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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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Thursday
Jan062005

Social Security Blogging

Deinonychus Antirrhopus has some thoughtful posts on Social Security reform.



If you visit, read the comments, too. Some are excellent.

Thursday
Jan062005

Good Reading

If you have not visited Varifrank to read Today, I was "Unprofessional"..., you are missing a good post.



This Varifrank post is noteworthy, too.



As is this about the sudden death of a co-worker.



Hat tip: The Anchoress, another blog new to me that is really good.

Wednesday
Jan052005

Staples Boycotts Sinclair; Should CBS Be Next?

Husband David has just sent the following e-mail to Owen Davis of Staples, in response to news stories quoting Davis saying Staples now intends to withdraw ads buys from Sinclair News:

Dear Mr. Davis,



I read in today's Washington Post that Staples, Inc. pulled its advertising from Sinclair Broadcast news programming after it received complaints about perceived "right-wing" bias in Sinclair's programs. You are quoted in the article.



Please be advised that we have cancelled our Staples account and will not reinstate it unless we hear from you:



1. That the report is untrue, or



2. That Staples, Inc. is canceling advertising on all programs perceived as biased -- regardless of whether they are biased to the left or to the right. If this is the case, we'll certainly have some nominations to forward.



You should further be advised that this email is being posted on our organization's blog. We would be happy to post your reply there as well.



If "concerns expressed by [your] customers" are truly taken into account in Staples advertising decisions, as you suggested in the Post article, we'd be happy to send concerns in your direction.



David Ridenour

Vice President

The National Center for Public Policy Research
In addition, I contacted Staples by telephone about 4:30 PM Eastern. I was told no one was available to speak with me in public relations, but a friendly person took my name and number and promised someone would call me back tomorrow. I also left a voice mail on Mr. Davis' direct line. I asked him to call back as we have a number of questions, including: 1) Are the newspaper stories accurate? And, if so, 2) if Staples received a large number of e-mails from customers concerned about Staples advertising on CBS, would Staples stop advertising on CBS? I have more questions, but those are the two I left on his message.



I will post an addendum to this blog post when and if we receive responses from Staples regarding the advertising boycott.



For those who might think Staples should boycott CBS, or any other media for that matter, here are the three Staples e-mail addresses we presently have: Customer Service, Investor Relations, and spokesman Owen Davis. According to the Washington Post, Staples pays a great deal of attention to the emails it receives from customers.



The National Center for Public Policy Research is ending purchases from Staples until/unless we learn that Staples is not biased against conservatives. (In all fairness, it may be that they are not biased, which is why we did our best to reach them by telephone before we posted this on our blog, and why we will post any response we receive from them here.) Should others be joining us in taking their office supply purchases elsewhere, we can recommend Reliable Office Supplies. To be frank, we know nothing about Reliable's politics, if any, but The National Center has used them for over 20 years and been very satisfied. Reliable may be less well known, but it has national coverage, gets our stuff delivered to us very fast, their prices are good, and as far as I know, they have roughly the same inventory that Staples carries. So, if you are used to getting your office supplies delivered from Staples, and aren't quite sure right now if you want to continue to do so, be aware that you do have options. I know folks who run businesses can't simply drop suppliers without thinking through the consequences -- they need replacement suppliers, for one thing.



If interested, watch this post for updates. And feel free to e-mail me about this, especially if you have information (be sure to tell me if I can't post the information, or if you want to be anonymous).



Addendum 1/5/05 5:45 PM: Well, it has been 25 hours plus, and neither our call to Staples public relations generally nor our call to Owen Davis specifically has been returned. I said I'd give Staples 24 hours before concluding that their unresponsiveness meant anything, but they have used that time up now. Failing a response, I now conclude that Staples either 1) believes communication would make them look worse than they already look, or 2) talks to the mainstream media but not to this blog (I identified myself as the CEO of a conservative Washington think-tank, a blogger and a columnist with Staples), or 3) is too confused about life to know what to do.



Staples did post a statement on its website. I'll reprint it in full, all the better to fisk it (Staples, if you mind the copyright infringement, give me a call):
Statement about Staples media buying and Sinclair Broadcasting



In response to recent reports about Staples media buying and Sinclair Broadcasting, Staples has the following statement:



Our media buying process with Sinclair Broadcasting stations has recently been misrepresented by an organization with no affiliation to Staples. Staples regularly drops and adds specific programs from our media buying schedule, as we evaluate and adjust how to best reach our customers.



Staples does not support any political party. We advertise with a variety of media outlets, but do not necessarily share the same views of these organizations or what they report. As we have done for a number of years, Staples will continue to advertise on Sinclair Broadcasting stations.



Contact: Paul Capelli, 508-253-8530

paul.capelli@staples.com
Staples appears to be wanting to have it both ways here. They won't tell us which group "misrepresented" their action (one could speculate that it is MediaMatters.org, but we can't base conclusions on speculation -- for all we know, it is us), and they don't say what was "misrepresented." Staples doesn't deny media reports that it is withdrawing advertising from Sinclair News (seems to want to fudge the subject in its last sentence), and it does not claim its spokesman was misquoted in mainstream media reports that wishes of customers (presumably, e-mails from left-wing activists) played some role in its advertising decisions.



Our office was contacted today by both bloggers and talk radio; I have to think that quite a few conservatives are following the issue casually and that it will affect their impression of Staples. If I ran Staples, I'd stop the vague statements, start communicating, and be very clear about their policy. If they truly are nonpolitical yet made a mistake here, OK. Just say so. If they are political, that's their right. Companies are allowed to be.



Let me conclude this update with some links to what others have written about this today:
Bloggledygook did a little research to discover whether Staples CEO donated to Kerry or to Bush last year. The answer is "yes," go to Bloggledygook to see how much and whom.



The Redhunter has a lot to say, including:
What really irks me about all this is how cravenly Staples seems to have capitulated to this pressure campaign. Granted their first responsibility is to their stockholders. No doubt, therefore, the executives at Staples were looking to avoid financial loss. But they have miscalculated. This is a game that two can play, and conservatives can shop at office supply retailers other than Staples.
Dissecting Leftism suggest we help Staples "nip such nonsense in the bud" with a boycott and, perhaps, pickets.



CNSNews.com has a news story by Susan Jones.



Right Voices has a discussion going, with one commenter noting the irony that Sinclair operates some CBS stations.



Considerettes thinks Staples should be asked to stop advertising on NBC "for airing gossip about the Bushes from Kitty Kelley for 3 days straight on the 'Today' show."



WEBCommentary.com is amazed: "It is inconceivable that Staples would willingly throw away loyal customers to satisfy a bunch of sore losers on the Left. Yet that is, apparently, exactly what Staples has done!"



Cranky Neocon has some advice, plus this: "In related news, I have spent the last three years boycotting snotty, barely-sentient Staples clerks. The service was so consistently bad across two stores that I concluded that blank stares and shoulder-shrugs must be in the training manual." (If you visit, be sure to read the first comment under this post for a laugh.)



Common Sense Runs Wild thinks we should all contact Staples with questions. (And now has a second post here.)



Evangelical Outpost recaps the events that made the left angry with Sinclair.
If any other bloggers have weighed in, as I susopect is the case, feel free to e-mail me and, time permitting, I'll add a link to your post here.



Addendum 2 6:41 PM: Paul Capelli of Staples just returned my call. I am posting this quick to get out the basic message, and will elaborate ASAP with an additional update with details.



Basically, it was a good call. Staples believes the facts have been misrepresented by MediaMatters.org. Staples is NOT, according to Paul Capelli, boycotting or declining to purchase future advertising from Sinclair Broadcasting or from Sinclair News.



I wanted to get this online, but will post soon with more details...



Addendum 3 11:21 PM: See above for more on the Paul Capelli conversation, including the nuts and bolts of what he told me and some additional context.



Addendum 4 1:36 PM January 7: Media Matters strikes back here.

Wednesday
Jan052005

Easy Retirement Planning

Rich Tucker of the Heritage Foundation has the world's easiest retirement plan. Every year, he writes himself an IOU.



(He may have gotten the idea from this.)

Tuesday
Jan042005

Putin Critic Illarionov Demoted

Bad news: Vladimir Putin has demoted Andrei Illarionov, who differed publicly with Putin on global warming, the Yukos seizure, the presidential election in Ukraine and numerous other economic and political issues.



Good news: Illarionov wasn't sent to a gulag.



(One must look for the positive whenever possible.)

Tuesday
Jan042005

American Stinginess and U.N. Uselessness

Ed Haislmaier sent over this link to an opinion piece by Mark Steyn about the tsunami.



Sample line:

But the waters recede and the familiar contours of the political landscape re-emerge - in this case, the need to fit everything to the Great Universal Theory of the age, that whatever happens, the real issue is the rottenness of America.
Another sample:
If America were to emulate Ireland and Norway, there'd be a lot more dead Indonesians and Sri Lankans.
And:
So American personnel in American planes and American ships will deliver American food and American medicine and implement an American relief plan, but it's still a "UN-led effort." That seems to be enough for Kofi. His "moral authority" is intact, and Guardian columnists and Telegraph readers can still bash the Yanks for their stinginess. Everybody's happy.
Remind me: Why are we in the U.N?

Monday
Jan032005

House GOP Rule Change Reversed

Looks like Professor Bainbridge is getting his wish: Any member of the U.S. House GOP leadership who is indicted by a grand jury once again automatically will lose his or her post, even if members of the Caucus believe the charges are hogwash.



Here's part of how Roll Call is covering the story tonight:

Retreating in the face of a political furor and trepidation within their ranks, House GOP leaders surprisingly reversed themselves Monday night and reinstituted a party rule that requires any member of the leadership who is indicted to step down from his or her post. The rule change was originally made in late 2004 to protect Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), who is under investigation for his role in influencing 2002 state legislative races in Texas...



After weeks of political attacks from Democrats and government watchdog groups, DeLay himself offered the proposal to restore GOP Conference rules on indicted leaders during a meeting of all House Republicans on Monday night. It was accepted unanimously.



"[DeLay] felt that the arguments made this fall were still legitimate, but that the best thing for us was to restore the old rule and deny Democrats their lone issue," said Jonathan Grella, DeLay's spokesman.



Another top House GOP aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the reasons for the abrupt about-face were obvious. "The unsophisticated, transparent game the Democrats want to play, we will not partake in it," said the GOP aide. Democrats from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) down had been bashing Republicans on the indictment rule change since it was adopted Nov. 17.



Democrats immediately claimed a political victory Monday night.



"Even for the Republicans, it was too hot for them to handle," said Brendan Daly, Pelosi's spokesman...
Had it been up to me, I would have required an automatic, confidential vote of confidence by the entire caucus anytime a member of the leadership is indicted, with the expection that this nearly always would result in a leader losing his or her post. (I made some of my arguments about this in November in posts here and here.) I also, as anyone who read this recent post can tell, take a dim view of other branches of government taking over authority that rightly belongs to legislatures. I'm uncomfortable with the notion that a grand jury should have the de facto authority to determine who is in our Congressional leadership.



But this is Washington, and politics is politics, and the rule change looked bad. So it goes.



Addendum: Received this amusing e-mail regarding the House GOP's November decision to adopt the ethics/indictment rule change, and its January decision to reverse itself:
Whoa, wait a minute.... First they voted for it, then they voted against it?



Hummm.....



Debbie Swift

Monday
Jan032005

Blog of Brian McGinnis: Tips

The one for crayons caught my eye.

Monday
Jan032005

U.N. Claiming False Credit?

The United Nations may be trying to claim credit for tsunami relief work it is not doing.

Monday
Jan032005

Archbishop of Canterbury Believes in God

Couldn't help but notice the article headlined on Lucianne.com just now saying the Archbishop of Canterbury doesn't believe in God.







I know very little about this particular Archbishop of Canterbury (Rowan Williams), but when I read the January 2 Telegraph piece Lucianne.com refers to, I don't see that he says anything of the kind.



I suspect some folks are drawing conclusions from headlines. Never do that, especially on opinion pieces. They only rarely are written by the author, and often are written by someone who hasn't read the essay.

Monday
Jan032005

How Much Americans are Giving

This blog seems to be keeping close track of the amount Americans have donated privately to tsunami-related humanitarian aid programs.

Check the box at the top left with the picture of President Bush flanked by flags for a total and the PDF link to see how the total was determined.

Check the blog itself for additional interesting information on the topic.

Sunday
Jan022005

Michael Crichton Bribed by Rupert Murdoch to Question Global Warming, Privacy Group Says

This guy needs to calm down for the sake of his own health.



How does the Electronic Privacy Information Center know Michael Crichton's on the take from Murdoch, anyway? Do they have Crichton and Murdoch under surveillance?

Sunday
Jan022005

Don't Read Captain's Quarters Today

This post on Captain's Quarters, "Anti-Tobacco Efforts Get A Little Weird," is amusing, but don't risk the danger of reading it unless you are a trial lawyer or a state attorney general.



The powers that be decided long ago that voters and consumers should have little say when it comes to our national and local tobacco policies. That -- along with lust for money, fame and power -- is why they decided that tobacco-related issues should be settled in courtrooms, instead of by legislatures.



So don't read Captain Ed's post. You aren't worthy, and thus you may be injured (either by the consequences of making the wrong decision on the policy about which he editorializes or by unaccustomed pressure on your brain). Smarter people (so smart some of them got paid tens of millions for just one legal case) will decide how the tobacco issue will be handled.



We are serfs. Get used to it. Enjoy it, even. Just don't have a smoke. Or, rather, do. The sanctimonious states are addicted to tobacco money.



Addendum: Sharing some reader mail on this post:

Dear Amy,



This is a response to your smoking post. Here in Pennsylvania proceeds from the jacked up taxes on cigarettes are supposed to go for health insurance for poor kids. I know smoking is unhealthy but, by continuing the habit, I am doing it for the children.



I have one lit now,



Paul Phillips

Royersford, PA

Sunday
Jan022005

Revamping Social Security

This Washington Post story by Jonathan Weisman, "Revamping Social Security," isn't written precisely the way I would have done it, but it is very much worth reading.



Much of the piece is stuck in the "do we need to rescue Social Security?" mode, which is a question we should be looking at only in our rear view mirrors. The article, however, ends on a very good note with a quote from Charles Blahous of the White House saying: "We have to hold ourselves to a higher standard than a temporary fix...")



(A higher standard than intergenerational welfare dependency would be nice, too.)



The irony that Social Security supposedly was designed to protect workers is nicely and subtlety underscored in this quote, also from Blahous: "...it's not much consolation to the worker of 2025 that there was an understanding in 1983 that he foot the bill."



The Washington Post, for good and ill, plays an influential role in setting the Congressional agenda. When the Post takes an issue seriously, that issue tends to get attention. Placement of a story of this kind in the Sunday edition, even if on page 8, is an indicator that establishment Washington is beginning to prepare for the possibility of real work on Social Security.



The article begins:

In just 14 years, the nation's Social Security system is projected to reach a day of reckoning: Retiree benefits will exceed payroll tax receipts, and to pay its bills the system will have to begin redeeming billions of dollars in special Treasury bonds that have piled up in its trust fund. To redeem those bonds, which represent money taken in years when Social Security ran a surplus and used for other government operations, the federal government would likely have to cut other programs, raise taxes or borrow more money.
Continue reading here.

Saturday
Jan012005

Yukos: Who's On First?

Yukos says the German government of Gerhard Schroeder is helping Vladimir Putin finance the Russian state's takeover of Yukos assets, the UK Independent reports.



Meanwhile, a top aide to Putin attended the trial of ex-Yukos CEO and Founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky in Moscow Friday, UPI says.



When following the Yukos saga, one increasingly needs a scorecard to remember which people are on which team.

Saturday
Jan012005

Top Ten Political Blogs

LoveToKnow announces the top ten political blogs, in the opinion of their editors.



Actually, since they select ten blogs from the right and ten from the left, it is the top twenty political blogs... but who's counting?



...Just thought I would ring in the new year on a nice note.

Friday
Dec312004

The Trusting Nature of Relations

I'm convinced there is a whole lot more going on in U.S.-Russian relations than what we see on the surface.

Friday
Dec312004

Private Humanitarian Aid Impressive

I'm very impressed and humbled by the amount of private aid being donated to tsunami victims. In Britain, according to an online BBC report posted at 4 AM British time December 31, individual Britons already have pledged a whopping 25 million pounds (equivalent to approximately 48 million U.S. dollars). This is equal to an average of 80 cents per every British man, woman and child, a rather astonishing statistic. The UK Independent says private donations in Britain were being made at the rate of 1,000 per minute or 250 pounds (481 U.S. dollars) per second.



In Italy, mobile phone users alone reportedly donated the equivalent of nearly 15 million U.S. dollars. That's 27 cents per Italian on cell phone-based donations alone.



In the Netherlands, a similar cell phone campaign has brought in private gifts the equivalent of nearly 13 million U.S. dollars, equal to 83 cents for every Dutch man, woman and child.



I don't have a figure for total private gifts by Americans, but in the U.S., the American Red Cross alone reported receiving $27.9 million in donations as of noon on December 30, so the total being donated by individual Americans must be impressive indeed.



Private firms also are making significant contributions: Pfizer Inc is donating $10 million in cash and $25 million in medical supplies; Johnson & Johnson $2 million plus supplies, and J.P. Morgan Chase, $3 million. In addition, Abbott Laboratories is donating $2 million in medical supplies, Citigroup $3 million, ExxonMobil $5 million, Cisco $2.5 million, Wal-Mart $2.5 million, Altria $1 million or more.



Abroad, a Reuters report says, the British telecom firm Vodafone has pledged nearly $2 million, the Dutch financial services group ING $1 million and the German utility firm E.ON donated $1.4 million.



David and I made a donation tonight, after we reviewed the websites and financial forms of the following charities: CARE, the Salvation Army, World Vision and Christian Children's Fund. All have impressive records and, to my eye, solid financial reports. (As do many, many charities I did not mention here.)



Much of the news reports about the level of humanitarian aid being donated to tsunami victims has focused on government aid, but there is a bigger story to tell.

Friday
Dec312004

Brett Schaefer: U.S. Humanitarian Aid Underappreciated

The Heritage Foundation's Brett Schaefer provides the details rebutting U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland of Norway, who criticized the U.S. as "stingy" when it comes to humanitarian aid.



The U.S. is condemned for supposedly donating only .15 percent of our gross national income (GNI) in international development aid.



Schaefer's Heritage Foundation WebMemo, published December 30, notes the following in rebuttal:

The U.S. is the world's largest donor of such aid -- $16.2 billion in 2003. Japan is second at $8.9 billion.



The .15 percent of GNI figure does not include private aid donated voluntarily by Americans, but is limited to funds donated by the U.S. federal government after being confiscated from Americans. Private voluntary international development aid donated by Americans in 2003 is estimated by the U.S. Agency for International Development to be $33.6 billion in 2003.



The U.S. government's international disaster and humanitarian relief amount in 2003 was almost $2.5 billion. The governments of the entire rest of the world, combined, donated $3.4 billion.



The U.S. government donated nearly 70 percent of all the world's international food assistance in 2003.



The U.S. is a huge donor to United Nations-affiliated humanitarian programs and pays for 22 percent of the United Nations' overall budget.
Something Schaefer does not mention, but I will: Figures given for the U.S. government's international humanitarian aid almost never include humanitarian aid and works provided by or in conjunction with actions by the U.S. military.

Thursday
Dec302004

Bush's Aid Coalition

Sean at Everything I Know Is Wrong reports on criticism of President Bush's new Asian aid coalition.



One leftist critic complains that coalition countries (the U.S., Australia, Japan and India) lack the "moral authority" to provide aid to disaster victims. Only the U.N. has moral authority to act, she claims.



I think (and hope) most leftists would disagree with this silly woman. No one needs the authority of any government to perform a charitable act -- a fact that actually is beside the point, as the U.N. is not a government anyway, just a trade association for governments.