masthead-highres

Friday, May 30, 2008

Poll Shows Little Public Enthusiasm for Lieberman-Warner

About 30 minutes ago, the National Center for Public Policy Research released the poll questions and cross-tabs from our new poll surveying public attitudes toward paying the costs of the Lieberman-Warner cap and trade global warming bill.

The poll did not tell respondents that Lieberman-Warner, if adopted and implemented, would not have a measurable impact on planetary temperatures, although that is true.  We told respondents that Lieberman-Warner is designed to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and the likely consumer costs of Lieberman-Warner in two areas, gasoline prices and electricity prices.  (We obtained the cost data from several econometric studies done by major institutions independent from us and independent from each other.)

The poll results suggest that Lieberman-Warner is not particularly popular with the public, as even the lowest estimated costs were higher than a strong majority appears willing to pay.

Our press release with more detail is posted below.  Those of you who love analyzing polls can look at the exact text of the poll questions here (pdf) and the poll cross-tabs here (pdf).

The press release:
Overwhelming Majority of Americans Oppose Lieberman-Warner Global Warming Proposal, New Poll Suggests
Clinton, McCain and Obama at Odds With 90%+ of Americans
Contact: David Almasi at (202) 543-4110 or [email protected]
Washington, DC - Just as the U.S. Senate is poised to vote on the Lieberman-Warner America's Climate Security Act (S. 2191), a new poll finds an overwhelming majority of Americans oppose the higher energy costs that Lieberman-Warner would impose.
The poll, conducted by the Public Opinion and Policy Center of the National Center for Public Policy Research, found that 65% of Americans reject spending even a penny more for gasoline in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The number rejecting raising gas prices in an effort to combat global warming has increased by 17 percentage points -- or 35% -- in just over two months. The National Center conducted a similar survey in late February.
An additional 13% oppose spending more than 5% more for gasoline to attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The Lieberman-Warner plan would increase petroleum prices by 5.9% by 2015, according to Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. Other studies indicate the plan would push prices even higher.
The survey also found that 71% of Americans reject spending more for electricity, with 16% opposing spending any more than 12% extra for electricity.
A study commissioned jointly by the American Council for Capital Formation and the National Association of Manufacturers estimated that the Lieberman-Warner proposal would increase electricity prices by between 13% and 14% by 2014. Other econometric studies indicate that Lieberman-Warner would push electricity costs even higher.
When gasoline and electricity price increases are taken together, 90% of Americans reject Lieberman-Warner plan's costs -- even the low-range of the projected costs.
"As incredible as it sounds that 90% of Americans reject the Lieberman-Warner plan's costs, the actual number who reject it may be even higher. Electricity and gasoline price hikes are only two of the costs of this proposal," said David A. Ridenour, vice president of the National Center for Public Policy Research. "The price for food and consumer goods would also be pushed higher and many Americans would lose their jobs. You can't merely accept energy price increases and opt out of all the other costs."
"As amazing as it is that 90% of the public agrees on anything," added Ridenour, "is the fact that all three of the major prudential candidates -- Senators Clinton, McCain and Obama -- favor a proposal the public appears to be almost unanimously against."
The America's Climate Security Act (S. 2191), which could be voted on in the U.S. Senate as early as June 2, would place strict caps on the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that power plants, fuel refiners and producers, chemical producers and other manufacturers may release into the atmosphere. The proposal -- frequently referred to as a "cap-and-trade" plan -- would also establish an emissions trading system that would permit companies that emit fewer greenhouse gases than they are allowed to sell the excess portion to companies that exceed their allowances. The Act's sponsors estimate that the bill would reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by up to 63% by 2050.
Respondents to The National Center's survey were provided with a brief description of what America's Climate Security Act would do and then asked how much more they would be willing to pay for gasoline and electricity to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
They were given the choice between "nothing more," percentage increases correlating to estimates from three different econometric studies of Lieberman-Warner, and a percentage increase just below the most optimistic of these projections.
The poll used studies from Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, and from the American Council for Capital Formation and the National Association of Manufacturers.
The National Center used all three studies because the findings of the studies varied widely.
"There's been a robust debate over which economic analysis is accurate. Proponents believe that lower-range cost estimates strengthen their case for approval of the plan, while opponents believe higher-range cost estimates strengthen the case against it. That debate turns out to be irrelevant," said Ridenour. "Americans oppose Warner-Lieberman no matter which study is closer to the mark. Just 6% would be willing to accept the gasoline and electricity price increase ranges forecast by any of the three studies."
Opposition to higher gas prices was particularly pronounced among minorities, with 72% of blacks and 72% of Hispanics opposed to paying any more for gasoline to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This compares with 64% of whites opposing paying more.
Hispanics led the way in opposition to higher electricity prices, with 77% opposed to spending any more for electricity, compared to 71% of whites and 69% of blacks saying they were not willing to spend more.
The poll was conducted by Wilson Research Strategies, which surveyed 802 people who are likely to vote in the 2008 general elections. It included 37% registered Democrats, 30% Independents and 29% Republicans. It has a margin of error of +-3.46% at 95% confidence interval.
The National Center is a non-profit, non-partisan educational foundation based in Washington, DC and established in 1982. It is a truly independent foundation, with approximately 99% of its funding coming from some 72,000 active donors.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:26 PM

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Government Land Acquisition on the Sly

Joe Thomas of WCHV in Charlottesville, Virginia has posted a podcast online of his radio interview with National Center for Public Policy Research Senior Fellow Dana Joel Gattuso.

Dana, as many of you know, is the author of the absolutely excellent new paper on conservation easements, "Conservation Easements: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," published by the National Center for Public Policy Research on Tuesday.

If you are among the millions of Americans concerned about the steady growth of government, and you aren't already aware -- as most aren't -- of the explosive growth in conservation easements and how these easements are a door through which governments are exerting greater ownership of and control over private land (typically without the taxpayers knowing about, or any legislature ever voting for, the expansion), then I urge you to read Dana's study.

For a shorter summary of what the issue is all about, I recommend our press release, ably written by Judy Kent, and reproduced below.
Contact: Judy Kent at (703) 759-7476 or email [email protected]

Landowners Beware - The Government's Found a New Way to Control Your Land

Conservation Easements Not What They Used to Be, Says New Report


Washington, D.C.: Under the guise of making more land accessible for the public's use and providing tax relief for land-rich but cash-poor landowners, the government has found a convenient way to restrict the use of private land - often without the original landowner's knowledge. Enter The Nature Conservancy and other large land trust conglomerates that approach farmers or large landowners with what seems like a "win-win" for all involved. In return for donating their land for conservation purposes, the landowners are provided with federal and state tax breaks and agree never to convert, develop or use the land for any purpose other than farming or ranching.

A total of 37 million acres of land throughout the United States are currently under the control of land trusts.

However, according to a new report by the National Center for Public Policy Research titled, "Conservation Easements: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," all-too-often that acquired land, placed under "conservation easements," goes from the land trust right into the governing hands of the largest landowner in the United States, the federal government. Dana Joel Gattuso, author of the report and senior fellow of the National Center, explains these "prearranged flips" provide a back door approach to acquiring land control that is good for the government and the original land trust, but bad for the unsuspecting landowner, who has been kept out of the loop.

How profitable is it for conglomerates like The Nature Conservancy to participate in flips? Gattuso cites their annual report, which states about a fifth of the land trust's annual support and revenues come from the sales of easements to the government. "In one example, The Nature Conservancy bought an easement for $1.26 million, then directly sold it to the federal Bureau of Land Management for $1.4 million," she says. The Nature Conservancy certainly isn't alone, the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, one of that state's largest land trusts, has sold more than 700 of its 850 easements to the state and federal government.

Besides being able to take control over more and more land, "Government agencies like the arrangements because they are able to restrict activity on private property absent public approval, unlike land purchases, zoning laws and other land conservation regulations, which can draw heated opposition - and great angst," Gattuso says. According to a Department of Agriculture report on easements, "conservation easements provide opportunities for public agencies to influence resource use without incurring the political costs of regulation or the full financial costs of outright land acquisition." It is troubling that "easements, absent reforms, could evolve into the prevailing method for government to shift lands unobtrusively from private to public control under a pretense of private stewardship," she states.

This trend toward more government involvement in land trusts troubles Gattuso. While conservation easements "have become the rage in land conservation - rising in number from 740 in 1995 to 6,500 today - so has the role of government and government's influence over land trusts." Initially, the benefits of land trust involvement with easements created the possibility of an effective land stewardship program. "Yet land trusts, particularly the larger organizations, are changing their focus from independent and private approaches, to working in tandem with government agencies in an effort to assist government in controlling private lands," she cautions.

Gattuso says the biggest reason landowners enter into a conservation agreement is to obtain relief from burdensome taxes - especially death taxes, which break up well-managed lands. Tax benefits are extended to everyone, from wealthy landowners who own hundreds of thousands of acres to struggling farmers who have inherited a hundred-acre farm. These easements, however, extend into perpetuity and can become a big concern when future generations inherit the affected land, the report says. Environmentalists presently view this as beneficial, but what is ecologically-beneficial one day, may not be the next. Legal and policy experts agree these binding agreements that extend into perpetuity "ultimately become antiquated and, therefore, useless or even harmful. The rule fails to recognize that conservation needs - as well as definitions of scenic, aesthetic and cultural - change over time, and that the easement may eventually lose any ecological benefit or even become a detriment. Modern views in ecology hold that the environment is in a constant change rather than in search of a stable end-state," Gattuso reports.

Robert J. Smith, also a senior fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research and a foremost authority on property rights, shares Gattuso's concerns. "Short-term conservation easements were once considered a method to protect lands short of fee simple acquisition. But over time they have morphed into perpetual lock up of lands in a single use. This is not only disastrous from an environmental viewpoint, because nature is forever changing - but it is also the antithesis of a free market because they preclude all future choice," he says.

Additional problems with tragic consequences arise when there are different interpretations of what a conservation easement allows. There is no shortage of landowners who offer their own disastrous story of their involvement with conservation easements. As an example, the Property Rights Foundation of America cites the case of a farmer who bought a 42-acre property in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Wanting to build a farmhouse to house three generations of his family, he didn't expect to run into any problem with a conservation easement that had been placed on the land. The easement noted the land could be used only for farming or nature conservation, and for small buildings related to those uses. However, the French and Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust sued to stop the construction, claiming the farmhouse did not fall within the parameters of what was allowed to be built on the land. A judge with the Chester County Court of Common Pleas ruled in favor of the farmer and noted the construction of the farmhouse "does not offend the easement definition of a 'small building' incidental to farming use." Construction on the farmhouse continued and so did the legal stranglehold the Trust held against the family. The Trust appealed the judge's decision all the way to the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court. Ultimately, the tragedy of how these conservation easements can be misunderstood is evidenced by the bulldozing of the family's farmhouse, which destroyed the dreams of three generations of family farmers and 15 years of savings.

The paper, "Conservation Easements: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," by Dana Joel Gattuso is available online at http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA569.html.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a free-market communications and research foundation established in 1982 and located on Capitol Hill.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:18 AM

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Senator John Warner: Do As He Says, Not As He Does

From David Almasi:
Would someone please figure out the carbon foot-stomp that Senator John Warner (R-VA) helped make on May 15 just so he could turn a wrench?

A ceremony in which Senator Warner was given the honor of tightening the "last bolt" on the almost-completed I-95 Woodrow Wilson Bridge across the Potomac River created a traffic nightmare in the Washington, D.C. area. According to reports, the ceremony, held at 11:00 am on a Thursday, caused traffic back-ups of up to eight miles over a stretch of more than five hours.

During times of major construction on the bridge, events predicted to have a severe impact on traffic normally were planned for weekends in order to prevent jams. It obviously can't be expected for important people such as Senator Warner, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine (D), Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley (D), D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty (D) and U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters to give up their weekends, however, for what was ostensibly a private event held on the bridgespan.

It is particularly insulting that Senator Warner, the chief sponsor of a bill about to be debated in the Senate that will raise energy and consumer prices to allegedly cap "greenhouse gas" emissions, was the star of the show. He was beaming at the honor bestowed upon him in photos taken of the ceremony, but one has to wonder if it weighed on his conscience in the slightest that all those miles of cars and trucks were out there idling - spewing emissions - so he could play Bob the Builder.

It's sickening, but that's politics.

To read more about the event, click here.
David Almasi is executive director of the National Center for Public Policy Research. To contact David directly, write him at [email protected].

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:54 PM

Monday, May 26, 2008

Photo ID: Bad for Polls, but Good for Premieres

From David Almasi:
Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an Indiana election law requiring that people show valid photo ID at a polling place before they receive a ballot. The decision was made over the outcry of critics who claim it will restrict access to the polls - particularly for the poor, elderly and minorities.

This Sunday, HBO debuted its new movie "Recount," a star-studded drama about the 2000 post-election recount in Florida. The decision to certify the election in George W. Bush's favor was made over the outcry of critics who claimed the voting process was too confusing and irregular -- particularly for the poor, elderly and minorities.

Don't think a Hollywood film about it won't echo these beliefs. According to a review of "Recount" in Entertainment Weekly: "Speaking of Democrats, 'Recount' may not be downright blue, but it's not as purply as it wants to appear. Despite its 'equal time' approach, 'Recount' is an underdog story, and thus a Democrat story." On the Politico website, Laura Dern, who plays then-Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, says of the story: "As much as I consider myself a conspiracy theorist, it was much worse than I expected."

I am a subscriber to Entertainment Weekly and sometimes receive its online giveaways. I won a pair of tickets to go to a premiere of "Recount" at a movie theater in downtown Washington. I'm busy, but I wanted to be able to give the tickets to a co-worker. No can do. In order to use the tickets, according to the personalized e-mail I received, "please have photo IDs for you and your guest available for inspection."

So let me get this straight: I'm not supposed to be required to show a photo ID before doing something as important as voting, but I do need one to see a movie? A movie, by the way, that at that time was scheduled to be on television in just four days.

I'm figuring the people behind this movie were outraged when they heard about the Supreme Court's decision.

This is just one of the many things I’ve dealt with lately that required photo ID. I needed photo ID last week to donate blood. I needed a photo ID to get a free burrito from Moe's on my birthday. And I need to show a photo ID just to get past the lobby in my wife's office building. Shouldn't one also be required for voting?

But, based on prevailing liberal logic, the photo ID requirement at these places and at the "Recount" premiere is wrong -- particularly for the poor, elderly and minorities.
David Almasi is executive director of the National Center for Public Policy Research. To contact David directly, write him at [email protected].

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:39 PM

Project 21 Member Rebukes Washington Post for Implying Only Liberals Promote Civil Rights

From David Almasi:
It should be the goal of a civil rights group to put itself out of business. After all, the last one to turn out the light could expect to turn around to face a bright landscape of equal opportunity.

There is no denying that the state of racial equality today is much better today that is was in the 1950s and 1960s. This has obviously had an impact on donations to and memberships in civil rights organizations. This was the topic of a front-page Washington Post article on April 5.

In chronicling how civil rights groups "are either struggling to stay relevant or struggling to stay alive," Post reporter Darryl Fears noted that the Southern Christian Leadership Conference -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s organization -- has had trouble paying utility bills in recent years, the NAACP's membership has fallen by hundreds of thousands and groups such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Council are now defunct. Another group, the National Urban League, is considered "viable" but suffering from "diminished visibility."

The Post's coverage of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) was a completely different story. Fears wrote:
As the groups were drained of power, they sometimes hurt themselves. CORE's most charismatic liberal leader, James Farmer, resigned and was replaced by a conservative.
That conservative, Roy Innis, has served as CORE's national chariman since 1968. That's hardly a flash in the pan, and one would expect that he'd be replaced within 39 years had his politics truly hurt the organization (Farmer, by the way, was national chairman between 1942 and 1944). Recent New Visions Commentaries from Project 21 authored by Innis can be found here and here.

Project 21 member John Meredith responded to the Post's outrageous suggestion. Meredith, the son of James Meredith, the first black student at Ole Miss, pointed out that not only are conservatives in agreement with and willing to work for civil rights goals, but conservatives such as Innis provide a unique and needed perspective within the civil rights movement. Alas, the Post chose not to run the letter, but we reprint it here in its entirety:
In reporting on the general decline of civil rights organizations ("Civil Rights Groups Seeing Gradual End of Their Era," April 5), I am appalled that a reason cited for alleged trouble at the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) is because a "liberal leader... was replaced by a conservative." This assumption furthers the fallacy that conservatives offer nothing to and cannot function in a civil rights context. My father - James Meredith - has espoused conservative values and individual rights for over 45 years. In doing so, he integrated the University of Mississippi in 1962 laying the foundation for future generations to exercise their civil rights not only in education but every aspect of American society. Like my father, CORE chairman Roy Innis is a civil rights visionary, in his case, shining a light on the burden government overregulation can have on minorities and the economically disadvantaged in this country.
David Almasi is executive director of the National Center for Public Policy Research. To contact David directly,
write him at [email protected].

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:27 PM

Blogging to resume...

...in a moment. I apologize for the dearth of posts over the last two weeks; it was due to general busy-ness.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:24 PM

Monday, May 12, 2008

Project 21's Borelli Chides California Lawmakers for Coerced Giving Proposal

By David Almasi:
People already hate it when the government tells them what they can buy. Now, California lawmakers are mulling over a proposal that would tell people how they can give to charity.

In a commentary published in the May 11 Washington Times, Project 21 fellow Deneen Borelli has criticized alifornia's "The Foundation Diversity and Transparency Act" (AB 624), which would, she points out, "require charitable foundations with assets of $250 million or more to report the race, sex and sexual preferences of its staff, board of directors and grant recipients in the foundation's annual report and on its website."

Deneen further noted:
One group supporting AB 624 is The Greenlining Institute, a left-wing public policy organization headquartered in the radical enclave of Berkeley. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, the group alleges that minorities are not sufficiently represented in California policy debates. Operating on the notion that this is because minority groups don't have enough money, AB 624 being sought as a tactic to "shame" foundations into donating more money to minority-led entities.

Why rely on merit when charitable giving can be mandated through the force of law?

The Greenling Institute agenda is clear: use the race card to hijack the power of the state and force charities to fund liberal organizations under the guise of helping minorities.
Besides the bureaucratic costs and hassles involved and the ability for it to become a model for other state and federal lawmakers, Deneen notes the chilling effect AB 624 could have on charitable giving:
Implementation of AB 624 may also deter individuals and companies from establishing philanthropic foundations in the first place. The Greenlining goal is to "shame" foundations. Why establish a foundation with advance knowledge that it will be harassed if it doesn't give away its money in the prescribed, politically-correct manner?

Ironically, by seeking to increase donations to certain groups, this legislation may actually result in a chilling effect on overall philanthropy and harm all deserving grant recipients.
Deneen's complete commentary can be found here.
To contact author David Almasi directly,
write him at [email protected]

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:20 AM

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Novel Approach to Requesting a Pardon for Ramos and Compean

David Almasi shares an idea for a novel approach to a pardon request to President Bush for Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean:
"Mr. President, I am honored and grateful that you have invited me to your ranch on the wedding day of your daughter. And may their first child be a masculine child."

Project 21 Chairman Mychal Massie has been a long-standing advocate of a presidential pardon or commuting of the prison sentences of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean. In fact, Project 21 has successfully enlisted the support of black churches across America for a special "National Day of Prayer for Jailed Border Agents and All Law Enforcement" on Sunday, May 11. More information on the case and the need for a pardon can be found in Mychal's Washington Times column, is available here.

Saturday is Jenna Bush's wedding. Since previous pleas have for clemency have fallen on deaf ears, perhaps a page can be taken from Mario Puzo's The Godfather. Someone who's been invited to the Crawford, Texas nuptials needs to put the question of freedom for Ramos and Compean to President Bush tomorrow. Since, according to Puzo's story, "no Sicilian can refuse a request on his daughter's wedding day," maybe something similar can be arranged with the President.

I know he's not Sicilian, but it's worth a try. Patriotism and logic have failed thus far.
To contact author David Almasi directly,
write him at [email protected]

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:30 AM

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Should Earmarks be Spent on Lobbying? Should Lobbyists Represent Congressmen?

Should earmarks paid for with public funds be spent promoting projects under consideration by Congress?

Is it OK for a lobbyist to represent a Congressman at a meeting about one of the Congressman's bills?

As far as I know, these things as legal, but are they proper?

Husband David has an op-ed on TownHall today that examines at a case in which both seem to have happened.

At issue is the creation of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area, which will run from Gettysburg, PA to Charlottesville, VA, unless President Bush vetoes the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 (S. 2739), which is now on the President's desk.

Heritage areas are National Park Service preservation zones in which environmentalists, federal officials and local activists influence local land-use decisions, frequently in ways that restrict the rights of private property owners and make property ownership more difficult for those of low or moderate income.

The Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 is the same legislation that would allow taxpayer money to be spent studying places "that are significant to the life of Cesar E. Chavez." Chavez was, of course, the ultra-militant leader of the United Farm Workers and a man who, as Project 21's Joe Hicks has said in Congressional testimony, "did or said little to reign in the violence" against workers by union organizers. Members of Congress who find this form of domestic terrorism worthy of honor are trying to use tax funds in an effort to make Chavez seem like another Martin Luther King, Jr.

As Joe Hicks pointed out on May 5, "To say the jury is still out on the legacy of Cesar Chavez is an understatement. Unlike other individuals who have been honored in the manner suggested by this earmark, the politics behind and the consequences of Chavez's activism remain dubious."

Hicks, once a member of the Communist Party USA, trained UFW members in "revolutionary theory" and marched arm-in-arm with Jesse Jackson at Cesar Chavez's funeral in 1993.

If you have an opinion on using earmarks to promote legislative proposals, Congressmen being represented by lobbyists, national heritage areas or even the use of tax dollars to honor dubious labor union organizing techniques, drop by TownHall.com to learn more and leave your views.

Addendum, May 8: The White House has signaled its comfort with the above, signing the bill into law today. The full text of the White House statement:
On Thursday, May 8, 2008, the President signed into law:

S. 2457, which authorizes the Mashantucket Pequot (Western) Tribe to lease certain land to entities for up to 75 years, rather than 25 years as under current law,

S. 2739, the "Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008," which designates the 106,000-acre Wild Sky Wilderness in Washington State; designates three new National Heritage Areas; expands several national parks; authorizes funding for specified water projects; modifies two existing energy programs; applies U.S. immigration law to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands; and grants the Commonwealth a non-voting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives.
I can't say I'm surprised President Bush signed this, if only because he's signed a lot of bills that appear to be contrary to a limited government philosophy, and it is his Administration's National Park Service that worked in favor of the legislation and failed to fully comply with a Freedom of Information Act request regarding its activities (not that I am under any illusion that National Park Service officials thought they were doing the bidding of the man the voters elected when they did these things). When it comes to expanding government's size, "just say no" has not been the hallmark of this Administration or its agencies.

On a more positive note, however, it's almost a miracle the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area was not adopted two years ago. When proponents of legislative proposals get a million bucks worth of help in tax money from Congress before they are even incorporated, its a pretty clear sign they've got Congressional support and a leg-up over those of us who rely on voluntary donations to pay our bills. Before we started this fight to remind Congress that federalism and the Fifth Amendment right to private property are worth defending, national heritage areas tended to sail right through Congress. Even genuinely conservative Members hadn't stopped to think about the contradiction between their beliefs and what national heritage areas do and are. Now opposition to them is the new, though for all that, fairly strong conservative position on Capitol Hill. We may not have been able to stop the wasteful (and far worse) behavior surrounding the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area, but we've most likely slowed the creation of more of these elitist boondoggles.

Those interested in more information about national heritage areas -- as this particular policy battle is far from over -- might find the following resources helpful:
"The Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area: An Example of How Pork-Barrel Politics Can Threaten Local Rule and Property Rights," by Peyton Knight for the National Center for Public Policy Research, available here

"Another Federal Assault on Property Rights: The Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area Act," by Ron Utt for the Heritage Foundation, available here (this is the paper in which Dr. Utt revealed that the private organizers of this heritage area have "acknowledged that they are contemplating additional wealth-enhancing opportunities through the creation of a privately owned, for-profit real estate investment trust (REIT) to acquire properties in the heritage area and presumably develop them for the benefit of the REIT's shareholders...")

To read a coalition letter signed by over 110 organizations, elected officials and concerned citizens about heritage areas sent to Congress in September 2007, go here (pdf)

For a short handout-style document on heritage areas, "What People Are Saying about National Heritage Areas," suitable for distribution at public meetings, go here (pdf)
Or, simply go to the National Center for Public Policy Research's search page and type in "national heritage areas" -- we've got 80 documents so far, and, no doubt, more to come.

Thanks to all who joined us in this effort. While supporters of limited government had a setback today, because of our work together on the Journey Through Hallowed Ground, our support for the next battle federalism and property rights battle is much deeper. I'm confident that victories lie ahead.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:41 PM

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

NCPPR's Almasi Comments on CAFE in National Review

In the May 5 print edition of National Review, Fred Schwarz described how the catalytic converter was perfected just as automakers faced potentially crippling federal emissions requirements. Liberals cite this as proof that all that is needed to make technological breakthroughs happen is to give industry a swift regulatory kick in the pants, but this particular development was a happy coincidence. Had a breakthrough - discovered after many frustrating failures - not come when it did, the auto industry could very well have been devastated.

Schwarz sees the development of the catalytic converter as another step in the march of science that will, in time, bring about the changes some people hastily want to mandate.

Schwarz’s article is great but for the one line. Schwarz calls newly-mandated Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards "feasible." Hardly. They are most likely to make cars and trucks smaller, lighter and subsequently more dangerous in the short-term before (in the minds of the regulatory crowd) the long-hidden formula to fuel cars with water is unveiled.

National Center for Public Policy Research Executive Director David Almasi explained one of the problems with increased CAFE standards in a letter to the editor that now has been printed in the May 19 National Review (print edition). David's letter is reprinted in its entirety below:
Fred Schwarz is right to predict that science will achieve regulatory goals at its own pace ("Machina ex Machina," May 5).

He also says that "[current] CAFE standards are quite feasible, and while opponents have criticized them on economic grounds, at least no engineering miracles will be required." True - but the biggest problem with the Corporate Average Fuel Economy system concerns safety, not economics or engineering. By historical precedent the easiest way for automakers to meet higher fuel-efficiency requirements is to make cars and trucks smaller, lighter and inherently less safe. A 2002 study by the National Academy of Sciences estimated between 1,300 and 2,600 accident-related deaths each year can be attributed to CAFE standards.
It’s also the case that these new CAFE standards will raise the price of new vehicles large enough for family use by thousands of dollars. If you don’t like paying an extra buck a gallon for gasoline, just wait until you have to spend an extra ten grand for the car.

Thanks, Congress.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 5:52 PM

Friday, May 02, 2008

Project 21's Nedd Joins Other Religious Leaders at UN Public Health Conference

From David Almasi:
Project 21 member Council Nedd II, a bishop in the Episcopal Missionary Church, is returning from Geneva, Switzerland, where he helped lead a non-governmental organization (NGO) delegation to the World Health Organization's (WHO) Working Group on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property. Council was there to defend the intellectual property rights that currently protect patents on prescription medications.

Activists are seeking WHO approval to circumvent these patents, saying the needs of the poor and afflicted outweigh a drug company's intellectual property rights.

Council and three other members of the international clergy -- Bishop Emeritus Albilio Ribas of Sao Tome & Principe (Roman Catholic), The Rev. Fr. Anthony Ojeh of Asaba, Nigeria (Anglican, like Nedd) and Pastor William Daldoum of the Nations Upon the Rock Church in Sudan (Pentacostal) -- have signed a statement of principles regarding faith, health care and the protection of individual property rights (the patent on medicines, in particular). They see patents and the protection of them as vital to ensuring new and better health care advancement in the future.

These men -- who have engaged in health care-related missionary work in African countries that include Uganda, Ghana, Kenya, Sa Tome & Principe, Angola, Sudan and Nigeria -- decry the claim that "patents deny patients access to medication" and instead want to promote "the importance of intellectual property rights to advancements in developing world health care."

To follow is their statement:
Whereas it is being said in certain quarters that patents deny patients access to medication, we the clergy gathered in Geneva, Switzerland, based on our hands on experience in our public health missionary activities, particularly in Uganda, Ghana, Kenya, Sa Tome & Principe, Angola, Sudan and Nigeria hereby declare and affirm that:
The most important issue here is keeping people alive and healthy.

Drug counterfeiting which is prevalent in Africa and particularly in Uganda, Ghana, Sudan and Nigeria denies patients access to life saving medicines because of the abysmally poor and dangerous quality of the counterfeit drugs.

Scientific and technological research and development are very important in guaranteeing the development and production of new quality life saving medications and in effect opens the door for patients to access quality medication.

Counterfeit and inferior drugs worsen and complicate ailments and the condition of patients. In very many cases, counterfeit drugs destroy lives and deplete needed human capital. Patients should be protected from counterfeit drugs.

Patents are a driving force for incentives in drug research and development. If researchers insist on being rewarded through patent protection for their inventions and discoveries, so be it. The important thing is that lives are saved thereby and not destroyed. The laborer after all is deserving of his pay.

Considering that all human beings are individually gifted, and if it be necessary to preserve patents as an incentive, monetary or otherwise to encourage further scientific and technological discoveries in quality life saving drugs, then we should do it. More especially as we cannot at this point rule out the possibility of the emergence of new diseases that could threaten human existence in the future, we need to preserve incentives to encourage an individual to use his/her gifts for the benefit of others especially in matters of human health. After all our civilization does not encourage us to force a man to use his natural gifts for the benefit of his fellowman. Such an individual may refuse his gift, and if he does so, that is a matter between him and his maker.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is a Miracle Healer. He tells us in the book of John 14:12 that "The things I do ye also can do them." The effect of this is that it is in our power to be miracle healers through gifted scientists by preserving the instrument that encourages them to find solution to our health problems. Patent protection seems to effectively do that. The starting point is to discover the solution such as the drug and then ensure that the patient is able to access the solution. First the solution must be available, and then we ensure access.

In light of the above, patents actually do save lives. The issue is to ensure that people are kept alive and healthy.

Counterfeit and fake drugs do not save lives. They destroy lives. Existing medicines must be made available to those in need of them, wherever they may be. We must not allow bad politics to take precedence over the safety of human lives and good health today and tomorrow.
God Bless. Signed this 30th Day of April 2008,
The Most Rev. Albilio Ribas, Bishop Emeritus of Sao Tome & Principe

The Right Rev. Council Nedd II, Bishop of the Chesapeake, EMC

The Rev. Fr. Anthony Ojeh, Asaba, Nigeria

Pastor William Daldoum, Nations Upon the Rock Church
For more on this issue, I recommend a New Visions Commentary, "Underserved and Overlooked," by Council Nedd that Project 21 published in February.
To contact author David Almasi directly, write him at [email protected]. David is executive director of the National Center for Public Policy Research. He provides staffing support to Project 21.

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