masthead-highres

Monday, July 28, 2008

Project 21's Borelli on Civil Rights Shakedowns in Philadelphia Inquirer

By David Almasi:
An article critical of activists Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson by Project 21 Fellow Deneen Borelli was published Friday in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Said Deneen:
Al Sharpton is making headlines again, but it's not for one of his crusades. Instead, Sharpton, his National Action Network (NAN), and several major corporations that have donated to NAN have been subpoenaed in recent months by federal investigators.

While Sharpton's attorneys reported Tuesday that the criminal probe over millions allegedly owed in taxes by Sharpton and NAN has been dropped in lieu of civil action by the IRS, federal authorities remain tight-lipped over the status of any investigations.

Critics have long accused Sharpton of obtaining corporate contributions by threatening racial boycotts.

Sharpton denies this, saying "That's the old shakedown theory that the anti-civil-rights forces have used against us forever."

But there's plenty to wonder about. In November 2003, according to the New York Post, Sharpton picketed a DaimlerChrysler air show, threatening a boycott. After the company began sponsoring NAN's annual conference in 2004, however, Sharpton bestowed an award on it for corporate excellence. General Motors and American Honda also began giving to the group after similar threats.

Sharpton's not alone. Critics of Jesse Jackson claim he has perfected the art of the shakedown. Suspicions persist, for instance, about motives behind repeated generous contributions from mortgage giant Freddie Mac to Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. As the National Legal and Policy Center has reported, "Jesse Jackson's relationship with Freddie Mac began in 1998 when Jackson accused Freddie Mac of racial discrimination and encouraged major shareholders to sell their stock. Freddie Mac began financial support for Jackson's organizations and his criticism of Freddie Mac stopped."

Freddie Mac donated $150,000 to a Rainbow/PUSH conference earlier this month, even as Congress was debating a bailout of the struggling firm and Fannie Mae, a bailout that the Congressional Budget Office says might cost taxpayers as much as $100 billion.

A 16-year crusade against Anheuser-Busch for not having enough minority beer distributors ended with Jackson's sons being awarded a lucrative Chicago distributorship. Businesses that Jackson has criticized, including Toyota and NASCAR, have become sponsors of his annual Wall Street Conference...
Deneen then discussed her own experience challenging Jackson directly at the recent JPMorgan Chase and Company shareholder meeting. To read more about this or hear Deneen in action, click here.

To read the full Philadelphia Inquirer commentary, click here.
This post was written by National Center for Public Policy Research Executive Director David Almasi. To send comments to the author, write him at [email protected]. Please state if a letter is not for publication or if you prefer that it be published anonymously.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 7:00 PM

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Privacy Fetishists Strike Again

Pardon me for venting a little, but this story about a Vermont librarian who prevented five state police detectives from temporarily taking a public library's computers as part of their effort to rescue the then-missing (since discovered to be murdered) 12-year-old Brooke Bennett infuriates me.

From the AP:
Children's librarian Judith Flint was getting ready for the monthly book discussion group for 8- and 9-year-olds on "Love That Dog" when police showed up.

They weren't kidding around: Five state police detectives wanted to seize Kimball Public Library's public access computers as they frantically searched for a 12-year-old girl, acting on a tip that she sometimes used the terminals...
We all have a moral responsibility to help one another in life and death situations. There's no exception for government employees, whether librarians or dogcatchers. In fact, a heightened duty of care obligation may exist for public servants.

Privacy on any matter that is not literally life or death is less important than possibly saving a little girl's life.

How much of a narcissist does a library patron have to be to imagine that other people really care what he's gazing at? (For goodness sake, Mr. Narcissist, if we really care to know what websites you visit, we'd just stand behind you and watch you surf. It's a public library, after all!)

Anyhow, a public library's computer is owned by the government. Anybody who doesn't want the government to know which websites he visits ought not use a government computer to visit those websites.

P.S. The AP story above also is noteworthy for a profuse blast of whining excessive even by generous Vermont feminist standards:
"What I observed when I came in were a bunch of very tall men encircling a very small woman," said the library's director, Amy Grasmick, who held fast to the need for a warrant after coming to the rescue of the 4-foot-10 Flint.
Gimme a break. While a little girl was in what proved to be mortal danger, the chief public librarian frets that policemen are tall.

Honey, Brooke Bennett had the scary role in this story, not Judith Flint.

Hat tip: Best of the Web
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:29 PM

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

On Michael Savage and Autism, an Appeal for Calm

Those of us who follow talk radio and/or autism-related issues are aware that a campaign has sprung up calling for the firing of syndicated radio host Michael Savage.

Speaking on his July 16 broadcast, Savage claimed that 99 percent of autism cases are fake; that they actually are examples of kids misbehaving and bad parenting.

According to Media Matters, Savage said:
I'll tell you what autism is. In 99 percent of the cases, it's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out. That's what autism is. What do you mean they scream and they're silent? They don't have a father around to tell them, 'Don't act like a moron. You'll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up. Act like a man. Don't sit there crying and screaming, idiot.' " Savage concluded, "[I]f I behaved like a fool, my father called me a fool. And he said to me, 'Don't behave like a fool.' The worst thing he said -- 'Don't behave like a fool. Don't be anybody's dummy. Don't sound like an idiot. Don't act like a girl. Don't cry.' That's what I was raised with. That's what you should raise your children with. Stop with the sensitivity training. You're turning your son into a girl, and you're turning your nation into a nation of losers and beaten men. That's why we have the politicians we have.
In response, Savage says his comments were taken out of context by Media Matters. He explained his views more fully this week, telling Jacques Steinberg of the New York Times, for example, that the 99 percent fakery figure was "hyperbole." On his own website Savage called on people not to make a rush to judgement about his views based solely upon the charges of critics. He added that his comments were actually in support of truly autistic children, who, he said, lose out on services and funding they need because money is "pilfered by those who are not autistic." "The truly autistic child needs as much help as he or she can get," he said; what he opposes is "fakery."

Nonetheless, calls for Savage to pay a severe professional penalty continue. A big advertiser stopped advertising, a seven-station radio network in Mississippi dropped the show, and there have been calls for Savage's firing.

The group AutismLink circulated a letter Monday evening saying it is calling on autism organizations to sign a petition calling for Savage's firing. Tuesday afternoon the group circulated the following list of organizations and individuals it said have called for Savage's firing:
AutismLink, National Autism Organization
Autism Centers of Pittsburgh
FEAT of the Carson Valley, Minden, NV
National Autism Association
Mary D’Angelo, Parent, St. Louis Missouri
Autism Society of West Virginia, South Central Region
Henderson Homeschoolers
Las Vegas Special Needs Homeschoolers
Autism Society of York PA Chapter
Janice Bachert, New Berlin, WI
Mary Neumeier, Walden, NY
Aware4Autism, PA
Autism Connection, Marion Ohio
Autism Society of , Harrisburg, PA Chapter [sic]
Daniel J. Cavallini, Attorney at Law, Indianapolis, IN
FEAT (Families for Effective Autism Treatment), Louisville
Mary Pat and Steven Cantando, New York
Queens County Parents Autism Coalition (QCPAC) in Queens, NY
Autism Resource Network, Inc., Hopkins, MN
Brookings Area Autism Support Network, South Dakota
Autism Show U Care
Autism Spectrum Support Group of Lebanon County, PA
PEACE (Parental Encouragement for Autism in Chidren Everywhere), Lakeland FL
The FUZZ Foundation, Indianapolis, IN
Organization for Autism Spectrum Information & Support, Inc., Ohio
Lyme-Autism Organization, Portland, OR
My sense of this is that those who are calling for Savage's firing should calm down. Savage clearly has sympathy for children disabled by autism. His greatest offense was that his disgust over what he believes is people using autism for financial gain encouraged him to exaggerate the extent to which autism is overdiagnosed and the ease with which genuine autism (which presently is incurable) can be cured. The hyperbole was not helpful, but it should not be confused with an attack on the genuinely disabled.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:44 AM

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Government Pirates: The Assault on Private Property Rights and How We Can Fight It

David Ridenour shared news of a new property rights information resource with the National Center for Public Policy Research's email list last night:
Dear Friend,

I'm writing to tell you about an excellent new book – and exceptional resource – that will be released tomorrow, "Government Pirates: The Assault on Private Property Rights and How We Can Fight It." It was written by my friend Don Corace and I had the privilege of getting an advance peak at the book.

The book details a series of property rights horror stories, some that you've no doubt heard about, such as the Kelo v. City of New London eminent domain case, and some that might be unfamiliar to you.

Corace tells the story, for example, of Jim and Tom Stephanis, who fought the City of Pompano Beach to build a hotel on a 1.3-acre site where their restaurant once stood. They fought the city for 31 years, during which time the Pompano government officials stonewalled the project through bureaucratic shenanigans and frivolous lawsuits. The city even deliberately violated a court order. The Stephanis brothers won nine consecutive lawsuits and numerous appeals before a chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court intervened, ordering an appeals venue change and hand-picking the judges who would hear the case – a highly-irregular and controversial move. This was the turning point in their battle and the Stephanises ultimately lost millions they'd invested in the project. Within a year of their final blow – the U.S. Supreme Court refusing to hear their case – Jim Stephanis suffered a major stroke. Today he works as a wine manager for a liquor store. His brother, Tom, is retired.

Government Pirates provides especially good insights on how government and outside special interests collaborate to take away Americans' property rights. As a successful real estate developer, Corace has seen this process up-close, first-hand.

If you'd like to take a look at sample pages of the book or see where you can tune in to hear Don Corace talking about the book (he'll be on Hannity and Colmes this week, for example), check out the Government Pirates website. Journalists and bloggers can download a press kit or email publisher HarperCollins here. To pre-order Government Pirates right now, go here.

This book is not only a must-read, but a vital reference book for your library. I encourage you not only to purchase it, but to tell others about this truly important contribution to the property rights movement.

Best,

David A. Ridenour
Vice President
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:43 AM

Monday, July 21, 2008

David Ridenour will be on KSLR Radio

David Ridenour will be on KSLR Radio's Adam McManus Show in a minute or two. Listen live here. Topic: ethanol mandates and energy.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 4:04 PM

Friday, July 18, 2008

Media Flocks to Gore Speech on Energy; Mostly Ignore His Use of Gas-Guzzlers to Get There

Americans for Prosperity video shot outside Gore's speech

Apparently complacent about criticism from the Tennessee Center for Policy Research that his family's energy use at his Nashville home is more than 19 times greater than the average American household's, Al Gore has committed conspicious energy consumption once again.

In Washington D.C. Thursday to deliver yet another speech warning Americans about global warming caused, Gore believes, by excessive use of fossil fuels, Gore handed yet more evidence to critics who believe he's a hypocrite.

He did so by traveling to his speech in what almost certainly was an unnecessary entourage of three luxury gas-guzzling vehicles -- two Lincoln Town Cars and a Surburban SUV -- one of which was kept idling outside for twenty minutes, apparently to keep the interior cool for the driver, Mrs. Gore and the Gores' adult daughter.

We know this because the free-market group Americans for Prosperity took a video camera to the speech to film not only the Gore family's vehicle choices, but to interview Gore acolytes who declined sponsors' advice to walk, ride a bike or take public transportation to the speech. (You can see the group's very funny four-minute video online here -- my favorite part is the woman who tries to claim a taxi is public transportation.)

Gore's speech received a significant amount of media attention. I surveyed articles from major news sources (except for the Huffington Post, I excluded opinion columns) to see how many journalists covered Gore's decision to take three luxury gas-guzzlers to a speech decrying the use of fossil fuels.

Here's what I found in the first eleven news stories about this listed on Google News:
John M. Broder, New York Times, "Gore Urges Change to Dodge an Energy Crisis" - no mention of vehicles, but a very flattering picture of Gore

Dina Cappiello, Associated Press, "Gore: Carbon-free electricity in 10 years doable" - no mention of gas-guzzlers, but nice quote from Gore: "The answer is to end our reliance on carbon-based fuels..."

Steven Mufson, Washington Post, "Gore Urges Fast Energy Makeover" - ended the article by mentioning it and added a cute anecdote: "As people filed out of the hall, three black cars waited for Gore and his entourage. A young woman walked up to the first one, a Lincoln Town Car, and stuck a handwritten note on the windshield: 'I wish I were a Prius.'"

Zachary Coile, San Francisco Chronicle, "Gore challenges America to switch to renewable electrical energy by 2018" - no mention of luxury cars, but a nice quote from Gore about their use: "We're borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the planet. Every bit of that's got to change."

BBC News, "Gore challenges US to ditch oil" - no mention of cars

Nitya Venkataraman, ABC News (online), "Gore Wants Sweeping Energy Policy Change" - cars not mentioned

J.S. McDougall, Huffington Post, "Gore's Goal: What You and I Can Do" - no mention of Gore's energy use, but this comment by the author: "...we Americans will have to think small -- not globally, not nationally, not even statewide. This begins with your town. Your house. Your car. You. And me." (Not Gore?)

David Stout, International Herald Tribune, "Gore asks U.S. to abandon fossil fuels" - no mention of Gore's three luxury vehicles, but Stout noted that Gore was "no doubt aware that his remarks would be met with skepticism in some quarters." (I wonder why?)

Nadine Elsibai, Bloomberg, "Gore Urges U.S. to Develop Carbon-Free Electricity (Update2)" - no mention of Gore's own energy use, but quoted Gore saying "It's time for us to move beyond empty rhetoric."

CNN, "Energy crisis threatens U.S. survival, Gore says" - no mention of cars, but did mention the Gores' high energy use levels at home: "Gore's return to the political arena has drawn increased scrutiny, particularly of his energy use. In 2007, the Tennessee Center for Policy Research chastised Gore for 'extravagant energy use' at his Nashville, Tennessee, mansion. Gore subsequently has installed solar panels, a geothermal heating and cooling system, compact fluorescent light bulbs and other energy-saving technologies in his home." CNN gets credit for mentioning the Tennessee Center for Policy Research's research about Gore last year, but CNN reported the Gores' installation of alternative energy sources without noting that the Gores' home energy use went up an additional ten percent this past year despite these installations.

Elana Schor, The Guardian, "Gore calls for end of using fossil fuels for electricity in US by 2018" - no mention of cars
Of eleven news articles, one mentioned the gas-guzzlers Gore used to get the to event and one mentioned that Gore has been criticized for "extravagant energy use" at home.

Final tally (I'm counting CNN): two mentioned Gore's personal behavior; nine did not.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters, where comments are enabled.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:07 AM

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Cap and Trade Carbon Policies Could Increase Emissions, Says Justin Danhof

Cap and trade policies ostensibly designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions could have the opposite effect, says the National Center for Public Policy Research's Justin Danhof in an op-ed published today by the Christian Science Monitor.

That's because of an established principle of behavioral law and economics explaining that when a stigmatized behavior is turned into a commodity that can be bought and sold, that behavior tends to lose the stigma associated with it.

Writing in the Monitor, Justin describes a social science experiment in which parents were fined if they arrived late to pick up their children from child care. After the fine was imposed, the number of parents arriving late increased, because guilt associated with arriving late had been replaced with the opportunity to buy the right to arrive late, guilt-free. "Parents," says Justin, "were no longer 'arriving late,' but rather, purchasing extra child-care hours."

Justin continues: "A similar situation could occur under a cap-and-trade regime. Under cap-and-trade rules, the government places an artificial cap on the amount of carbon each regulated facility may emit. Facilities producing more carbon than they are allowed are required to purchase additional credits to make up the difference. The opportunity to purchase these credits creates a market where none previously existed. As in the example of the fined parents, the purchase of the right to emit greenhouse gases would likely reduce any stigma associated with doing so. Emission levels, consequently, could rise."

Justin says there are real-world examples of this principle at play in the global warming arena: "Al Gore says the risk of catastrophic global warming is so great that Americans should act immediately to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Yet his home uses 20 times more energy than the average American home, according to the Tennessee Center for Policy Research. That's OK, the former vice president assures us, because he purchases offsets to ensure that he lives a carbon-neutral lifestyle... If Mr. Gore could not purchase offsets, would he feel more pressure to reduce his energy use? The likely answer is 'yes.'"

The article goes on to cite works by Santa Fe Institute researcher Samuel Boles and columnist Charles Krauthammer, and to review the results of Europe's cap and trade program before concluding: "The social stigma of carbon emissions grows stronger each day. As this stigma grows, companies are increasing their investments into research and technologies to reduce and store carbon. If Congress removes the stigma associated with these emissions by assigning a price to them, it may not like the results."

The complete article can be read on the Christian Science Monitor website here or via http://tiny.cc/4HhHG. To send Justin Danhof a comment, write him at [email protected].
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 9:59 AM

Businesses Strike Back

In an op-ed in the Charleston Daily Mail Tuesday, David Ridenour writes about a business that is fighting back against unfair lawsuits in a creative way:
West Virginia isn't "almost Heaven," but "almost Hell" where its judicial climate is concerned.

But finally, there's some good news on the horizon. After years of being battered by the state's bizarre system of jackpot justice, sucker-punched businesses are beginning to strike back.

In late May, the West Virginia Supreme Court, historically a good friend of the plaintiffs' bar, voted 5-0 to deny a request by two major natural gas providers - Chesapeake Energy Corp. and NiSource - to hear an appeal of a dubious $405 million jury verdict that found the companies underpaid landowners.

At issue was the firms' practice of deducting production and marketing costs from the royalties they paid.

The Roane County trial court inexplicably found that leases specifying that the royalties are "an amount one-eighth of the price, net all costs beyond the wellhead" and "less taxes, assessments, and adjustments" are ambiguous.

Ambiguous or not, the court interpreted the language in favor of the owner.

A week later, Chesapeake Energy countered with an eye-opening announcement: It was canceling a $35 million commitment to build a futuristic regional headquarters on the outskirts of Charleston's airport.

Chesapeake spokesman Scott Rotruck tied the decision directly to the high court's denial of an appeal request that would have been granted pro forma in most states...
Read the rest here.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:46 AM

Monday, July 14, 2008

Project 21 Chairman Mychal Massie on the Death of Tony Snow

Project 21 Chairman Mychal Massie asked that we pass along his comments on behalf of Project 21 on the passing of former White House press secretary, columnist and Fox News Channel host Tony Snow this past Saturday:
America has lost a true patriot and is the poorer for it.

Tony Snow was the perfect embodiment of what a newsman should exemplify. A fighter to the end, while we mourn his passing, we applaud his victorious example.

Project 21 extends our most sincere condolences to his family, friends and the great nation he served selflessly.
Project 21 speaks for everyone at the National Center for Public Policy Research as well. Tony Snow was a great American, and he will be sorely missed.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:49 PM

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Jackson's Obama Comments: Should Fox Have Broadcast Them?

Matea Gold's Los Angeles Times story today lets readers know what a close call it was that Jesse Jackson's off-color comments made it on the air yesterday.

But for an alert overnight transcriber, Jackson's comments, meant to be private, almost stayed that way. What a loss to the public interest that would have been. Not.

I suggest that the public benefited very little from knowing Jackson's personal feelings on this matter, and that Fox was doing little more than spreading gossip.

Revealing all isn't always useful. Take the rush to report then-President Reagan's remark, meant as a joke, that the bombing of the Soviet Union "begins in five minutes"? Like Jackson's comment, it was said into a live mic, but it wasn't meant to be public.

What if the Soviets had believed Reagan meant it? The satisfaction a few reporters received by covering something the President didn't intend to be public would have been faint consolation had nuclear warheads rained down on our heads.

Sure, Reagan shouldn't have said it, but was it any wiser to report it?

I'm no Jackson fan, to say the least, and this Jackson issue is far less significant than the Reagan issue, but I think broadcasting Jackson's private comments was a bit rude of Fox. Jackson was a guest in the Fox studio, he said something that obviously was not meant to go out on the air, and Fox put it on the air anyway.

It isn't as though Jackson is running for office himself, and we already know Jackson has an inclination toward blunt talk. Fox told us nothing new and nothing important.

If Jackson had said the same thing by the sink in the men's room and a Fox employee overheard him, would the comment still be fair game? Does a live mic make all the difference? Would it matter if Jackson didn't realize his was on, or that it was sensitive enough to pick up whispers?

Are there any rules, or is it fair for journalists to print anything they overhear?

I do know of one rule the journalists put on themselves: The big media outlets mostly don't spy on their own personnel or one another. We can be sure that various powerful journalists have said things about politicians that are just as uncomplimentary as what Jackson said, but the journalists' comments almost never get reported. It's not because they're not newsworthy, as anything revealing the biases of influential journalists would be newsworthy. It's because journalists are extending a courtesy to one another that they don't feel obliged to extend to people who chose another line of work.

As I said earlier, I'm no Jackson fan, and as it happens, I generally like Fox and watch it often. But I don't think journalists should do to others what they would never do to themselves.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters, where comments are enabled.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 9:30 PM

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

A Segregation Without Perpetrator or Benefactor

A new New Visions Commentary op-ed by National Center for Public Policy Research Research Associate Reece Epstein says implementing voter ID laws can benefit the poor.

Reece writes, in part:
...Fighting voter ID laws rather than focusing on helping people comply with them champions a disconnected status, leading to further disfranchisement. Not only might people not be able to vote, but they also cannot protect and grow their savings, travel by bus, train or air, wire money or visit government buildings.

Put that in perspective. Denying that people need ID in our modern society sounds more criminal than virtuous. Theirs is a segregation without perpetrator or benefactor, but it is segregation nonetheless. Voter ID laws don't change that.

After spending lots of money on lawyers, lobbyists and grassroots campaigns to keep people from needing ID, might it be wiser to instead spend perhaps a fraction of that money on a non-profit group that is a resource to help those without ID?

Instead of perpetuating a flawed system that potentially disfranchises all voters, why not provide a public service. Don't know what to bring or where to get an ID? If it's not on the web site, someone can research it. Having trouble getting a birth certificate? Find out where to call. Need cab fare or money to purchase an ID? Fill out an application and get reimbursed.

The bottom line is that someone without proper identification is out of step. And those who want to keep them there are out of line.
Read it all here.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 6:23 PM

Congress Investigates EPA for Following the Rules on Clean Water Act Enforcement

Nick Loris has it right in this Foundry post.

Do Representatives Henry Waxman (D-CA) and James Oberstar (D-MN) really want the EPA to ignore a Supreme Court decision?

I believe acting outside of proper channels is the kind of thing that could get EPA administrators hauled before Waxman's committee.

Oops. They have been.

Next time, EPA, don't stick to the rules.

Congress is watching.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 6:17 AM

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Congressman Paul Broun Fights for Property Rights

A note on the fight to protect property rights from National Center for Public Policy Research Senior Fellow R.J. Smith:
To all --

Once again freshman Congressman Paul Broun from Georgia's 10th is on the House floor fighting for property rights.

Congress has been sending lots of bad Green Federal land grab bills to the floor under suspension of the rules, allowing no amendments, and very limited debate, and trying to sneak them by on a voice vote. This has given cover to a surprising number of GOP members, including supposed conservatives, who have been attempting to sneak some Green earmarked pork to their districts with no recorded vote.

Good ol' Paul Broun is down there making certain there are recorded roll call votes taken. The strategy: Stop the bills if you can. Make people think twice with a recorded vote. Hold the RINOs' feet to the fire.

If you haven't visited Paul Broun's website and seen his Congressional Property Rights Action Caucus and the weekly e-letter that his staffer Stephen Kraly sends out, do so. And get on the mailing list for the newsletter. And for those of you who remember Aloysius Hogan and all the great work he did with Senator Jim Inhofe: Aloysius is chief-of-staff for Rep. Broun. You've got some friends in an increasingly hostile Congress.

-- RJ
R.J. Smith is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research. To contact him directly, write him at [email protected].

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:35 PM

On Climate, A Little More Washington Post Bias

I believe the Washington Post knows perfectly well that the word "censor" does not belong in the lead of today's Juliet Eilperin story, but the editors left it in (or inserted it?) anyway.

The story, "Cheney Aides Altered EPA Testimony, Agency Official Says Ex-Administrator Says Official From Vice President's Office Edited Out Six Pages," begins:
Members of Vice President Cheney's staff censored congressional testimony by a top federal official on the health threats posed by global warming, a former Environmental Protection Agency official said today.
Bush and Cheney have been in office nearly seven and a half years now. That's time enough for the Post's staff and editors to get used to the fact that they were elected to run the executive branch, and thus they can alter any executive branch document, presentation or policy they darn well please.

That's not censorship; it's editing, policy-setting, or both.

Business as usual, when you run the government.

To be fair, near the end of the story, Eilperin's piece included this quote from the White House:
White House spokesman Tony Fratto noted that White House officials in past administrations have vetted congressional testimony from agency officials.

"There's absolutely nothing unusual here in terms of the interagency review process, whether it's testimony, rules or anything else," Fratto said in an interview. "The process exists so that other offices and departments have the opportunity to comment and offer their views. There's nothing unusual about that, there's nothing nefarious about that, and there's nothing different here from previous administrations."
Exactly right. In other words, the whole thing is a non-story.

Yet the Post ran it anyway.

Cross-posted on Newsbusters, which has comments enabled.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:44 PM

Monday, July 07, 2008

Idiots

If your kid says "yuk," he's a racist.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:19 PM

In Making Hurricane Predictions, NOAA Aims for Broadside of a Barn

With the news today of the formation of the first Atlantic hurricane of the 2008 season, David Ridenour comments on NOAA's 2008 Atlantic hurricane forecast:
NOAA may have finally figured out a way to get its Atlantic hurricane forecast right. It's predicting that the 2008 season, which began June 1, will be either normal or above normal.

Covering two out of three possible outcomes ought to improve NOAA's odds quite a bit.

After bungling its Atlantic hurricane forecasts badly both last year and in 2006, NOAA is no doubt anxious to avoid being embarrassed for the third year in a row. Last year, NOAA forecast seven-to-nine hurricanes (17%-50% above normal), but there were just six hurricanes, the number NOAA considers normal. In 2006, the agency also forecast seven-to-nine hurricanes and came up two short of its low-range estimate.

The difference in the way NOAA is making its prediction this year appears especially stark when you compare NOAA's 2007 and 2008 graphs. In its 2007 hurricane-prediction graph, NOAA represented normal, above normal and below normal by different colors.

NOAA 2007 hurricane prediction graph(click image to see full-size)

The 2008 hurricane-prediction graph has just two colors -- green for both near-normal and above-normal and light blue for below normal.

NOAA 2008 hurricane prediction graph(click image to see full-size)

Here's how NOAA explains it in its press release:
The Climate Prediction Center outlook calls for considerable activity with a 65 percent probability of an above normal season and a 25 percent probability of a near normal season. This means there is a 90 percent chance of a near or above normal season.
Funny, NOAA personnel didn't do it that way last year:
Experts at the NOAA Climate Prediction Center are projecting a 75 percent chance that the Atlantic Hurricane Season will be above normal this year—showing the ongoing active hurricane era remains strong.
At the time they were forecasting a 20% chance of near normal storm activity, which would mean a 95% chance of normal or above-normal activity. Guess the 5% swing really made a difference.

If one doubts that NOAA forecasters might be hedging their bets, take a look at the forecast range of Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE), a measure of total storm activity that takes into account both storm intensity and duration. NOAA's range keeps growing. This year, NOAA projected the ACE will be between 100% and 210% of the median. With a median value of 87.5, that translates to a range of 96.25. The range was 74.38 in 2007, 65.62 in 2006, 61.25 in 2005, 52.5 in 2004, 61.25 in 2003 and 35 in 2002.

The forecasts failed even as NOAA was increasing the margin for error.

Perhaps there's a legitimate reason why the ACE forecast range keeps growing, but it sure looks similar to someone shooting at a target, missing, then moving closer to target to make it a bigger target. You miss enough times and get close enough that eventually you can't miss.

NOAA won't need to clear a very high bar to be right with this year's hurricane season. It need only name 11 storms -- which ought to be a cinch with the newly-updated satellite equipment at its disposal. Eleven is an average number of named storms that NOAA says occur each year, but the number of named storms has risen not only due to better detection due to advances in technology, but due to changes in the type of storms that are named. Subtropical storms, for example, weren't named until 2002.

Here's hoping Mother Nature has a sense of humor.
David Ridenour is vice president 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 4:38 PM

Results and Implications

Steve McIntyre is lampooning the current state of climate science.

Read the comments for extra digs at scientists who cry "consensus" but won't release their (often public-funded) data, plus the usual good discussion.

P.S. Dittos to Indur Goklany's comment #10.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:32 PM

Frying Fish While Rome Burns

Keriann Hopkins is reporting for CNS News that the current gap between what's been allocated to pay Medicare and Social Security benefits and what's needed is $41 trillion.

With the number that high, one would expect the relevant Capitol Hill committees to be working this issue almost full-time (House Ways and Means and Senate Finance), but they appear to have other fish to fry.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:00 PM

Friday, July 04, 2008

Washington Post & Other Papers Lose 27th Amendment to the Constitution

Nearly two years ago on Newsbusters, I floated a proposal that newspapers require their editorial and other writers to police themselves for accuracy by requiring them to turn in footnotes with their copy. The process would force writers to check information they think they know that isn't so.

Had editors at the Washington Post, Hartford Courant, Sacramento Bee and Raleigh News & Observer taken my advice, they could have prevented a howler of an error from appearing on their opinion pages this week, in which a writer and fact-checking editors at all four papers apparently forgot the existence of the 27th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In an op-ed titled (in the Washington Post version) "Three Cheers for July 2," writer Andrew Trees writes:
The Bill of Rights as we know it also is not what was initially proposed. The original first two amendments, one of which concerned the number of constituents each member of Congress had and one regarding congressmen's salaries, were never ratified by the states. [Emphasis added] What we think of today as our First Amendment freedoms were actually third on the list.
Mr. Trees and his editors apparently have never heard of the 27th Amendment, proposed by Congress on September 25, 1789 as the second of Congress's first twelve proposed amendments, and ratified 202 years later, on May 7, 1992, when Michigan became the 38th state to ratify it.

The amendment, for those who may be curious, states:
No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of representatives shall have intervened.
The Washington Post has an extra helping of egg on its face, as it covered the lead up to, adoption, and text of "the first Second Amendment" on February 1, 1987; July 28, 1991; May 14, 1992; May 17, 1992; May 19, 1992; September 12, 1999; January 1, 2001 and April 6, 2008. Had Mr. Trees been required by the Post to footnote his piece before submitting it, he might very well have found it was a Post story that set the record straight for him.

I realize writers don't like bothering with footnotes, but -- as I showed in my original post on this topic in Newsbusters when I noted major errors in a Margaret Carlson column that would easily have been caught by a footnoting process -- accuracy would be improved by requiring them.

(A footnote of my own: I noticed when researching this post that when the first Second Amendment was ratified on May 7, 1992, both the Washington Post and New York Times turned to law professor Walter E. Dellinger III for expert opinion. On May 8, 1992 Richard L. Berke of the Times quoted Mr. Dellinger saying the first second amendment would not automatically take effect, because it had "simply withered and died" after it "failed to be ratified long ago." Ten days later, U.S. Archivist Don W. Wilson formally certified the amendment. Mr. Dellinger is something of an expert on the second Second Amendment, too: He argued for the District of Columbia in the just-decided District of Columbia v. Heller gun-rights case, telling the court in oral arguments that "the Second Amendment... is expressly about the security of the State..." No luck that time, either. His client lost.)

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:09 AM

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Drill

To burst the oil bubble, just use a drill, says David Ridenour, in an op-ed piece at least two dozen newspapers (another example here and here) have now run on their commentary pages.

A version of the piece (various papers have edited it differently) follows:
To burst the oil bubble, use a drill.

If Congress stands up to special interests and develops domestic energy sources, oil prices will tumble.

The U.S. has ample oil reserves.

For over a decade, environmentalists have prevented drilling for oil and natural gas in the "1002 Area" of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), an area in the refuge's Northern Coastal Plain set aside by President Carter and Congress for possible oil development in 1980.

At 1.5 million acres, the 1002 Area is less than 8% of the refuge. An Energy Information Agency estimates the amount of recoverable oil there at 10.4 billion barrels.

President Bill Clinton vetoed a bill authorizing drilling in ANWR under environmentalist pressure in 1995. Had he not done so, nearly 1.4 billion barrels of oil would likely be flowing from ANWR this year. That's equal to about one-quarter of our current imports.

Subsequent efforts to open as little as 2,000 acres to oil and gas exploration have failed repeatedly, but Senator Pete Domenici is trying again this year.

If you think oil prices are inflated, just get a load of environmentalists' claim that opening 2,000 acres to development would have a devastating impact on ANWR. The acreage involved is just 0.01% of ANWR's total.

The U.S. also has enormous oil and gas reserves in the Outer-Continental Shelf, but environmental lobbyists have succeeded in keeping these resources locked away, too. There's been a moratorium on offshore drilling since 1981.

The Department of Interior's Minerals Management Service estimates that areas covered by the moratorium contain nearly 19 billion barrels of recoverable oil, equal to about four years of U.S. oil imports.

But don't look for the Outer-Continental Shelf to be opened anytime soon. A U.S. House Appropriations subcommittee rebuffed an effort to lift the 27-year moratorium this month.

The U.S. also has considerable reserves of oil shale - a sedimentary rock that produces oil when heated. The Bakken Formation, located in North Dakota and Montana, contains between 3 and 4.3 billion barrels of previously undiscovered, recoverable oil while the Green River Formation, located in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado contains between 500 billion and 1.1 trillion barrels of recoverable oil. The midpoint estimate for the Green River Formation alone is three times Saudi Arabia's known reserves.

Environmentalists, predictably, argue that increased drilling would do nothing to reduce fuel prices.

Their first argument is that it will take a decade for these areas to produce oil.

But while production may be years away, the decision to drill will immediately burst the oil bubble created by investor speculation. Speculation has contributed significantly to the price of oil: Mary Novak of the economic forecasting firm Global Insights estimates that if speculation were eliminated, a barrel of oil would cost just $75-$80.

Why do many investors flock to oil? Because two American reserves are going in opposite directions. The Federal Reserve has produced a veritable gusher of dollars, driving down the dollar's value, while our oil reserves are kept below ground, keeping oil prices high. As long as investors expect demand for oil to grow and supplies to remain the same or shrink, they'll continue using oil as a hedge against the devaluing dollar.

Drilling would change all that.

The greens' second argument is that OPEC will respond to our domestic oil development by reducing oil output, keeping prices high.

The reality is that sustained high prices aren't in OPEC's long-term interest, as it provides incentives to oil development projects that wouldn't exist otherwise. The Rand Corporation estimates crude oil prices would have to be between $70 and $95 per barrel for oil development in Green River to be profitable. Once developed, it will become a permanent competitor.

The facts are clear: Developing domestic sources of oil will help end the energy crisis.

And with two-thirds of Americans now in favor of such drilling, it's time to act.
Note: Links to the Sacramento Bee, Fresno Bee and Raleigh News & Observer that appeared in this piece originally were removed when they went dead; a link to the Duluth News Tribune was added.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:01 AM

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Irena Sendler v. Al Gore

Irena Sendler v. Al Gore.

How would you have voted?
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:19 PM

He Joins the Military, Then Refuses to Deploy

David Ridenour writes this about Army sergeant Matthis Chiroux, a six-day Afghanistan veteran and current activist with Iraq Veterans Against the War who for political reasons has refused an order to be recalled to active duty, instead calling a press conference to denounce the war in Iraq:
From the AFP news service:

Matthis Chiroux is the kind of young American US military recruiters love. 'I was from a poor, white family from the south, and I did badly in school,' the now 24-year-old told AFP. 'I was filet mignon for recruiters. They started phoning me when I was in 10th grade,' or around 16 years old, he added.

Although educational standards have declined somewhat in recent years due to the increasing demands of the Iraq conflict, the U.S. Army generally tries to make sure 90 percent or more of its recruits possess at least a high school diploma. As late as 2003 -- that's the year the Iraq war began and three years after Mr. Chiroux claims to have been relentlessly pursued by recruiters -- 94 percent of new Army recruits had high school diplomas or more advanced degrees. You don't achieve these numbers by focusing your attention on poor students -- as Chiroux admits to have been.

Well, who are we to argue with him. He says the Iraq war is illegal and who would know better than a guy who "did badly" in high school. I wonder if he could help us with our grammar, too?

I believe him when he says he was "filet mignon" to recruiters, however.

Filet mignon means "dainty filet" in French.

Sure looks like one dainty filet to me.
David Ridenour is vice president 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 5:35 PM

Global Warming Computer Models Lead to Rise in Insurance Rates

If the global warming theory doesn't pan out, do you suppose the companies in this story will refund the extra premiums they collected?

Hat tip: Benny Peiser.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:34 AM

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