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The official blog of the National Center for Public Policy Research, covering news, current events and public policy from a conservative, free-market and pro-Constitution perspective.

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John Walton, RIP

I am sorry to learn of the death of John Walton in an air crash earlier today. He was quite active in the effort to improve educational opportunity for young people in America, and won a Silver Star for his service in Vietnam.

He will be missed.


Optional Attendance in U.S. Senate May Soon Be Official

From the June 27 Roll Call comes this:

As some party leaders are cracking down on absenteeism among their respective rank and file, a provision included in the Senate version of the legislative branch appropriations bill passed out of committee last week strangely enough makes it financially easier for Members to miss work.

Of course, nobody obeyed the old law anyway.

The proposed measure seeks to strike Title 2 Section 39 from the U.S. Code, a rarely used and mostly forgotten provision dating back to the pre-Civil War years that directs the Secretary of the Senate and Clerk of the House to deduct pay for each day a Member is absent from work except for illnesses.

Explaining that the 150-year-old measure hasn't actually been enforced since the 1860s, Jenny Manley, press secretary for Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), called the effort to strike the provision as it applies to the Senate "a clean-up provision. More of a technical provision than anything else."

Jim Specht, press secretary for House Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), said although the committee had not considered whether a similar provision could be worked out on the House side, it would be an item to be discussed in conference...

There's more here (subscription required).

Backers of repealing the law say that when a Senator isn't on Capitol Hill, that doesn't mean he isn't working.


Flag Burning -- The Real Question

The Washington Post says in a Monday editorial that flag-burning should not be banned because

Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech. The great power of this principle is that it admits no exception: not for the most odious racism or Holocaust denial, not for the most insulting criticisms of those in high office, not for cone-shaped white hoods or hammers and sickles, and not for burning or otherwise defiling the Stars and Stripes.
Point 1: Speech involves flapping gums, not flames.

Point 2: Despite the Post editorial's claim, exceptions already are made to the First Amendment's protection of freedom of speech. Examples include defamation, causing panic/harm to others, incitement to crime, obscenity and sedition (advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government).

A more insightful Post editorial would have tackled the question: Does burning an American flag, by an American, in America, constitute sedition?

If it does, should we ban the practice, or consider it consistent with our revolutionary heritage?



British Prime Minister Tony Blair's son Euan has accepted an internship at the U.S. House of Representatives -- with a Republican Congressman.


It Is Easy To See Why He Broke Up With Her

If a person hasn't learned to get their temper under control by the time they are 78, I guess it is hopeless:

Furious that their romance was ending, a 78-year-old great-grandmother shot her 85-year-old ex-beau to death as he read the newspaper in a senior citizens home, police said. 'I did it and I'd do it again!' Lena Driskell yelled to officers who arrived at the home June 10, according to testimony. Police said she was wearing a bathrobe and slippers, waving an antique handgun with her finger still on the trigger.

She is accused of plotting the shooting of Herman Winslow because she was angry that their yearlong romance was ending and he had found another companion...


Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Kelo

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review got right to the point in an editorial about the Kelo case: If on this day you think your home is your castle, you are a damn fool.


Heartland Institute on Kelo Eminent Domain Case

The Heartland Institute reacts to the Supreme Court decision in the Kelo case:

The U.S. Supreme Court has given a major victory to urban planners, large property owners, and government in the Kelo decision announced June 23. The major losers are those who treasure private property rights and the respect for those rights set forth in the U.S. Constitution and those with the least political power to protect themselves.

The decision says, in essence, that where a government has a "carefully considered development plan" which is intended to lead to economic development, enhancing the tax base and creating jobs, it has the right to use the condemnation power contained in the U.S. Constitution to seize the private land and transfer title of it to private developers as long as the government pays “just compensation” to those whose land is seized.

The 5-4 decision was written by Justice Stephens and joined by Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Souter and Kennedy. Dissenting in strongly written dissenting opinions were Justices O'Connor and Thomas, whose opinions were joined by Justice Scalia and Chief Justice Rehnquist.

The case grew out of a plan by New London, Connecticut to develop its downtown with a Pfizer facility, a marina, a hotel and residential units and shops. In its way were working class middle class homes and homeowners, including some whose families had owned their individual properties for well over 100 years...

The press release continues here, and I recommend all of it.

I can't help but re-read, though, that part of the Heartland institute release which read: "In [the government's] way were working class middle class homes and homeowners, including some whose families had owned their individual properties for well over 100 years..."


Reality of Kyoto a Blow to New Zealanders

From comes this story:

New Zealand's government is being challenged to justify the country's continued participation in the Kyoto Protocol after it admitted that complying with the climate change treaty will cost taxpayers about one billion NZ dollars (U.S. $714 million).

The news has rattled New Zealanders, who previously were led to believe that participating in Kyoto would earn the country millions of dollars in carbon "credits."

The admission is a blow for a left-leaning, green-friendly government, which last month announced that one of the world's first carbon tax regimes -- entailing higher prices for gas, electricity and coal -- would come into effect in 2007.

The opposition center-right National Party has called for an immediate formal review of the country's participation in Kyoto, accusing the Labor government of a major policy blunder.

"They were so intent on looking good to their socialist friends in Europe that they forgot the enormous cost to New Zealand taxpayers," National leader Don Brash told lawmakers in Wellington...

Is it rude to say "I told you so?" Probably.


Press Statement: Endangered Species Act Can't Work Without Property Rights Protections

We've issued a press release about the letter 53 groups sent to house Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo (R-CA).


Protecting Property Rights Protects Endangered Species

Husband David writes to share news of a letter he and others recently delivered to U.S. Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA), Chairman of the U.S. House Resources Committee.

This letter was sent to let him know how deeply committed many people -- including leaders of national and grassroots property rights, conservative and free market organizations -- continue to be to private property rights. It also is intended to let him know that we believe that the Endangered Species Act will continue to fail so long as it penalizes private property owners for good environmental stewardship.

We're continuing to encourage organizations to sign the letter and will update it frequently. Individuals are now welcome to sign the letter, too -- we'll just need you to send us your name, contact information, city and state.

And we welcome everyone to distribute the letter far and wide.


Climate Change: Cap-and-Trade is More Pain Than Gain

Efforts to encourage corporations to curb "greenhouse gas" emissions through a mandatory "cap-and-trade" scheme imposes a hidden tax on small businesses and amounts to a Kyoto-style rationing of energy use

At least, that's what we think.


Blacks Disproportionately Likely to be HIV-Positive, CDC Says

Project 21 has a new press release addressing the fact that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 47 percent of the over one million Americans who are HIV-positive are black.

The press release contains details about the CDC's statistics, released June 13, and comments by Project 21 members Lisa Fritsch and Malcolm Moore.


Regarding Lynching: We Are Today Victims No More

Project 21 issued a press release today on the U.S. Senate's apology for not passing an anti-lynching law.

The press release quotes Project 21 member Lisa Fritsch:

"I am all for the gracious acceptance of an apology that is due, or for apologizing when I am wrong. But just like giving credit where it is due, an apology only carries weight when it has meaning. And, in the case of the recent apology by Senator Mary Landrieu [D-LA] and her regretful cohorts on Capitol Hill, this apology doesn't amount to a hill of beans - at least not today.

"The lynchings of the past, while a sad place in history to recount, is exactly that - history. The best way to avenge this shameful history and make it relevant to us today is not to wallow in the apologies and regrets offered by senators who couldn't be in any way responsible for what occurred, but to supply our own closure by forgiving those who trespassed against us and moving on.

"History will offer all of us - every race, every nationality, group or peoples - some regrettable offense and transgression. From these traumas, we must heal if we are to move on. The best healing of these wounds lies in the power of our own spirit through our ability to forgive that which we cannot change. In this forgiveness, we can vow to change our future fate by not being the victim reborn of our past. With our opportunities today, we have the chance to avenge the past by making productive and fertile choices for an advanced and progressive future. In forgiving, we possess the power of a crusader. In seeking out apology from any place, however, we keep the posture of the victim. Instead, we can appreciate this truth: that while we may be born of victims, we are today victims no more."


Conflict of Interest

I quote The Nation magazine only with great caution, but it is reporting that Mark Felt (aka "Deep Throat") was, while at the FBI, "assigned the mission of unearthing -- and stopping -- Deep Throat."

This placed Felt, according to The Nation, "in an usual position. He was essentially in charge of investigating himself."


U.N. Ambassadors Say: Don't Link U.N. Dues to Reforms

This is counterintuitive, but anything Jeane Kirkpatrick is willing to sign deserves serious consideration.


Global Warming Insurance Policy

Physicist Gerald Marsh, a National Center Science Advisor, has a letter in the UK's Financial Times today. It responds to a June 9 FT editorial buying in to the "humans cause climate change" theory.

Marsh says, in part:

While the majority of climate scientists may believe there has been some slight warming of the globe, there is no consensus that the primary cause is due to emissions of carbon dioxide by human activity.

To claim that the status of the science has now exposed "the remaining sceptics as an extremist rearguard" is unjustified and insulting.

Marsh has a recommendation, however, for those who do believe human beings are causing global warming:
For those who believe that cost-effective steps to reduce carbon dioxide emissions are justified in the current climate of scientific uncertainty, there is a cheap insurance policy: vastly increase the use of nuclear power to replace coal-fired electricity generating plants...

Contrary to popular misconceptions, nuclear power is safe, environmentally benign and sustainable for many thousands of years.

Read it all here.


Socialized Medicine a Human Rights Violation?

Canada has a problem. Its government-run health system is deadly. Now Canada's Supreme Court has ruled that the system's long waiting lists violate the Quebec charter of human rights and freedoms.

More from the New York Times:

The Canadian health care system provides free doctor's services that are paid for by taxes. The system has generally been strongly supported by the public, and is broadly identified with the Canadian national character. Canada is the only industrialized county that outlaws privately financed purchases of core medical services.

But in recent years patients have been forced to wait longer for diagnostic tests and elective surgery, while the wealthy and well connected either sought care in the United States or used influence to jump medical lines.

The court ruled that the waiting lists had become so long that they violated patients' "life and personal security, inviolability and freedom" under the Quebec charter of human rights and freedoms, which covers about one-quarter of Canada's population.

"The evidence in this case shows that delays in the public health care system are widespread, and that, in some serious cases, patients die as a result of waiting lists for public health care," the Supreme Court ruled. "In sum, the prohibition on obtaining private health insurance is not constitutional where the public system fails to deliver reasonable services."

On January 12, 2005, Senator Ted Kennedy called for an expansion of Medicare to cover every man, woman and child in the United States -- government care from cradle to grave.

Waiting lists, an inherent weakness in government-run health care systems and a core issue addressed in the Canadian Supreme Court's decision, are not even mentioned in Kennedy's speech. Should Senator Kennedy ever succeed in getting his government health care proposal adopted, he'll find the issue is not so easily ignored in the real world.

Addendum, 6/14: The Heritage Policy Blog has additional facts and commentary on this issue here.


Deep Throat's Daughter

Deep Throat's daughter has an unusual personal history.


Sex Story or Property Rights Story? I Say the Latter

The Washington Post has a page one story Wednesday about the government of the District of Columbia seizing property where gay sex clubs have been located for some thirty years.

The city, says the Post, has "notified property owners that the city will make offers for their parcels, possibly by next month, and that it intends to force out those who don't move by year's end."

The reason for the land seizure is the city's desire to build a baseball stadium on the land owned by these establishments.

Essentially, the city is taking land owned by some private businesses for the benefit of the owners, as yet unknown, of baseball's Washington Nationals.

In a piece otherwise largely sympathetic to the owners and patrons of the clubs, the Washington Post never managed to use the phrase "property rights" even once. Yet, all things being equal, isn't it wrong for the government to take private property belonging to one private business and turn it over to the benefit of another?

Didn't the property rights issue deserve at least some mention?

Apparently Post editors didn't think so. They did, however, provide plenty of coverage of the sexual elements of the story.


Maryland Christian Preschool Opportunity -- A Rare Blog Endorsement

I usually leave the personal stuff out of this blog because, well, it is not a personal kind of blog. But I am making an exception tonight to tout the preschool two of my three children attended over the past year for these reasons: Because it is fantastic and because, for some odd reason, they don't have a waiting list right now for the 2005-2006 school year. (Last year at his time we were placed on a waiting list for the 2004-2005 program, and barely made it in.)

The program is the Kindergarten Readiness Program at the Annapolis Area Christian School. As the name implies, it is designed for children one year too young for kindergarten, and it specializes in getting them ready in every way. Also as the name implies, it is Christian, and it means it. Our pre-K kids memorized 24 verses each over the school year -- and were happy to do it, in part because they earned stickers.

Our kids loved the Annapolis Area Christian School and David and I could not be happier with everything about their Kingergarten Readiness program, including the friends they made and the dedication and friendless of the teachers and the other parents. So, when I heard they had unexpected openings left for the next school year, I wanted to put in a plug in this blog.

If you live anywhere near Annapolis, MD (we drove a half-hour each way and never regretted it), and are looking for a good school for a four-year-old, and you are seeking a solid (and fun) educational program with a Christian foundation, I urge you to give the Annapolis Area Christian School a look.