Friday, December 31, 2004
The Trusting Nature of RelationsI'm convinced there is a whole lot more going on in U.S.-Russian relations than what we see on the surface.
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The U.S. is the world's largest donor of such aid -- $16.2 billion in 2003. Japan is second at $8.9 billion.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.
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.
Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:28 AM
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:39 AM
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
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...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.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.
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...
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...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
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.Read it all here.
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...
Posted by Amy Ridenour at 4:54 PM
Posted by Amy Ridenour at 4:34 PM
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.
Posted by Amy Ridenour at 9:35 PM
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:57 AM
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.
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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.
Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:48 AM
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."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...
* 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.
Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:03 AM
* In every debate, all sides overstate the extent of existing knowledge and its degree of certaintyHere'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.
* 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
Posted by Amy Ridenour at 5:41 PM
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
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.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.
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...
Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:22 AM
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.
Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:01 AM
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.
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...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.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.
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.
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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.
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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.For Rumsfeld, Many Roadblocks; Miscues -- and Resistance -- Mean Defense Review May Produce Less Than Promised (Washington Post, 8/7/01):
'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...
...six months into an administration that campaigned on a promise to rebuild the military, Rumsfeld's ambitious plans are under fire from all sides....Rumsfeld's Overhaul Struggle (Newsday 5/28/2001):
"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..."
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.Why the Hawks Are Carpet-Bombing Rumsfeld (Business Week 8-06-2001):
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.'
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.Sounds like Rumsfeld hit the nail on the head with that one.
'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.
Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:38 AM
Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:06 PM
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.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.
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...
Posted by Amy Ridenour at 5:18 PM
Posted by Amy Ridenour at 4:53 PM
Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:58 AM
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.Read it all here.
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...
Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:30 AM
Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:52 AM
Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:40 AM
Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:33 AM
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.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.
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.
Posted by Amy Ridenour at 4:40 PM
Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:25 AM
On behalf of many of the ordinary residents of the nation's capital, we would like to welcome President George W. Bush to Canada.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.)
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
Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:10 AM
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