masthead-highres

Friday, March 31, 2006

Mea Culpas

I received two e-mails today alerting me to errors on the blog, and, in both cases, the e-mailers were correct. Here then, are two corrections. I apologize to the readers of this blog, and anyone else affected, for the errors:
* In my March 2, 2006 post "NAACP Cries Victim Again," I criticized NAACP President and CEO Bruce Gordon for calling Project 21 a "white" group in a February 8 NAACP press release. He didn't. I misread the word "while" as "white" in this sentence: "It is interesting that while groups like WorldNet Daily and Project 21 spread half-truths and lies about Bond, they offered no direct evidence of what was said." I apologize to Mr. Gordon and the NAACP for my error.

* A teacher from Alfred, Lord Tennyson's hometown wrote to tell me that the reproduction of Tennyson's "Charge of the Light Brigade" that appears in the Historical Documents section of this blog has errors. Specifically, the word "theirs" in the lines
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die,
should not have an apostrophe before the "s," as we had at the time of his e-mail.

Although, in our defense, we reproduced the poem faithfully from a published source, the best source is an original copy, or the closest to it one can get. This University of Virginia library scan of the poem in Tennyson's own handwriting (written out in April 1864) not only confirms the English teacher's contention, but shows other punctuation differences between our reproduction and Tennyson's handwritten version as well. We therefore are correcting our version to match Tennyson's as scanned.

Once again, apologies to our readers.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 5:49 PM

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Urban League Report Disputed

Mychal Massie of Project 21 disputes conclusions of the National Urban League's annual report on the state of black America:
(CNSNews.com) - The median white family in America has approximately ten times the net worth of the median black family, according to the annual "State of Black America" report issued Wednesday by the liberal National Urban League. However, Mychal Massie, a syndicated radio talk show host from the conservative African American group Project 21, said the report was misleading.The Urban League stated that there are several "equality gaps between blacks and whites" in America, involving economic status, equality in education, health and quality of life, social justice, and civic engagement...
Read it all here.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:00 PM

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Panel Not Happening: Is the Mandatory Program Necessary?

Stacked-deck events like this would never happen if the GOP controlled Congress:
March 28th, 2006

29 PANELISTS INVITED TO PRESENT DETAILS ON PROPOSALS AT ENERGY COMMITTEE'S BIPARTISAN CLIMATE CONFERENCE

Twenty-nine panelists have accepted the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee's invitation to amplify on the proposals they submitted for the committee's April 4 climate conference.

Next Tuesday, the Energy Committee will host a day-long conference (9:30 a.m. to noon and 2:30 to 5:00 p.m.) to address the challenge of how Congress might go about creating a mandatory trading program to control U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Conference guidelines will be included on the committee website, www.energy.senate.gov.

[BACKGROUND: Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), the committee's chairman and ranking member, invited interested parties to submit comments as part of the committee's bipartisan effort to find common ground on the next steps for addressing domestic greenhouse gas emissions. Last month, the senators issued a "white paper" that included four basic questions about design elements of a mandatory market-based greenhouse gas regulatory system.]

Panel 1: Business Perspectives on Policy Design
Duke Energy Corp.
Exelon Corp.
General Electric Co.
PNM Resources
Sempra Energy
Shell
Southern Company
Wal-Mart Inc.

Panel 2: Analysis of Domestic Design Options
American Council for Capital Formation
Center for Clean Air Policy
Congressional Budget Office
Electric Power Research Institute
National Commission on Energy Policy
New Jersey Board of Public Utilities
Resources for the Future

Panel 3: Perspectives on Domestic Design
Alliance to Save Energy
Clean Energy Group
Edison Electric Institute
Environmental Defense
Generators for Clean Air
National Mining Association
National Rural Electric Cooperative
Natural Resources Defense Council

Panel 4: Trading and International Competitiveness
American Electric Power
Chicago Climate Exchange
Climate Policy Center
Natsource
Pew Center
World Resources Institute

###
How ironic that a panel promoting the buying and selling of emissions credits will be sharing space on the news pages with the trial of the men who saw big profit potential in the idea as early as 1995.

But perhaps I am too cynical. Surely none of the above have a conflict of interest.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:44 PM

If This is the Defense Lawyers' Point-of-View, Imagine What the Prosecution is Saying

Maybe Lay and Skilling need new lawyers?:
Lay, Skilling in Danger of Conviction as Enron Prosecution Ends

March 29 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. prosecutors have presented enough evidence to convict Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling of the fraud that destroyed Enron Corp., defense lawyers said after the government finished its case...
Actually, I am just having a little fun with the way the copy is written. Apparently, the defense lawyers cited have other clients and work on other cases entirely.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:50 AM

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Mike Crapo on Social Security: Fix Now, or Wait for Catastrophic Financial Crisis?

After my March 22 post about the March 16 defeat of the DeWine-Crapo Social Security amendment, Laura Thurston Goodroe of Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID)'s office alerted me to a recent article by the Senator on the subject.

Some excerpts:
During the recent debate in the Senate over the federal budget, Senator Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) and I introduced an amendment that would stop the United States government from raiding the so-called Social Security Trust Fund. I highlight the term "Trust Fund" because it's misleading. Every year the federal government uses the surplus... to cover expenses incurred in other government programs. Now, instead of money there is an ever-increasing pile of IOUs... With the number of workers paying for retirees steadily declining -- 40 workers paid for one retiree in the 1940s, three pay for one right now, and 2.2 will pay for one in about 20 years -- you can likely guess what those IOUs are worth and where the system is headed...

...Congress will face tough choices in coming years because the government has not set aside any money to pay out future benefits...

When we consider the questionable future of Social Security solvency, it is good to bear in mind the original intent of the program. A recent Washington Post article said it best: "The point of Social Security was to subsidize those who couldn't work, not those who could. The program's founding document said it would support old people who were 'dependent,' 'beyond the productive period' and 'without means of self-support...'"

...do we fix the system now, when we can make incremental changes, or do we leave the burden for coming generations to bear when it becomes a catastrophic financial crisis?
Read the entire article here.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:08 PM

Unnamed Source Watch

From the Washington Post's "Andrew Card Resigns as White House Chief of Staff" today:
"[Andrew Card has] been here 5 1/2 years. The average tenure of chief of staff is two years," said a senior administration official, who spoke before the announcement, but refused to be named so as not to upstage the president. "Change can be good and necessary and that's what they had discussed."
This is D.C. game-playing. No one can "upstage" the President -- he's the President, for goodness sake.

As long as reporters let policians use them this way, readers will be settling for less info than they ought to get. If Mr. Secret Source was Dick Cheney, this quote can probably be taken to the bank. But it could be anyone, so readers have really no idea if the source is reliable.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:06 PM

Monday, March 27, 2006

Improve the ESA with Property Rights Protections


The National Center's environmental and regulatory project held a briefing on Capitol Hill today, in conjunction with the Capital Research Center.

Happily, Hill interest in the possibility of improving the Endangered Species Act in a manner that protects property rights appears to be high. We reserved a room in the Senate's Russell building that holds 50 people, yet 60 people showed up. Wonderful -- though next time, we'll have to order more box lunches.
"Improve the ESA by Protecting Private Property Rights" Say Panelists at Capitol Hill Briefing on the Endangered Species Act

Washington, D.C. - At a standing room-only briefing on Capitol Hill today, several leading policy organizations advised that strong property rights protections should be included in any Endangered Species Act reform effort.

The lunch briefing was sponsored by The National Center for Public Policy Research and the Capital Research Center.

Pointing out that over 99 percent of the species listed as endangered or threatened under the ESA have failed to recover, and the devastation the Act has inflicted on private property owners, regional economies and public works projects, panelists at the event stressed that protecting property rights would not only bring relief to American landowners, but would also better protect species.

"While the Endangered Species Act has failed miserably at saving rare plants and animals, it has excelled in making life miserable for many in the human population," said Peyton Knight, director of environmental and regulatory affairs for the National Center, and a panelist.

"ESA-related costs are paid in an inequitable way," added Knight. "Although Congress determined in 1973 that the preservation of endangered species was in the interest of the U.S. as a whole, Congress did not arrange for the nation as a whole to bear the costs of recovery. Instead, these costs are largely borne by the private landowners on whose property rare species are found, regardless of the ability of any particular landowner to bear these costs."

Approximately 90 percent of all endangered or threatened species habitat is found on non-federally owned land.

The ESA's structure works against its success. The law pits species against landowners -- often the very owners of the land on which rare species live. This adversarial relationship works against the interests of both and often is referred to as the "perverse incentive" problem within the Act, because those who harbor endangered species on their property, or merely own land suitable as habitat for such species, can find themselves subject to crippling land use restrictions. To avoid such restrictions and the losses in property values that accompany them, some landowners choose to preemptively sterilize their land to keep rare species away.

"The ESA is bad for people and bad for species. Leading environmentalists, federal and state wildlife officials, and defenders of property rights have all agreed that the ESA is destructive of wildlife and habitat because its perverse incentives -- penalizing good private stewardship -- cause private landowners to be fearful of protecting endangered species," said panelist R.J. Smith, National Center Senior Fellow.

"There has been wide agreement on this for over a decade. Yet few in Congress have demonstrated the courage and statesmanship to cut through this Gordian Knot and reform the ESA so that it will actually protect endangered species by protecting landowners. It's time for a change," added Smith.

The panel, which in addition to Peyton Knight and R.J. Smith from The National Center for Public Policy Research, included Terrence Scanlon and David Hogberg of the Capital Research Center and Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, agreed that, at a minimum, the "perverse incentives" problem should be addressed. This can be done by fairly compensating property owners who lose the right to use their land due to restrictions under the Endangered Species Act.

"If the government takes a person's land to build a highway, the property owner is compensated," said Knight. "If the government takes the use of a person's land to protect a rare species, however, the property owner is not compensated. This inequity must be addressed."

Last year, the House of Representatives approved an Endangered Species Act reform bill that promises to provide such restitution to landowners. The Senate has yet to put forward any comparable measure.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a non-partisan, non-profit educational foundation founded in 1982 and based in Washington, D.C.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:26 PM

Social Security Reform Critics Often Close Eyes to System's Problems

A typical e-mail of those I received from those who were critics after my March 22 post about the March 16 Social Security vote in the U.S. Senate:
About 80% of the American public trusts the views of the AARP, a percentage higher than the popularity of President Bush and the U.S. Congress combined. The main purpose of the DeMint-Crapo ammendment was to use Social Security trust funds to finance private accounts, and on that basis it deserved to be defeated. Despite the outright lies, half truths, distortions and fear mongering the privatizers propagate to promote the establishment of private accounts and progressive price indexing to "save" Social Security, their true goal is to destroy an efficient and workable social program because it's incongruent with their reactionary, social Darwinistic political views. The vast majority of the American public, however, does not want a return to our society as it existed in the 1890s and are wise to those who do. They voiced their judgement in 2005 when the attempt by President Bush, Congressional Republicans, and their supporters at reactionary think tanks to privatize Social Security collapsed. When the debate resumes regarding the best solution to Social Security's future funding shortfall, the public will once again be smart enough to distinguish between arguments which have merit and those which, if you'll pardon the expression, are full of "Crapo".

Paul Silverman
[email protected]
Which is better: A modern government that makes promises it will not keep, or an 1890s government that made no promises at all?

The question however, is rhetorical, as abolishing Social Security (intentionally, anyway) is not under debate. What is under discussion are ways to reform Social Security so it can cover its obligations.

So, I repeat: Social Security is insolvent. Blaming the messenger won't make it solvent. Furthermore, the sooner we as a nation act to rescue the system, the less difficult the job will be.

Those of you who do not like the right's suggestions for rescuing Social Security should propose alternative rescue plans. At this stage of the debate, all options remain on the table.

Unfortunately, the favorite option of some seems to be one of closing one's eyes and hoping the problem will go away. This strategy is (temporarily) politically-convenient, but it puts at risk the income stream of millions of Americans.

As such, moving to repair Social Security -- or, at minimum, to emphatically warn Americans not to rely on it -- becomes a moral issue as well as a fiscal one.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:14 PM

Friday, March 24, 2006

Global Warming and Polar Bears: One Sound Decision Deserves Another

Peyton Knight sent this over:
At a United Nations meeting in Paris last week, the Bush Administration told the U.N. World Heritage Committee that it should not add new sites to its list of endangered places based on the theory of man-made global warming.

The memo explaining the U.S. position was submitted by Paul Hoffman, who represents the United States on the U.N.'s World Heritage Committee and also serves in the Bush Administration's Interior Department as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.

The memo (paid subscription to Environment & Energy required) states:
[T]here currently is not enough data available to distinguish whether climatic changes at the named World Heritage Sites are the result of human-induced climate change or natural variability...

It cannot be demonstrated that global climate change is caused only by man-made greenhouse gas emissions. It also cannot be demonstrated that if all human caused greenhouse gas emissions were eliminated immediately, climate change would be reversed in the foreseeable future. Therefore, it cannot be demonstrated that any threats to sites from climate change are amenable to correction by human action...

There is not unanimity regarding the impacts, causes, and how to or if man can affect the changes we are observing. Even if there were a global consensus on the issues of climate change impacts, causes, and remedies, it is clear that even the most radical mitigations or remedial actions by man, even if taken immediately, would most likely not appreciably alter current climatic trends for decades or longer.
Kudos to the Bush Administration for daring to spell out the facts for U.N. bureaucrats.

However, last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared it would review whether polar bears should be listed under the Endangered Species Act due to the effect global warming might have on the bear's habitat. Should the bear make the list, it could trigger draconian regulations and restrictions on carbon-dioxide emissions -- essentially, a backdoor Kyoto Protocol.

The Administration's announcement came several months after three far-left environmental groups filed a lawsuit under the Endangered Species Act, demanding that polar bears be listed under the Act because of the threat of global warming.

If consistency (not to mention common sense) counts for anything, the same sound reasoning employed by the Bush Administration at last week's World Heritage Conference should be applied to its forthcoming decision on the polar bear.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 4:08 PM

Activism v. Originalism

Although this is an editorial, it makes for a snappy faux debate between Justice Ruth "Snoozer" Ginsburg and Chief Justice John "Dapper John" Roberts.

If you read nothing else, read this paragraph:
Ginsburg also offered the best definition of judicial activism we've ever heard when she said: "U.S. jurists honor the Framers' intent 'to create a more perfect union,' I believe, if they read the Constitution as belonging to a globalist 21st century, not as fixed forever by 18th century understandings."
Perhaps the lady was sleeping when they covered the amendment process in her law school.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:05 PM

Living On

Robert Clive lived from 1725 to 1774.

His pet turtle died yesterday.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:39 PM

Jacques Chirac Quiz

Spoiled brat Jacques Chirac pulled out of a European summit yesterday because one of the speakers:
1) Violated Chirac's "personal space" by shaking Chirac's hand too aggressively;
2) Made a joke at the podium about France's propensity to surrender;
3) Wore a head scarf;
4) Spoke in English.



Answer: 4.

What a weenie.

Addendum, March 25: Chicago Boyz comments further.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:05 PM

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Senate Social Security Demagoguery

The Social Security Choice blog has done an end run on the media near-blackout of the U.S. Senate's vote against the DeMint-Crapo amendment. The amendment called for an end to continuous raids on what millions of Americans mistakenly believe is a thriving Social Security Trust Fund.

As Deroy Murdock explains here, the "trust fund" is empty. The politicians have spent it.

You'd think a $1.7 trillion dollar shortfall would be worth some attention, but the mainstream press apparently does not agree. A March 20 Google News search for the term "DeMint-Crapo amendment" brought in all of four hits. (One a blog, one a conservative group's press release, and two conservative journals. Changing the search term to just "DeMint amendment" brought in just two hits.)

This is what's at stake and how a worthy effort was demagogued by opponents:

Senators Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Mike Crapo (R-WY) offered an amendment last week to the FY 2007 budget resolution that called on the Senate to adopt the following guidelines for future Social Security reform:
If the Committee on Finance of the Senate reports a bill or joint resolution, or an amendment is offered thereto, or a conference report is submitted thereon, that provides changes to the Federal Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance Benefits Program established under title II of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 401 et seq.), by--

(1) requiring that the Federal Old Age and Survivors Trust Fund and the Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund are used to finance expenditures to provide retirement and disability income of future beneficiaries of such program;

(2) ensuring that there is no change to current law scheduled benefits for individuals born before January 1, 1950;

(3) providing the option to voluntarily obtain legally binding ownership of at least some portion of each participant's benefits; and

(4) ensuring that the funds made available to finance such legislation do not exceed the amounts of the Chief Actuary of the Social Security Administration's intermediate actuarial estimates of the Federal Old Age and Survivors Trust Fund and the Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund, as published in the most recent report of the Board of Trustees of such Trust Funds, the chairman of the Committee on the Budget of the Senate may make the appropriate adjustments in allocations and aggregates to the extent that such legislation would not increase the deficit for fiscal year 2007 and for the period of fiscal years 2007 through 2011.
The DeMint-Crapo amendment was voted down 46-53. According to Andrew Roth, the following eight Republicans joined Senate Democrats in voting "no":
Conrad Burns (MT)
Richard Lugar (IN)
Lincoln Chafee (RI)
Gordon Smith (OR)
Susan Collins (ME)
Olympia Snowe (ME)
Pete Domenici (NM)
Jim Talent (MO)
The measure did not receive any serious debate in the Senate. Senator DeMint introduced it, saying, in total:
Mr. President, the amendment I have sent to the desk adds a reserve fund to the budget resolution for Social Security that would allow Congress to begin saving Social Security surpluses for future Social Security recipients.

If the Finance Committee does not report back, then nothing happens. The amendment does nothing to change Social Security -- no privatization, no stock market investment, and it does not add to the deficit.

The amendment only creates a budget mechanism to allow Congress to consider ways to begin saving the Social Security surplus.

I suspect most Members of this body, Republican and Democrat, are on record on the Senate floor or in a campaign saying that it is wrong to spend the Social Security surplus on other Government programs.

While we don't yet agree on how to fix Social Security, every Member and I believe every American knows that it is wrong to continue to spend Social Security taxes on other Government programs.

This amendment would open the door to consider ways to stop spending Social Security money.

I ask for the yeas and nays.
Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) then said:
Mr. President my colleagues are not being fooled. This is privatization of Social Security. Turn to page 29, paragraph 3. It so provides.

We have already gone down the road on privatization of Social Security.

The so-called surplus that the Senator referred to is just to privatize Social Security.

The American public said no to privatizing Social Security. The President has realized that it is a bad idea. The Congress should realize it. It is a bad idea. The AARP sure knows it is a bad idea. I have a letter from the AARP. Let me read from it. They say:

AARP strongly opposes this attempt to resurrect a proposal that the American public has soundly rejected.

This is privatization of Social Security, pure and simple. The Senate should reject it as the American people have rejected it.

I ask unanimous consent that the letter be printed in the RECORD.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:
AARP

Washington, DC, March 16, 2006.
Hon. HARRY REID,
Minority Leader, Capitol Office Building,
Washington, DC.

DEAR SENATOR REID: The Senate will vote on an amendment to S. Con. Res. 83 offered by Senator DeMint to use annual Social Security surpluses to create private accounts. AARP strongly opposes this attempt to resurrect a proposal that the American public has soundly rejected.

AARP believes this proposal has serious consequences for our nation's overall fiscal health and Social Security's long-term outlook. Ostensibly designed to 'stop the raid on the surplus'', [sic] the proposal would still result in the Treasury Department receiving the money to spend on its needs, but the federal deficit and debt would increase by over $700 billion over the next ten years. Our nation cannot afford this unnecessary increase in its already large federal debt, and we should not ask future generations to pay for the added cost.

Social Security faces a long-term financial shortfall that we should address in a timely manner, but private accounts do nothing to address long-term solvency. AARP believes it is time to put aside polarizing ideas that do not work and get serious about securing Social Security so future generations can count on these important benefits.

Sincerely,

David P. Sloane,
Senior Managing Director, Government Relations & Advocacy
Senator Baucus and the AARP used a "straw man" argument to attack the amendment. As the wording of the DeMint-Crapo amendment included above clearly indicates, the amendment requires "that the Federal Old Age and Survivors Trust Fund and the Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund are used to finance expenditures to provide retirement and disability income of future beneficiaries of such program."

In other words, that Social Security surplus dollars (the funds millions of Americans mistaken believe are sent to a thriving trust fund) must be spent to "provide retirement and disability income" under Social Security.

DeMint-Crapo very clearly does not say, as the AARP and Senator Baucus claim, that such funds must be spent to "create private accounts." In addition to saying Social Security surpluses must be spent on Social Security, it does two more things: state that scheduled benefits for recipients born before 1950 should not change, and create "the option [for each Social Security participant] to voluntarily obtain legally binding ownership of at least some portion" of their benefits.

"Legally-binding ownership" is not synonymous with "privatization."

As Deroy Murdock explains:
Americans have no legal claim on the money Uncle Sam theoretically salts away for their golden years.

The U.S. Supreme Court decided this in 1960 in the case of Fleming v. Nestor. Bulgarian immigrant Ephram Nestor was deported in 1956 for being a Communist in the 1930s. After Congress prohibited Social Security benefits for deportees in 1954, Nestor sued. He claimed title to his FICA tax payments between 1936 and 1955, the year he retired. The Supreme Court disagreed: "To engraft upon the Social Security system a concept of 'accrued property rights' would deprive it of the flexibility and boldness in adjustment to ever-changing conditions which it demands."

The Court added: "It is apparent that the non-contractual interest of an employee covered by the [Social Security] Act cannot be soundly analogized to that of the holder of an annuity, whose right to benefits is bottomed on his contractual premium payments."

This decision reflected the Court's precedent in Helvering v. Davis. In 1937, it ruled: "The proceeds of both the employee and employer [Social Security] taxes are to be paid into the Treasury like any other internal revenue generally, and are not earmarked in any way."
Americans have no legal right to their Social Security benefits, and, apparently, the AARP and Senator Max Baucus like this state of affairs just fine.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:34 PM

Apple Vexed at France

Apple Computer may decide to stop selling iPods to France.

Seems the French government wants to tell Apple how to run its business, yet the amount of trade france generates isn't worth the trouble.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 6:24 PM

Questioning the United Nations

Japan is increasingly frustrated that it has not been granted a permanent membership on the U.N.'s Security Council.

Japan pays more in U.N. dues than every permanent member except for the United States.

Brett Schaefer and Janice Smith, writing for the Heritage Foundation, say:
Japan is right to suggest that the permanent veto-wielding members of the Security Council should make a financial commitment to the UN commensurate with their privileged status. The United States should join forces with Japan in this effort, which provides an opening for even more meaningful reforms.
Schaefer and Smith also note that Japan contributes nine times more than China and 18 times more than Russia to the U.N. Japan contributes more than permanent members Britain, France, China and Russia combined.

Heritage has more details, including a list of 48 nations that contribute less annually to the U.N. than the price of an inexpensive car.

Schaefer's and Smith's recommendations are correct for policymakers working within the assumption that the U.S. and Japan should remain in the U.N. However, our policymakers must start rejecting this assumption. The U.N. is more trouble than it is worth.

America involved itself in the U.N. -- communist spies like Alger Hiss being among the founders notwithstanding -- for the purpose of defeating communism.

Communism now is all but dead. What the U.N. offers us now is lowest-common-denominator thinking, bureaucratic inefficiency, world-record thievery, excuses for despotism and a bill to the U.S. taxpayer for a quarter of the price.

When countries are resolved to act (as they were in the case of the tsunami, for example), coalitions of well-meaning countries tackle the job while U.N. officials dither -- often at restaurants.

If don't need the U.N. when we want to do good, why do we need it at all?

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:05 AM

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Endangered Species Act: Why Protecting Property Rights Is Good For Landowners And Species

The National Center and Capital Research Center are co-hosting a briefing on the Endangered Species Act in the Senate Russell Building Monday, March 27. It is open to the public.

Panelists include:
Terrence Scanlon
President, Capital Research Center
Introduction

David Hogberg
Executive Director, Greenwatch
Capital Research Center
Topic: Opening Remarks

Peyton Knight
Director, Environmental and Regulatory Affairs
The National Center for Public Policy Research
Topic: Perverse Incentives in the ESA

R. J. Smith
Senior Fellow
The National Center for Public Policy Research
Topic: Critical Habitat and ESA Victims

Myron Ebell
Director of Energy and Global Warming Policy
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Topic: House and Senate Approaches to ESA Reform
More information is available here.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 5:10 PM

Uninsured Americans, Part II

More on a topic from Monday, specifically, the number of people without health insurance.

John Graham of the Pacific Research Institute writes:
A report from UCLA's Center for Health Policy Research figures that 900,000 Californian children are eligible for government programs, but not enrolled. So, nearly two thirds of California's children who reportedly suffer from lack of health insurance in fact suffer only from parents who haven't signed them up.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:37 PM

Democracy Too Inconvenient?

I had no idea unions were organizing workplaces without the workers first casting private votes.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:31 PM

Deroy Murdock: Hating Bush at Home, Hailing Our Troops Abroad

Deroy Murdock has a powerful essay on NRO detailing the savagery of the left's hatred for George W. Bush.

Deroy also links to this New York Post story in which the mayor of Tal' Afar (Iraq) thanks the troops of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment for saving his city from terrorists.

The mayor praises the U.S. soldiers, referring to them (rather ironically, historically speaking) as "lion hearts" and "knights."

It is a very small world. Deroy Murdock is a distinguished fellow with the National Center. I visited NRO this evening for other reasons, but, seeing Deroy had new a piece there, I read it, only to find it was (in part) about the work of the 3rd ACR in Iraq. Ten minutes before, I had been in our family room listening to my niece's husband Jason, who serves with the 3rd ACR and who returned from Iraq in late February, tell us the same story as Deroy. It is like there is Tal' Afar karma in the house tonight, or something. (Assuming Christians and Muslims can have karma, that is.)

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:16 AM

Global Warming Spoof

An e-mail correspondent alerted me, the National Resources Defense Council, and a few other folks about this entertaining global warming spoof.

I'm guessing I think it is funner than the NRDC does.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:04 AM

Monday, March 20, 2006

If You Have to Ask...

Project 21 members are saying Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) owes Lt. Governor Michael Steele (R-MD) an apology.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:05 PM

Congratulations (Again) to Mark Tapscott

Speaking of the Examiner, as MediaBistro reports and Mark Tapscott confirmed by email, blogger Mark Tapscott is leaving the Heritage Foundation to become editorial page editor of the Washington Examiner and join the Examiner's National Editorial Board.

Congratulations, Mark -- for the second time this month!

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:52 PM

Endangered Species Act: A Tale of Two Editorials

I read two newspaper editorials on Endangered Species Act reform today.

One was written by editors of the multi-city Examiner who seem to like the original (1973) Endangered Species Act, but who took the time to look beyond name-brand environmentalist talking points to understand the concern some critics have with the structure of the original ESA.

The other does not seem to reflect more than an understanding of the talking points of the environmental left.

My guess is that the writers of the second editorial, which appeared in the Hartford Courant, didn't review the content of the ESA reform bill adopted by the House last year. One clue is their sentence: "...the successes of [the original ESA] affirm what Americans can accomplish when they devote resources and commitment to a problem. On that score, the cynical modifications to the Endangered Species Act... approved by the House are a disservice to Americans..."

The House bill would increase government resources directed at endangered species recovery, as it requires the government to reimburse private citizens for ESA-related losses. (The House provision is designed to reduce instances of "shoot, shovel and shut up," the phenomenon in which private property owners, fearful of losing the right to use their land while still being required to pay taxes on it, surreptitiously kill endangered species they find on their property.)

It may seem perverse that name-brand environmentalists oppose this, but they believe this provision will disclose to their fellow citizens just how much ESA enforcement really costs.

Policy transparency is inconvenient, but honest government requires it.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:50 PM

Recycling Nuclear Fuel

Physicists Gerald E. Marsh and George S. Stanford, who are the star contributors of our Nuclear Policy Center, have a letter in this week's edition of the journal Nature (Nature 400) .

The letter begins:
We believe that your worry about U.S. plans to reprocess nuclear fuel ("Recycling the Past" Nature 439, 509-510; 2006) is misplaced. Since President Carter imposed a reprocessing ban in 1977, it has become clear that other nations' decisions about building nuclear weapons do not depend on what the United States does with its spent fuel.

Furthermore, we consider your claim that "recycling involves separating components that can readily be used to build nuclear weapons" to be misleading on two counts...
Read it all here.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:48 PM

Uninsured Americans: How Many, and How Do We Help?

Matt at the Center for Faith in Politics blog disagrees with me on health care issues I raised when criticizing a New Republic editorial that makes this claim:
Government isn't the best way to provide all Americans with health security. It's the only way.
Matt discusses the large number of Americans (he puts the figure at under 46 million) who do not have health insurance.

As Michael Cannon points out in this 2004 Cato Institute publication, a couple of things need to be understood about the number of uninsured.

First, quite a few of uninsured individuals are eligible for Medicaid. Thus, they do have coverage (although I concede they are failing to earn it by themselves, this is hardly a problem we can expect a "universal system" to solve). In fiscal year 2006, according to Nina Owcharenko of the Heritage Foundation, Medicaid is expected to provide services for 46 million individuals and cost taxpayers $338 billion.

Second, these figures include people who are without health insurance only part of a year. Cannon says:
In addition to those eligible for Medicaid, for instance, [the figure given for the number of uninsured] includes people who lose their health insurance for only a brief period, such as when they graduate from college or change jobs. Over 3 million such people will regain coverage within four months, and another 6 million will regain coverage within 12 months. Various studies suggest that one-fourth (10 million) of this group decline coverage that is offered by their employers, and one-fifth (8 million) live in households making more than $50,000 per year.
Cannon also notes:
Moreover, the persistently uninsured are mostly young (39 percent are under age 25, and another 22 percent are under age 35) or healthy (86 percent report their health to be "good," "very good," or "excellent").
Matt also links to Josh Kidd at Larameekidd, who links to New Yorker author Malcolm Gladwell's blog.

Gladwell says: "Canadians now spend on health care -- and I'm not sure of the exact figure here -- something like 60 percent of what Americans spend. If that were increased to, say, 65 percent, many of the rationing and wait-time problems would be alleviated."

In the early 1990s, my husband David took a look at widely-touted figures from that era showing Canadians spending 55 percent of what Americans spent, per capita, on health care annually. Government-run medicine advocates of that era were arguing that Canada's ability to deliver health care more inexpensively was evidence of socialized medicine's superior efficiency. David demonstrated that the figures being used were comparing apples to oranges. U.S. figures included dental care, prescriptions, ambulance services, cosmetic surgeries, private hospital rooms and vision care, while Canadian figures did not. David also noted that the medical expenses of Canadians who had crossed the U.S.-Canadian border to escape that country's waiting lines would have been counted as part of the U.S.'s per capita figures. When apples were compared to apples, the per capita expenditures of the two nations, at least at that time, were roughly equivalent.

Nonetheless, Gladwell wonders if perhaps Canada's chronic and serious problem with waiting lines could be alleviated if the Canadians would open their purses a little wider.

"If" is a big word. In government-run systems, health budgets are set by politicians, who have a vested interest in minimizing expenditures (so taxes/deficits can be minimized). So even if health care bureaucracies have perfect knowledge about the best way to allocate funds within government health budgets (another big if), the budget-setting incentives inherent in government-run plans are something other than the health of each individual patient.

Conservative-backed consumer choice systems, however, are designed so the budget-setter is also the consumer. Premium support (paying premiums for low-income citizens) makes the system equitable (in the rich vs. poor sense); the fact that consumers are empowered pushes the system to allocate resources efficiently, according to health care needs. Thus, conservative proposals, properly understood, offer the same opportunities for universal care as do the largely liberal-backed government care proposals, but do so in a manner more likely to get appropriate health care services to the patients who truly need them.

The point, after all, is not to provide health care insurance coverage, the provision of which is the government-run model's strong suit, but actual medical services.

Given a choice between universal care (offered by the conservative-backed consumer choice model) and universal coverage (what government-run systems actually offer), I submit the public will opt for care.

As the whole of human history shows, governments are great at making promises, but the delivery of goods and services tends to be done best in a competitive marketplace.

Addendum, March 21: Josh Kidd has written to ask our thoughts on the Massachusetts health care debate. I have not followed it closely, but we did address it in this post.

In a March 21 blog post here we add the thoughts of John Graham of the Pacific Research Institute.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:01 AM

Global Warming Research Fears: Galileo Would Have Recognized the Feeling

Kudos to the Canadians, as the Ottawa Citizen has published an article about University of Ottawa Science Professor Jan Veizer's new global warming theory.

The article begins:
A prominent University of Ottawa science professor says what we know about global warming is wrong -- that stars, not greenhouse gases, are changing Earth's climate.

Jan Veizer says high-energy rays from distant parts of space are smashing into our atmosphere in ways that make our planet go through warm and cool cycles.

The recently retired professor (he still holds a research chair and supervises grad students and postdoctoral fellows) knows that to challenge the accepted climate change theory can lead to a nasty fight.

It's a politically and economically loaded topic, and as polarized as an election campaign.

Yet he is speaking out -- a bit nervously -- about his published research.

"Look, maybe I'm wrong," he said in an interview. "But I'm saying, at least let's look at this and discuss it. "Every" part of the theory "has its problems," Mr. Veizer adds. "But so does every other model" of how Earth's climate behaves.

Cosmic rays are hitting us all the time. Hold up a penny, and one such particle will hit it, on average, once a minute...
The article goes on to explain Professor Veizer's credentials and more about his theory, including this:
Mr. Veizer felt uncomfortable with the idea that high levels of carbon dioxide alone are causing hot spells. For one thing, he says, Earth would have needed vastly more carbon dioxide than today to change temperatures so much. For another, his reading of the graphs shows that some rises in carbon dioxide came after increases in temperature, not before. And in one case at least, we appear to have had very high carbon dioxide at a cold time -- an "icehouse," not greenhouse.

He wondered: What if something else makes the temperature go up and down?
Something else worth noting about this article: In it, Professor Veizer says, point blank, that he was "scared" to go public with his theory, because it contradicts the popular theory that human-created greenhouse gases are causing global warming.

Says the Ottawa Citizen: "Doubters [of the greenhouse gas theory] tend to be written off as paid mouthpieces for the oil industry."

Professor Veizer held back on his theory for years due to his fear of the controversy it would generate, the article says.

And to think we modern folk believe we've opened our minds since Galileo's time...

Hat tips to The Other Club and Strong World.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:18 AM

Friday, March 17, 2006

Confidential Source Use Tends to Harm Journalism

About three months ago, I proposed to blogger Mark Tapscott that we conduct an online discussion about media shield laws. (He likes them; I do not.) He agreed, but I dropped the ball, and he has been kind enough not to complain.

I see, however, that Mark is once again addressing the issue, this week with a post about a pending U.S. House of Representatives hearing regarding a proposed federal journalist shield law, so maybe it is tiime for me to get back in the discussion.

In an earlier post, I discussed problems with shield laws in a specific law enforcement situation, and in this one I raised some other practical questions.

Today I intend to argue that regular use of confidential sources (which media shield laws tend to encourage) is bad for journalism.

My basic thesis: It is hard for a reader to fact-check a story when he doesn't know who the sources are. Readers are better served when they have the ability to evaluate the source of information. Too often journalists use confidential sources when it isn't really necessary, making it much harder for the reader to decide if the source is objective or has the necessary expertise to be credible. Furthermore, a desire to protect or, conversely, exploit confidential sources can alter a journalist's objective presentation of information. All these factors undermine both the reliability and credibility of the news profession.

Argument 1: The use of confidential sources reduces readers' trust in journalists.

The obvious point here is that a documented fact is more likely to be believed than an unsourced one, but it goes beyond that. I'll use an example from my own experience as a consumer of news.

Fred Barnes frequently uses unnamed White House sources in his Weekly Standard columns. Some, all or none of them may be Karl Rove. Last year, also in the Weekly Standard, while writing about the Fitzgerald investigation, Fred Barnes rose strongly to the defense of Karl Rove. I thought Barnes's statements about Rove were unusually informative and detailed, and I wanted to believe Barnes's conclusions were correct, but I decided to remain agnostic.

The reason was not any weakness of Barnes's articles about Rove's innocence, but because I remembered uncounted articles by Barnes in the past citing unnamed White House officials. Was Rove Barnes's best source on a myriad of other issues? Did Barnes have a professional stake in keeping his best White House source unindicted? Or had Barnes simply talked to Rove so often, he tended without realizing it to see things Rove's way?

I concluded that, based on the information given me by the Weekly Standard, that I had no way to judge Barnes's objectivity (beyond the obvious fact that both men are conservatives) on the "Rove should not be indicted" question. Yet, had Barnes been in the habit of naming all his White House sources, I might have learned that Barnes has many sources in the White House other than, or instead of, Karl Rove. I still would have taken Barnes's views on Rove with a grain of salt, as I would the views of any other White House supporter, but I would have been less (and possibly unnecessarily) suspicious of their pedigree.

Argument 2: Investigative journalists are in the catbird's seat when it comes to confidential sources. If the journalist misquotes or misrepresents a confidential source's material, what is that source to do? Put out a press release? Even if he is willing to blow cover, the journalist can always claim he had other sources.

Even taking a lower key approach by approaching other journalists and becoming a confidential source a second time is unlikely to get the record corrected, since no reader will have enough information to perceive that the second story is intended to correct the first.

Argument 3: Arguments that protected confidential sources once in a while allow a journalist to solve a crime or protect the public in some tangible way skirt the fact that most confidential sources are promoting themselves, not the public interest. Skilled players of this game, sources and journalists alike, learn to use one another to mutual advantage.

It works like this: The source doles out material to a chosen journalist, who then uses the material in a way flattering to the source. The source, in turn, continues to feed the journalist. If the source stops providing information spicy enough to make the journalist stand out, the journalist may abandon the source, so the source has an incentive to "sex up" his information. On the other hand, if the journalist doesn't treat the source properly (too often publishes material in some way inconvenient to the source), the source may find another journalists who will treat him better. So the journalist keeps this fact in mind.

"I'll-scratch-your-back-if-you-scratch-mine" is far from a model system if the goal is providing the public with objective facts, objectively presented. It is instead a mutually-beneficial-career-assistance-pact benefiting the individual journalist and his source, while harming the long-term credibility of journalism and (often) the source's own profession. If the source is in government, it may hurt the country as well.

Being an opinionated sort of person, I have other thoughts on the use of confidential sources, but I think these are enough for one day. Back to you, Mark.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:00 AM

Universal Health Care: A Flawed Proposal

The New Republic has a "by the editors" editorial in the March 20 issue calling on the government to provide "universal health care" (aka, socialized medicine). The piece minces no words, ending on this confident note: "Government isn't the best way to provide all Americans with health security. It's the only way. And it's time for liberalism to say so openly."

The editorial is wrongheaded in the way the modern New Republic too often tends to be: Inaccurate facts analyzed through an illogical philosophy.

A couple of observations:
* The New Republic editors ignore the elephant in the room by failing to address, even weakly, the failure of the Canadian universal health care/socialized medicine system (see my blog posts here or here, or read this or this), or the waiting lines for care and other health care quality issues afflicting a dozen first world nations with government health care systems. These problems are serious.

* The New Republic was not honest enough to describe conservative health care proposals accurately, preferring to mislead readers into believing conservative proposals would leave people of modest income with a history of cancer or diabetes (and presumably other serious preconditions) without medical insurance:
Enacting the conservative agenda would unravel such arrangements, shifting the burden of paying for care back from the healthy to the sick... Beat cancer? Have your diabetes under control? Well, no matter. The commercial insurance industry still wants nothing to do with you -- at least not at a price you can bear.

The right, in other words, has decided the problem with unaffordable health care is that it needs to be more unaffordable, at least for the people who need it most.
Not exactly. Mainstream conservatives support high risk health insurance pools for those who find insurance hard to acquire or exceptionally expensive; various subsidy mechanisms can keep insurance for this group affordable (for more on what conservatives in and out of Congress believe on this issue, I recommend "A Good Start: The House Health Care Reform Bills," by Edmund F. Haislmaier, Robert E. Moffit, Ph.D., and Nina Owcharenko, published by the Heritage Foundation in July 2005).

* "Medicare isn't only popular. It's also efficient," says the New Republic. It doesn't mention that nearly 30 percent of physicians are refusing to accept new Medicare patients; that hospitals spend a half hour on paperwork for every hour of care delivered under Medicare; that Medicare is insolvent, as it is underfunded by $29 trillion dollars; or that Medicare's archaic, overly-bureaucratic process for the adoption of new technologies results in needless deaths.

These are not facts that immediately bring to mind the word "efficient" -- or even "safe."
I could go on, but the article isn't worth it. One on the subject that is can be found here (pdf file); it is a brisk survey of the history and results of socialized medicine worldwide by Canadian economist Pierre Lemieux.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:03 AM

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Sesame Street Parodies and More

Granny Tiger takes on Sesame Street for its two-cute-by-half efforts to parody pop culture.

One of my sons was a huge Elmo fan (carried a small plastic Elmo with him 24/7 for about a year when he was 3-4), so I can safely say I've seen (or, at least, heard) the show a few times. The shows he and his siblings were least interested in were the ones that featured pop culture figures like Katie Couric or Julia Roberts. It wasn't that their performances in themselves were sub-par, but in these instances, the producers seemed to be writing to showcase the star rather than for the kids. Elmo was portrayed as being excited about seeing Julia Roberts, but what preschooler would care?

Possibly some Sesame Street producers are a little bit starstruck?

I don't think we've seen the Sesame Street parody of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" that Granny Tiger writes about, though. (We won't be seeking it out.)

In another post, on another subject, Granny Tiger tells us about the abortion she never had. It may not sound like it, but it is a nice story.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:57 PM

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Vaccines: The Trials Continue

Theodore Dalrymple reviews Paul Offit's new book, and in so doing, explains why new vaccines are scarce.

A policy recommendations is included: "...an extension of the powers of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, to the exclusion of all tort litigation surrounding vaccines. Unless a remedy of this sort applies, he says, the sectional interest of a small group of people, the tort lawyers, will continue to inflict damage upon public health."

Who knows -- if we follow the recomendations, someday we may even have a vaccine against autism.

Hat tip: Walter Olson.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:59 AM

Another U.N. Outrage

Anne Bayefsky writes:
On Friday, March 10, 2006 the UN Commission on the Status of Women -- the UN's highest body dealing with women's rights -- adopted only one resolution that specifically condemned the abuse of women's rights by any of the 191 UN member states. That state was...
Iran? Saudi Arabia?

No. Israel.

Read the rest of what she has to say here.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:46 AM

Monday, March 13, 2006

CEI's Open Market

The Competitive Enterprise Institute has just launched a blog.

I plan to visit it often.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:50 PM

Standing Athwart History, Yelling "Go Go Go!"

Pointed to it by Professor Bainbridge, I read the Los Angeles Times whatever on the supposed "conservative crackup." Mostly it was an attack on President Bush, and an unhelpful one it was, despite decent contributions from two people I don't plan to discuss in this post.

As Professor Bainbridge described it, four "more-or-less conservative" pundits participated. A more generous description you will not find. (You sure won't find it on this blog.)

The Times symposium foisted on its readership a Kerry voter as representing the GOP (or conservatives) and got an editor of National Review (yes, the Buckley National Review) to attack Bush harshly because Bush isn't a leftist.

A fine day indeed for the leftie Los Angeles Times. I myself would never have been so crafty as to get a National Review editor to attack someone's conservative positions because they are not liberal. Wouldn't even think of it.

One of the four essayists is blogger Daniel Drezner, who voted for Kerry in '04. His right, obviously, but shouldn't the Times mention this? Kind of relevant if your thesis is that there is a new "conservative crackup" afflicting Bush in his second term.

Drezner divides all Republicans (he uses this term instead of "conservative," though they are not interchangeable -- a liberal Republican can't participate in a conservative crackup) into "realists and neoconservatives." Drezner says "realists" don't believe "ideas about liberal democracy can travel well beyond the West."

So Japan, alas, is doomed.

It is not a key issue, but Drezner's definition of "neoconservative" differs from that of neoconservative movement's godfather and the definition conservatives have been using for a couple of decades now, although it is in accord with a definition one might find on a liberal website. Drezner tags every conservative who supported the war in Iraq as a "neoconservative," yet many of us were never, ever liberals, mugged by reality or otherwise. We're just conservatives.

However, Drezner's essay is five-star material compared to the op-ed by National Review Senior Editor Jeffrey Hart, who tries to stretch a four-word William F. Buckley quote into a redefinition of conservatism, and then excoriates Bush for not being liberal enough -- without using the word plainly.

Hart complains (without providing even a phrase of evidence) that "every president has worked to protect" national parks, except for Bush, who "neglects them except as a playground for more snowmobiles"; that Bush wants to drill for oil in ANWR (the mainstream conservative position); that Bush fails to use federal government powers to "encourage" the production of fuel-efficient cars (mainstream conservatives have been known to believe private companies should design consumer goods).

(I'll summarize a rebuttal:
a) Bush inherited a $4.9 billion National Park Service maintenance backlog; his Administration spends more on the NPS than prior Administrations; reasonable people disagree about a snowmobile ban, but Clinton, Bush 41, Reagan, Carter, Ford and Nixon allowed snowmobiles; the Clinton Administration moved to increase restrictions during the last year of its eight; the Bush Administration issued a regulation that greatly limits their use but falls short of a total ban -- a nuanced position reasonable people can disagree with but objectively one that results in tighter snowmobile standards than those in place during his predecessors' terms;

b) Does Hart believe the Iranians or Saudis are more careful about the environment when they drill for oil than Americans would be in ANWR?;

c) A key element of fuel-efficient cars is making them light, which has the unfortunate side-effect of making them more deadly.)
Hart, whose name is the third listed on the masthead of National Review, also complains that Bush wanted to privatize Social Security (actually, Bush just wanted to partially-privatize it, but why expect precise language from a professor of English at an Ivy League university?), and characterizes the effort to rescue the insolvent Social Security system as a "scheme" to "attach" the "social safety net" (social? how about "financial" -- Social Security's current structure is anti-family) to "stock in such companies as Enron and WorldCom." (Just picked those two companies at random, Dr. Hart?) No serious person would argue that every publicly-held corporation is as fragile as Enron, WorldCom or, for that matter, Social Security, all of which turned out to be insolvent, despite marketing to the contrary.

(Go here to read the Cato Institute's succinct explanation of four key ways Social Security is just like Enron, or here to visit the Heritage Foundation's Social Security calculator, which tells me I can expect a .48 percent of return for the Social Security taxes I have "contributed," but that, based on historical data, I could earn a 5.98 percent rate of return had I been allowed to invest my contributions in a private account. Heritage tells me I lost $13,241 a month. [Thanks, Dr. Hart.])

Hart also calls the Medicare prescription drug benefit a "another privatization scheme." If only! Medicare should be a system based on the one federal employees (like Congressmen) enjoy. Medicare beneficiaries should be able to pick between competing private plans. Their benefit should be "premium support" -- that is, help (in low-income cases, substantial) paying the premium. We can call that "privatization" (we could also call it a good idea), but that's not what Bush ultimately fought for in 2003, and that's definitely not what we got.

Hart also complains that Bush "severely limit[ed] federal support" for stem cell research. What the President actually did was ban most -- not all -- federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, but not private research.

(As I once asked: How it is that research on embryonic cells can simultaneously be immensely promising and yet also unable to attract private funding?)

Once again, Hart, not Bush, is out of the conservative mainstream. Conservatives by definition favor private spending over federal spending (hence so many of us being mad at Congress). This even applies to those who, like Hart, dismiss concern about destroying embryos with such statements as "the supposed 'culture of life' is a culture of disease and death."

Hart also complains that Bush would like to "abolish abortion." Here's what he says:
Bush would like to abolish abortion. No one likes abortion. But a demand for it exists today that did not exist in 1950, let alone in 1920, when U.S. women got the vote. Today, look at a university campus. Half women. They are represented in all professions. They demand the right to decide if and when to have children. Criminalizing abortion would be folly, a disaster -- and would fail, like that other prohibition. That's the actuality.
Thesis: Women work, therefore, we must have abortion.

The hanging "because..." is left unsaid and unknown. Also unsaid is the fact that men who both work and have sex don't get to decide "if and when to have children." (Well, except for birth control, but since that doesn't work for Dr. Hart's women, it must not work for my men.)

Also unsaid is the fact that many people believe that if something is legal, it must be moral. Legal abortion speaks volumes to them.

And then there is the little detail that if Hart is right, why doesn't he trust 50 state legislatures to see it his way? It is not as if Bush is pushing for a constitutional amendment banning abortion, just for judges who would let the people decide the laws of the nation.

But maybe that does bother Hart, who says women demand "the right" (constitutional, apparently, since natural rights need not be demanded) to abortion.

It sounds like Hart, who condemns Bush for his supposed extreme commitment to the market ("free-market economics pushed to exclude other worthy goals becomes an ideology"), is in favor of the legalized killing of unborn babies simply because the market demands it.

And, he blames the girls.

Addendum, March 13: Dave Pierre at Newsbusters shares a different perspective on the Times series. James Joyner at Outside the Beltway also has some very good insights, and comments.

Regarding Dr. Hart's National Review connection: Interesting.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:51 AM

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Dangerous Pesticide Scares

Alan Caruba of the National Anxiety Center gives quite a scolding to environmental scaremongers in his latest column (reprinted with permission):
Endless Environmental Lies

by Alan Caruba

In the interest of full disclosure, I need to tell you that, years ago in the 1980s, I worked for a producer of a particularly effective pesticide that was applied with nothing more toxic than water. It is now, like so many other pesticides, not available to pest control professionals because it was literally forced off the market by the Environmental Protection Agency that insisted millions of dollars of testing be repeated for its continued registration. The company decided it just wasn't worth it.

I have served as the public relations counselor to a state pest management association that began in 1941 when its founding members decided they needed to better understand the science involved with combating one of the most ancient vectors of disease and property damage, the billions of insect and rodent pests that besiege us to this day. Over the years since then, they have invited scientists to educate their members to better serve their customers.

So, when I read yet another anti-pesticide news story in my daily newspaper, my first reaction was to heave a sigh of disgust and turn the page. My next reaction was the same one that caused me to create The National Anxiety Center to dispute the endless environmental lies designed to influence public opinion and policy. I got angry.

"The nation's streams and rivers, from the Midwestern corn belt to the Hawaiian Islands to the suburbs of New Jersey are infused with dangerous pesticides, the U.S. Geological Survey reported yesterday." If you read no further than that first paragraph you would, like millions of other Americans, conclude that your health was endangered. You would be wrong.

Like all such newspaper and other media stories that sound the warning claxon, you have to read further to discover there is no danger. Further into the story, you would learn that, "To what degree the findings represent a threat to human health is not certain. Most concentrations detected did not exceed federal human-health benchmarks." That was paragraph eight. In the next paragraph, the article notes that, "How the compounds may interact in the human body is poorly understood."

And, if you read still further, you would find a quote from Jay Vroom, president of Croplife America, that "Normal water purification procedures used by municipalities... would remove most traces of pesticides." The key word here is "traces" because the measurements trumpeted in the first paragraph reflect a million parts per gallon and even a billion parts per gallon. Translation? So little presence of pesticides as to constitute no health threat whatever. Moreover, your local water company removes those trace elements before you ever drink them.

So why then is the sidebar to the article titled "drink at your own risk"? To scare you.

That is the single operational mode of all environmental organizations and the data they serve up to the mainstream media that cleverly puts the scare in the first paragraph, confident that you are not likely to read to the end of the story, nor even understand that the threat they are describing is non-existent.

In a similar fashion, the nation's leading science magazines have become so debased by their alliance with environmentalists that one can no longer trust their latest "news." A case in point is a recent issue of Science magazine that reported Antarctica is melting. Two weeks earlier, it reported that Greenland was also losing big chunks of ice. Run for your life, the sea level is about to swamp all the coastal cities of the world.

As Dr. Patrick Michaels noted on Tech Central Station, however, "Natural variability is sufficiently large on yearly and multidecadal time scales that it is simply impossible to conclude that anything other than natural variability is at play in either of those two stories." In other words, a study based on the last three years of ice mass cannot possibly be taken seriously. Unless, of course, you are an editor for Science magazine.

If you are a scientist who follows such variations, you would know that over the course of the past several decades, the ocean-land system of Antarctica has been experiencing a growth in the amount of snow and ice.

The lies the environmental movement has put forth over the last few decades can and does fill entire libraries. They have been aided and abetted by the mainstream media that knows that scary news sells newspapers and attracts viewers and listeners.

Spring is right around the corner as I write and I guarantee you that billions of insect and rodent pests are about to debut once more to plague homeowners, apartment dwellers, and everyone else. It's a good time to keep the phone number of your local pest management firm on the speed dial.
Click here (PDF file) to read a profile of Alan.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 5:43 PM

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Kim Priestap: Buried by Strangers

Kim Priestap tells us about a man who was a national hero in his country and a Hindu, who had Hindu parents and a Hindu wife.

When he died, however, an Islamic Court ordered that he be buried as if he had been a Muslim, and the civil courts said they had no standing to overrrule an Islamic court. So he was, as a lawyer in his country said, "buried by strangers."

What country did this happen in? If you guessed a country in the Middle East or Afghanistan, you're wrong.

Visit Kim's blog or read this BBC article to find out.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:02 PM

Chinese Menu, Literally Translated

It has been a long time since I laughed so hard while reading something on the Internet.

Hat tip: Ace of Spades

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:20 AM

Friday, March 10, 2006

If You Live in a Risky Area, Buy Some Darn Insurance

This Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel series about FEMA wasting public funds during 20 different disasters is infuriating.

Two days ago, the House Appropriations Committee approved $19 million in additional Katrina relief, half of which, according to Reuters, will be distributed by FEMA.

I can't help but notice there is no corresponding scandal at Allstate.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:19 PM

More on Supreme Court TV Coverage

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer says it is "almost inevitable" that the Supreme Court will at some point allow television coverage.

Chief Justice Roberts is agnostic on the question, but Justices Souter, Scalia and Kennedy are opposed.

There is bi-legislation in both the House and Senate promoting camera coverage in federal courts (S. 829 and H.R.2422 - read more about them on Thomas), but the bills appear to be low priorities.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:30 PM

Congratulations to Mark Tapscott

Congratulations to Mark Tapscott for his election to the National Freedom of Information Act Hall of Fame.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 9:48 PM

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Republican Study Committee Alternative Budget: Methadone for Spending Junkies


The National Center's Ryan Balis attended the Republican Study Committee's alternative budget proposal press conference today, and filed a report and photo:
At a Capitol Hill press conference today, members of the House Republican Study Committee (RSC) introduced their alternative budget proposal, which aims to rein in the growth of federal government spending.

The RSC has named its budget plan the "Contract With America Renewed," and it proposes (link downloads text document) $358 billion in savings over five years and a balanced federal budget by Fiscal Year 2011 without raising taxes.

Calling their proposal (link downloads text document) a "moral initiative" for the economic future of America's families, RSC members want to end support for some 150 federal programs such as USAID and the Corporation for Project Broadcasting and end U.S. contributions to the International Development Association, Multilateral Development Banks and the Global Environmental Facility. The Departments of Commerce, Energy and Education would also be "significantly" restructured to eliminate unnecessary projects.

RSC members are hoping to restore fiscal discipline in Washington and to renew faith with the American public. "Reckless spending is mortgaging our future," said RSC member Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ). Fellow member Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) echoed that "Congress [has] failed to make tough choices," and it is, therefore, time for it to go on a "spending diet until our pants fit again."

Reducing the size and scope of government are long overdue. According to Veronique de Rugy, a research scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, total non-defense discretionary spending has increased 27.3 percent under President George W. Bush and congressional Republicans (FY2001-06) - a larger increase than even the 21.4 percent under President Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Let us hope that this fiscal diet does not prove to be too ambitious for the spending junkies on Capitol Hill.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:53 PM

Students at Methodist College Arrested for Burning Baptist Churches

If this had happened in certain other parts of the world, Baptists would be killing Methodists right now.

Addendum, March 9: Please note: This post does not intend to claim that those accused of setting the fires are Methodists.

Addendum 2, March 9 Check out the Center for Faith in Politics blog for additional coverage. All the writers of that blog have been graduated from or are attending the college attended by the students who were arrested, and many of the blog's readers attend the school as well.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:45 PM

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Regarding Iran

Scary stuff, from Varifrank.

An excerpt:
'It will take decades for the Soviets to get an Atomic Bomb' - Spoken in 1945.

1949. Boom.

'China does not have the economic capability to produce an atomic bomb for atleast another 30 years'. - spoken in 1960.

1964. Boom.

'India is too poor to have an active nuclear weapons program' - spoken in 1970.

1974. Boom.
Unfortunately, the part I've excerpted isn't the scary part. Read Verifrank's post to the end, here.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:01 AM

Political Correctness Trumping Child Welfare?

Regarding a Massachusetts effort to kick Catholic Charities out of the adoption business because the Catholic Church is not PC, Jeff Jacoby (himself an observant Jew) asks: "...What possible good can come of leaving children to twist in the wind?"

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:10 AM

Monday, March 06, 2006

Wither the Line Item Veto?

BizzyBlog and QandO are discussing the President's new proposal for a line item veto, and why it may -- or may not -- pass the Constitutional test.

In my view the Court was wrong to strike it down the last time, but since, after close consultation with me, the Court decided otherwise (okay, I made up the part about consulting with me), I don't see a lot of hope for the new version. Admittedly, I have only spent about five minutes considering the question, but whence does the President get the Constitutional authority to compel the Congress to hold a vote?

I favor tools that buttress the good work of anyone trying to responsibly tame the federal spending monster, but I fear that we may be over-emphasizing the acquisition of tools and under-emphasizing the difficult and controversial work of simply cutting spending and reforming and modernizing our entitlement programs.

Addendum, March 7: SCOTUSBlog has further analysis.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:04 PM

Sunday, March 05, 2006

On Media Leaks: Accountable Parties Should Answer to Public, Not to Stockholders

I see from Technorati's data that 99 bloggers already have commented on the March 5 page one Washington Post story by Dan Eggen on national security leaks.

I choose to draw attention to this short section of the piece:
Leonard Downie Jr., executive editor of The [Washington] Post, said there has long been a "natural and healthy tension between government and the media" on national security issues, but that he is "concerned" about comments by [CIA Director Porter] Goss and others that appear to reflect a more aggressive stance by the government. Downie noted that The Post had at times honored government requests not to report particularly sensitive information, such as the location of CIA prisons in Eastern Europe.

"We do not want to inadvertently threaten human life or legitimately harm national security in our reporting," he said. "But it's important... in our constitutional system that these final decisions be made by newspaper editors and not the government."
I disagree. The public elects the leaders of our government; it does not elect the editor of the Washington Post. Accountable parties must answer to the public, not to stockholders.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:27 PM

How Did They Know The Bears Were Episcopalian?

There is a bizarre story in the Washington Post today about the city of Richmond apparently spending tax dollars to search a landfill for the rotting carcasses of two decapacitated black bears in order to give the bears a proper sendoff. Cremation followed by placement of the bears' ashes into bronze urns. A funeral featuring the mayor, former Virginia governor Douglas Wilder, as the eulogist. A prayer by an Episcopal priest. A color guard. 500 mourners, some sobbing.

The bears were zoo bears who were killed after one of them (no one knows which) bit a four-year-old boy. City officials determined that rabies tests, which require destroying the animals, were necessary to protect the boy.

But, says the Post:
But residents and the mayor have been unforgiving.

"Our job is to protect them," Wilder said in an interview. "It's the same horror you have if someone says to an urchin on the street, 'Let me take you home, adopt you, keep you -- and then beat you, abuse you and kill you.'"
The same horror? Apparently Mayor Wilder and I experience horror differently. Urchins first in my book.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:00 PM

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Tim Blair: Rain Good, Rain Bad

Tim Blair dissects yet another alarmist newspaper report on global warming. (Some good posts in the comments, too.)

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 9:28 PM

Friday, March 03, 2006

Joe Roche on the UAE

Joe Roche, who spent a year as a volunteer in Israel assisting the Israeli military before joining the U.S. Army after 9/11, has some thoughts he wanted to share on the UAE port deal:
When I heard the sale of the ports' deal was going to a company owned by the United Arab Emirates, I was impressed. The UAE is a solid ally in the War On Terror, and will prove to be critically important in the years ahead. I've traveled around the Persian Gulf and have many friends who live there, and the UAE has always impressed me as an important country on the side of the United States.

The first time I became familiar with the UAE was during my college studies. Iran was waging the much forgotten Tanker War with the U.S., and losing badly. There were many fronts of conflict with Iran, including massive support for international terrorism and a very ominous military build-up aimed at challenging the Carter Doctrine.

President Carter announced this doctrine in 1980 against the Soviet threat, which has grounded our policies in the Persian Gulf ever since. It is based on free and open commerce, protection of law, safe shipping, and most importantly no domination of the Strait of Hormuz by any single power, especially a hostile power to the U.S. This strait is the narrow opening to the Persian Gulf from the Indian Ocean that is flanked by Iran and the UAE.

The UAE was and is the single most important country to the U.S. doctrine. Our military has built up strong, extensive and vital relationships with the UAE, establishing one of the most important presences there that we have overseas.

President Reagan exercised this power in the Tanker War. Iran engaged in multiple acts of aggression against international shipping, threatened the strait and thereby challenged the Carter Doctrine. Iranian ships tried to attack our ships but were destroyed 100% of the time. They laid mines that struck several ships, including our naval vessels. Reagan unleashed Operation Earnest Will in July, 1987, which included Navy SEAL commandos blowing up an Iranian oil platform, capturing an Iranian minelayer ship, firing over 1,000 artillery rounds destroying two Iranian armed facilities, and more. Most of this went unreported and is therefore largely forgotten.

The central issue that confronts the UAE and U.S. today is Iran's military occupation of three little islands, Abu Musa and the Tunbs, in the strait that are actually UAE territory. They are in the middle of the shipping lanes, and with recent Iranian military buildups on them, present a grave threat should Iran decide to challenge shipping in the Gulf. This is a complex issue that illustrates past weakness in U.S. policies, with implications that cause confusion today.

Specifically, in 1971, Iran was an ally of the U.S. while the Arab Gulf states were weak (before the oil boom) and under stress from Marxism. Therefore, when Iran began its takeover of the islands, Nixon, Ford and Carter basically looked the other way, thinking that Iran was going to be the stable pro-US power in the region for the future. This was crushing to the UAE. The status of these islands took a very ominous turn for the worse in 1992 when Iran aggressively moved missiles in and ended the UAE's past attempts at negotiated deals. This escaped U.S. censure because we were focused on the post-Desert Storm issues liberating Kuwait from Iraq, and our ally Egypt had invaded and occupied the small Halaib area of Sudan. If you feel confused by this, imagine how complex this appeared to the first Bush Administration. Better to look the other way, it was decided.

The UAE had to swallow this. During the following years under Clinton, the UAE witnessed contradictory U.S. policies. While Iran engaged in acts of terrorism, the Clinton White House blocked CIA and FBI pursuit of Iranian links. And though people are making an issue of the UAE's recognition of the Taliban, Clinton didn't do anything to stop the extensive U.S. oil companies talks with Taliban leaders.

Thus, what seems like simple black-and-white issues to us today really were very confused and muddied in that region, largely because of past U.S. weakness and inconsistencies. Since 9/11, however, we have focused with clarity and simplicity on our interests. In this, the UAE has been very welcoming and extremely supporting. Our military has extensive facilities in that country that have been central in the current War On Terror. The UAE has been an excellent ally working to crush Al Qaeda.

I don't think enough people realize just how important the UAE is to our country. The biggest issue in that region is the emerging conflict with Iran that is going to dominate for years. In this, the UAE is going to be an absolutely vital ally to the U.S. We both are committed to each other in many ways, which include Abu Musa and the Tunbs.

I should add that the ports' issue has been very misreported. Major Garret on Brit Hume's Special Report on Fox News has done an excellent job in clarifying this with reports from Baltimore and elsewhere specifically about the ports in question. This isn't an issue changing our security or jobs. The ports in question are already operated by a foreign firm from Britain, which I don't think is safer and more trustworthy than the UAE firm. The UAE firm runs ports for our military in the Persian Gulf and Red Sea which are far more secure than the domestic ports in question.

I'm a supporter of Israel and I have been deployed to the Persian Gulf. Yes, I'm offended at the UAE's funding of Hamas and the solidarity it has shown in league with the Arab boycott of Israel, but I also don't believe the UAE is in a position to buck the regional Arab obsession on these issues. If the concerns expressed here in Washington and our press were accurate, I would be the first to oppose the sale. They aren't. I think this is a knee-jerk reaction exploiting the lack of knowledge by the American people about the UAE, the issues involved, and the substance of the ports' issue. I'm glad that the UAE company has decided to delay its deal so as to open the way for "investigation," but I hope that this deal will go through. The UAE is a good U.S. ally and one that can be counted on.
Joe also wanted me to recommend this link "for anyone interested in a good explanation of this specific issue."

Labels:

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:29 PM

Thursday, March 02, 2006

NAACP Cries Victim Again

***Note correction at the end of this post***

It has just been brought to my attention that, a few weeks ago, the NAACP issued a press release attempting to smear Project 21 members as "right wing fanatics" and "far right." The press release also quotes Bruce Gordon, the NAACP's president and CEO, referring to Project 21 as a "white group."

As readers of this blog know, Project 21 is sponsored by The National Center for Public Policy Research, which means that we supply resources and staff support, but all of Project 21's members are black.

It is regrettable but not surprising that, 43 years after Martin Luther King's "not the color of their skin" speech, the CEO of a so-called "civil rights group" thought to identify people by their race. It is only of secondary importance that the CEO of the NAACP can't tell black from white.

Gordon also claims, more than a little inexplicably, that Project 21 members' criticism of Bond's extremist speech is "an attempt to derail my attempts to build a constructive relationship with the Administration." The NAACP press release does not explain why the NAACP believes Project 21 members would care to do such a thing.

By way of background, this particular NAACP's complaint about Project 21 stems from this press release. In it, individual Project 21 members commented on the content of a speech by Julian Bond, as reported in this WorldNetDaily article.

Bond subsequently disputed some of the WorldNet Daily account, and Project 21 made a note of this fact at the bottom of the press release.

James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal's Best of the Web examined the who-said-what particulars here.

I think it is fair to say that Bond speech attracted the attention of Project 21 members in part because he has a long history of attacking conservatives and singling out conservative blacks who dare to speak out. For instance, this July 2005 Baltimore Sun article reports:
Bond accused black conservatives and blamed foundations that finance conservative groups for rolling back gains for which civil rights leaders have fought.

"Having stolen our vocabulary, they also want to steal the just spoils of our righteous war," he said. "They've had a collection of black hustlers and hucksters on their payrolls for more than 20 years, promoting them as a new generation of black leaders."

Reiterating comments from his keynote convention address two years ago about Bush and his black supporters, Bond said, "Like ventriloquists' dummies, they speak in the puppet master's voice, but we can see his lips moving, and we can hear his money talk."
Project 21 members aren't paid. I don't know if Julian Bond is.

Addendum, March 3: Townhall.com's Tim Chapman reviews the House GOP's response to the NAACP. (See here and here for more from Tim on this.)

CORRECTION (March 31): The above post quotes NAACP President and CEO Bruce Gordon referring to Project 21 as a "white group" in the February 8, 2006 NAACP press release. He didn't. I misread the word "while" as "white" in the sentence "It is interesting that while groups like WorldNet Daily and Project 21 spread half-truths and lies about Bond, they offered no direct evidence of what was said." I apologize to Mr. Gordon and the NAACP for my error.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 4:20 PM

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Alito Practices Etiquette, CBS Reveals; Liberal Group Slams New Justice

According to reporting by Brent Baker at Newsbusters, CBS "revealed today" that Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito has sent thank you notes to people who have expressed support or good wishes to him, or who say they have prayed for him.

CBS believed it necessary to check on the propriety of such a thing, but an interview with a political science expert (why not with an etiquette expert?) concluded that ethics standards apparently were not violated.

Rev. Barry Lynn of Americans United for Church and State (a man who claims "Bush's base" wants "nothing less than a country that enforces fundamentalist religion by law"), however, told CBS the letter is "grossly inappropriate," and said "This note strongly suggests that Alito is carrying out a right-wing agenda instead of being a justice for all."

What's right-wing, Rev? Praying or thanking?

Addendum, March 3, 2006: The Wall Street Journal Law Blog is hosting an online poll on the propriety of a Supreme Court Justice sending thank you letters.

Folks seeking Supreme Court-related improprieties can visit here -- the story is how ABC's Brian Ross smeared Justice Scalia; an ethical breach on ABC's part for sure.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:00 PM

Genuine Climate Change

Via The Onion.

Thanks to Ken Green for the tip.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 5:42 PM

Just for Laughs

Just for laughs: Wicked Thoughts has posted funny things people put on job applications.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:11 PM

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