cheering across the street, they all held their composure. No one fired a shot, no one did anything inappropriate. They did exactly as they were trained. They acted more professional and disciplined in a manner that I don't think many other people in the world could have. All because they cheered, those people were not to be engaged or harassed. That is what we live w/ out here. And Amy, our soldiers, your soldiers, they acted supremely better and more heroic for our country in that scene. Those scum will remember the restraint and composure of those Americans, even if today they are still infected w/ this sick hate of us. Contact Mr. Ricks if you can because [the soldier] gave him a powerful quote that he thought well accompanied that experience, and perhaps he can elaborate even more from [his] account.

    So you can imagine how horrified and truly angry everyone is.

    I guess that in any job, any profession, anywhere we will find bad eggs. It is just that it seems shocking that even, well, those soldiers there have hurt us.

    Let me just say on a personal note that I hope all those people who have given us support and prayed for us will accept my assurance that your anger at the abuse it shared by us in my battalion, by many more soldiers around me that I'm encountering right now, and that no one should have any fear that such abuse is done by us. Frankly, I'm just shocked and angry. I hope people don't lose faith in us over this. Those soldiers are idiots, and have attacked our country in a manner perhaps more painful than our enemies have. No one committed and dedicated to this mission should feel that abuse is reflective of what we are doing. It is completely the opposite....



    Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:32 AM

    Attack of Cucumber-Eaters, Part II

    The cucumber-eaters have struck in the U.S.

    Copying a similar group of crustless-sandwich munchers, self-described "former [U.S.] diplomats" (although the list of signers reveals the description isn't quite accurate) have sent a letter to President Bush complaining that U.S. policy in the Middle East favors Israel over the Palestinians.

    The letter begins "We former U.S. diplomats applaud our 52 British counterparts who recently sent a letter to Prime Minister Tony Blair criticizing his Middle East policy and calling on Britain to exert more influence over the United States."

    Isn't that just like a diplomat? Even when retired, they call upon our government to take orders from foreigners.

    Check out the website of the sponsoring group, whose first two board members, Andrew I. Killgore and Richard H. Curtiss, signed the letter first and second. As a parlor game, see how many statements critical of Israel you can find on the main page alone. I'd suggest that old drinking game -- drink a shot for every one you can find -- but playing might kill you.

    Browsing back issues of their publication also is instructive. My favorite article is "It's Academic! Saudi Arabia's Remarkable New Cabinet." Would that be the cabinet that stopped funding anti-Americanism and decided to let Saudi women drive? Er, no. Not quite that remarkable.

    We'll hold off on calling a Saudi Arabian cabinet "remarkable" until one serves in a democratically-elected government.

    Meanwhile, we've read through the very many media reports covering the release of this letter. None of them I read, including this mention in the Washington Post, this AP report, or this Saudi editorial, mention that the sponsoring group is ardently critical of Israel, although a report in Britain's Independent does at least quote the group's president, Killgore, saying, apparently critically, of George Bush and John Kerry, "They're both very dedicated Zionists, it seems to me." Fox News, predictably, did a better job of describing the group during the "roundtable" segment of Brit Hume's "Special Report."

    Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:01 AM

    Tuesday, May 04, 2004

    "One of the Most Inspiring and Important Things to Us Has Been the Incredible Arrival of Care Packages..."

    Frequent visitors to this blog know that a long-time associate of The National Center's, Joe Roche, joined the U.S. Army after 9/11, inspired by those events. He was assigned to the 16th Engineering Battalion of the 1st Armored Division, and has been in Iraq since the war started.

    Joe has attracted some attention here in the U.S. because an essay he wrote about his experiences in Iraq was published by many metropolitan newspapers and Stars and Stripes in April, read aloud on-air by several of the most influential talk radio hosts in America, circulated by several organizations and numerous individuals to their own e-mail lists, posted on blogs, and much more.

    A few days after Joe's essay began to be widely circulated, the 1st Armored Division received word that its 12-month deployment in Iraq would be extended at least three more months. As tough as that news was, something made it tougher: Most of the soldiers already had shipped their personal effects home. So a call went out for care packages.

    On Sunday, for the first time since April 20, Joe had access to e-mail for about thirty minutes. He was able to write to tell us what we have been wanting to know: Had the American people responded to the call for care packages?
    May 2, 2004

    ...Amy, you will be hearing from my commanders soon. What everyone has done to send us care packages has been quite overwhelming. So many items that were critically needed by soldiers arrived just in time. I simply cannot overstate this.

    We arrived at our new locations, only to be moved further, and then to face the reality of starting up many things for ourselves. This includes latrines, showers, and of course the mission-essential matters. We've been going hard and strong almost non-stop. I cannot elaborate where or what we are doing amongst the 16th Engineers, though I wouldn't be surprised if some of the news gives you hints. All I will say is that our units are right where it is all happening, and some are in places that are harsh, spartan in the extreme, and extremely challenging just for each soldier to get through the day.

    These units are setting up in conditions that would make most people forlorn. They are doing it great, and you would be very proud.

    The thing I must impart to you right away, though, is that one of the most inspiring and important things to us has been the incredible arrival of care packages from people all over the country. It is overwhelming. The first day such critically needed items arrived such as socks and baby wipes. Then a massive load of packages w/ treats, leisure items like books and DVDs, and more hygienic essentials. The big bosses lined up the soldiers to walk through and take what they need. It was like everyones' birthday, as I watched the soldiers hauling things back to their rooms.

    ...I'm running out of time to be on the net.

    Quickly I have to say that there is no time to respond to everyone. My commanders are stressing about this and are trying to find ways to convey the deep thanks we all have. Packages continue to arrive each day. It is beyond incredible!

    Lastly, I want to make a personal thanks to all of you for sending prayers and best wishes. I'm aware of the news. On a daily basis, however, many many more things happen than you ever hear about. ...In the past 8 days, on convoys and missions myself, we have been attacked by an RPG, 3 IEDs and a mortar attack. It is a miracle, really, that NONE of us have been hurt. The RPG, for example, aimed right at my hummwv (w/ 8 soldiers) missed by hitting a barrier just a few yards away (blowing it to pieces). Two of the IEDs blew next to our vehicles, yet somehow no one was hit. And in that mortar attack, one landed in the middle of a group of our hummwvs, just 20 feet in front of me. Again, we are all amazed that no one has been hit.

    This is your prayers. Thank you so much. Please keep strong and keep your heart in our mission. I know you have done more than is imaginable. ...My time is up on the computers. I must go...

    Joe's words speak for themselves. If you would like to join the many thoughtful people who sent care packages to the troops, please do so. You can see how much it means to them. We're not in danger of sending more than the soldiers need.


    Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:14 AM

    Sunday, May 02, 2004

    D.C. Fails New EPA Standards, But is Not at Fault

    National Center research associate Eric Chapman clears the air about regional air quality rules:
    A Washington Post article on April 16, 2004 "Air Quality in Region Fails EPA's New Test," identified the District of Columbia and several Maryland and Virginia counties as failing to meet new smog standards. The new restrictions in the Clean Air Rules of 2004, which were announced on April 15 by the Environmental Protection Agency permit ozone levels to average no greater than 85 parts per billion (ppb) over an eight-hour period. In contrast to the levels enforced in 1990 - 120 ppb per hour - the new levels are far more encompassing. Because its air quality is designated as moderate, the District and many of its surrounding counties have until 2010 to improve their quality of air. However, D.C., Maryland and Virginia aren't really the source of the problem.

    In fact, most of the blame can be attributed to "transport" pollution, which comes in from Mid-western states. For example, emissions from Chicago, and other Midwest cities contribute to the rising ppb rates of cities on the East coast. "Transport pollution accounts for 70 percent of the pollution we experience during the worst days of summer," said Joan Rolfs, the chief of air quality planning for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. According to the EPA, 474 counties in the nation were in violation of the new requirement. Deadlines to meet the new emissions regulation range from 2007 to 2021. Those counties with the most severe problems, like Los Angeles County, are given the most time to apply and enforce new measures of control.

    The potential economic consequences of attaining such measures might prove to be problematic. Jeffrey Marks, the National Manufacturers Association director of air quality, commented that, "many communities will find it difficult to eventually meet such standards without jeopardizing local economic growth." Touching on the issue of transport pollution as well, Marks notes, that, "more than half of the nation's manufacturing capacity is located in non-attainment areas that have been reducing emissions for years, even as emissions from neighboring communities and states continue to pose problems for them. Unless transport pollution can be effectively remedied, expect Washington D.C. and its surrounding counties to maintain high ppb levels.

    Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:39 AM

    Criminals Invade Capitol Grounds, Police Do Nothing

    National Center executive director David W. Almasi wonders just what the U.S. Capitol Police are there for if not to enforce the law.
    On April 20, about 70 teenagers who are illegal aliens held a mock graduation ceremony on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol to protest that they cannot benefit from things like in-state college tuition benefits because they are not legal citizens. Despite their literally wearing their illegal status on the sleeves of their gowns, no arrests were made.

    As naturalized citizen Yakov Smirnoff might say, "only in America."

    Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:37 AM

    Saturday, May 01, 2004

    Worth a Look

    This is a wonderful analysis of the attack on Tony Blair by 52 cucumber-eaters.

    Thanks to the always-excellent Dissecting Leftism blog for the pointer.

    Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:54 AM


    The other day, Ted Koppel appeared on Sam Donaldson's radio show on the local ABC Radio affiliate to give his reasons for doing the television broadcast tonight.

    Just now, Koppel concluded the broadcast by explaining the same thing. He seemed thoughtful. it seemed reasonable.

    In fact, it seemed so good, I can't imagine why he didn't use that reasoning on the radio show the other day.

    Unless he hadn't thought of it yet.

    Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:11 AM

    More Enrons, Anyone?

    To borrow a phrase from Senator McCain himself (no hard thing to do, as he appears in the news constantly, on a seemingly limitless variety of topics), I found Senator McCain's letter to the Sinclair Broadcast Group "deeply offensive."

    I believe reasonable, patriotic people can differ about the degree to which the April 30 Nightline is appropriate, whether it was intended or will be perceived as a statement against the war, and/or whether the fact that it was scheduled for the first day of sweeps week instead of Memorial Day was influenced by a desire for ratings.

    But the Senator doesn't appear to believe that reasonable people can disagree on this matter. He told Sinclair in his letter that "there is no valid reason" for Sinclair to "shirk its responsibility" by not broadcasting Nightline tonight.

    First, the "no valid reason" comment is a gratuitous insult to everyone with concerns about the broadcast. Clearly, a lot of people believe there are valid reasons for concern. McCain dismisses them all. He doesn't bother to discuss any of the concerns; he simply declares them invalid. Coincidentally -- or not -- that's the same kind of condescending attitude for which Ted Koppel is known. It is insulting to be talked down to, regardless of who is doing it.

    Second, Sinclair does not have a "responsibility" to broadcast whatever Ted Koppel wants them to broadcast. Because Sinclair believes the broadcast is unpatriotic, and our nation is at war, one can reasonably take the position that it would have been "irresponsible" for Sinclair to run it -- even if every other adult in America thought the broadcast was as American as apple pie. McCain essentially is saying that Sinclair executives have a responsibility to do something it believes is wrong.

    It is an interesting world when a U.S. Senator lectures business executives for following their consciences.

    (Sinclair's response to McCain is worth reading. It's on the main page of their website right now; probably temporarily.)

    Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:10 AM

    Copyright The National Center for Public Policy Research