Wednesday, May 31, 2006

What Is A Progressive?

The Campaign for America's Future is sponsoring a "what is a progressive?" contest.

The group accepted entries until May 24 and has now whittled the entires down to a "top ten." Web visitors are invited to vote on the best entry.

Reading the top ten entries, I was struck by the fact that several entries define a progressive in a way that also would apply to conservatives and moderates. For instance, the entry from Julie P. of Hastings, NY:
A progressive is someone who believes in the common good -- in a fair shake for every person --and is willing to fight for it.
Or Lawrence F. of San Francisco:
A progressive is someone who cares about the other guy. It's as simple as that!!
It strikes me that the progressive movement (aka, liberalism) may be having trouble defining itself in ways that very clearly delineate its views from those of non-progressives.

So, what is a progressive? Maybe the point of the contest is to find out.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:59 PM

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

AP Reports Study Saying Carbon Dioxide Boosts Poison Ivy's Itchiness, But Skips Study Saying CO2 Lowers Nicotine in Tobacco

I've often read that plants grow better when exposed to higher concentrations of carbon dioxide.

Yet, when the Associated Press mentions the subject, what it says is: Global warming boosts poison ivy.

The AP report, as published May 29 by the Boston Globe, begins:
Another reason to worry about global warming: more and itchier poison ivy. The noxious vine grows faster and bigger as carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere rise, researchers report Monday.

And a CO2-driven vine also produces more of its rash-causing chemical, urushiol, conclude experiments conducted in a forest at Duke University where scientists increased carbon-dioxide levels to those expected in 2050.

Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas -- a chemical that traps heat similar to the way a greenhouse does -- that's considered a major contributor to global warming...
The Associated Press may be being a bit selective in the studies it chooses to cover.

Where, I wonder, is the news coverage of a 2006 study of the impact of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide on tobacco plants? The study that shows that tobacco plants grown in higher-CO2 conditions contain less nicotine in their plant leaves?

As the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide reports it (subscription required):
The authors [of the CO2-tobacco plant study] report that "plants grown at elevated CO2 and 5 mM NH4NO3 showed a marked and significant decrease in content of nicotine in leaves as well as in roots," while at 8 mM NH4NO3 the same was found to be true of upper leaves but not of lower leaves and roots..."

What it means

Keeping the story simple, Matros et al. concluded, in their words, that "tobacco plants grown under elevated CO2 show a slight decrease of nicotine contents." ...these findings would likely be considered by most people to be beneficial, as... nicotine is nearly universally acknowledged to have significant negative impacts on human health (Topliss et al., 2002).
I checked Lexis-Nexis for combinations of the term "tobacco" and "carbon dioxide" and found no news service reports about the tobacco/C02 study.

Cross-posted on Newsbusters.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:46 AM

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Native Hawaiian Act: E Pluribus Unum No Longer?

The National Center's Ryan Balis attended a Heritage Foundation event on the Hawaii sovereignty issue, and has sent along a summary for those who may be interested:
The Heritage Foundation held a luncheon Friday afternoon to discuss Senate bill S.147, the "Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act." The timing of the luncheon is critical because the Senate is expected to have floor debate on the contentious bill soon after the Memorial Day recess and may vote in early June.

S.147, which is sponsored by Democratic Hawaii Senator Daniel Akaka, could be one of the most explosive issues of this Congress. Among its provisions: It would create a separate "Native Hawaiian governing entity," comprised of those of direct lineal decent of indigenous Hawaiians -- essentially establishing de facto sovereignty based on race.

As the Center for Security Policy's Frank Gaffney and others have observed, the estimated 400,000 Native Hawaiians (160,000 of whom live outside Hawaii) could opt to set up "a new Hawaiian monarchy and perhaps lead to the islands' secession from the Union."

On hand to discuss the Native Hawaiian bill were: Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN); Ramesh Ponnuru, senior editor at the National Review; and moderator Todd Gaziano director of the Heritage Foundation's Center for Legal and Judicial Studies.

Some highlights from the luncheon follow.

Sen. Alexander focused his presentation on the potential of S.147 to divide the country along race lines instead of uniting it: "The question this bill poses is very fundamental to the existence of our nation. It creates a new government based on race. Our Constitution guarantees just the opposite: equal opportunity without regard to race."

He added: America's "greatest accomplishment has been to turn all that diversity into one nation -- not based on race, not based on ancestry -- but primarily based upon a few founding principles which are found in our founding documents, our common language and our history as a country. That's it."

Instead of establishing a race-based nation within the United States, Alexander emphasized it is necessary to reinforce a sense of national identity. "Americans have always been proud of where they came from but prouder to be an American," he said. "Particularly in this globalizing world...we need to honor the ways that help this land of immigrants keep its national identity."

Ramesh Ponnuru added a word on how the idea of Native Hawaiian sovereignty is not analogous to recognized Native American tribal sovereignty in America. He explained, "Congress has recognized the sovereignty of those tribes rather than creating that sovereignty out of thin air." In other cases, the federal government has recognized tribal sovereignty "after demonstrating that they [the tribes] had formed a separate and distinct community that had exercised sovereignty for a long time."

However, the Native Hawaiian case fails on both the cultural and sovereignty counts, argued Ponnuru.

On the first test of a distinct community, "[Native Hawaiians] are not geographically separate. Native Hawaiians who live in Hawaii live in the same neighborhoods, go to the same stores, the same churches, the same schools as non-Native Hawaiians," said Ponnuru.

Similarly dubious, Ponnuru argued, is a sovereignty legacy in Hawaii. "There wasn't a purely race-based government in Hawaii even before 1893," which marked the end of the reign of Queen Lydia Liliuokalani, the island's last monarch. "The government included officials of many races. When Hawaii became a state, the sovereignty of the Native... race was certainly not recognized. The rhetoric of that time, the 1950s, was the rhetoric of the melting pot, not the rhetoric of racial separatism."
For those interested in more information: David Almasi and I wrote a paper on this last year, which can be accessed online here.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:30 PM

Apple Store: Family Unfriendly?

The Apple Computer "Apple Store" webpage says 'Apple is committed to providing assistance to its customers with special needs,' but don't believe a word of it -- at least, not if you're short.

That was the experience my soon-to-be-six son had at the Annapolis Apple Store Saturday, prompting me to pop on the Internet after the kids were tucked in to see if the way my son was treated is Apple policy or if the employee who afflicted my son was just a -- pun alert -- bad apple. A bad seed. Rotten to the core.

In our case, my son -- the apple of my eye -- was all but told he was unwelcome to check out any of the laptops at the Annapolis location -- not because he was misbehaving or no laptops were available, but because he is too short (he's small for his age) to see the top of the keyboard on the high tables the Apple store uses, and a store clerk absolutely forbade him from using a stool. Even an Apple stool placed on the floor of the store by the management for the use of customers.

Stools, you see, are only for "geniuses" -- even if there aren't any geniuses around wanting a stool, and even if the boy's mommy promises to give the stool to a genius the instant one walks in. (Why the emphasis on geniuses, anyway? Do smart people have weak feet? My feet seem fine. Hmmm....)

So the score stood at Apple Store 1, Little Boy 0. But why would an Apple Store keep a well-behaved little boy off a computer? What did Apple gain?

Our visit to the Annapolis Apple Store was occasioned by the fact that Husband David and I have agreed to buy the kids a new computer (OK, a used computer, but new to them). The one they have been using is so old I've had trouble finding software for it, even on eBay. It retails on used Mac websites for all of $5, so at this point, I think I've milked just about every pixel out of it I am going to.

My thinking is that a used Mac Mini, paired with the cheapest monitor I can find, will fit the bill. My son is hoping to convince me to spring for a laptop. As part of his lobbying campaign, he'd been urging me since Wednesday to take him to the Annapolis Apple Store (which is about a half-hour drive from our house) on Saturday. I agreed, in part because I am a bit of a geek myself, and in part because, if the price is right, the space-saving attributes of a laptop are appealing. I'm just not sure if they are durable enough, and I'd also like to be sure he really means it when he says he'd prefer it to a desktop, because I don't want any Buyer's Remorse.

Well, we may not have Buyer's Remorse, but we sure do have Shopper's Remorse.

I don't know why it was so important to this clerk that my son not use a stool no one else wanted to appropriately check out a product no one else was looking at. My best guess is that the clerk is just a bully. My online reading this evening leads me to believe that the stores were designed to be family-friendly, and that Cupertino really didn't envision a scenario in which grown men chase little boys off the equipment.

I found an entire website dedicated to news about Apple Computer Stores. (Amazingly, it says some people actually wait in line overnight to be among the first to enter a new store when Apple opens one. Wow. I thought I was geeky, but I guess I don't hold a candle to some folks.) The website is an interesting source of information about the retail philosophy behind the stores. I had no idea they were designed to allow folks to use the computers to check email, surf the web, etc. The times I've tried the computers there (mostly to gawk at the 30" display, which I covet), I've been very self-conscious about not staying on a machine more than a minute or two, even if it looks like no one else wants to use it. Apparently, I could have stayed for hours.

The employee who dealt with us was very rude (as was some passerby lady who injected herself into the conversation to tell us -- twice -- that she is a schoolteacher and her school does not allow children to use stools because they are "not safe" -- ???) and he was not too bright. When it became clear that he would keep finding new reasons to keep my son off the laptop (the stools are for geniuses excuse morphed into a "he should use the kids' games" iMacs excuse, to a "stools are dangerous" [thanks, lady] excuse), I accused him of just wanting to throw his weight around. He essentially replied that that could not be true, because he wasn't the manager. I can only assume he does not like the manager.

It was pointless to try to talk with him, and pointless to stay if the laptops were to remain out of reach, so we left. Poor son was glum, though, because he had waited three days for the trip, and he only got two minutes on the stool. He didn't complain, but when I took him and his siblings two stores down to the play area (the very play area Don Surber writes about here), he just sat on the little blue car and stared right ahead, not pretending to drive. Not typical.

So, what to do? Being a wonk, my first thought was to check the Public Accommodation Provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act. I read them, and we may have a case (I did not go to the trouble of looking for relevant case law; if we get to that point, we'll hire an expert attorney). Our son is notably shorter than a typical boy his age. A musculoskeletal disability under Sec.36.104?

The law says:
Sec.36.302 Modifications in policies, practices, or procedures.

(a) General. A public accommodation shall make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures, when the modifications are necessary to afford goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations to individuals with disabilities, unless the public accommodation can demonstrate that making the modifications would fundamentally alter the nature of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations.
I'm pretty sure that letting my son as a prospective (and past) customer of the store use a stool that was placed on the floor of the store for use of such customers would not "fundamentally alter the nature of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations" of the Annapolis Apple Store.

However, I'm not a leftist. I hate to hide behind Big Brother in a civil dispute (though I do get growly when grown men are mean to my kids, which -- along with the fact that Apple Computer has Al Gore on its board -- tempts me to make an exception in this case).

An alternative is to go to the next Apple Shareholders Meeting and let my son ask Steve Jobs directly why he can't, if he is very, very good, use a stool. Our good friend Tom Borelli would probably be happy to give us a few tips on how shareholder meetings work. It would cost more than a new laptop, but I have to think my son would learn a lot from the process. Husband David is an Apple shareholder already, but perhaps we should buy a few shares for our son, so he would have proper standing to participate in a shareholders meeting. I wouldn't want them to bar him on a technicality.

Well, we'll see. I plan to call Cupertino on Tuesday and ask Apple their exact policies on accessibility, stools and kids. Maybe Apple would just as soon all kids stayed off their equipment. If so, they own the stores; we'd respect a ban on kids. But if kids are allowed, and it appears they are now, then our kid should be treated fairly.

In closing, a quote from an Apple webpage:
Since 1985 Apple has been committed to helping people with disabilities access their personal computer.
Within the operating system, yes. But first, you have to be able to reach the darn computer!

Otherwise, it will be one sour apple.

P.S. Speaking of folks who sleep outside Apple stores so they can be first to get in when they open, here's a story about a fellow who turned a time-lapse video about the experience into a marriage proposal.

I gather there are entire elements of the culture I am missing entirely.

Addendum, 5/28/06: Well, everyone says Apple has a loyal customer base and that certainly seems to be true; my e-mail box is full of letters and this blog has received thousands of hits in less than a day from a half-dozen fan websites with the word "apple" in them.

I'm publishing a selection of the letters, unedited (except I replaced full names, when signed, with initials).

A couple of notes. First: Yes, I am kidding about the Americans with Disabilities Act/lawsuit. Those of you who came to my blog from an Apple website and read this post and none other apparently are unaware that I have worked against lawsuit abuse for years, and even worked against passage of the ADA. Similarly, the reference to suing Apple because it has Al Gore on its board is a joke based on the fact that I write about global warming a lot and he and I have differing views on that subject.

Second: Many correspondents are assuming the Apple employee was acting from concern that my son would fall off the stool and Apple would be sued. In fact, he expressed neither concern. His concerns as expressed to me were, in sequence: 1) that the stools were for the use of the Genius bar only (there were more stools there than customers, so I said this seemed silly as we could return the stool if more customers arrived); 2) that my son using the stool was dangerous because having a stool in front of the laptop would block the aisle (this seemed silly because the laptop was in the same aisle as the genius bar, the aisle was wide and there were only a few customers in the store), and 3) that my son should have been on the games machines. Of the three, the last was the most emphasized, although there was no implication that they have a policy against kids trying the machines. The "falling of the stool" concern was expressed by another customer but never by the Apple employee. In fact, I suspect that, had my son had a genius bar question, they would have been happy to let him sit on the stool - as long as it was in front of the genius bar. The whole issue really came down to the fact that the stool was moved about eight feet. Verboten! Believe me, if I had been approached politely and told that for liability reasons Apple does not allow children under 12 (or whatever) on the stools the whole conversation would have been different - although I would have been perplexed at the notion that a 3-foot stool poses more danger to kids than, say, typical playground equipment. It's a stool, folks, not a chainsaw.

Third: Some have written assuming that a child of six is still at the "smashing the keyboard" stage. Pretty much any normally-developing child passes this stage at two or three at most. Computers are pretty commonly used in elementary schools.

The letters are still coming in at a pretty good clip, but I'll print a representative sample now and move on to a new subject, with this closing thought: I bet that, had I complained about almost any other store, no one would haave cared.
No, no, you've got it all wrong. The stools are for the customers of the "Apple Geniuses" who work at the geniuses bar. The stools are an essential part of the service, since troubleshoot with the customer can take some time. Also, for liability reasons, putting a six year old on a free standing stool is a problematic safety issue.

Also, did you explain to the Apple employee that you were considering purchasing a laptop for your son? If you had they would have probably made an exception, provided that he was supervised the entire time. Again, I don't think it's an issue of your son using the laptop, rather the liability if he'd had fell off the stool unsupervised.

In any case, they should have found a way to let your son use the laptop, if you were considering a purchase for him.

- J

I'm sorry that your experience at the Apple Store was so lacking; however, I think you should be upset with the lawyers instead of the store. Even you did not hesitate to quote law to support your side. Too many times, a friendly action to help has resulted in a lawsuit for an injury. In this case, your son, and EVERYONE ELSE, was not permitted to use a stool because of fear someone would fall from it and decide to sue.

Case in point, I'm a journeyman toolmaker in two crafts, but when I go to Home Depot, I'm prohibited from using a saw.

So get off of your "pity me" stool and update your expectations. In fear of being sued, more freedoms are being lost. Your son's stature is no more deserving of special treatment than is my skill level.



The reason that Apple doesn't let kids use the stools from the genius bar, is that if one of them falls off of it, the company risks being sued for millions of dollars if the kid hits his head on the floor.

Your beef should be with the trial lawyers' association, not with Apple.


Briefly - I used to work for Apple Retail as a supervisor and I can tell you three things;
1. The stools are for the genius bar - (for customers) but ABSOLUTELY can be used anywhere in the store should a situation require one.
2. The employee was ABSOLUTELY in the wrong and should have accommodated your request. His training should have prompted him to find a solution not to chide the customer. Frankly, if he was that uncomfortable with the child on a stool he should have offered to remove the laptop off the table and let your child try it that way.
3. Finally, all of Apple's related policies reinforce the idea of access and ease of use for everyone. You should send an email to the Apple retail store's manager and inform him of your experience.


You are kidding - right? Your child does not have a disability. Your child is a child. I don't blame Apple for not wanting your child (or my child) to play with a three thousand dollar laptop.

BTW, many Apple stores have a section dedicated to children. My twins routinely play with the computers while I shop for software or other items. The design is very nicely done for children; five or six all in one computers are placed in a circle on the floor so even toddlers can experience the computer. My suggestion for you (rather than bringing a frivolous lawsuit that will be laughed out of court) is to either shop at an Apple Store with a child-friendly configuration or buy the computer and let your child play with it at home.


The stools at the apple stores are not *for* geniuses, they are for people who need service at the genius bar. Typically, not stools are allowed on the floor for anyone. Your son was being denied anything, he was be treated like everyone else. In addition, there are typically four iMacs set up specifically for kids. They are at ground level. iMacs are typically more powerful than the notebooks, anyhow, and what six year old needs either an ibook or powerbook notebook? I found your flippant attitude and loose command of the facts much more rude than the unnamed Apple store service technician.

If a six year old really, really wanted to check out a notebook, you could buy one and keep it for up to 14 days, and return it for a 100%, no-restocking-fee refund. All that would be affected would be the two week float on your credit card.


Note from Amy: Is it really fair to use an Apple notebook for two weeks for free? I assume they'd have to sell it used once I returned it. Just a thought.

I took special interest in your experience at the Apple store. Apple should not write off young customers. Here's my story for you:

A year ago I was visiting my grandson, [name deleted], on his second birthday in a city far distant from my home. I took an Apple iBook along to keep in touch with my own family. Since [name deleted] had mastered his numbers and alphabet before I arrived, I thought it might be interesting to see if he was ready to learn the keyboard layout. He took to it eagerly. He was quite delighted to be able to produce large letters on the monitor as a result of hitting specific keys. He took a fondness to specific letters and the on/off key. He never abused the laptop in any way.

We started by his sitting in my lap at the dining room table, but he soon graduated to sitting on a pile of books with me off to the side. A stool would have been all the better!

I worked with him most days for 30 minutes. He was always eager for a new session. He learned the location of several keys and how to spell his name. I sensed that the time (his age) was appropriate for this kind of learning while he had the desire. After I left for home he turned to other interests. I'll visit him again when he is 3.5. We'll see if he's interested in picking up where we left off. Right now he's fascinated with magnets.



I was touched by your experience at the Applestore. Very eloquent and maternally stated. I have 2 small boys myself and have run into what you describe from time to time (at other stores). And I absolutely hate it! Not all kids are the typical ill-mannered monsters we see running amok.

I think your idea to attend a shareholder meeting and ask the board (or even Steve Jobs himself) to explain their policies is wonderful. You son would learn he has a voice and can assert himself to achieve what he wants. And I'm betting Apple would appreciate being alerted to this sort of behavior in their stores and would address this situation directly and forcefully.

And who knows, your boy sounds very cute and well-mannered. I have a soft spot myself when I see great kids who are trying to do something. Whatever action you take, I hope some heartstrings are pulled and your son is not only apologized to, but given some goodies for his trouble. If it were up to me, your son would have that laptop, in black!

Best Wishes,


You wrote, "That was the experience my soon-to-be-six son had at the Annapolis Apple Store Saturday, prompting me to pop on the Internet after the kids were tucked in to see if the way my son was treated is Apple policy or if the employee who afflicted my son was just a -- pun alert -- bad apple. A bad seed. Rotten to the core."

Madam, you must be one of those customers that make sales staff cringe just by your very presence. Reading your article / rant, it's clear to me that the sky is a different colour in the world you inhabit. Why don't you let your little boy be a little boy, and spend some quality time reading with him instead? Why does a five year old even need a laptop? It seems clear to me you have your priorities wildly mixed up.

Respectfully yours,


grow up......... no pun intended.


I find your Apple Store : Family Unfriendly?
Sick as our society is - as the Amy & family lives and is
influenced or brainwashed
this default world aspic of society -
The PC world - type of family in a Apple Store.

Sounds like you just had to find a problem -
As you had an attitude to begin with -
I agree with the Apple clerk -
I found Apple Stores to be the most child friendly -
Yes certain size/age children should not be allowed
to paw at your "PC user" term - "Laptops"!

The Apple store I've been in have chairs for
the children in their own area & computers for them.

Yes the stools are for adults or geniuses -
as they might be unsafe for children -

Get a life! -
Is this all you can come up with to pick on Apple -
If this is" Public Policy Research"
You need to think different!
There are real violations out there!

Sounds to me like you belong in a
Gateway, Dell "Dull" or Best Buy store
for an experience.



I too had a similar experience with my 5 year old daughter.

There is a solution. You must call ahead to the Apple store and explain the situation. The Apple store will have you sign a waiver where you agree to purchase any item damaged by a sibling during your shopping experience. Their legal department also advised use of stepping stools or ladders by anyone other than Apple employees is not sanctioned by the store. Furthermore. placing a child on a seat/chair/stool without safety restraints (ie highchair) that the child is unable to get on or off by themselves or higher than the child is irresponsible at anytime, especially in a busy commercial establishment. They further explained the Children Center area with short tables and seats is added to stores at considerable cost for the very purpose of accommodating younger children.

Bottom line: release of responsibility to Apple for lawsuit happy people and recovery of damages by parents who do not properly supervise their children. Unfortunately, laws and rules in America have degraded to the point of restricting freedom of responsible people so as to regulate the behavior of the less responsible and unaware among us.


Mrs. Ridenour,

I fail to see what in the world Al Gore has to with this rant. Practice your right in a free market society and go somewhere else for your child's computer. Perhaps you should use your obvious intelligence and invent something, or start a business; instead of poking in every crook and cranny for something that does not fit your world view and bringing down upon it the wrath of a lawyer's practiced reason ridicule.

We believe the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility, combined with a commitment to a strong national defense, provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.

Oh yes, indeed.


I read your comment about the Apple store.

I found it deeply disturbing, but not because of what the folks at the Apple Store did or did not do.

You may fancy yourself a "wonk," or merely an astute consumer, but you come across as angry, arrogant, and judgmental. From just the tone of your piece, I quickly realized that if I were "the help" in any retail establishment serving you or your family, I might also cop an attitude very quickly.

Why do I have this image of an angry woman with "perfect" kids (who are acting like hellions), with a sheepish husband quietly backing away? That may be the furthest thing from the truth, but it's the picture painted by your prose.

If you've experienced "poor treatment" at a variety of retail establishments, it wouldn't surprise me one bit.


As you have no obvious place to post responses to your blog on your blog site I will ask these questions in an email.
Why did you not call ahead and see if the store would make accommodations for a six year old to test a two thousand dollar computer?
Why were you not willing to hold you six year old son up long enough for him to discern whether or not he liked the laptop (Mac-Book)?
Have you ever told your six year old that you think he is handicapped because he is short?
Did you withhold from the clerk in the Apple store that you had no intention of buying the computer from them?
Would the person selling the second hand computer not let your six year old test it?
just curious, as you had left these points out of your diatribe.


Are you being serious? You wasted all that typing to complain that an employee would not let your 6 year old son play on a laptop that he could not reach? Let me repeat this again. You wasted all that typing to complain that an employee would not let your 6 year old son play on a laptop that he could not reach?

If you really wanted your son to see the laptop, you could have been a responsible parent and held him so he could see the laptop. I don't think Apple should bend over backwards and make it possible for a KID that is too short to see over the table to be able to use an expensive laptop. EXPENSIVE Apple laptops are not the appropriate product for a 6 year old kid. Plus, why risk the SHORT kid falling off the stool onto a hardwood floor and injuring himself then you'd be a screaming mad idiot saying how dare you let my son sit on that stool when he is too short.

If you want to voice your opinion about something, then voice it about all the homeless people in DC and why we can send billions of dollars to support a war in Iraq (I bet you voted for Bush, too) but can't take care of the homeless.

Then you want to bring up the Americans with disabilities act? It's people like you that we have lawyers trying to sue whomever because someone feels they wasn't treated they way they should be when there is no merit for it.

Your son was not treated wrongly by the Apple Store. He was treated like a SIX YEAR OLD KID!!! A six year old kid that has the high probability of pulling that laptop off the table and unto himself and then on the floor. So, look at it this way, the Apple Store possibly saved you from buying a damaged laptop.

Have a good evening.


This is the first time I've ever responded to something I came across in a blog, but after seeing a headline in, I felt I had to.

Do you really expect a store, any store, to allow small (especially small in your child's case) children to be placed precariously upon a stool designed for adults and humans of normal stature? With all of the frivolous lawsuits taking place, suppose your child was placed on the stool, and you and the Apple Store salesperson looks away for a split second, then the child falls off, hits its head on the (allegedly) high table, cracks open the scull, and BAM.... Apple, Inc. gets sued.

Isn't it better for Apple, Inc. to err on the side of caution? To protect a child's safety?

Maybe that's just me, seeing the bigger picture...

Proud Supporter of Preventing Children From Falling Off Dangerous Stools in Apple Stores

Hi, I just read your blog on how your son was treated at an Apple store. I have never worked in an Apple store, I don't work for Apple, and although I think they make the best computers in the world, I do agree that they have some crappy policies in place, but I think you're wrong in this case. I'm sure they have probably been told that it's a liability to have any kids in the stools because if one fell and got hurt, they don't want a lawsuit or the bad press. That's why they have the kid's area with the big round squishy seats. Now maybe this helper didn't go the extra mile like he should have and offered to bring the computer he wanted to see over to the kid's area, but what do you expect from a high school/college kid getting paid a little more than minimum. And although the geniuses are very tech savvy and can fix a lot of problems, they're not paid much more than the others. Just like you wouldn't walk into the Gap and expect the employees to go and design you a new outfit on the spot, you shouldn't expect too horribly much from the Apple store employees. Next time, and I certainly hope this hasn't soured you off of Apple so there is a next time, ask if they can bring a computer over to the kid's section. If they still won't and the manager won't, then you have a real complaint.


As a parent I can understand your frustration, but as a business owner, I would have unfortunately been forced to refuse as well. I realize neither you or your husband work in, or are owners of a business, but I'm sure you have seen the signs on store stools, ladders, and the like which read something like "Employees Only". I'm also sure you read about the lady suing for hot coffee, or slips on water, etc. In this world of lawsuits, especially of large companies with deep pockets (i.e. insurance) it would have surprised me if Apple has said yes!

Put aside your wounded parent hat, the sad look in your son's eyes, and think about it.


Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:05 AM

Friday, May 26, 2006

About the House Gunfire Report

Mychal Massie of Project 21 sent over a note about today's gunfire alarm at the Rayburn House Office Building:
Thankfully today's scare at the Rayburn Building amounted to nothing. However, there are two very important points worth mentioning.

The first is the extraordinary level of competence and professionalism displayed by all of the Capitol Hill law enforcement branches. To suggest that they were anything less than stellar in their coordinated efforts to search out a potential threat, while evacuating some and securely insulating others - is a gross understatement.

The other point worth noting is the danger and potential orchestrated, pandemonium Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney's arrogant disregard for the rule of law and role Capitol Hill law enforcement played.

It should be pointed out in the strongest terms that McKinney's flagrant disregard and subsequent assault of the officer doing his job could have endangered hundreds, if not thousands.

Every time said departments are forced to deploy - a silent, yet watchful enemy watches. Taking notes, if you will per how to effect another terrorist attack on American soil.

We should neither overlook nor forget the potential and as yet unseen danger McKinney's disrespect for law posed. We certainly should never excuse her - for in the absence of any valid reason, using race as a cover - for her indecent and abhorrent behavior.

Two thumbs up to those who keep us safe - two thumbs down to arrogant Troglodytes like McKinney, who think they are above the law.
My favorite observation of the day regarding the Rayburn House Office Building gunfire alarm came from Rush Limbaugh, who wondered (I'm paraphrasing) if the House of Representatives had any separation of powers concerns about letting the FBI into a Congressional office building to search for a gunman.

I didn't hear any concerns raised, myself.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 4:17 PM

Life in Liberal Land

Why don't the Canadians just x-ray transsexual suspects?

Oh, never mind, it wouldn't be practical -- in Canada, medical procedures take six months.


Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:21 AM

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Enron Convictions Tar Bush, Says Newsweek's Howard Fineman

Newsweek's Howard Fineman says:
If you want a date to mark the beginning of the end of the Bush era in American life, you may as well make it this one: May 25, 2006. The Enron jury in Houston didn't just put the wood to Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling. The jurors took a chainsaw to the moral claims of the Texas-based corporate culture that had helped fuel the rise to power of President George W. Bush.
(What "moral claims" did the "culture" make? Is Fineman claiming that businessmen and women in Texas are pervasively and exceptionally immoral?)

What makes the Fineman piece noteworthy -- almost hilarious -- is Fineman's admittedly admirable attempt to be fair by including caveats to his thesis that Enron belongs on "the debit side of the Bush-era ledger." Fineman's caveats outnumber his proofs by 2-1, resulting in a piece that proves the opposite of what Fineman contends.

Fineman gives six reasons for not tarring Bush with Enron:
1) "There's no evidence that the president or anyone in his entourage knew about or benefited financially from the house of cards that Lay and Skilling built..."

2) "The Bush Crowd was old school in the energy bidness and viewed Lay & Co. as hustling parvenus..."

3) "Most of what Enron concocted was assembled in the go-go Clinton years..."

4) "Bush's idea of an oilman was his old Bible-study buddy, the upright, clean-as-a-whistle Don Evans..."

5) "As the Enron scam was falling apart, Lay frantically sought help from [Bush's Commerce Department]... He got nowhere..."

6) "Bush's Justice Department pressed the case against Enron -- and won." (#6 is a doozy of a caveat, I'd say.)
Fineman gives three reasons why Bush is tarred by Enron:
1) Bush gave Ken Lay the nickname "Kenny Boy."

2) "As Texas governor from 1995 to 2000, Bush and consiglieri Karl Rove cultivated the Enronites for their vast connections and money..."

3) "...Bush linked arms with Lay in the belief that market forces alone should guide the production, distribution and use of energy."
On the last point, I suspect Howard Fineman is under the spell of the old Enron marketing machine. Enron, starting at the very top (Lay) lobbied hard for the Kyoto global warming treaty. This alone is enough to make the "market forces alone" statement laughable.

Bush, by the way, firmly rejected Enron's entreaties for Kyoto and Kyoto-style mandatory carbon trading schemes, although he has sustained extensive criticism from the mainstream press for doing so.

Let's call that point number 7 in Bush's favor -- denying Lay's requests even when it was politically-expedient to grant them.

Maybe Howard Fineman needs a new thesis.

Cross-posted on Newsbusters

Addendum, 5/26/06: Not everyone agrees. As far as Media Matters is concerned, the news media's coverage of the conviction of two former Enron executives for Enron-related crimes didn't mention President Bush enough.

After all, as Media Matters reminds us, when Bush was governor of Texas, he sent a typed "happy birthday" letter to Ken Lay (probably typed by a secretary, to boot).

I send typed letters to all my especially close friends on their birthdays, don't you? Cards and gifts and get-togethers are reserved for the people I only know superficially.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:06 PM


Ed Haislmaier has pointed me toward a macabre story on the ABC News webpage.

The photo of the cupcakes is bad enough, but the Hoffa steak salad has especially unappetizing connotations.

The two photos of Brian Ross that appeared above and beside the story when I accessed it didn't help, either.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 4:35 PM

Another Socialized Medicine Story

Bizzy Blog is covering it.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 4:28 PM

Do it for Fido

As a postscript to this post by Professor Bainbridge, which I agree with entirely, here's a thought. In the interest of protecting the lives of responders, who sometimes risk life and limb to rescue people who very often ought to have had the sense to get out of town before the storm hit, the ban on pet rescues should actually be strengthened.

That way, pet lovers just might say to themselves: "Gee, I might not care about my own life, or the life of the guy in the helicopter who may have to come rescue me later, but I'll behave as a self-reliant adult and evacuate... for Fido's sake."

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:36 AM

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

New London Eminent Domain Standoff Continues

The property rights standoff in New London, Connecticut has never been resolved.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:48 PM

General Peter Pace: "Grow Where You Are Planted," And Other Advice

Syndicated talk radio host Laura Ingraham recently played an excerpt from Joint Chief Chairman General Peter Pace's May 6 Commencement Address at the Citadel.

Here's the text of the few seconds of the speech Laura excerpted on her show:
I'll guarantee you every single admiral and general on active duty today, and a lot of the retired guys too, would switch places with any lieutenant or ensign today. Why? Because what you are about to do, those of you who are taking your commissions, is simply going to be one heck of a ride, and those of us who have walked that path before you would do it again in a heartbeat.
I liked his four bits of advice:
First: Grow where you are planted. Some of you are going to go to jobs that were not your first choice. Some of you in the military will go into specialties that were not your first choice. I guarantee you that wherever you go there are individuals who deserve caring leadership. And if you will go to that job or that profession and give it your very best, I promise you that you will find it fulfilling and that you will continue to get promoted because there are more good jobs than there are good people...

Second: Check your moral compass frequently. I have seen it both in combat and in peace. If you do not know who you are walking into a situation, you may not like who you are when you're done. When I was a lieutenant in Vietnam, I lost Lance Corporal Guido Ferranaro from Bethpage, New York, a 19-year-old Marine, to a sniper -- the first Marine I'd ever lost in combat. I was filled with rage, and I called in an artillery strike on the village from which the sniper fired. Between the time that I called in the strike and the rounds were fired, my platoon sergeant didn't say a word, he just looked at me. And I realized I was doing the wrong thing, and I called off the artillery strike, and we did what we should've done, which was to sweep through the village. And all we found in that village were women and children...

...The time to decide who you are and what you will let yourself do is not when somebody gets shot, it is not when your wingman gets shot down, it is before you get in that situation so you have an anchor to hold on to...

Third: Make decisions...

Fourth and last, and this is the most basic: Take care of those in your charge...
Read, or listen to a recording of, the entire speech here. It's worth it.

Hat tip for the link to Laura

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:28 PM

Monday, May 22, 2006

Politics Before Policy: Weekly Standard Tells House GOP to Cave to Dems on Immigration

Fred Barnes, writing for the editors of the Weekly Standard, tells House Republicans to bow to filibuster-threatening Senate Democrats on immigration. Reason? Politics.

Concluding paragraph:
This fall, there's no doubt Bush and Republicans will wage a strong negative campaign against Democrats. But they also must provide voters with a powerful reason -- a striking positive achievement -- for voting Republican. Passage of an immigration bill would do exactly that. Failure to pass a bill would bring on defeat.
Isn't this argument the same one that got us the Medicare prescription drug entitlement bill?

Back then, the best possible opportunity for comprehensive Medicare reform was sacrificed on the altar of giving the GOP the opportunity to claim, in the 2004 election campaign, credit for passing a bill providing a prescription drug benefit. And we all know the 2004 elections hinged on Medicare.

My advice to the House GOP: Fight on principle and the politics will follow.

Hat tip: Talking Points Memo

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:17 AM

Global Warming Activists Fret: Why Aren't We Winning?

A little light reading this evening: "Americans and
Climate Change: Closing the Gap Between Science and Action
," a report describing the "findings and recommendations" of a conference of "extraordinary Americans [who] were asked why the robust and compelling body of climate change science has not had a greater impact on action."

In other words, the "we think we're right so why aren't we winning on global warming" conference.

The report cites several dozen recommendations for convincing policymakers, the public, civic leaders, business leaders and religious leaders to agree with the human beings-are-causing-global-warming-theory and then work to implement dramatic, and, in the views of sponsors, critically-needed measures to eliminate these impacts.

Most of the recommendations are the usual ideas people in any political movement come up with: meet with newspaper editors to convince them of the desired point-of-view; create new organizations tasked with delivering information about the issue to opinion leaders; use a variety of mediums to communicate information and opinions to the public; study methodologies for communicating to the public to help them create effective messages; the use of PR gimmicks (for examples, recommendations for the creation of a "National Climate Week" and an "Climate Action Leadership Council").

Same-old-same-old, mostly.

More ominous, in my view, was the recommendation that policies be put in place to use the No Child Left Behind Act to teach and test children on climate change. The report includes this recommendation:
Improve K-12 students' understanding of climate change by promoting it as a standards-based content area within science curricula and incorporating it into other disciplinary curricula and teacher certification standards. Use the occasion of the state reviews of science standards for this purpose, which are being prompted by the states' need to comply with the Fall 2007 start of high-stakes science testing under the No Child Left Behind Act.
In other words, use the public schools to promote a political-policy agenda.

Any hope that kids aged 5 to 18 can expect an objective rendering of the science if the report's authors have any say in the matter is dashed when one reads a later section of the report, which lists as a stumbling block the supposed objectivity of mainstream journalists:
Objectivity is one of the core values of conventional journalism. Journalists strive to be objective by telling both sides of the story. When reporting on climate change, journalists often quote contrarians to introduce "balance" to the story, which ultimately misrepresents the scientific consensus. Some insist that dissenters should be fully covered as an important part of the story, provided their funding or other influences can be disclosed and reported, and that they have something newsworthy and timely to add. In particular, industry scientists should not - in this view - be prematurely dismissed as vested interests; in many cases, they are thoughtful scientists who care about the ecological impacts of their products.
Apparently not all journalists are objective, however, as representatives of several mainstream news organizations were conference participants: Cornelia Dean (identified as a reporter with the New York Times), Eugene Linden (identified as a writer for Time magazine), Steve Curwood (identified as an NPR host and producer), Elizabeth Kolbert (identified as a writer for the New Yorker), Jeff Burnside (identified as a reporter/producer with WTVJ NBC 6 in Miami), and Ellen Susman (identified as producer of SuperwomanCentral, a TV show broadcast on PBS).

Most of the conference participants were academics and leftie environmentalists and/or politicians, but there were exceptions. Robert Edgar of the National Council of Churches (roughly speaking, policy-wise, the leftie Christians) and Rich Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals (roughly speaking, policy-wise, the rightie Christians) both participated, although the righties appeared more active: Rich Cizik chaired a working group and contributed a "kickoff paper to set the table" for the conference, while Bob Edgar did neither (although Mr. Edgar did make a "stage-setting" contribution -- whatever that may be -- with, among others, the world-renowned climate scientist Al Franken of the Al Franken Decade. Barrett I. Duke, Jr. of the Southern Baptist Convention also participated, so Christian evangelicals who also are Southern Baptists had the good fortune of double representation -- that is, good fortune as long as their views on United Nations climate treaties are roughly equivalent to those of another conference participant, Senator John Kerry.

The webpage listing the conference participants can be found here; a 221-page PDF of the conference report, "Americans and Climate Change: Closing the Gap Between Science and Action," can be downloaded from Yale's website here.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:51 AM

Friday, May 19, 2006

Test Your Religious Knowledge Quiz

The liturgy excerpted below was downloaded from a website.
Celebrant: Blessed be the Lady who births, redeems and sanctifies us.

People: And blessed be all of her creation forever. Amen

Celebrant: Nurturing Mother, our hearts are open to you. You know our yearnings and our deepest fears. Purify our hearts with your burning love, that we may learn to love you more and more.
From which website was the excerpted document downloaded?
A. Druid Rebirth Society, "Feast of Samhain" chant guide
B., Script of TOS Episode 8, "Miri" (1966)
C. Episcopal Church "Transformation on the Edge" page
D.'s "Actual Forms of Religious Satanism" page

Answer: c. Magic Statistics has the backstory. Here is the webpage from which the document was downloaded on May 19, 2006.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:38 PM

Global Warming Theory Proven

The global warming theory now has conclusively been proven.

I didn't even know ExxonMobil operated on Mars.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 5:17 PM

A Sad Story

Only read this blog post if you are prepared to read a real heartbreaker.

If you are still with me, go here first and read the column.

Then go here to find out what happened next.

A short biography of Pastor Lehotsky can be found here.

Hat tips: The Other Club, Small Dead Animals and Muttering In Manitoba.

Addendum: Magic Statistics blog has a comprehensive overview, including excerpts of some of the Winnipeg Sun material I linked to above; Dust My Broom expresses additional thoughts.

Addendum II: Pastor Lehotsky died on November 11, 2006. He was 49 years old.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:01 AM

Thursday, May 18, 2006

CEI's Global Warming Ad Campaign

As you may have read elsewhere (go here, or here, or here, or here, for example), on Wednesday afternoon the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a D.C.-based think-tank, held a press conference to announce its release of two new commercials.

National Center Policy Analyst Ryan Balis (with NCPPR's Peyton Knight, who took the photo above; that's CEI Senior Fellow Marlo Lewis speaking, with CEI General Counsel Sam Kazman seated next to him) attended and filed this report:
The Competitive Enterprise Institute launched its "Global Warming Ad Campaign" Wednesday afternoon at The National Press Club. The campaign features two 60-second television advertisements to counter global warming alarmism that will air in 14 major U.S. cities beginning May 18.

The ads' timing comes just before the May 24th release of former Vice President Al Gore's documentary film "An Inconvenient Truth." The film reportedly warns of a coming climate crisis due to atmospheric build-up of man-made greenhouse gases, namely, carbon dioxide.

The advertisements say that the global warming alarmists' regulatory campaign to forcibly restrict energy use mislabels carbon dioxide as a global warming pollutant and misses how essential it is for human life and economic prosperity. "Carbon Dioxide: They call it pollution; we call it life," both ads end in saying.

At the press conference, CEI Senior Fellow Marlo Lewis elaborated on the ads' underlying point of the economic and quality of life benefits of a mechanized civilization. "Each of us, every day, is visibly or invisibly assisted by the human labor equivalent of about 300 servants due to this fossil fuel-based civilization," said Lewis.

Energy-rich countries populated by machines, such as America and those in Western Europe, are not contrary to human welfare, argued Lewis. It is the reason why most people living in such countries have been "freed... of a life of back-breaking drudgery" and "one reason why the world has grown beyond slavery and serfdom," he added.
Critics at had this to say; CEI's Iain Murray replied to that criticism on CEI's blog.

Note: Post corrected to reflect the fact that Peyton Knight, not Ryan Balis, took the photograph.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:02 PM

Anonymous Source Watch IV

This AP report contains a curious excuse for keeping a source's identity confidential:
The information indicated there was a high level of suspicious activity on the farm the day Hoffa vanished, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing.
The only way this excuse makes any sense is if "the official" fears being implicated in the death of Hoffa, and thus does not wish to reveal his knowledge of the "suspicious activity" until the coast is clear.

Either that or the AP told its writers it has to give reasons for keeping sources secret but they can be made up ones that don't make any sense instead of the one that (most likely) is the true reason: The source is a law enforcement official who is not allowed to leak details of a murder investigation to the press, and he does not want to get caught.

P.S. On the AP story is headlined with "Search for Hoffa Clues May Take Weeks."

I'll say! At least 1,600 weeks and counting...

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 5:15 PM

The Members are Pussycats, Compared to the Staffers

In response to this good idea (as reported by the American Spectator's Quin Hillyer), I am reminded of one of the two most controversial ideas the National Center has ever put forward: More than a dozen years ago, my husband formally proposed that term limits be put in place for Capitol Hill staff.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:59 PM

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Why Are College Professors Afraid of Dr. Condoleezza Rice?

Project 21 Senior Fellow Deneen Moore wonders why liberal college professors seem so afraid of Dr. Condoleezza Rice:
Ideally, college professors should provide an open environment for the free exchange of ideas... on some college campuses, these ideals aren't applied to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice because she is an accomplished black female conservative. Instead, protests, petitions and prejudice are the faculty-led antics designed to demean and silence her.

Observe, for example, the recent circumstances concerning Dr. Rice and Boston College. Considering her significant accomplishments, one would think that having the Secretary of State speak at their commencement ceremony would be a privilege and an honor for the Boston College community, especially since Dr. Rice addresses only one commencement annually.

To the contrary, hundreds of students are supporting the efforts of faculty members who not only oppose Dr. Rice addressing Boston College's Class of 2006 but also oppose the decision by College officials to award her an Honorary Doctor of Law degree. To-date, about 200 of the 1,000 faculty members have signed a petition designed to prevent Dr. Rice from speaking. A student petition demanding the invitation be rescinded has also been circulated throughout the campus...

Dr. Condoleezza Rice is one of the finest examples of a leader for people of all races, colors and creeds...

One must ask just what these liberal professors are so afraid of and why are they so ardently trying to prevent Dr. Rice from addressing Boston College's Class of 2006. Are they afraid that Dr. Rice will, in one afternoon, undo the years of brainwashing the students have endured at Boston College? Are they afraid that Dr. Rice will talk about the benefits of a free market society versus statism? Are they afraid that Dr. Rice will talk about the triumphs of liberty over oppression and how Boston College's Class of 2006 can go into the world of opportunities with a plan by using their brain to think, and be independent, successful, responsible citizens?

Be afraid, liberal Boston College professors. Be very afraid.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:31 AM

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: "Earthquake in Pennsylvania"

Primary day was yesterday in Pennsylvania, and it looks like a revolution is brewing.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 9:57 AM

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

As Justice Potter Stewart Said, "...I Know It When I See It"

Not that anyone asked, but I have to agree with Danny Glover of Beltway Blogroll about John McCain's joke about bloggers.

As Danny describes it:
Here's what McCain said: "When I was a young man, I was quite infatuated with self-expression, and rightly so because, if memory conveniently serves, I was so much more eloquent, well-informed, and wiser than anyone else I knew. It seemed I understood the world and the purpose of life so much more profoundly than most people. ... It's a pity that there wasn't a blogosphere then. I would have felt very much at home in the medium."
It was a joke, for heaven's sake.

Besides, Danny's right when he says:
Furthermore, while not all bloggers consider themselves "much more eloquent, well-informed and wiser than anyone else," many of them certainly write as if they think that way. Humility in word is not a trait found frequently in the blogosphere. Bloggers -- like good MSM columnists -- write with boldness, and their words exude an unwavering confidence in their own ideas and opinions. If that were not the case, nobody would read them.
Can you imagine anyone reading for long a policy or politics blog written by someone who was afraid to report a fact or opinion with confidence?

I can't, however, really go for Danny's view about bloggers not being journalists. Following the Glover Law that bloggers must write with boldness or fall into obscurity, I shall submit that we should not label the person doing the writing, but instead brand the work.

I propose a standard that says an accurate, unbiased, evenhanded and comprehensive report of facts should be referred to journalism, and the author a "journalist" because he wrote it -- not because of the medium in which it was published, if the author was compensated or if he was employed by a publishing organization.

Journalists -- as others said before me -- do not have formal professional standards. Unlike doctors or lawyers, they can't lose their license if they commit malpractice. You can become a journalist just by saying you're one.

A really good, factual piece of unbiased reporting labels its author far more than any masthead or press card ever will.

Consider: A person who writes a fair, informative, unbiased article and posts it on his blog currently is called a "blogger"; a person who turns tidbits fed him by celebrities' flacks into glowing articles for popular-culture newsweeklies is called a "journalist." Yet, of these two, which person committed journalism?

Of course, we could use a different set of examples to illustrate the opposite.

On another occasion, Danny Glover quoted cartoonist Ted Rall saying:
Bloggers... don't have sources, they don't report, and no one holds them accountable when they make mistakes or flat out lie.
Too-often true about bloggers; too-often true about journalists. Zero-sum example.

When it comes to identifying a "journalist," the work labels the author; the author doesn't label the work.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:12 AM

Supply and Demand

A note from Joe Roche, which I am posting with permission:

I am watching War Stories w/ Oliver North, talking about some of the secret intercepts and messages passed around during WWII. ...And it bothers me...

I don't have the exact details, but it was something like tens of thousands of American soldiers and intelligence people KNEW and WORKED with the Deep Purple and Ultra secret intercepts of Japanese and German communications during the war. I've heard various accounts that claim that as low as Corporals knew of these intercepts. I can't remember the exact details, but I know it was a vast number of thousands. YET, it was kept secret until 1975!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

...And here we are today hearing about how impossible AND UNDERSTANDABLE it is, we are told in the press, that the NSA terrorist spying program is not being kept a secret today. Why? Well, as we are told, there are ...hundreds -- hundreds -- of people here in DC who know about it. So we are told that Bush & Co. are being silly to think such an intercept program could be kept secret.

Doesn't this just make you sick to think that we're the ones who inherited the blessings bestowed to us by the incredible sacrifices of the WWII generation?!

As I told Joe, back in the "olden days," even if a government official had leaked something like that, the press would not print it. Now they would in a flash, and pat themselves on the back for doing so. It isn't just the leakers, but the market for the leaks.


Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:45 AM

Dream Mom

Keep blogger Dream Mom, a single parent who blogs about parenting her special needs child, her son and her family in your prayers. Her son is in the hospital.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:33 AM

Vocabulary Lesson

If someone were to tell you they did not know the meaning of the word "sarcasm," why, you could send them here, and then they would know.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:31 AM

A Good Thing: Earth Day is After Mardi Gras

From a Time magazine article about crime and New Orleans:
In December, about 20 local, state and federal law-enforcement leaders from New Orleans met in Quantico, Va., to plan for a post-Katrina criminal ecosystem.
Celebrate Earth Day in New Orleans only at your own peril.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:30 AM

Friday, May 12, 2006

Government-Run Single-Payer Universal Socialized Medicine Health Care Systems Have Drawbacks

Bizzy Blog is covering the newest cost-saving fad in Britain's government-run health care system: Telling people with serious heart problems not to go to the emergency room.

In another new post, Bizzy thinks this might have something to do with the long waiting lines for medical care in Canada.

See also my posts linking to other Bizzy Blog coverage of single-payer universal socialized medicine (advocates keep shanging the name in the hope that the horror stories won't follow them): "Universal Coverage" Health Care Realities and, posted a few minutes ago, Should Pro-Lifers Be Denied Medical Care?

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:38 PM

Should Pro-Lifers Be Denied Medical Care?

According to, the answer in Britain's "universal" (except for pro-lifers) health care system is "yes."

To be fair, Queen Elizabeth Hospital says the pro-life activist (who caught the hospital administration's ire by sending them graphic pictures of an abortion procedure -- naughty naughty man doesn't realize it is OK to commit abortion; it is noticing it that is wrong) is still eligible for life-saving procedures (after he gets in line, presumably), but if it is not life-or-death he's out of luck.

Too bad he needs hip surgery.

Maybe he should move to America, a country not universally regarded as being worthy of a seat on United Nations human rights panels, but one nonetheless in which a person can get hip surgery even if he or she is politically-incorrect.

That's is, after he gets out of jail. In Britain, mailing graphic pictures of an abortion procedure to hospital personnel gets you jail time.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:26 PM

Anonymous Source Watch III

Anyone other than me think this phrase in a New York Times story is a little odd:
The officials, who had been briefed on the investigation, were granted anonymity so that they could speak more candidly...
Is the New York Times saying federal officials would lie if on the record but speak more truthfully when anonymous?

If so, is this the sort of behavior the New York Times should be enabling? Put 'em on the record, and then point out that they are lying.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:28 PM

Two Branches; Two Policies

It is interesting that federal judges are expected to recuse themselves from ruling on cases on which they may have a conflict of interest, but no one expects Senator Ted Kennedy to recuse himself from voting on the sex offender bill.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:21 AM

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Oil Prices and the Media: Don't Believe the Hype

The National Center's Peyton Knight attended a Media Research Center Business and Media Institute symposium on gasoline prices at the National Press Club today. Given the high public interest in oil prices lately, I thought readers might be interested reading Peyton's notes about what conference participants had to say:
This morning, the Media Research Center's Business and Media Institute sponsored a panel discussion on energy prices and media coverage at the National Press Club. The event was titled "Oil, Markets, and the Media," and panelists touched on a number of issues surrounding the topic of oil and gas prices, including: the cause of higher prices; solutions to higher prices; congressional responses to high gas prices; and what journalists should consider when reporting on the topic.

Panelists included:

Dan Gainor, Executive Director, Business and Media Institute
U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), Vice Chairman, House Republican Conference
Bob Slaughter, President, National Petrochemical and Refiners Association
Quin Hillyer, Executive Editor, The American Spectator
Jerry Taylor, Senior Fellow, Cato Institute

Quin Hillyer moderated the program and noted that, as a native of Louisiana, he fully understands how oil booms and busts can have a drastic effect on the economy. He noted that it takes incentives for people to invest in the oil industry, and said he was not speaking about government handouts as incentives. He said government regulations with regard to the oil refinement process have created disincentives to investments. Hillyer also said federal moratoria on offshore drilling and federal restrictions on exploring for oil on public lands have helped lead us to our supply problem.

Jerry Taylor of the Cato Institute presented a "list of grievances" he has with how some in the media are reporting on high oil prices. He also noted that print media seemed to be doing a better job covering the issue than other types of media.

Taylor's grievance #1: The media does not put corporate profits in a proper context. Taylor explained that a look at oil industry profit margins tell the real story. He pointed out the in the fourth quarter of 2005, BP posted a profit margin of only 6.8 percent and ExxonMobil posted a profit margin of only 10.7 percent. Taylor said that in the case of ExxonMobil this margin was only slightly higher than the U.S. industry average, and that over the long run, the oil industry has been less profitable than many other industries. He also pointed out that the company that employs Bill O'Reilly, a very prominent TV and radio critic of the oil industry, reported a 10.2 percent profit in the fourth quarter of 2005.

Taylor's grievance #2: Journalists seem to have very little understanding of how gas prices are established. Taylor explained that gasoline prices are determined on the regional spot market, and that "'Big Oil' does not set the price." He noted that there are too many actors that play on the spot market, and because of that, oil companies (or anyone, for that matter) can't manipulate spot market prices. Taylor also said that mergers and acquisitions within the oil industry have a negligible impact on gas prices, and cited studies that show this.

Taylor's grievance #3: So-called "price gouging" is "gibberish." Taylor noted that no one, either in Congress or otherwise, seems to be able to so much as define "price gouging." Prices are based simply on what the market will bear, he said. If price gouging is based on the price of acquiring raw materials, then every business is a price gouger. He also noted, with just a hint of sarcasm, that if Congress was really serious about so-called price gouging, it would throw every member of the National Association of Realtors in jail.

Taylor's grievance #4: Many assessments of current gas prices lack proper perspective. Taylor explained that when comparing current gas prices to historic gas prices, you have to account for more than inflation. You must also account for the growth in per capita income. With this in mind, he cited several examples:
In 1955, gas cost 29 cents per gallon. Adjusted for inflation, that would be the equivalent of paying $1.76 per gallon today. But adjusted for inflation and growth in per capita income, 29 cents per gallon in 1955 would be equivalent to paying $5.17 today.

In 1972, gas cost 36 cents per gallon. Adjusted for inflation, this would be equivalent to paying $1.36 per gallon today, according to Taylor. Adjusted for inflation and per capita income growth, it would be equivalent to paying $2.66 per gallon.

Gas cost $1.38 per gallon in 1981. Adjusted for inflation, this would be equivalent to paying $2.74 today. Adjusted for inflation and growth in per capita income, this would be equivalent to paying $4.30 per gallon today.
According to Taylor, failing to account for per capita income growth paints an inaccurate picture.

Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) spoke about legislation that he and multiple colleagues in both the House and Senate are promoting. The bill is the "Fuel Choices for American Security Act" (H.R. 4409 and S. 2025), and, according to Kingston, its aim is to reduce oil consumption by 20 percent in 20 years by "tickling the market." He stressed that oil imports are a national security issue, and claimed that during the 1970s, the market responded differently to gas squeezes than it does today. He said that in addition to talking about drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, we should be talking about other things like conservation.

With regard to folks blocking drilling for oil in ANWR due to environmental concerns, Rep. Kingston offered the following analogy: If ANWR was the size of a basketball court, the proposed area for drilling would be the size of a dollar bill.

He also said that if President Clinton had not vetoed ANWR drilling in 1995, the U.S. domestic oil supply be 20 percent higher today.

According to Rep. Kingston, the aforementioned legislation would force automobile manufacturers to comply with a number of regulations, forcing them to build lighter cars and more "flex-fuel" and hybrid vehicles. One of the promotional bullet points contained in a flier he distributed at the conference said that the Fuel Choices for American Security Act "Changes The Way We Choose To Travel."

Rep. Kingston also suggested that cutting out U.S. Postal Service delivery on Saturdays would help conserve fuel, and that this is a discussion we should be having. He also said that he had spoken with constituents who were paying $75.00 to fill up their Ford F-150s, and that something needed to be done about that.

The Congressman had to leave shortly after his talk, though during the question and answer session, the legislation he was promoting did not receive any kudos from the remaining panelists. When asked for an assessment on the bill, Jerry Taylor called it "beyond hare-brained," and said he was "stunned" that legislation like this was coming from a conservative Republican.

Taylor further stressed that it isn't the job of the federal government to mandate what types of vehicles are manufactured in Detroit. He also pointed out that one of the biggest problems we've had is that we haven't heard a single Republican say that the best thing we can do is leave gas prices alone and allow the market to work. He noted that Ronald Reagan stressed this message and "it didn't seem to hurt him too much."

Bob Slaughter, President of the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association, agreed with Jerry Taylor that print media have been better at covering this issue than other media. He pointed out that we currently have the smallest excess capacity of oil in the international market than we've ever had, and that there is tremendous international competition for what few excess available barrels of crude exist.

Slaughter also referenced ethanol mandates, and said that they contribute to higher prices. He said that U.S. tariffs on ethanol imports, in particular, don't make much sense. He also noted that there has been a lot of talk about how ethanol is going to lower gas prices, but the "truth of the matter" is that the price of ethanol "follows the price of gas." Slaughter explained that ethanol is really an "agricultural support program," and for that reason, the politics behind it are so strong that it is difficult to get anyone to speak the truth about it.

He also noted that environmental regulations and the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) phenomenon have essentially made new refinery construction a non-starter. Slaughter explained that it takes 10 years or more just to build a new refinery, and the lengthy process is full of uncertainty and financial risk to investors. He said that expanding the capacity at existing refineries is much faster and less financially risky. In addition, he pointed out that the squeeze on refinery capacity is not unique to the United States, but that this is a problem worldwide.

Slaughter also noted that the House failed to pass a refinery bill that would have eased the permitting process for refinery construction, however, it recently passed a bill to address price gouging, yet the legislation it passed doesn't even define what price gouging is. He said that the bill instead directs the Federal Trade Commission to define the term.

Dan Gainor of the Business and Media Institute concluded the conference by pointing out that according to the Energy Information Administration, the price of oil hasn't come close to its record high, despite what some in the media are saying.

"The harp on record profits simply ignores reality," said Gainor.

He also agreed with Taylor and Slaughter that print media seems to be doing a more competent job covering the gas price issue than other forms of media.

Gainor said that "the combination of hype and info-tainment" has made for a "more combustible mixture" than oil and gas itself.

-report compiled from notes taken by Peyton Knight

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:10 PM

Stewards or Enemies? Humans and the Environment

Writing on, Daniel Son makes a case for the Cornwall Declaration and a promoter of its values, the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance.

The Cornwall Declaration sets forth a moral and Biblical framework through which human beings are properly seen as the stewards of our environment, not as enemies of it.

Also writing for, Jennifer Biddison took a look at a group that has a very different view here.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:48 AM

Some Did

Using, Professor Bainbridge takes a look at the political giving patterns of the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary to, as the good professor puts it, "determine whether any of the Standing Committee's members had identifiable partisan affiliations."

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:29 AM

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Another U.N. Farce

From the New York Times, May 9:
UNITED NATIONS, May 9 - Six nations with poor human rights records were among those elected to the new Human Rights Council on Tuesday, although notorious violators that had belonged to the predecessor Human Rights Commission did not succeed in winning places in the new group.

China, Cuba, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan, countries cited by human rights groups as not deserving membership, were among the 47 nations elected to the council. But in a move hailed by the same groups, both Iran and Venezuela failed to attract the needed votes...
All hail the U.N. There are some murderous dictatorships it doesn't like.

Others, however, are spiffy.

In closing, to the New York Times: A dateline traditionally contains the location from which a dispatch is made and the date it is made. The "United Nations" is not a location. It is a membership organization for governments based in New York. I believe you have heard of New York?

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:31 PM

Monday, May 08, 2006

Last Titanic Survivor With Memories of Sinking Dies

The last survivor of the sinking of the Titantic who was old enough when it happened to later recall the event, Lillian Asplund, has died.

Her father and three brothers, including a twin, were killed when the ship sank; she and a younger brother and her mother survived.

Here is a photo of her parents. More about the family here, including links to transcripts of news articles about the family from 1912 as relatives and authorities attempt to determine the who did and did not survive the tragedy. Sadly, early reports informed relatives that two, not four, of the seven family members had drowned, a fact which must have made learning the truth all the more difficult.

The Asplund boys who died were aged 13, 9 and 5.

Note: Thanks to Jennifer Biddson of for pointing out that I added up three survivors and four killed and somehow got six. I have corrected the text above to read "seven."

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:15 PM

Don Surber's Implications

Don Surber says "put a windfall profits tax on the mainstream press!"

Well, actually, he says nothing of the kind -- seeing as he's a member of the mainstream press and all -- but if you are a liberal and you read his post, you might think he implied it.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:54 AM

Black Activists Call Second Kavanaugh Confirmation Hearing Excessive

Project 21 members are not thrilled that U.S. Court of Appeals nominee Brett Kavanaugh is getting another judicial committee hearing unstead of a vote.
Black Activists Call Second Kavanaugh Confirmation Hearing Excessive

Members of the black leadership network Project 21 protest the scheduling of a second confirmation hearing for judicial nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh, calling the action yet another example of obstructionist senators employing any and all tactics to delay or ultimately prevent confirmation votes on the President's appointees.

"One can only wonder at what point the puerile vindictiveness of the liberal party will cease," said Project 21 chairman Mychal Massie. "Seven years of unrelenting obstructionism is a condemnable record. It is well past time for Arlen Specter to show more resolve as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee."

On May 9, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a second hearing on Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Kavanaugh was nominated to the seat in 2003, and already had a hearing before the Committee in 2004. The Committee was supposed to vote on Kavanaugh's nomination on May 4, but that was delayed after Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) acquiesced to liberal demands for a second hearing. A new vote is scheduled for May 11.

"It is a contemptible display of spite and petulance; but obviously not out of character for the liberal party. A second hearing, is as everyone knows, is a charade to make it possible for them to deride honorable and exceptionally well-qualified jurists, who they promise to filibuster anyway," Massie continued.

Kavanaugh currently serves as the staff secretary for the President, where he oversees the flow of documents in the White House. He is a former law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and two appellate court judges. He has held several positions within the federal government during his legal career, as well as a brief stint in private practice, and has argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and many lower courts.

Former D.C. Bar president Mark H. Touhey III says Kavanaugh is "exceptionally well qualified" to serve on the D.C. Circuit.

Project 21 takes no position on the confirmation of any particular judicial nominee, but believes that it is in the best interest of the United States that judicial vacancies are filled with appropriate speed...
The full press release is here.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:38 AM

Saturday, May 06, 2006

So Much for Science

From the mailbag:
Do you ever read the scientific journal Nature? EVER?! You must not have, but I suppose if you did you'd dissmiss all the hundreds of articles on global warming as liberal claptrap. Hmmm... So the entire scientific establishment is in a vast conspiracy with leftist liberals who want to hurt America because of their irrational doom mongering. Wow, that makes about as much sense as saying evolution is just a wacky theory from some mentally unstable Englishmen who hate God. Oh wait, people of your sort think that too! Either get a brain or get the [expletive deleted] out of politics!

Antiochus The First
[email protected]
Politics? I thought the global warming theory was supposed to be based on science.

Interestingly, the real Antiochus I reportedly was a believer in astrology.

Addendum, 5/8/06: The Other Club responds to this e-mailer better than I did.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:41 PM

John Dean on Deep Throat's Book

I'm no fan of John Dean, but it looks like his upcoming (Sunday's New York Times) review of Deep Throat's book, "A G-Man's Life: The FBI, Being 'Deep Throat,' And the Struggle for Honor in Washington," by Mark Felt and John O'Connor, is interesting.

Among other things, Dean reportedly says the book is "is riddled with errors, some minor, others major."

I discussed this book a few weeks ago here.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:24 PM

Friday, May 05, 2006

American Spectator v. New Republic

The spat between The American Spectator and The New Republic magazines is getting increasingly fun to read.

This, dated May 5, is the latest installment from The American Spectator, which answers this from the New Republic, posted online May 4.

TNR "plays gotcha," but the American Spectator's Dave Holman wonders where the scandal is.

Interestingly, many (not all) commenters about the TNR article on the TNR site seemed sympathetic to the position also expressed by TAS -- interesting because, to comment, one has to subscribe, and one would expect TNR subscribers to lean TNR's way.

More discussion may come Friday in the American Spectator and New Republic blogs. No need to wait for the paper editions anymore.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:47 AM

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

ExxonMobil on Gas Prices: We Couldn't Manipulate the Price Even If We Wanted To

On behalf of this blog, The National Center's Peyton Knight participated in a blogger conference call this afternoon with ExxonMobil Vice President Ken Cohen. The following is Peyton's report:
Along with eight representatives from various other weblogs, I participated in a "blogger conference call" Wednesday afternoon with ExxonMobil Vice President of Public Affairs Ken Cohen. We discussed issues surrounding gas prices and his company's record profits.

Cohen says that the current negative press surrounding his company's profits has more to do with a lack of understanding of the oil industry than anything else. In this regard, he says, ExxonMobil needs to do a better job communicating with the public and helping folks understand all of the forces at play in the oil business.

According to Mr. Cohen, there are "three data points" that need to be connected. "First, we all have to have a common understanding of what the facts are... then, what are the policy options, and what is the cost-benefit ratio? And right now we don't have a good common understanding of what the facts are."

There are currently about 170,000 gasoline service stations in the United States, and, according to Cohen, ExxonMobil owns and operates less than 1,000 of those.

"We control the pricing at less than a thousand gasoline stations in the United States... We have about seven percent of global refining capacity and 12 percent in the United States. That's not market power." He notes that ExxonMobil couldn't manipulate the price of gasoline even if it wanted to.

Cohen acknowledges that "right now, [profit] margins are good," but says, "it's a cyclical business."

Even so, I believe many people would be surprised to learn that as good as ExxonMobil's profit margins are, it's government that is reaping the biggest "windfall" in this time of higher gas prices.

According to Mr. Cohen, in the first quarter of 2006, ExxonMobil made $8.4 billion in total profits. Profits in the U.S. accounted for $2.3 billion of that total. And what did ExxonMobil pay in total government taxes in the U.S. in this first quarter? $3.7 billion. The company paid $1.4 billion more in taxes than it took in profits.

In fact, Mr. Cohen says, from 2001 to 2005, ExxonMobil's total U.S. tax bill was $57.1 billion, and its total earnings in the country were $34.9 billion. This means that over the most recent five-year period, the company paid $22.2 billion more in taxes than it earned in profits.

In 2005, he says, ExxonMobil earned 9.7 cents per dollar of sales in the U.S. To put this in perspective, he notes that pharmaceutical companies earned 17.6 cents per dollar, banks earned 19.1 cents, and household and personal products firms earned 10.9 cents.

When asked about so-called price-gouging, Mr. Cohen's answer was simple: "We don't."

"We are the most heavily regulated industry in the country," said Cohen. "The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has a special branch that does nothing but regulate energy companies."

"With regard to the current climate," he noted, "We are in an election year and it appears that the candidates are more interested in running against us than running against an opponent."

When asked about his thoughts on a possible "windfall profits tax" on the oil industry, Cohen points out that "there is a history we can refer people to... it's been tried before... it really impacted citizens in the country negatively, and did not have the desired impact."

He also noted that boycotts, such as the one being promoted by a county judge in Beeville, Texas, "will have no effect on ExxonMobil or the global commodity markets, though it could impact the individual owner of the service station."

When asked what potential impact drilling for oil in ANWR might have on the current situation, Mr. Cohen stressed that "we don't know exactly [how much recoverable oil] is there" and there is a need to conduct a seismic evaluation to get a better idea. However, he did note that if current estimates of recoverable oil are correct "it would make a very positive contribution."

He explained that world oil supply isn't concentrated in "one big pool," so ANWR must be viewed in the proper context. That context, according to him, is ANWR representing one potentially significant piece of the larger oil supply puzzle.

Cohen notes that there are several factors driving the cost of gasoline, and simple supply and demand are chief among them.

"The hand of Adam Smith is at work here -- the market determines the price."

He also notes that "oil is the biggest global commodity" and that developing nations such as China are drawing heavily on the global supply.

"We've seen unprecedented growth in the developing world," he observes. "They want more energy because energy is absolutely essential for economic development."

"You have to look at it through the eyes of the commodity trader. A lot of it is speculation," Cohen says, adding, "We at ExxonMobil do not get involved in the trading [of oil futures] on paper."

"Traders take a look at the draw down in spare capacity and then they look at the draw down of the political risk... and the pricing of gasoline is based on the stock market and futures market."

When asked what impact environmental regulations such as "boutique fuel" mandates have on gasoline supply and prices, Cohen explained, "it is a big issue because it impacts your flexibility."

"There are 17 formulations [of gasoline] around the country," he noted. "Let's assume you have an outage... machinery breaks down... occasionally there's a storm. You don't have the spare capacity to move in and replace [fuel]."

For example, if a pipeline carrying a specific boutique blend of gasoline to one area breaks down, that area's supply is cut off, demand outpaces available fuel, and prices skyrocket. But because that area is required to use a specific boutique blend of gasoline, it can't simply supplement its supply by purchasing gas from a neighboring area that uses a different blend.

According to Cohen, boutique fuels don't only complicate things in the event of a mechanical breakdown or natural disaster.

"This plays big into commodity markets," he says. "This impacts the commodity market. This impacts the commodity trading. And this impacts the price."

As far as alternative fuels go, Cohen says, "We were the biggest investor in solar in the '70s and '80s. The technology platform for solar is such that until there is a technological breakthrough it will be a niche source."

He says that this is why ExxonMobil is currently focusing on the technology side of alternative fuel development, and "searching for the technological breakthroughs that need to occur for this technology to be feasible."

There may be good news on the horizon. Cohen stated, "If expanded refinement in the works comes online in the next three to four years, we could in very short order be looking at a surplus." In addition, he notes that, currently, expanding existing refineries is preferable to building new "grassroots refineries."
Disclaimer from Amy: As noted in this post and various others on this blog, The National Center has received contributions from ExxonMobil, most recently in 2005. These contributions equal about one half of one percent of our total budget.

Addendum, 5/4/06: Here are some snippets from posts by other bloggers who participated in the call (please click on the links to see their full posts):
Hugh Hewitt (Mary Katherine Ham): "Exxon's 2005 [profit margin] figure was 9.7 cents on the dollar. That puts the company at No. 116 on the Fortune 500 in that category. This year in the first quarter, though earnings went up, the profit was 9.4 cents on the dollar."

PoliPundit (Lorie Byrd): " is one bit of information that I learned... that I found a bit shocking (and I don't shock particularly easy on the issue of taxes): 'Over the past five years' Exxon Mobil's 'tax bill ($57.1 billion) exceeded...U.S. earnings (34.9) by over 22 billion.'"

Wizbang (Kim Priestap): "To begin, the biggest issue facing oil companies in general is the lack of understanding about how the energy industry works in general and how ExxonMobil works in particular. First, ExxonMobil only produces 3% of the world's oil. There are approximately 170,000 gasoline stations in the US; ExxonMobil owns and operates fewer than 1000 of them. Regarding the sudden increase in gas prices, Mr. Cohen said a lot of it is due to the unprecedented growth in other parts of the world, such as in China and India. He said that the growth in those countries was not unexpected, but their rate of growth was."

Captain's Quarters (Cap'n Ed): "Oil is a commodity, just the same as oranges, pork bellies, and a range of other products. When traders sense potential issues for future production, they buy more and drive prices up so that they can take advantage of better pricing now. The volatile nature of the major oil exporters... creates a hair-trigger sensitivity for traders."

Right Wing News (John Hawkins): "ExxonMobil was a big investor in solar power in the 70's and 80's, but they got out of it because they didn't think it could be anything more than a niche alternative. That's still the case and unless there is a big leap forward in solar technology, it's never going to be an important part of meeting our energy needs."

Suitably Flip: "...check back later for a detailed recap of the thorough and wide-ranging discussion between Cohen and the bloggers on profitability, the mechanics of commodity markets, the impact of speculators, price gouging allegations, antitrust considerations, tax climates, and all things oily."
If/when more bloggers post their reactions to the call, I'll post links.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:21 PM

Seven Degrees of ExxonMobil

The environmental lefties sure are desperate to discredit any scientist who disagrees with them on global warming.

Thanks to Google, I happened upon this reference and this similar one to our think-tank in which Dr. Tim Ball, a retired professor of climatology at University of Winnipeg in Canada, is attacked. The attacker is Donald Gutstein, a senior lecturer in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University and author of the book "E.Con: How the Internet Undermines Democracy" (unstated subtitle: "And How It Is All America's Fault").

The goal of his polemic, as it usually is with those of his ilk, is to link any scientist who is not 100 percent politically-correct on global warming to ExxonMobil, even if one has to resort to links built on automated comment spam to do it.

In this case, Dr. Tim Ball is attacked for giving a policy briefing to a Canadian think-tank, the Fraser Institute. That event brings out Mr. Gutstein's long knives.

First, the well-respected, 32-year-old think-tank that invited Dr. Ball, according to Mr. Gutstein, receives one percent of its funding from ExxonMobil. So, according to Gutstein's Theory (which holds that even slight connections to major U.S. corporations are inherently wholly corrupting), Dr. Ball's entire professional integrity is compromised by appearing -- after retiring from 28 years as a professor of climatology -- at a major think-tank with a one percent ExxonMobil link.

But wait, there's more evidence.

Dr. Ball also, says Mr. Gutstein, is "promoted by" The National Center for Public Policy Research (us), which, the critic says, has received $225,000 from ExxonMobil.

Two thoughts.

First, "promoted by" refers to the fact that we listed Dr. Ball on our auxiliary environmental website Envirotruth, on a webpage we have that lists the names, titles and contact information for several dozen climate scientists. Furthermore, elsewhere on that website, we reprinted a multi-part analysis of Canada's global warming policies written (not specifically for us) by Dr. Ball, and included his bio with it. That's it. Dr. Ball is not affiliated with us and has never received a penny from us. I've never even met him.

Second, the $225,000 figure, if it is even accurate (it sounds about right) refers to the total sum of all contributions from ExxonMobil (and Exxon and Mobil before one bought the other) since 1982. We had over 8 million in income last year alone. Does it really look like we are a wholly-owned subsidiary of ExxonMobil?

And remember, the funding we receive from ExxonMobil has to corrupt us so terribly that Dr. Ball himself becomes corrupted if we even reprint on one of our websites an article Dr. Ball wrote for someone else entirely.

I want to be fair, though. Donald Gutstein of Simon Fraser University has yet more evidence.

Dr. Ball, like Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit fame (and many others), has had some op-eds published on Tech Central Station. Tech Central Station lists ExxonMobil as one of eight corporations sponsoring its site. No claim is made by Mr. Gutstein that Dr. Ball received compensation from Tech Central Station for his op-eds published there.

But Mr. Gutstein is not done. The evidence against Dr. Ball continues to mount. Mr. Gutstein says, "He's a hot topic on the Coalblog Web site,, sponsored by the coal companies." Coal=evil. (Darth Vader isn't the color of coal by accident, you know.)

I held on tight to my ethics and checked the coal blog. Mr. Gutstein must have a sense of humor: His "hot topic" allegation is hilarious. The blog links to two presentations Dr. Ball gave to a third think-tank. Following that -- the supposed "hot" part -- are 29 pieces of automated comment spam apparently put there by promoters of an online poker website and some people who sell drugs.

So Dr. Ball is again condemned, this time for the crime of having remarks he gave to a think-tank linked to by a coal industry blog which subsequently got spammed. And not even by ExxonMobil.

And all this presupposes, in this age of hyper-regulation, that ExxonMobil itself is corrupt, an allegation for which the senior lecturer in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University provides no evidence. We don't even know if ExxonMobil has ever been the target of comment spam.

I review all this because I have many times observed how quickly environmentalists in debate attack an opponent's source of funding, when the real point of debate is supposed to be a discussion of policy ideas and evidence.

For instance, in this debate between an official from the National Wildlife Federation and my husband David (who is our VP) over needed changes to the Endangered Species Act, the official accuses us of being funded by developers. The implication, not subtle, is that our position on the Endangered Species Act comes solely from the allegation that we have -- according to the unknowledgable -- been bought off by developers.

Never mind that at the time of the debate we had just finished a project taking on big developers, who were promoting policies we deemed hostile to small landowners. And never mind that the sum total of our receipts from developers over 23 years has been $500 -- no, not five million, or five hundred thousand, but five hundred dollars. That gift was in 1994, from a business group that in 1995 suffered a mail bomb attack by the Greenie killer "Unabomber" -- an attack that killed its president. So I think the Greenies already have attacked them enough.

In summation: There's more to the environmental debate than who funds whom. Sure, it is fine, even desirable, for folks to disclose their funding sources, but let's be realistic: Both sides have funding sources (the leftie side of the environmental debate has more), and it is impossible to tell from funding alone if a person's ideas have merit. To do that, one actually has to discuss the ideas.

Addendum, 5/3: Mea culpa. I was wrong about something above. My husband David read this blog entry and pointed out that the group I mentioned in the second-to-last-paragraph as having donated $500 to us -- the one I thought was backed by developers -- actually wasn't backed by developers, but by the forestry industry. So zero developer dollars to us, I guess.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:14 AM

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

National Fuel Economy Standards to be Raised by Some Guy in California Who Thinks He Knows Best

This gentleman was merely elected to a statewide post in California, yet believes he should set national law -- in this case, on the matter of national fuel economy standards.

Perhaps he believes legislatures are such inefficent bodies that we all would be happier ruled by a dictator.

That Politburo thing worked out pretty well for the Russians, I hear.

Well, except for the little bit about it being lethal.

In 2002, the National Academy of Sciences released a report, "Effectiveness and Impact of CAFE Standards 2002," pointing out that since CAFE standards were imposed in the U.S. in 1975, an additional 2,000 deaths per year can be attributed to the downsizing of cars required to meet the fuel efficiency standards.

Ah, well. So we die in the service of the state. At least California Attorney General Bill Lockyer got a nice press release out of it.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:22 PM

Caveat Emptor, Magazine Readers

-Update of an April 30 post-

Writing for the American Spectator, David Holman notes that a writer for the New Republic made stuff up.

Holman appears to be surprised, but it is a habit over there.

Addendum: The New Republic says it wasn't fiction, but hyperbole. I leave it to readers to determine their own view about whether a figure of speech can be two paragraphs long.

Addendum, 5/2/06: The American Spectator isn't buying the hyperbole explanation offered by the New Republic's Jason Zengerle because the author of the piece, TNR senior editor Ryan Lizza, told the Spectator's Dave Holman that he really meant what he wrote.

Meanwhile, the Spectator's Quin Hillyer is quite annoyed at a line in Lizza's piece that, in Quin's words, is a "slander against poor people from an entire state and, by implication, an entire region of the country." Quin likens the slur to Washington Post reporter Michael Weisskopf's infamous "poor, uneducated and easy to command" quote from 1993, for which the Post apologized.

Quin wonders: "...will the New Republic... have the same decency the Post did"?

Having "the same decency" as the Washington Post is the very definition of an attainable standard, but my bet nonetheless is that the New Republic won't meet it.

Note: Originally posted April 30; re-published May 2.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:53 AM

Monday, May 01, 2006

What America Needs: More Goof-Offs

Could this AP report on the illegal aliens' goof-off day be any more one-sided?

Not easily.

My best idea for making the AP report even more favorable to the illegal alien cause would be to decorate the text with a little picture of Mary and Joseph with the baby Jesus in the manger, with the caption: "Jesus was an immigrant, too."

But then I remembered that Jesus was a legal immigrant to Bethlehem and he only stuck around 40 days or so, so that idea won't work very well.

The AP report, of course, doesn't use the word "illegal," but let's face it, regardless of the views the following people hold on this issue, absolutely nobody is expecting to see Michael J. Fox, Dan Aykroyd, William Shatner, Alex Trebek (born in Canada), Madeleine Albright, Martina Navratilova (former Czechoslovakia), Henry Kissinger, Andre Previn (Germany), Gloria Estefan, Andy Garcia (Cuba), Ricardo Montalban (Mexico), Placido Domingo (Spain), I.M. Pei (China), Eddie Van Halen (the Netherlands), Angela Lansbury or Elizabeth Taylor (Britain) participating in these events.

That's because they're all (as far as I know) here legally, and there simply isn't an anti-legal immigration movement in the U.S. to protest against.

My closest immigrant ancestor immigrated from Prussia (legally) almost a hundred years ago. I never met him, but I've heard enough to know what he would think of a group of people, immigrants or not, proving their worth by not working. It is perhaps unfair of me to put words in his mouth, but I'm pretty sure he would not have been impressed.

Me neither, Grandpa.

Addendum, 5/2/06: This essay by Jay D. Homnick is my favorite commentary on goof-off day. Who says the Internet has no stylists?

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:28 AM

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