masthead-highres

Friday, December 31, 2004

The Trusting Nature of Relations

I'm convinced there is a whole lot more going on in U.S.-Russian relations than what we see on the surface.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:49 PM

Private Humanitarian Aid Impressive

I'm very impressed and humbled by the amount of private aid being donated to tsunami victims. In Britain, according to an online BBC report posted at 4 AM British time December 31, individual Britons already have pledged a whopping 25 million pounds (equivalent to approximately 48 million U.S. dollars). This is equal to an average of 80 cents per every British man, woman and child, a rather astonishing statistic. The UK Independent says private donations in Britain were being made at the rate of 1,000 per minute or 250 pounds (481 U.S. dollars) per second.

In Italy, mobile phone users alone reportedly donated the equivalent of nearly 15 million U.S. dollars. That's 27 cents per Italian on cell phone-based donations alone.

In the Netherlands, a similar cell phone campaign has brought in private gifts the equivalent of nearly 13 million U.S. dollars, equal to 83 cents for every Dutch man, woman and child.

I don't have a figure for total private gifts by Americans, but in the U.S., the American Red Cross alone reported receiving $27.9 million in donations as of noon on December 30, so the total being donated by individual Americans must be impressive indeed.

Private firms also are making significant contributions: Pfizer Inc is donating $10 million in cash and $25 million in medical supplies; Johnson & Johnson $2 million plus supplies, and J.P. Morgan Chase, $3 million. In addition, Abbott Laboratories is donating $2 million in medical supplies, Citigroup $3 million, ExxonMobil $5 million, Cisco $2.5 million, Wal-Mart $2.5 million, Altria $1 million or more.

Abroad, a Reuters report says, the British telecom firm Vodafone has pledged nearly $2 million, the Dutch financial services group ING $1 million and the German utility firm E.ON donated $1.4 million.

David and I made a donation tonight, after we reviewed the websites and financial forms of the following charities: CARE, the Salvation Army, World Vision and Christian Children's Fund. All have impressive records and, to my eye, solid financial reports. (As do many, many charities I did not mention here.)

Much of the news reports about the level of humanitarian aid being donated to tsunami victims has focused on government aid, but there is a bigger story to tell.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:37 AM

Brett Schaefer: U.S. Humanitarian Aid Underappreciated

The Heritage Foundation's Brett Schaefer provides the details rebutting U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland of Norway, who criticized the U.S. as "stingy" when it comes to humanitarian aid.

The U.S. is condemned for supposedly donating only .15 percent of our gross national income (GNI) in international development aid.

Schaefer's Heritage Foundation WebMemo, published December 30, notes the following in rebuttal:
The U.S. is the world's largest donor of such aid -- $16.2 billion in 2003. Japan is second at $8.9 billion.

The .15 percent of GNI figure does not include private aid donated voluntarily by Americans, but is limited to funds donated by the U.S. federal government after being confiscated from Americans. Private voluntary international development aid donated by Americans in 2003 is estimated by the U.S. Agency for International Development to be $33.6 billion in 2003.

The U.S. government's international disaster and humanitarian relief amount in 2003 was almost $2.5 billion. The governments of the entire rest of the world, combined, donated $3.4 billion.

The U.S. government donated nearly 70 percent of all the world's international food assistance in 2003.

The U.S. is a huge donor to United Nations-affiliated humanitarian programs and pays for 22 percent of the United Nations' overall budget.
Something Schaefer does not mention, but I will: Figures given for the U.S. government's international humanitarian aid almost never include humanitarian aid and works provided by or in conjunction with actions by the U.S. military.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:28 AM

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Bush's Aid Coalition

Sean at Everything I Know Is Wrong reports on criticism of President Bush's new Asian aid coalition.

One leftist critic complains that coalition countries (the U.S., Australia, Japan and India) lack the "moral authority" to provide aid to disaster victims. Only the U.N. has moral authority to act, she claims.

I think (and hope) most leftists would disagree with this silly woman. No one needs the authority of any government to perform a charitable act -- a fact that actually is beside the point, as the U.N. is not a government anyway, just a trade association for governments.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:37 PM

The National Center for Public Policy Research Has New Headquarters

The National Center for Public Policy Research has just purchased a new headquarters on Capitol Hill.

Here's what our new building looks like...



Here's where we are on a map...



And here's our new contact information...

501 Capitol Ct., N.E.
Washington, DC 20002
(202) 543-4110
Fax (202) 543-5975
[email protected]

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:39 AM

Gerald Marsh: CO2 No Pollutant

Physicist Gerald Marsh, who kindly advises The National Center on science issues, has a letter in the December 29 Financial Times:
Sir, While it is becoming increasingly fashionable to maintain that carbon dioxide is a pollutant, it was rather shocking to see the Financial Times buy into what can at best be charitably characterised as a form of "political correctness" ("The price of carbon emissions," December 27).

Carbon dioxide is a minor greenhouse gas that occurs naturally in the atmosphere and helps to maintain the earth at a temperature suitable for life - the principal greenhouse gas is water vapour. Carbon dioxide is essential to the growth of all plants. Without it plants could not grow and all animal life would die. In no way is this gas a pollutant. To call it one is misleading.

Calling carbon dioxide a pollutant is a political statement, not a scientific one. Behind the politics is the claim that the small observed global warming trend is due to the burning of fossil fuels rather than being of natural origin.

Despite popular perception, the 2001 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) did not show that human activities were responsible for global warming. Its conclusions were based on computer models of the earth's climate. However, the problem is so complex that the art of constructing such models is still in its infancy. The uncertainties are so great that the claim by the IPCC that "most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations" is "likely" to be unfounded. We do not yet understand the earth's climate well enough to be able to assess the long-term effect of the carbon dioxide that comes from burning fossil fuels.

The earth has been warming erratically for 10,000 years. That has been good, up to now, because it is what made the non-equatorial latitudes habitable. We can expect that warming trend to continue, no matter what we do about carbon dioxide.

Gerald E. Marsh, Chicago, IL 60615, US

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:22 AM

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Unnatural Fear of Orange

The Russian government, apparently, is afraid of the color orange.

And to think we once thought of the Russian state as a superpower.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:36 PM

Monday, December 27, 2004

Mrs. Victor Yushchenko

Every now and then, I read something in the newspaper that really knocks my socks off, and this is one of those times.

I just read John Fund's On the Trail column in the Wall Street Journal and learned that an old friend of mine, with whom I had lost touch, is married to Victor Yushchenko. Yes, that Victor Yushchenko (we all know so many!).

(That will teach me to keep up my Christmas card list a little better.)

John Fund calls her Kateryna Chumachenko Yushchenko; I knew her as Kathy Chumachenko, and a more pro-freedom Reaganite you could not meet.

I've posted some links in this blog to CodeBlueBlog speculating about the medical cause of Yushchenko's disfigurement. I was very much a detached observer of that medical matter, having no medical expertise. I now consider myself less detached. To the extent that Kathy has spoken out on the medical issues, and I know she has, I know you can take what she says to the bank. Kathy is a very, very impressive person in that she is -- I very much doubt she has changed -- extremely motivated by values. She is not a self-promoter and she is someone who works many times harder than everybody else and then thanks you most profusely for doing one tenth what she did.

I'll tell you something else: If Victor Yushchenko could win Kathy Chumachenko's hand, he's a worthy guy. She wouldn't settle.

I met Kathy during the Cold War days, doing rallies and events in support of freedom and democracy for the Soviet bloc. (She loved Ukraine deeply -- to this day most of what I know about Ukrainian culture is what she taught me -- but she cheerfully worked to free all the Captive Nations.) At the time, most people thought the Cold War would go on for decades. Only true believers did the work Kathy did. There was no glory in it; certainly no money (one usually had to supply one's own money) nor prestige. The mainstream media and even some politicians on our side of the aisle thought those of us working the issue were a little strange; maybe even dangerous. (Ending the Cold War would be so destabilizing, don't you know? And only warmongers actually criticize the USSR -- it just wasn't appropriate. The Cold War was just something we'd have to live with, and, anyway, those foreigners over there aren't like us, they like security while we like freedom -- who is to say which is better? Blah blah blah.) But Kathy wanted Ukraine to be free and she was in the cause because of that love. I can't say I am surprised to see that she is still on the job, because i never met anyone more dedicated to the freedom of her homeland than Kathy.

So now, fellow bloggers, I will go out on a limb -- a very sturdy one in this case -- and tell you that when you read tea leaves on anything related to Victor Yushchenko, look for comments made by his wife, and trust them to be true.

In the meantime, Kathy, in the unlikely event that you Google up this blog post, hello from Amy Moritz (now Ridenour). I don't think I've seen you in person since the 1988 Captive Nations banquet, but I am delighted to know you have been able to pursue your work for a free and prosperous Ukraine in such a significant way. And congratulations, too, upon your marriage and the birth of three children. I'll be watching the news coverage for a glimpse until I see the children at least once (I have three little ones myself now). I know you and your family are going through a lot. May God bless all of you, and may you be successful beyond your wildest dreams.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:32 AM

Sunday, December 26, 2004

"Mr. Rumsfeld, I Want You To Know..."

Wow.

This is not the Don Rumsfeld we see on TV. And the young soldier who spoke to him, well, that's why I wrote "wow."

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:53 AM

Surprise of the Year

From Haaretz.com on December 26, this headline on an AP story: "Russian Agency Okays State's Purchase of Yukos."

What were the odds?

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:07 AM

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Unto You Is Born This Day

Luke 2: 1-14

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem (because he was of the house and lineage of David) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:00 AM

Friday, December 24, 2004

New Vehicle Donation Law To Hurt Charities

Reason Online comes down hard against a change in federal tax policies that will hurt charities that finance operations by accepting donated cars.

I hope Congress will step in and reverse this change.

Here's an excerpt from the Reason piece, but I recommend you read the whole thing (better yet, print it and mail it to your Congressman).
...New laws that take effect just after the holiday season allow Uncle Sam to take more money come tax time. The extra money comes from those who donate their cars to charity, but discover that the amount they can deduct has shrunk dramatically. The truly humbug twist is who will get hurt by the grab -- charities that generate income from donated cars and the needy people they help. More than 4,000 organizations help everyone from battered women to single moms to disabled veterans, but Americans will soon have less incentive to support such efforts.

Beginning January 1 those who donate a car worth over $500 will be able to deduct only the amount the charity gets in resale, not the previously accepted Kelley Blue Book value. So if your old Chevy's blue book value is $2000, but the charity you give it to sells it for $600, you can only claim a $600 deduction. And if repairs were necessary, their cost must also be subtracted, and the deduction shrinks again. Since most donated cars are sold at auctions, they already sell for less than if they were hawked on a used car lot. Faced with dwindling deductions, more would-be donors will likely opt to keep their cars, sell them or trade them in.

The Salvation Army expects income at some of its busiest programs to drop 25 percent, and Christian Auto Repairmen Serving (CARS) expects a 30 percent drop in income. CARS sells donated autos and uses the money to provide cars to single moms and others in need of reliable transportation.

The new laws also dump new costs onto charities, most of which already operate on shoestring budgets. Charities that accept cars must now contact the donor within 30 days after they resell it, providing a receipt which the donor uses to claim his deduction. To meet such requirements charities must maintain databases of cars, donors and sales. CARS worries that the new regulations will double its postage costs, and the Salvation Army predicts that the added paperwork will hamper its activities even more than the lower deductions.

...We must assume that the government targeted this kind of giving precisely because Americans have given away so many cars. In 2000, 733,000 Americans claimed deductions for donated cars...

This puts the government in the strange but not unaccustomed position of punishing success. Automobile donation has been a tremendous boon to entrepreneurial charities who realized that many potential donors who were hesitant to write a check would be willing to donate a used car...
In case you are wondering, The National Center for Public Policy Research is not financed through donations of used vehicles, though David and I did donate David's Ford Ranger pickup truck to Goodwill in 2000, and took a tax-deduction for it. The truck was in great shape, but it is hard to fit three baby seats in a pickup.

Legally, anyway.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:21 AM

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Yushchenko: Is Alcohol His Poison?

As Ukraine prepares for yet another presidential election Sunday, CodeBlueBlog remains convinced that opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko's disfigurement is not a straightforward case of dioxin poisoning.

Worth a read, if you are following the story.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:02 AM

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Fannie Mae and Jesse Jackson: NLPC Urges a Parting of the Ways

The National Legal and Policy Center is filing a Fannie Mae shareholder proposal that would, if adopted, preclude Fannie Mae from making future contributions to Jesse Jackson-run organizations.

NLPC also is applauding the exit of Fannie Mae Chairman and CEO Franklin D. Raines.

Read all about it here.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 7:06 PM

'Who's Your Baby?' Reality Show Probably Inevitable

Now that Fox is turning adoption into a reality show with its unfortunate 'Who's Your Daddy?' (should be called: 'Who's Your Sperm Donor'? -- real Daddies father ["father" is a verb]) reality show, I predict we'll soon see an even worse development. That is, a reality show in which newborn babies are taken from their parents and the parents have to guess which son or daughter is their own.

Addendum: Cliff Kincaid at Accuracy in Media says the media is already doing something very similar.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:54 PM

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

In the Red Zone: Iraq As You've Never Read About It Before

Jeff Harrell has just published an interview that made me want to do something I have never wanted to do before: Go to Iraq (although I would not like to risk my life quite as often as did Steven Vincent, the subject of Harrell's interview and the author of the new book "In the Red Zone: A Journey Into the Soul of Iraq").

Although I enjoyed that part of the interview when author Steven Vincent described telling off a reporter from al-Jazeera (which Vincent called "al-Qaeda TV") in front of a crowd of Iraqis and American GIs, this piece is much deeper than the us-versus-them (whomever "them" may be on any given day) plotline that characterizes so many of our discussions about Iraq. You really get a feel for what Vincent was seeing and feeling as he traveled through Iraq.

There is, for example, Vincent's view of Islam as he saw it practiced by Iraqis, and how it affected Vincent's own Christian faith. Or his discussion of the tremendous strictures placed on Iraqi women by their families and culture, told through the story of one particular woman he came to know and admire. Or his very constructive critique of how the western mainstream media is reporting events in Iraq, and how a chance in how reporters use a handful of words could vastly improve the quality of their reporting.

If you click just one link today, make it this one. You won't be disappointed.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:20 PM

La Shawn Barber on Blogs, Rathergate and the Future of Reporting

La Shawn Barber has just had her first piece published on National Review Online.

It is a great piece and fills a void in reporting. Called "The Blogosphere's Smaller Stars," it chronicles the contributions of lesser-known bloggers in reporting the Rathergate scandal.

I enjoyed the piece immensely, not least because she interviews a number of my favorite bloggers, but also because I enthusiastically endorse her message.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:47 PM

Amazon.com Unavailable?



Did Amazon.com crash today?

I'd guess the economy really is back.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 6:31 PM

Loving Laurie Fenner

Received the following succinct e-mail from one Laurie C. Fenner today: "EAT MY S___ LOSERS!!!!!!!!!!" (I deleted the expletive.)

The topic that has her enraged is unknown.

A quick google of her email address, [email protected], finds one entry: A public exhortation that Christ "asked us only to LOVE!"

We love you, too, Laurie.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 5:05 PM

Monday, December 20, 2004

Christian Bashing in Time for Christmas

I saw a bizarre bumpersticker on a car today. It read: "How Dare You Presume I'm Christian?"

My first thought: Some people just can't handle compliments.

My second: How egotistical do you have to be to assume that the people in the car behind yours are spending their time thinking about your personal religious beliefs?

I found a version of the "How Dare You Presume I'm Christian?" sticker available online here.

The website's main page says: "If you want it by Xmas, you must ship it 2nd day air."

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:58 AM

Men of the Years



Men of the Years 2004, 2000, 1941, 1934, 1932, 1949 and 1940 and, in my opinion (and Ed Haislmaier's), photo of the year.

(Reuters photo by Larry Downing reprinted here with permission -- aka, I paid for permission, nice and legal.)

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:51 AM

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Trent Lott and Don Rumsfeld: Calling the Kettle Black

Scrappleface has a fun news parody up about the U.S. Senators who believe themselves to be more capable than Secretary Rumsfeld. (Hat tip: David Limbaugh.)

Speaking of Senators who like seeing their name in the newspaper are criticizing Rumsfeld, I had to laugh at ex-Majority Leader Trent Lott's criticism of Rumsfeld: "I don't think he listens enough..."

There's the pot calling the kettle black. Here's a story from my infinite archive of boring Washington tales:

Back in '97, when the Senate was asked by then-President Clinton to ratify the chemical weapons treaty, many conservatives were very much opposed to ratification on national security and civil liberties grounds. Then-Majority Leader Lott was in charge of the Senate schedule. He could single-handedly delay or halt a vote on the treaty.

Knowing this, long-time conservative leader Paul Weyrich gathered the CEOs of about thirty (maybe it was more) conservative organizations to visit Lott (an old friend of Weyrich's) at Lott's Senate office, to explain why we were concerned about the treaty. It was a pretty good group, full of very serious people, many of whom you would have heard of. As I recall, a significant number had flown in to D.C. specifically for the meeting.

Well, we showed up on time, but Lott was late. And later, and later, and later. Every now and then, some minion would come in and tell us he was still coming but he had some important meeting to finish. (I suspect we would have left, but when people have flown in to a city specifically for a meeting, it tends to make it harder to walk out.) Finally, Lott shows up, about an hour and a half late to a meeting in this own office, and proceeds to make it very clear that he isn't paying the slightest attention to any argument made about the substance of the treaty. I have been to many, many meetings with Congressmen and Senators over the years (I will get critical e-mails from people because I wrote that last bit -- they will say I am boasting), some of which broke down to the point that the elected official was red-faced and screaming. But although Lott did keep his "official (polite) face" on, I have never, ever seen any elected official so thoroughly convey to a group of people that he had no respect whatsoever for anything they thought or had to say.

Keep in mind that this is a guy who supposedly was a conservative Majority Leader. He wasn't even polite enough to pretend he was listening. I can't imagine why he agreed to the meeting, if he wasn't willing to pretend he didn't think we were beneath his notice. Why take time out of his day just to offend people?

Also, why not listen? Treaties are very important things. Listening does not take longer than acting openly dismissive.

Let's put it this way: If Trent Lott ever talks to the Indiana Pacers, he's a dead man. They don't wait seven years and then blog about it when they get dissed.

So, when Trent Lott says Don Rumsfeld doesn't listen, I scoff. I also note that when you read the Mississippi news media instead of the national press, Lott's real complaint about Rumsfeld becomes clear: Rumsfeld isn't shoveling enough pork to Mississippi.

Lott doesn't want to be heard -- he wants to be fed.

Speaking of Senators who criticize Rumsfeld: Blogger Ed at Captain's Quarters says: "If [Senator Norm] Coleman has lost confidence in Rumsfeld to the point of threatening an investigation over the armor issue, then the White House -- as I said yesterday -- has a potential meltdown with its own loyalists in the Senate. It's becoming apparent that the GOP expected Bush to replace Rumsfeld in the second term and are quite unhappy with his failure to do so. This has to be about more than up-armoring Humvees; something else is at play here."

I usually agree with Ed but I think he's in left field here. The GOP did not expect Bush to replace Rumsfeld. What is going on here is that the mainstream media, aided by a few who either genuinely disagree with Rumsfeld, find their careers at odds with Rumsfeld's, who are running for something or helping someone who is, is going after Rumsfeld. This means that Senators who speak out about Rumsfeld GET INK. ('Nuff said?)

(Side note: Do you suppose that maybe someone in the established conservative press -- by which I mean a publication with paid subscribers -- could be looking for a prestigious White House staff job if McCain should happen to be elected in '08? And maybe is writing copy accordingly?)

Captain Ed has spoken highly about Norm Coleman, citing particularly his work on the oil-for-food scandal. I, too, was impressed by what I have seen of Coleman's work on oil-for-food. Yet, I am very much concerned about any Senator who plays to the MSM peanut gallery this early in a Senatorial career. It usually takes them longer to be corrupted.

Postscript on the chemical weapons treaty: Back in '97, Lott not only scheduled the chemical weapons treaty for a vote, but voted for it himself. A 1997 letter quoting Judge Robert Bork about the treaty said that, if it were ratified, foreign states would have the right to inspect U.S. facilities without the grounds essential for a search warrant, even over opposition from the owner. On-site personnel could be compelled to answer questions, provide data, and permit searches of anything within the premises -- including records, files, papers, processes, controls, structures and vehicles.

Don't you just love thinking that this is the law of the land now, given the way much of the world feels about the United States?

Well, if you can actually get him to listen, thank Trent Lott.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:40 AM

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Commonwealth Conservative: New Look, New Neighbor

The Commonwealth Conservative, one of the commonwealth of Virginia's ultimate blogs, has a fantastic new design.

It also is welcoming a new Virginia blog, Sic Semper Tyrannis, to the fold.

P.S. Ever notice that Virginians love to call their state a "commonwealth"? (I think that is so typical of Virginians, who, to my mind, are in personality just like Texans, except Virginians show off their brains, and Texans, their machismo.)

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:40 AM

Dying in a Firey Crash Placed a Distant Third

Says L.A. Times headline: "Rehnquist Receives Support Over Cancer."

Nice to know there is something worse than a conservative jurist to the L.A. Times.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:02 AM

Friday, December 17, 2004

Mike Rosen: Dissing Uppity Blacks

Columnist and KOA Radio Denver talk host Mike Rosen addresses Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's comments about Clarence Thomas in the December 17 Rocky Mountain News:
...if Clarence Thomas were an African-American, liberal Supreme Court justice, you can be sure Reid would never have "dissed" the man like that. (He might even have called him a "credit to his race.") A white Republican saying such a thing about a black jurist would have been accused of racism. But rare black conservatives, like Thomas and Condoleezza Rice, are apparently fair game.

I suspect it's not the quality of Thomas' opinions that Reid objects to; it's the substance. Thomas bases his decisions on the principles of limited government and strict constitutional constructionism. It's not like Thomas is a lone wolf, winging his opinions and jotting them down on the back of a napkin while watching NASCAR races on TV. He, and every other justice, is supported by the cream of the crop of law school graduates and brilliant staffers anxious to pad their résumés by clerking for the Supreme Court. The opinions they help their bosses write are painstakingly researched, crafted and vetted.

But Reid was just warming up. Here comes the best part and an insight to the mindset of judicial activists. Reid volunteered that he could support Thomas' fellow conservative on the high bench, Antonin Scalia, for chief justice. (It should be noted that Scalia and Thomas routinely vote on the same side employing similar reasoning. I guess Reid finds these decisions more palatable coming from a white conservative than from an uppity black who fails to vote just like Thurgood Marshall did.) Said Reid, "I cannot dispute the fact, as I have said, that (Scalia) is one smart guy. And I disagree with many of the results that he arrives at, but his reasons for arriving at those results are very hard to dispute [italics mine]." Aha!

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:45 PM

Bastogne Remembers Battle of the Bulge

Speaking of the Philadelphia Inquirer, there was a nice AP story in it Sunday about the people of Bastogne, Belgium, and their continuing friendship with the United States.

The story begins:
To find the city hall in Bastogne, walk past the White House Hotel, cross Gen. McAuliffe square, turn at the Dakota Cafe, and it's the building on the right flying the Stars and Stripes, just before you reach Rue de l'American Legion.

For 60 years, this rural town in southeast Belgium has been tied to the United States by bonds forged in the fire and fury of the Battle of the Bulge, when the locals and their American defenders stood in the path of a German onslaught during the bitter winter of 1944.

"Bastogne has never stopped its friendship with the American people," Mayor Philippe Collard told dignitaries from the U.S. Embassy on a visit to prepare this year's anniversary. "In Bastogne, you are at home."

That friendship shows no sign of waning despite the passing of time...

While some neighboring towns called a halt to their World War II remembrance ceremonies after the 50th anniversary in 1994, Bastogne had a yearlong program of commemoration that culminates this month with parades, a night vigil, and a major exhibition designed to give new generations insight into one of America's biggest and bloodiest battles of the war.

Bastogne was the key turning point in the Battle of the Bulge...
Read it all here.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 4:54 PM

Philadelphia Inquirer Feature Pending

I had a call from the Philadelphia Inquirer yesterday. They are doing a feature story on a lady, Ms. Florence Duckett, who was inspired by Joe Roche's Keep the Faith: A Letter from Iraq after a photocopy of it was handed to her when she was going into church earlier this year. She then took up making and sending comfort and care packages to our troops overseas to such an extent that the Inquirer is doing a feature story on her.

Joe's piece and his follow-up pieces eventually were reprinted or linked to by at least 200 blogs this year, that I know of. It may be that one of those blogs supplied the copy of the piece that was handed to Ms. Duckett, thus inspiring her to reach out to our troops. It is hard to overestimate the potential of the blogosphere.

I very much look forward to reading the piece in the Inquirer. I'll post a link to it here in the blog when it appears.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 4:34 PM

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

MTBE Issue Redux: A Thoughtful Response to the Federal Employee Who Opposes Groundwater Pollution, Right-Wingers and Christians

From my in-box, a thoughtful letter in reference to issues raised in the post about the federal employee who thinks about poisoning right-wing Christian children with MTBE:
Regarding Ms. McKonnell's letter referencing feeding MTBE [Methyl Tert-butyl Ether]....

As you correctly point out, this was an additive that was mandated by the EPA, and therefore the Federal government. As Ms. McKonnell pointed out, it leads the nastiest stuff coming out of petroleum spills and leaks, as it is 'small' and highly mobile. This crap is among the worst [as it spreads amongst the fleetest] of the things we face in areas that are still served by drinking water wells. It also costs everybody that is not on a well, for their local municipal water supply service to capture this and clean it from their source.

When I say 'leads' and compare it to Benzene, I refer to it's motility in groundwater. This stuff moves and spreads like nothing else I am aware of, ruining drinking water supplies. I live in a state where the soils are mostly sands, clays, and limestones. In the west, this stuff intermingles with what they refer to as 'cobbles' rocks the size of bowling balls and larger. This sort of material cannot be drilled and suctioned to clean these messes up. Quite frankly, it cannot be economically drilled. Certainly, the idea of excavating the vast areas contaminated by this crap, washing down the sands and cobbles and boulders, will be prohibitively expensive; fortunately, we taxpayers will pay for every penny of that effort for many years to come, so we won't have to rely upon the people that caused this mess to quit pointing fingers and resolve it. The downstream halos around gasoline stations all over the country, all over the planet, dwarf the imagination in two dimensions. Now multiply that by a third dimension, especially the large third dimension in the western states, the depth from your feet in a service station parking lot down to the groundwater.

If Ms. Mckonnell has an idea about how to efficiently recover this mess, given her background, I say let her get started. We only need stop her before she starts feeding it to students.

As for the rest of us, we just keep plugging along, washing rocks and cleaning this mess up the old fashioned way. That, and we don't mandate that it become a part of the waste stream in the first place.

I will not give up trying to clean this crap up, even though I know there are well-meaning people that will keep spilling it, and will keep adding new challenges like the old MTBE. Next week, I will scrub my face and go start cleaning up a horrible waste stream in New Orleans.

By the way, Ms. McKonnell, how is Love Canal going? That's your project, isn't it? The Holy Grail. EPA's project, your first Superfund site, your chance to prove your skills and determination on a clean-up effort. After 30-plus years of studying it, has your agency even gotten started? Please send me a copy of your most current physical and your doctor's opinion, allowing you to even wear a respirator. That's Public Record. Why is it that when the federal government gets in trouble that they hire private contractors to come in and clean up the mess? It seems to me that they must be either trying to shed the responsibility/ liability or they haven't got the first clue about what they are doing.

Why did the EPA issue a clean bill of health over the air quality in lower Manhattan after 9/11/01? Why did the federal government bring in private contractors to clean up the mess when the cameras were turned off? Was this somehow the fault of a dreaded Republican administration? Or is it a fact that the federal government is incapable of taking on such an unexpected event and that private industry maintains and employs people that have to deal with this sort of thing, not because they are evil, but because they are not?

Perhaps, before people purposely poison children, the people want to know.

It is time and long past time that the good people in this country stopped tearing each other apart. The people I work for and the people that work with me are not red or blue, they are Red, White, and Blue. We do not poison anyone. We diligently and at the risk of of our lives clean up the accidental mistakes that were made by our fathers, uncles, and mothers. Mistakes, made in the name of making livings for families. The well-meaning folks that introduced MTBE to our fuel supply, regulators, but probably under the influence of industry son-and-dance-men, probably meant well. That's not our problem. Getting rid of this crap is and it will take some time and effort.

CJ

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 9:35 PM

Will Iraqi Trials Interest Mainstream Media, Or Will They Be Too Focused on the San Quentin Lunch Menu to Cover Them?

Will the mainstream media cover the trial of "Chemical Ali" as extensively as it has (I'd like to put that in past tense, but, so far, no luck) the Scott Peterson trial?

Last week the ABC network national radio actually ran, as its lead story, the news that there was a shortage of chairs for people waiting on-site to learn to results of the sentencing deliberations.

That's simply not newsworthy.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:20 PM

Heritage Policy Weblog: Social Security Tax Increases and Benefit Cuts Needed, Says Congressman

The Heritage Policy Weblog is having a little fun with Rep. Robert T. Matsui (D-CA), ranking member of the House Ways and Means subcommittee on Social Security.

Based on a literal reading of Congressman Matsui's recent rhetoric on Social Security, Heritage's Policy Weblog commends Congressman Matsui for his honest advocacy of Social Security benefit cuts and Social Security tax increases.

No doubt that's just what Congressman Matsui intended to convey.

Addendum:: Our condolences to the family and friends of Congressman Matsui, who passed away on January 1 from complications relating to Milo Dysplastic Disorder. Congressman Matsui represented the Sacramento area and recently served as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He was the senior Democrat on the House subcommittee with juristiction over Social Security and was elected to his 14th term this past November with 71 percent of the vote. He is survived by his wife, son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:57 AM

Ed Haislmaier on Drug Importation Economic and Safety Issues

Ed Haislmaier has some follow-on thoughts to my recent posts (here and here) on drug importation from Canada.

Readers who believe importation of drugs from Canada would save Americans a bundle should particularly note Ed's last four paragraphs.
Regarding the issue of legalizing third-party wholesale importation of pharmaceuticals from Canada, this article in the Financial Times has some bearing, by way of example from another area, on the question of what might happen if the U.S. changed it's laws.

The article discusses how post-9/11 changes in U.S. visa rules are resulting in more international travelers (e.g., ones going from Asia or Europe to Latin America and vice versa), choosing to fly with Air Canada rather than on U.S. carriers and "... choosing to travel via Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal rather than U.S. cities."

The article further notes that:

"The new U.S. visa requirements have also benefited Canada in other ways. Several Canadian universities are seeking to attract foreign students and researchers who might otherwise have attended U.S. institutions.

Canada has also become a base for some offshore outsourcing companies to serve US customers without their employees needing to enter the U.S.

Nevertheless, many other Canadian companies are concerned that tighter border security could severely jeopardize their business in the U.S."

The relevance is that, just as we can't expect Canada to enforce U.S. visa rules, neither can we expect Canada to enforce U.S. "chain-of-custody" regulations with respect to the trans-shipment of pharmaceuticals from manufacturers to wholesalers to pharmacists to consumers if the U.S. decides to remove its controls on bulk drug importation from Canada (a point you made in your last post).

In both cases, the entirely reasonable and justifiable Canadian position is, "We set and enforce our own laws. Your [the U.S.] laws are your problem."

One implication of the article is that disparities between U.S. and Canadian immigration controls might now encourage terrorist organizations to focus more on getting would-be terrorists into Canada first and then across the U.S. border, where U.S. controls are not as effective as at U.S. airports. Now, while we can all agree the U.S. needs better border controls, the larger point is that a change in U.S. law has follow-on effects as people outside the U.S. (including bad guys) react to the change by modifying their own behavior. Thus, it is also reasonable to expect that relaxing U.S. controls on the bulk importation of drugs from Canada would likely encourage those who would tamper with drugs for either profit or malicious reasons to set up shop in Canada.

On a related note, while I realize that your arguments have focused on the safety issue, there is one overriding economic point that needs to be made. Namely, even if all the safety issues inherent in third-party bulk importation of drugs could be satisfactorily resolved, it is still highly unlikely U.S. consumers would see more than a marginal decrease in end-user prices. Rather, the middlemen doing the importing would pocket the lion's share of the price difference. In fact, this is exactly what has been happening in Europe for years as "parallel traders" arbitrage away the price differences among EU countries that set drug prices at different levels.

For example, if a 90 day supply of drug X cost $100 in Country A and the price is set at $50 in Country B, then a parallel trader can buy the pills in Country B for $50 and resell them in Country A for $90 or $95 and make a nice profit. The end consumer in Country A gets only a 5-10% discount, not the 50% discount he sees across the border and wants for himself. To get that full discount the consumer would have to cut out the middleman by going to Country B and buying the drugs directly -- something individual U.S. consumers can and are doing in Canada right now.

Furthermore, even competition among parallel traders won't further lower prices to the end-user so long as the demand for cheaper drugs exceeds the supply. Again, using the above example, unless manufacturers put no limits at all on the quantity they will supply to Country B for sale at $50 (highly unlikely) competing parallel traders will have no reason to lower the prices they charge in Country A. They will simply continue to "shadow price" in the destination market. The most that aggressive competition among parallel traders might produce is the offering of a somewhat higher "black market" price in Country B to ensure supply. For instance, a parallel trader might offer a supplier in Country B $55 or $60 if he diverts his supply to the trader instead of selling it to a competing trader or dispensing it to patients in Country B at the controlled price of $50. While more people are getting a slice of the price arbitrage, the price to the end-user in Country A remains the same.

It's simple economics. When supply exceeds demand, suppliers cut production and/or cut prices. But, when demand exceeds supply, suppliers raise production and/or raise prices. However, if demand exceeds supply but the supplier is under price controls, suppliers have no incentive to increase supply and thus the demand/supply imbalance continues. The inevitable result, if the price difference is large enough, is middlemen enter the market to arbitrage the price difference. If the supply is sufficiently constrained, the middlemen might eventually offer suppliers inducements to violate the price controls in the form of higher "black market" purchase prices, but in none of this does the end-user wind up with anything more than a marginal reduction in the sales price.

Ed

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:24 AM

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Michael Savage = Michael Moore?

David at The Sparse Matrix has called talk radio host Michael Savage "the right-wing's Michael Moore."

Apparently, David's not the only Michael Savage listener to be dissatisfied of late. Visit The Sparse Matrix for more commentary and links.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 5:48 PM

Where Does He Go to Get His Reputation Back?

It looks like this judge deserves a day in court. More specifically, a chance to share his version of events in the court of public opinion.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 5:43 PM

Poisoning Right-Wing Christian Children: Your Tax Dollars At Work

Used as I am to hostile, even homicidal emails from the left wing, I first started to delete this little gem of hostile stupidity I received in my junk mail folder. (And what a piece of junk it is!) But then, I read it again and got angry.

The correspondent, who suggests feeding poison to children at "private right wing Christain schools" (the redundancy and the spelling all are hers), apparently is employed by the federal government and writing on a government e-mail account.

Just makes you want to go work on your 1040 form, doesn't it?

Our correspondent apparently is upset at this National Center article (or so we guess), which criticizes trial lawyers for trying to stick certain California taxpayers with a $66 million legal bill. The case referenced happened to be about groundwater contaminated by the gasoline additive MTBE, but it could have been a case about spoiled hamburgers -- the legal bill was the issue at hand.

No matter. Any excuse to go after right-wing Christians, no matter how tenuous, is a cause that must, dear taxpayer, be taken up.

But don't let my disgust get in the way of a few facts. Such as:

The pollutant Kathleen K. McConnell ("Kat" to her friends) of the federal Tennessee Valley Authority rails about is in some of our drinking water because the federal government mandated that it be put into gasoline.

Yep. The feds caused the pollution.

So shouldn't this federal employee be embarrassed, ashamed, filled with remorse?

Shouldn't she be on her knees apologizing to the little right-wing Christian children, not threatening to poison them even more?

I can tell you that if The National Center for Public Policy Research ever poisoned drinking water, why, I'd actually think we did something wrong.

And I assume the feds would jail us for it (that's their territory, after all).

Well, I might think so, you might think so, but Kathleen K. McConnell of the federal Tennessee Valley Authority has a better idea: Feed the poison to even more kids. Or fantasize about it, anyway.

One more thing: The National Center for Public Policy Research has written about MTBE many times. There is this piece from 2000 explaining that MTBE is dangerous and that the federal government mandated it, and this one saying the government-mandated additive is not only dangerous, but makes gasoline more expensive, and (lo and behold!) this one describing the impact of these ill-conceived government mandates in, as our Tennessee Valley Authority correspondent just might put it, "urban industrial/low income residential neighborhoods."

How is it that arch-MTBE foe Kathleen K. McConnell of the federal Tennessee Valley Authority failed to notice this modest July 2000 essay by Project 21 member Stuart Pigler criticizing the fact that minorities were paying ten cents more per gallon of gas just because of MTBE in the aptly-named "Bill Clinton Makes Blacks Pay More at the Pump."

(Perhaps our friend Kat was too busy looking for the never-published piece by Jerry Falwell: "Bill Clinton Makes Little Right-Wing Christians Pay More at the Pump.")

Kathleen K. McConnell of the federal Tennessee Valley Authority could have learned that we have extensively condemned MTBE had she done something revolutionary, such as click on our search page and enter "MTBE." But she apparently did not want to find out that her biases against right-wing Christians were unfounded.

Enough said. Here's her e-mail. I didn't alter the formatting, punctuation or spelling. It is all hers -- and yours, since you paid for it.
Your article neglects to mention that MBTE is a highly suspected carcinogen and that the amounts showing up in drinking water supplies is in excedence of the Safe Drinking Water Act if not on a federal level, for sure in some states. Except for the minor inconvenience of it having a pesky little trace odor, how about serving it up at the private right wing Christain schools all across the nation, instead of insisting that its presence in public water supplies in urban industrial/low income residential neighborhoods where it is most commonly found poses no health risk?

As MBTE is highly soluable in groundwater, it usually is the first paramter of nastiness to indicate a leading edge of a contaminant plume. Therefore, when it shows up, you can be assured that the other known carcinogens like Benzene and her pals Ehtyl benzine, Toluene, Xylene and others are sure to follow. Although many of the leaking underground storage tanks have been removed or taken out of service, the contaminant plumes beneath them have been left behind taking years to clean up. Furthermore, many of these contaminant plumes are not being addressed at all, unless through regulatory actions or litigation. So although lawyers are the boils on society's butt, the lack of voluntarily cleaned up sites, regulatory enforced corrective actions, and ambiguous or poorly written legislation, legal action suits are frequently the only options for precipitating a necessary remediation to address this public health issue across our nation.

Your site does damage to your readers as it only gives partial truth, not full disclosure, one of the criticisms you cite throughout your blog. This makes me question which sector of Corporate America sponsors your propoganda.

Kat McConnell
[email protected]

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:48 AM

Harry Reid and Clarence Thomas: The Furor is Not Dying Down

Project 21 notes the furor over Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's December 5 remarks about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is not dying down:
In the wake of the hurtful and racially-insensitive comments made by incoming Senate minority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) about U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, members of the black leadership network Project 21 are demanding the liberal senator immediately apologize. They further demand Senate liberals pledge to allow fair and timely hearings and votes on judicial nominees regardless of their race and political beliefs.

"Senator Reid has revealed the intolerance found on the political left for minorities who do not reside on their ideological plantation," said Project 21 member Wendell Talley. "Justice Thomas has been in the public eye for approximately 15 years and conducted himself with integrity. Reid seemed to be around just 15 minutes before he made a fool of himself. He should apologize to Justice Thomas for his comments."

While being interviewed on the NBC News program "Meet the Press" on December 5, Senator Reid was asked about the possibility of Justice Thomas replacing current Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who is currently being treated for thyroid cancer. Reid called Thomas "an embarrassment to the Supreme Court" and said his "opinions are poorly written."

In the same interview, Senator Reid praised Justice Antonin Scalia, calling him "one smart guy." Scalia and Thomas share many views. Scalia, of course, is white.

Legal scholars are not as critical of Justice Thomas' legal prowess as are liberal politicians and activists. Commenting on liberal criticism of Thomas' jurisprudence, University of Wisconsin Law Professor Ann Althouse wrote: "It is my observation that liberals tend to lapse into the lazy belief that those who don't agree with them must be stupid or evil, and to me Reid's remarks look a bit like that... I realize the senators can't get away with opposing a judicial nomination on the grounds that they simply disagree with their opinions... but to attack Thomas' intelligence is shameless."

"I consider Senator Reid's comments against Justice Thomas to be among the boldest and most unambiguously racist public attacks since the day when lynchings were commonplace and Orval Faubus and Bull Connor openly used their political power to keep blacks down," said Project 21 member Mychal Massie. "The fact that Justice Thomas may become our nation's first black Chief Justice is a tremendous civil rights milestone, but it will be a tremendous step backward if he were undermined simply for being a black conservative. Not only will it hurt Justice Thomas personally, but it could stifle future generations of black Americans from expressing independent and diverse political opinions."

During the eight days since Reid's comments, the furor over his remarks has not died down.
* Editorialist Armstrong Williams wrote of Reid's remarks in USA Today and elsewhere over the weekend: "The United States now confronts a modern edition of Jim Crow. If you are born white, you may aspire to achieve greatness as a liberal, conservative, moderate, independent or otherwise. There are no intellectual no-go zones. But if you are born black, your ambitions will be crushed unless you ape black power brokers."

* In a December 12 Los Angeles Times op-ed, the Claremont Institute's Thomas L. Krannawitter wrote: "...we must ask why a Democrat would go on national television and criticize the second black Supreme Court justice in history while praising fellow-conservative Justice Antonin Scalia as 'one smart guy'?"

* The Washington Times editorial page noted on December 12: "What is most striking about the comments Mr. Reid made about Justice Thomas and the NYT made about Justice Scalia is how glibly they describe their targets as an 'embarrassment,' or 'retrogressive' or 'ultraextreme' without providing any evidence to substantiate their attacks."

* In a nationally-syndicated column distributed December 13, attorney and Project 21 member Horace Cooper wrote: "Senate Democrats should realize that just because you disagree with someone it doesn't make them stupid or evil. Memo to the war room: Sliming blacks you disagree with is not the pathway to an electoral majority. It will more likely lead to the opposite."

* On December 13, James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal made sport of Harry Reid's writing ability in his Best of the Web column, calling Reid's allegation that Thomas is a poor writer "projection," and analyzing Reid's maiden speech in the Senate for quality.
Project 21 members have been outspoken about the need for senators to allow for timely confirmation hearings of judicial nominees and full floor votes - a practice routinely blocked over the last four years by liberal senators and their staffs at the urging of liberal special interest groups...

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:03 AM

Monday, December 13, 2004

Michael Crichton's "State of Fear" Takes on Global Warming Alarmists

Michael Crichton is taking on the global warming industry in his latest thriller, "State of Fear."

Crichton told ABC's John Stossel that the controversy the book will engender almost kept him from writing it: "I'm 62 years old. I've had a good life. I'm happy and I'm enjoying myself. I don't need any of the flak that would come from doing a book like this."

Yet Crichton thought the message of the book, in which he says that environmental organizations are "fomenting false fears in order to promote agendas and raise money," was important enough to do anyway.

The book is a rare thriller: It has footnotes. (Which means that Michael Crichton's fiction has better documentation than many environmental organizations' websites.)

Crichton, however, warns people not to believe anyone who says they know for sure if the Earth is warming and, if so, how much and why.

As reported by the Guardian, Crichton says in an "author's message" in the book:
* In every debate, all sides overstate the extent of existing knowledge and its degree of certainty

* Nobody knows how much of the present warming trend might be a natural phenomenon

* Nobody knows how much warming will occur in the next century. The computer models vary by 400%, de facto proof that nobody knows. But if I had to guess - the only thing anyone is doing, really - ... the increase will be 0.812436 degrees C

* For anyone to believe in impending resource scarcity, after 200 years of such false alarms, is kind of weird. I don't know whether such a belief today is best ascribed to ignorance of history, sclerotic dogmatism, unhealthy love of Malthus, or simple pigheadedness

* Most environmental "principles" (such as sustainable development or the precautionary principle) have the effect of preserving the economic advantages of the west and thus constitute modern imperialism toward the developing world. It is a nice way of saying: "We got ours and we don't want you to get yours, because you'll cause too much pollution"

* We desperately need a nonpartisan, blinded funding mechanism to conduct research ... Scientists are only too aware of whom they are working for
Here's a review of the book from the Globe and Mail. The review says it is good, except for the injection of the scientific facts.

For me, that's a plus.

Reading this one is going to be fun.

Addendum: In a link to this post, Sean at Everything I Know is Wrong has assembled a collection of global warming posts.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 5:41 PM

Civil Rights Commission Gets Back to Business

Project 21 is applauding President Bush's new appointments to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

Here's most of a new press release issued by Project 21 on the matter:
Members of the Project 21 black leadership network are applauding recent appointments to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights made by President George W. Bush.

President Bush selected Gerald A. Reynolds, a former civil rights official with the U.S. Department of Education, and Ashley Taylor, a former deputy attorney general for the state of Virginia, to replace Commission chairman Mary Frances Berry and vice chairman Cruz Reynoso whose terms expired in early December. Reynolds will serve as the Commission's new chairman, and serving commissioner Abigail Thernstrom will become the new vice chairman. Kenneth Marcus, another former civil rights official at the Education Department, was also named to be the Commission's new staff director.

"With the selection of Gerald Reynolds and Ashley Taylor, the once-venerable U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is finally able to begin a sorely needed restructuring and rebirth," said Project 21 member Donald E. Scoggins. "By appointing these highly-qualified individuals, President Bush illustrates his genuine commitment to the protection of all citizens. In these assignments, there is also reason to anticipate that this organization will once again become apolitical and professional in scope."

During Berry's tenure as head of the Commission, the government body became recognized more for her divisive and political behavior and allegations of mismanagement than for its mission to investigate potential civil rights problems. Berry frequently ignored the input of commissioners she did not agree with and even refused to seat Bush-appointed commissioner Peter Kirsanow until ordered to do so by an appeals court. A Government Accountability Office investigation found the Commission regularly disobeyed budgetary guidelines and was an "agency in disarray."

Reynolds pledged that his first action as chairman will be to proceed with a financial audit of the Commission.

"It's well past time the Civil Rights Commission gets back to business, as opposed to the constant playing of partisan politics fostered during her tenure," said Project 21 member Michael King. "Contrary to the constant bickering that Berry and her cohorts in groups such as the NAACP have fostered, there is much the Commission can constructively deal with as our nation moves forward. The Commission is now in a position to provide true leadership."

Reynolds is a member of Project 21, as is fellow commissioner Kirsanow.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:51 AM

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Bush and Putin: Tougher Road Ahead?

From the December 12 Boston Globe:
A debate is brewing at the highest levels of the Bush administration over whether to adopt a tougher stance toward Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, who has systematically rolled back democratic freedoms and tried to snuff out democracy in weak neighboring states with little American opposition, according to US officials and policy analysts.

The recent standoff in Ukraine over a disputed election between a Soviet-style strongman, whom Putin has aggressively backed, and a reform-style candidate backed by a sea of protesters, has brought renewed calls for an overhaul of the US friendship with Putin.

Until now, US policy has been to largely forgive Russia's attack on democracy, even as Putin moved to consolidate authoritarian rule not only in Russia but also in a federation of former Soviet states he is cobbling together, largely by force, according to regional specialists. But officials in the National Security Council and the State Department have begun discussing whether to recalibrate their approach to Putin...
Of course, this is the kind of thing Administrations sometimes leak on purpose, as a cost-free, utterly deniable, warning to a foreign leader that the U.S. President isn't happy about something. Bush can't be at all pleased with Putin, but who wants trouble with Russia? Plus, and somewhat ironically, given the nature of the U.S.-Russia relationship over the past 80-some years, the things Bush hopes Putin will do are actually the best ways to build and economically and socially strong Russia.

Too bad Putin increasingly seems to be putting his own interests and those of his cronies ahead of what is good for the Russian people.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:22 AM

Yushchenko, Putin and Poison -- Or Not

I hate to use a cliche, but when it comes to allegations by doctors in Vienna that Ukraine opposition presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko was poisoned by dioxin, possibly after it was put in his food, I have to wonder: What does Vladimir Putin know, and when did he know it?

In a front page article in the December 12 Washington Post comes this paragraph:
Paul M. Wax, with the American College of Toxicology, said two scientists he met in Volgograd, Russia, in 1992, told him that during the Soviet era they had investigated the potential of developing dioxin as a chemical weapon.
I don't allege that Putin had it done. I have no information one way or the other, but I believe he is ruthless enough, and poisoning was a known KGB tactic. I also know that he has excellent intelligence sources within Ukraine (once a captive nation within the old USSR), and, regardless of whether he knew about the supposed poisoning when it occurred, he now no doubt knows more about Yushchenko's malady than he is sharing.

(For a totally different take, check out CodeBlueBlog, where Yushchenko's symptoms are compared to Rosacea.)

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:01 AM

Banning the Declaration of Independence: More Wicked Than an Infidel

The controversy about the Cupertino, California teacher who was banned from distributing documents written by America's Founding Fathers, including the Declaration of Independence, to his fifth grade students reminds me of a quotation from George Washington:
The Hand of Providence has been so conspicuous in [American victories over the British in the Revolutionary War] that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more wicked that has not gratitude to acknowledge his obligations....
One need not imagine what George Washington would have thought of the controversy over the Declaration of Independence.

The Father of Our Country spelled it out in plain English: Wicked.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:00 AM

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Blood Electrification Devices Amaze Coffee Spills Blogger

Coffee Spills blog nearly choked on her java when she learned of the latest in medical cures: "Blood electrification."

I see one can spend nearly $3,000 for a blood electrification device, if one chooses.

As Coffee Spills notes, blood electrification devices are easy to find on the web. In fact, there are over 1,800 references for "blood electrification" on Google (to be fair, though, that includes web references by skeptics).

Don't even think of trying to get blood electrification cheap by importing electrification devices from Canada. Due to some mystifying interference from the "USA feds," as one website selling blood electrification devices put it, they already are sold direct from Paraguay.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:50 PM

Foundation College: Comming Soon

Would you trust your future to a college that can't spell?

(If you pay federal taxes, you are subsidizing it.)

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:48 PM

Dr. Donald R. May: We Should Not Covet Canada's Drugs

In this TownHall.com column, Dr. Donald R. May explains more about the pitfalls of prescription drug importation from Canada.

I've been posting this week about how U.S. importation of drugs from Canada can be unsafe for Americans. Dr. May explains how U.S. importation of drugs from Canada can harm, possibly even kill, some Canadians.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:30 AM

Friday, December 10, 2004

Drug Reimportation Safety Issue Debate Continues

Michelle Malkin has responded to my post disagreeing with her December 8 assessment of the drug reimportation safety issue, asking: "The problem of counterfeit drugs surely is worse in Third World countries than in the U.S., but is there any evidence that it is worse in Canada? In other words, is there any reason to believe that a bottle of Lipitor sitting on the shelf of a Canadian Wal-Mart is more likely to be counterfeit than a bottle of Lipitor sitting on the shelf of an American Wal-Mart?"

First, it should be acknowledged that an individual American can buy a prescription drug from a Canadian pharmacy with reasonable assurance of quality. Canada, the U.S., Europe and Japan all have enforced (not perfect, but enforced) drug safety standards in place.

However, the safety of an individual prescription purchased in Canada by an individual American is not the actual issue involved in the drug reimportation policy debate. If Sarah Smith has a prescription for Lipitor and wants to buy it from Canada, she already can. Current U.S. law permits individual Americans to purchase up to a 90-day supply of drugs for personal use from Canadian drugstores.

The policy battle over drug reimportation actually is about legalizing large scale drug importation from Canada and other nations (the drug reimportation bill approved by the U.S. House last year would have allowed importation from 26 nations).

Safety is very much a concern. Here's why:

Under current procedures, the FDA and drug manufacturers guard against the sale of counterfeit, diluted and/or expired drugs by 1) having safety standards for drug manufacturing plants that sell product in the U.S. (even if the plants are located abroad); 2) inspecting those plants, even if located abroad; 3) maintaining a "chain of custody" so that criminals do not have access to the product as it travels from the manufacturing plant to the consumer.

A typical drug sold in the U.S. follows thus follows this chain of custody: manufacturing plant - U.S. drug wholesaler - U.S. drug retailer - consumer.

When the FDA is able to monitor the first three steps, it can make reasonable assurances that the drug is what the consumer expects to buy. If the drug first goes to another nation, however, the chain of custody is broken and an invitation to (very lucrative) criminal mischief is issued.

At this point it might be assumed that I am about to insult the efficiency of Canadian law enforcement and regulatory agencies, but I'm not.

An American consumer would be mistaken to assume Americans can rely on Canadian authorities to monitor the progress of prescription drugs through the Canadian supply chain, not because Canadians don't know how to regulate, but because Canada has already warned the United States that it has no intention of providing expensive drug safety monitoring services for large-scale drug reimportation sales into the United States.

In other words, Canada won't even be trying to stop Canadian-based counterfeiters from selling what appear to be perfectly safe drugs to U.S. retailers.

Given this, how can the FDA possibly be reasonably sure that our drug supply would be safe if we were to permit large-scale reimportation from Canada?

It couldn't be, of course. And if the FDA can't, how could a consumer possibly do so?

Now some might point out that counterfeiting has not been a huge problem in Canada in the past, which is true, although counterfeiting appears to be on the increase. But that's the past. What of the future, in which (if drug reimportation is permitted) the huge American market sits exposed to criminals who inject themselves into the supply chain?

Ed Haislmaier has reminded me that there were many who opposed huge cigarette tax increases who claimed that such increases would dramatically expand the counterfeit cigarette market. Those who issued this warning were ridiculed, but they turned out to be right.

The safety issue, of course, is just part of the overall debate on drug reimportation, which is also very much a debate about economics and foreign policy as well. (For those wanting more, I recommend this efficient overview of the anti-reimportation point of view by Nina Owcharenko of The Heritage Foundation.)

The debate last year leading to a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives was one of the most acrimonious internecine D.C. policy debates among conservatives/free-marketeers I recall in recent years (this press release we issued last year gives a bit of a hint about the heated atmosphere of the debate, though it got a lot more nasty than the press release reveals). I appreciate the fact that Michelle Malkin, unlike several GOP Congressmen, is able to talk rationally about drug reimportation without resorting to unsupportable accusations about reimportation's opponents. Too much of the debate last year was characterized by name-calling, though none of it should have been.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:02 AM

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Drug Reimportation: Michelle Malkin and I Disagree

I hate to do it (especially as just last month, I publicly invited Michelle and her family to move from her blue county to our red county next door), but I have to quibble with Michelle Malkin's December 8 post on drug reimportation and what Michelle calls "FDA double standards."

Michelle says, in part: "...If I understand the FDA's argument correctly: it's safe for the federal government to buy 4 million doses of a German-made flu vaccine that hasn't been approved by the FDA, but if a consumer wants to buy a U.S.-manufactured FDA-approved drug from a Wal-Mart in Canada, that's unsafe."

There is more to it than that. The FDA is charged with assuring safety in more than one way.

First, there is the issue of the drug itself being approved as "safe" (a relative term in the pharmaceutical business) when properly manufactured and stored and when dosed correctly to an appropriate patient.

Second, there is the issue of whether the vial or the capsule the consumer is purchasing actually contains what the consumer and his doctor thinks it does.

As Ed Haislmaier wrote in a paper for The National Center last year, counterfeit drugs are a problem:
...three California men pleaded guilty to charges of selling and wholesale distribution of fake Procrit, an anti-anemia drug. The perpetrators of the fraud were passing off vials that "contained only bacteria-tainted water" to unsuspecting pharmacists and patients.

Other recent cases involved criminals selling fake versions of Lipitor (a cholesterol lowering drug) and Serostim (a growth hormone often used to treat AIDS wasting); passing off sterile water as Neupogen (a drug used to treat cancer patients) and aspirin as Zyprexa (a drug for schizophrenia) and selling tampered vials of Epogen diluted to 1/20th strength (like Procrit, Epogen is used to stimulate red blood cell production in cancer and AIDS patients).

In the Epogen case, an FDA official noted that, unwittingly, "a major wholesale distributor was holding approximately 1,600 cartons of counterfeit product," while the Florida health inspector on the case reported "25,000 patients received a one-month supply of diluted drugs."

The problem is much worse overseas. Counterfeit drug sales are rampant in many Third World countries. Also, both at home and abroad, organized crime is getting into the act. It has discovered that the profits from faking legal drugs are as big as those from selling illegal drugs, while detection by the authorities is less likely and the penalties, if caught, are much lighter. In any country, conviction for selling fake pharmaceuticals will get you a fine and maybe some jail time, while in some countries trafficking in heroin carries the death penalty.
Michelle links to a thoughtful piece on reimportation by the Cato Institute's Ed Crane and Roger Pilon. In it, Crane and Pilon argue that legalizing drug reimportation may be the most effective way to stop our "allies" from freeloading on American drug consumers and taxpayers (presently, Americans subsidize the drug purchases of haughty Europeans -- which is an irony we might pause to consider the next time we give Jacques Chirac a richly-deserved headache). Crane and Pilon make a strong case, but they address the economic equation, not the safety concerns.

The FDA argues that it just can't guarantee the content and purity of drugs American consumers purchase if those drugs have been in the foreign retail market.

Some may argue for caveat emptor, or simply believe that safety can be assured even if drugs have been at a Canadian -- or Ugandan -- mini-mart before arrival at the U.S. pharmacy. (Remember, you're not just buying drugs from the country you imported them from, but from every country that country has ever imported from.) The caveat emptor position has its adherents, but they definitely don't include the FDA.

The FDA's flu vaccine purchase, in fact, says nothing at all about the safety of drug reimportation. A situation of secure importation of a vaccine from GlaxoSmithKline is a very different scenario than a case of insecure reimportation of a drug that has been on a foreign drugstore shelf, or, perhaps, was created in someone's basement.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:15 AM

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Predictable, But Perhaps Unexpected

One might file this under the category of be careful what you wish for.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:16 PM

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

New Word is Right To The Point

Bronson Yake has gifted the blogosphere with a new word, as in "On blause, be back after finals."

Seems a fast and easy way to tell readers you haven't given up on your blog -- you just have to take a break.

Addendum: Jeff at Shape of Days has a quibble. Not me. I have a liking for newly-coined words. I even like the word "blog."

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:35 PM

Kofi Annan's Resignation: A Realistic View

Captain Ed has a good line in an essay about continuing support abroad for U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan:
Well, now there's a shock: the majority of the world's kleptocracies support the man who presided over the largest swindle in world history.
Cynical, but realistic.

It is time to leave the U.N.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:23 PM

Monday, December 06, 2004

Social Security Private Accounts: Creating a Better, Fairer Retirement System

Cato Institute President Ed Crane succinctly explains why Social Security must be modernized.

Buried within this essay is this critical core point: "The goal of Social Security reform should be to provide workers with the best possible retirement option, not simply to preserve the current system. If solvency were the only goal, that could be accomplished by raising taxes or cutting benefits, though this would be a bad deal for younger workers."

It goes on: "A successful Social Security reform will result in a solvent, sustainable system. It will improve Social Security's rate of return, provide better retirement benefits, and treat women, minorities, and low-income workers more fairly."

The more you read about Social Security private accounts, the angrier you will become... that America didn't do this years ago.

Unless you already are an expert on Social Security private retirement accounts, I suggest you read the whole thing.

Unless you are dying, this debate will affect your life.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:38 AM

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Thatcher and Reagan: Some First Class DNA

Professor Bainbridge reports that Oliver Stone "plans to explore the possibility of an affair between former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and President Ronald Reagan in his next movie."

The Professor has his own thoughts on this, to which I'll add this: Isn't it ironic that the supposedly P.C. Hollywood left can't imagine a female head of government (Thatcher) without picturing her in bed with somebody?

Zip it up, Oliver. Sometimes men and women get along above the neck.

On a lighter note, if Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher had gotten together, can you imagine what their kids would have been like?

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:24 PM

Airport Screening By Bureaucracy

This close-up look at airport screeners does not sound good.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:17 AM

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Bloggers in White House Press Room?

Fellow bloggers, please read this New York Times article about a lawsuit just filed by the Baltimore Sun. The lawsuit asserts that the Governor of Maryland does not have the legal right to decline interviews with several Sun reporters the governor believes are refusing to present facts objectively.

If the Baltimore Sun can convince a court that it has a "First Amendment right" to interview the governor of Maryland and his staff against their will, don't we bloggers have a "First Amendment right" to interview any government official we wish to? You bet we do.

If the Sun suit has merit.

Addendum: Jeff at The Shape of Days has posted some fun comments about this issue.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:03 PM

Don Rumsfeld's Media Honeymoon

It is good news that President Bush has asked Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld to stay.

If you listen quietly, however, you can almost hear the gnashing of teeth in certain quarters.

David Limbaugh has an excellent piece up about this. I agree wholeheartedly with most of it, save David's apparent view that Rumsfeld enjoyed a honeymoon with the press after he first took office. As I recall it, the honeymoon began only after 9/11, coinciding with the birth of "Rumstud," the septuagenarian sex symbol.

To check my memory, I did a quick lookup of articles in the mainstream press between 3/1/2001 and 9/10/01, using only the word "Rumsfeld" as a search term.

The result is not scientific, but I found scant evidence of a pre-9/11 honeymoon:

Rumsfeld: Older but Wiser? The infighter who tried to change the Pentagon has failed so far. Here's why (Time Magazine 8/27/01):
In seven months as Pentagon chief, Rumsfeld has managed to spook the military, alienate defense contractors, mobilize much of Capitol Hill against him -- and even make some in the White House question his toughness.
Rumsfeld on High Wire of Defense Reform; Military Brass, Conservative Lawmakers Are Among Secretive Review's Unexpected Critics (Washington Post, May 20, 2001):
In his first four months at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld... [has] rallied an unlikely collection of critics, ranging from conservative members of Congress and his predecessor as defense secretary to some of the generals who work for him. In dozens of interviews, those people expressed deep concern that Rumsfeld has acted imperiously, kept some of the top brass in the dark and failed to maintain adequate communications with Capitol Hill.

'He's blown off the Hill, he's blown off the senior leaders in the military, and he's blown off the media,' said Thomas Donnelly, a defense expert at the conservative Project for the New American Century. 'Is there a single group he's reached out to?'

... Many of those interviewed said they are worried that the future of the [military] institution to which they have devoted their adult lives is being decided without them. One senior general unfavorably compared Rumsfeld's stewardship of the Pentagon with Colin L. Powell's performance as secretary of state. 'Mr. Powell is very inclusive, and Mr. Rumsfeld is the opposite,' said the general, who knows both men. "We've been kept out of the loop.'

Added another senior officer: 'The fact is, he is disenfranchising people.'

Some noted that the Bush administration came into office vowing to restore the military's trust in its civilian overseers. 'Everyone in the military voted for these guys, and now they feel like they aren't being trusted,' a Pentagon official said.

The Army, which has the reputation of being the most doggedly obedient of all the services, appears to be closest to going into opposition against the new regime. Army generals are especially alarmed...

If anything, Rumsfeld's relations with Capitol Hill have been even more tumultuous...
For Rumsfeld, Many Roadblocks; Miscues -- and Resistance -- Mean Defense Review May Produce Less Than Promised (Washington Post, 8/7/01):
...six months into an administration that campaigned on a promise to rebuild the military, Rumsfeld's ambitious plans are under fire from all sides....

"There's a strong sense of alienation between the uniformed leadership and the civilians," said retired Marine Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, who supported Bush during the campaign.

Why someone as savvy as Rumsfeld is having such difficulty has become a major topic of conversation at the Pentagon and in national security circles...

'How bad is it? I think it is pretty bad,' said Larry Seaquist, who worked in the Cheney-era Pentagon. Seaquist said that senior career officials at the Pentagon, who had expected to work with professionals, 'now fear they're shackled to incompetence.'

...Others argue... the new administration picked the wrong people for the Pentagon. Some people criticize Rumsfeld personally, saying he was not heavily involved during the campaign in formulating the Bush defense policy he was later asked to carry out. Others point to Rumsfeld's failure to recruit Richard L. Armitage for the No. 2 job at the Defense Department...

Perhaps the most puzzling aspect of Rumsfeld's second tour at the Pentagon has been his sour relationship with Congress -- not just with the Democratic-controlled Senate but also with Republicans in both chambers..."
Rumsfeld's Overhaul Struggle (Newsday 5/28/2001):
More and more, Rumsfeld appear[s] to be isolated, and [Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI)] has questioned whether he is in over his head. That image has blunted Rumsfeld's reputation as a decisive corporate executive with personal experience in Congress, the White House and as Pentagon chief during the Ford administration.

Levin, who is opposed to defense increases that will jeopardize social programs, seemed to take the wind from Rumsfeld's sails after the committee meeting last Thursday. 'I don't have a good grasp of where the secretary is headed," Levin said. "I don't think the secretary has a good grasp of where the secretary is headed.'
Why the Hawks Are Carpet-Bombing Rumsfeld (Business Week 8-06-2001):
When George W. Bush unveiled his Administration team, three Washington veterans stood out as guaranteed superstars: Vice-President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Six months in, two of the three have lived up to expectations. Then there's Rumsfeld.
But inside a May 25, 2001 Washington Post story containing ample quotes from Rumsfeld's critics was this, three and a half months before 9/11:
To convey his view of the world, and especially of the necessity to change the military to meet the threats of the 21st century, Rumsfeld distributed to [Senators on the Armed Services Committee] a four-page handout. A major theme was the inevitability of strategic surprise -- the notion that threats will come from unexpected directions.

'History should compel planners to humbly acknowledge that 2015 will almost certainly be little like today and certainly notably different from what today's experts are confidently forecasting,' the document said. 'And recent events suggest that [the Department of Defense] at least give some thought to the flexibility of a capability-based strategy, as opposed to simply a threat-based strategy.'

That jargon-laden sentence basically means that the U.S. military needs to move away from a Cold War structure designed to counter one large, clear threat -- from the Soviet Union -- and to develop capabilities to respond to everything from ballistic missiles to terrorist attacks.
Sounds like Rumsfeld hit the nail on the head with that one.

David Limbaugh says he admires Rumsfeld -- that it "takes mighty broad shoulders to agree to put up with what promises to be more abuse from these armchair quarterbacking naysayers. But Rumsfeld strikes me as a guy who doesn't require the slightest approval from these lightweight know-nothings whose seeming mission in life is to second guess and ridicule him." On these core points, I could not agree with David more.

Addendum: David Limbaugh has added a note to his post on the media honeymoon point. It appears he and I are now in complete agreement. (Thanks for the note, David.)

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:38 AM

Friday, December 03, 2004

Captain Ed Disses Dayton

Captain Ed at Captain's Quarters explains why Senator Mark Dayton just might be one of the last people one would want to share a foxhole with.

"Paranoid and panicky," Says Captain Ed about Dayton in one of many jabs. "Just the kind of man you want tagging along with you in a tense neighborhood."

And they say ladies have claws? Ouch!

Still, have to admit, it is a fun read.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:06 PM

UPI's Peter Roff on Congressional Access to Tax Returns: What Really Happened

UPI has a wire story today by Peter Roff providing additional details on the Congressional access to tax returns story. An excerpt:
What actually happened, said one source with knowledge of the back story, is that the amendment was an effort to give appropriators and staff with oversight of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service the ability to make on-site visits to check out how the money they approve each year for the agency is being spent. The problem with making that kind of visit to an IRS facility is that one could potentially encounter one -- a few, dozens, stacks, truckloads -- of tax returns that, to understate things a bit, the federal government takes great pains to protect from public scrutiny and prying eyes.

There are folks over at the House Ways and Means Committee, which has administrative oversight of the IRS as well as the U.S. tax system, who can go visit these sites because of an existing provision in U.S. law -- a provision that Appropriations Committee staff working with the IRS were trying to get for themselves. And that's where it all comes apart.

The committee staff, according to the source, left it to the IRS to draft the language and then inserted the amendment into the bill without too much consideration and without the knowledge of U.S. Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla., the chairman of the IRS-overseeing Appropriations Subcommittee on Treasury, Transportation and Independent Agencies.

What the bureaucrats who drafted the measure forgot to do was include language extending to the Appropriations Committee types the same kind of exceptionally tough privacy safeguards -- including rigid consequences like possible jail time for those who do not respect the privacy protections -- under which the Ways and Committee folks have to operate...
The provision, as has been well-reported, is being struck from the bill in any case. But one can't help but wish that some of the details in this story and the similar AP wire story running today -- which could have been ascertained by making a few phone calls -- had been learned before some politicians in both parties went before microphones and claimed that something far more sinister was afoot.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 5:18 PM

Congressional Access to Tax Returns Story Updated

The AP, via the Guardian, has a story shedding light on why there was a provision in a recently-approved appropriations bill allowing additional Congressional access to IRS tax returns.

The entire matter, if this report is accurate, looks to be far more benign than one might have thought, given the hullabaloo surrounding it two weeks ago.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 4:53 PM

Meaningful Gifts

Peggy at What If? describes some truly meaningful gifts.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:58 AM

Putin's Error in Ukraine

Business Week asks: Was meddling in Ukraine's election Putin's biggest blunder?

An excerpt:
Is Russian President Vladimir V. Putin losing his touch? Once admired for his steely efficiency, Putin suddenly doesn't seem to be able to get anything right. He has managed to alienate Russian Big Business and many foreign investors by destroying oil company Yukos. September's terrorist attack on Beslan left him looking weak and ineffective and exposed the disorderly state of Russia's security forces. His bureaucratic reforms have led to administrative chaos, while cuts in the social benefit system have sparked Russia's biggest public protests in years. But when future historians come to write the history of Putin's presidency, they may well conclude that his biggest mistake was his disastrous policy in Ukraine, where he has just suffered a failure of epic proportions.

Putin clearly imagined he was promoting the obvious winner when he interfered so heavily in Ukraine's presidential election in favor of Viktor Yanukovych, the candidate backed by outgoing Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma. Yet the millions of protestors on the streets of Kiev and other Ukrainian cities, and the collapse of the government's authority have made it impossible for the Nov. 21 election result -- which had Yanukovych winning by 49.46% to 46.61% -- to stand. If there is a fair reelection, the candidate demonized by Russia, pro-Western opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko, will almost certainly win, just as he would have won the Nov. 21 runoff but for massive ballot-stuffing, documented in detail by international observers. There's a risk that pro-Yanukovych regions in eastern Ukraine will refuse to accept Yushchenko as President, in which case Ukraine could split apart.

Either alternative will represent a massive blow to Putin... A divided Ukraine would lead to instability in a region where Russia has important economic interests -- 80% of the gas Russia exports to Europe goes through Ukraine -- and would be a permanent point of tension between Russia and the West. If the country remains united, as now seems likely, Putin's goal of linking Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus in a new economic union dominated by Russia looks like a pipe dream. A Yushchenko government is not likely to be great friends with Russia after Putin's blatant interference in the election. And if Kuchma and Yanukovych figure out a way to retain power, a deeply unpopular regime in Kiev would hardly be a stable partner for Russia...

Putin would have been wise to hedge his bets in Ukraine, not least because Yushchenko was always the favorite to win a fair election. Instead, the Russian President made the election in Ukraine a personal priority, pulling out all the stops to secure a Yanukovych victory. Russian advisers and election funds flooded Ukraine, Russian state TV, which is widely received in Ukraine, unleashed a wave of pro-Yanukovych propaganda, and Putin himself appeared on Ukrainian TV to endorse Yanukovych. All these efforts failed to win over proudly independent Ukrainian voters. "Russian political advisers and spin doctors simply don't understand the situation in Ukraine," says Kost Bondarenko, an independent political consultant in Kiev.

The irony is that Russia could quite easily have lived with a Yushchenko victory....

The damage to Russia's interests goes well beyond Ukraine. Putin's interference further alienates opinion in the West, which is increasingly inclined to see the Russian President as a throwback to an earlier, scarier era. Despite its present anti-Western rhetoric, Russia obviously can't afford a new Cold War. As the terrorist attack on Beslan in September showed, Russia's security is already in a perilous state, which is why Russia needs all the cooperation from the West it can get...
Read it all here.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:30 AM

Michelle Malkin: Denver Bans Christmas Carols at Christmas Unmentionable Holiday Parade

Michelle Malkin is asking her blog's readers to send a lump of coal to the mayor of Denver.

Issue at hand: A ban on the singing of Christmas carols.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:52 AM

A Conversation in Lieu of Prose

This is a very cute blogging format.

(The post makes a good point, too.)

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:40 AM

Beldar Fisks Noonan on Rather

Beldar fisks Noonan on Rather.

Worth a read.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:33 AM

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Photo of the Year Nominee

Ed Haislmaier writes to tell us about a photo he saw online:
While I don't recall you ever posting pictures on your blog (as many other bloggers do), I was particularly struck by the composition and symbolism of this photo, which appears in today's Washington Post.

Bush seems to echo the cheerful optimism and determination of his illustrious predecessors in yet another time of great trial and conflict, while the backdrop seems to unveil the ghostly presence of Roosevelt and Churchill beaming in approval at their successor.

I would say this is immediately a leading contender for any 'best news photo of the year' contest.

Ed
I agree. There is another thing I like about it, too. The photo is evocative of photos taken of Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin together at Yalta. Yet, in this one, Stalin has been replaced by a leader whose legacy will be the opposite of Stalin's. We are making progress.

If you haven't, please click on the link. It is quite a photo. I'd post it here but I don't want to violate copyright laws, and it would probably take a while to obtain formal permission to publish it.

Addendum: I purchased the permission to reprint the photo, nice and legal. Here it is:


Posted by Amy Ridenour at 4:40 PM

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Child Murder in Seattle and Elsewhere

Michelle Malkin posts the horrifying story of an evil blot in Seattle who murdered his two daughters, and his relatives who wrote him a nice sweet obituary (I'm not being sarcastic -- they really did) containing a photo of the victims playing with their killer.

I won't try to recap what Michelle wrote, please see it for yourself. It is a really harsh post but it should be.

After you read Michelle, check out this job ad: "If you are interested in joining a dynamic team of highly capable professionals in the fields of energy analysis and software development, please send us your resume. We are a small company, with a great group of individuals, working and living in the exciting Seattle metropolitan area." It apparently was posted by the guy Michelle writes about, Stephen Byrne, the one who killed his two young daughters, Kelsey (11) and Hayley (9).

Evil hid behind the banal.

Treating child-killers with respect sickens me. I posted about a similar story in July 2003. It was a case of an anti-Bush "poet" (I use the term loosely, any comparison to someone whose work even a Bush-hater would like to read is purely coincidental) who on July 16, 2003 murdered her two-year-old son, Jehan Vazirani Komunyakaa, reportedly in part because no one appreciated her drivel and in part because her relationship with the guy she had been sleeping with (the dead boy's out-of-state father) wasn't working out. The Washington Post's coverage of the murder included such vomit as a quote from Jim Grimsley of Emory University saying of the toddler-killer: "This is a terrible loss for all of us at Emory, as well as the world of poetry" and a friend of the murderer, Denise King-Miller, saying the toddler-killer "was such a beautiful spirit. It's just a loss to the world." (It is tragic that particular loss didn't occur as a solitary event.)

There is only one way to deal with the memory of people who kill their children, and that is with as much derision, spite and vitriol as one can manage to produce. Maybe then at least one person who is thinking about aping one of these zeros will be deterred out of their own sheer selfish desire not to have their memory mocked.

(Please don't send me any e-mails defending any of these people who kill their children. That happened after I posted Did He Have a Dimple When He Smiled? last year about the Washington Post's coverage of the death of little Jehan Vazirani Komunyakaa. [Yes, really, I got e-mail complaining that I was too harsh on the killer.] The Post, by the way, redeemed itself somewhat. I had complained that the Post's initial story about the murder-suicide told us all about the killer mother, but nothing about the little boy. A later piece in the Post by Paula Span painted a much fuller picture of little Jehan, a little boy who loved music and apparently was quite wonderful.)

Little Jehan would have been four this month.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:25 AM

Canadian Friends in Freedom

Tom Harris sent over this letter he and his wife had published in the Ottawa Citizen today:
On behalf of many of the ordinary residents of the nation's capital, we would like to welcome President George W. Bush to Canada.

Many of us admire the way he has stood up to international terrorism and, while we may not agree with his actions on every front, we would like to reassure him that many, many Canadians are strongly supportive of the enduring alliance between our nations and feel nothing but goodwill towards his country and its fine citizens.

As my wife and I proclaimed in a sign we held up when President Ronald Reagan visited Ottawa in the 1980s, our two nations are indeed "Friends in freedom."

Sadly, because of the hundreds of protesters who are being bused to Ottawa from universities in Toronto and other locations to "unwelcome Bush" in "two days of mass protest and creative resistance" (to quote organizers), the media focus will undoubtedly be on the problems caused by an unrepresentative but very vocal few. Groups such as the Communist Party of Canada (who have booked their own bus to travel from Toronto to Ottawa to protest the visit) do not represent us or anyone we know.

Unfortunately, most ordinary Ottawa residents simply cannot afford the time away from their busy lives at work or at home to come out and demonstrate our support for the United States.

Mr. Bush should be assured that he has an enormous well of popular support in the silent majority of hardworking citizens in Canada and throughout the world.

Tom Harris and Laurie Lemoine
Ottawa
It is important for us to remember that America has friends like this in Canada and all over the world -- there even are some in France. Unfortuantely, one sometimes gets the impression that almost everyone living abroad hates us. This is not so. Only the stupid ones do. (Just kidding with that last sentence. Mostly.)

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:10 AM

Copyright The National Center for Public Policy Research