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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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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.

Thursday
Dec302004

The National Center for Public Policy Research Has New Headquarters

The National Center for Public Policy Research has just purchased a new headquarters on Capitol Hill.



Here's what our new building looks like...







Here's where we are on a map...







And here's our new contact information...



501 Capitol Ct., N.E.

Washington, DC 20002

(202) 543-4110

Fax (202) 543-5975

info@nationalcenter.org

Thursday
Dec302004

Gerald Marsh: CO2 No Pollutant

Physicist Gerald Marsh, who kindly advises The National Center on science issues, has a letter in the December 29 Financial Times:

Sir, While it is becoming increasingly fashionable to maintain that carbon dioxide is a pollutant, it was rather shocking to see the Financial Times buy into what can at best be charitably characterised as a form of "political correctness" ("The price of carbon emissions," December 27).



Carbon dioxide is a minor greenhouse gas that occurs naturally in the atmosphere and helps to maintain the earth at a temperature suitable for life - the principal greenhouse gas is water vapour. Carbon dioxide is essential to the growth of all plants. Without it plants could not grow and all animal life would die. In no way is this gas a pollutant. To call it one is misleading.



Calling carbon dioxide a pollutant is a political statement, not a scientific one. Behind the politics is the claim that the small observed global warming trend is due to the burning of fossil fuels rather than being of natural origin.



Despite popular perception, the 2001 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) did not show that human activities were responsible for global warming. Its conclusions were based on computer models of the earth's climate. However, the problem is so complex that the art of constructing such models is still in its infancy. The uncertainties are so great that the claim by the IPCC that "most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations" is "likely" to be unfounded. We do not yet understand the earth's climate well enough to be able to assess the long-term effect of the carbon dioxide that comes from burning fossil fuels.



The earth has been warming erratically for 10,000 years. That has been good, up to now, because it is what made the non-equatorial latitudes habitable. We can expect that warming trend to continue, no matter what we do about carbon dioxide.



Gerald E. Marsh, Chicago, IL 60615, US

Wednesday
Dec292004

Unnatural Fear of Orange

The Russian government, apparently, is afraid of the color orange.



And to think we once thought of the Russian state as a superpower.

Monday
Dec272004

Mrs. Victor Yushchenko

Every now and then, I read something in the newspaper that really knocks my socks off, and this is one of those times.



I just read John Fund's On the Trail column in the Wall Street Journal and learned that an old friend of mine, with whom I had lost touch, is married to Victor Yushchenko. Yes, that Victor Yushchenko (we all know so many!).



(That will teach me to keep up my Christmas card list a little better.)



John Fund calls her Kateryna Chumachenko Yushchenko; I knew her as Kathy Chumachenko, and a more pro-freedom Reaganite you could not meet.



I've posted some links in this blog to CodeBlueBlog speculating about the medical cause of Yushchenko's disfigurement. I was very much a detached observer of that medical matter, having no medical expertise. I now consider myself less detached. To the extent that Kathy has spoken out on the medical issues, and I know she has, I know you can take what she says to the bank. Kathy is a very, very impressive person in that she is -- I very much doubt she has changed -- extremely motivated by values. She is not a self-promoter and she is someone who works many times harder than everybody else and then thanks you most profusely for doing one tenth what she did.



I'll tell you something else: If Victor Yushchenko could win Kathy Chumachenko's hand, he's a worthy guy. She wouldn't settle.



I met Kathy during the Cold War days, doing rallies and events in support of freedom and democracy for the Soviet bloc. (She loved Ukraine deeply -- to this day most of what I know about Ukrainian culture is what she taught me -- but she cheerfully worked to free all the Captive Nations.) At the time, most people thought the Cold War would go on for decades. Only true believers did the work Kathy did. There was no glory in it; certainly no money (one usually had to supply one's own money) nor prestige. The mainstream media and even some politicians on our side of the aisle thought those of us working the issue were a little strange; maybe even dangerous. (Ending the Cold War would be so destabilizing, don't you know? And only warmongers actually criticize the USSR -- it just wasn't appropriate. The Cold War was just something we'd have to live with, and, anyway, those foreigners over there aren't like us, they like security while we like freedom -- who is to say which is better? Blah blah blah.) But Kathy wanted Ukraine to be free and she was in the cause because of that love. I can't say I am surprised to see that she is still on the job, because i never met anyone more dedicated to the freedom of her homeland than Kathy.



So now, fellow bloggers, I will go out on a limb -- a very sturdy one in this case -- and tell you that when you read tea leaves on anything related to Victor Yushchenko, look for comments made by his wife, and trust them to be true.



In the meantime, Kathy, in the unlikely event that you Google up this blog post, hello from Amy Moritz (now Ridenour). I don't think I've seen you in person since the 1988 Captive Nations banquet, but I am delighted to know you have been able to pursue your work for a free and prosperous Ukraine in such a significant way. And congratulations, too, upon your marriage and the birth of three children. I'll be watching the news coverage for a glimpse until I see the children at least once (I have three little ones myself now). I know you and your family are going through a lot. May God bless all of you, and may you be successful beyond your wildest dreams.

Sunday
Dec262004

"Mr. Rumsfeld, I Want You To Know..."

Wow.



This is not the Don Rumsfeld we see on TV. And the young soldier who spoke to him, well, that's why I wrote "wow."

Sunday
Dec262004

Surprise of the Year

From Haaretz.com on December 26, this headline on an AP story: "Russian Agency Okays State's Purchase of Yukos."



What were the odds?

Saturday
Dec252004

Unto You Is Born This Day

Luke 2: 1-14



And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.



(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)



And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.



And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem (because he was of the house and lineage of David) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.



And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.



And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.



And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.



And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.



And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.



For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.



And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.



And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,



Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Friday
Dec242004

New Vehicle Donation Law To Hurt Charities

Reason Online comes down hard against a change in federal tax policies that will hurt charities that finance operations by accepting donated cars.



I hope Congress will step in and reverse this change.



Here's an excerpt from the Reason piece, but I recommend you read the whole thing (better yet, print it and mail it to your Congressman).

...New laws that take effect just after the holiday season allow Uncle Sam to take more money come tax time. The extra money comes from those who donate their cars to charity, but discover that the amount they can deduct has shrunk dramatically. The truly humbug twist is who will get hurt by the grab -- charities that generate income from donated cars and the needy people they help. More than 4,000 organizations help everyone from battered women to single moms to disabled veterans, but Americans will soon have less incentive to support such efforts.



Beginning January 1 those who donate a car worth over $500 will be able to deduct only the amount the charity gets in resale, not the previously accepted Kelley Blue Book value. So if your old Chevy's blue book value is $2000, but the charity you give it to sells it for $600, you can only claim a $600 deduction. And if repairs were necessary, their cost must also be subtracted, and the deduction shrinks again. Since most donated cars are sold at auctions, they already sell for less than if they were hawked on a used car lot. Faced with dwindling deductions, more would-be donors will likely opt to keep their cars, sell them or trade them in.



The Salvation Army expects income at some of its busiest programs to drop 25 percent, and Christian Auto Repairmen Serving (CARS) expects a 30 percent drop in income. CARS sells donated autos and uses the money to provide cars to single moms and others in need of reliable transportation.



The new laws also dump new costs onto charities, most of which already operate on shoestring budgets. Charities that accept cars must now contact the donor within 30 days after they resell it, providing a receipt which the donor uses to claim his deduction. To meet such requirements charities must maintain databases of cars, donors and sales. CARS worries that the new regulations will double its postage costs, and the Salvation Army predicts that the added paperwork will hamper its activities even more than the lower deductions.



...We must assume that the government targeted this kind of giving precisely because Americans have given away so many cars. In 2000, 733,000 Americans claimed deductions for donated cars...



This puts the government in the strange but not unaccustomed position of punishing success. Automobile donation has been a tremendous boon to entrepreneurial charities who realized that many potential donors who were hesitant to write a check would be willing to donate a used car...
In case you are wondering, The National Center for Public Policy Research is not financed through donations of used vehicles, though David and I did donate David's Ford Ranger pickup truck to Goodwill in 2000, and took a tax-deduction for it. The truck was in great shape, but it is hard to fit three baby seats in a pickup.



Legally, anyway.

Thursday
Dec232004

Yushchenko: Is Alcohol His Poison?

As Ukraine prepares for yet another presidential election Sunday, CodeBlueBlog remains convinced that opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko's disfigurement is not a straightforward case of dioxin poisoning.



Worth a read, if you are following the story.

Wednesday
Dec222004

Fannie Mae and Jesse Jackson: NLPC Urges a Parting of the Ways

The National Legal and Policy Center is filing a Fannie Mae shareholder proposal that would, if adopted, preclude Fannie Mae from making future contributions to Jesse Jackson-run organizations.



NLPC also is applauding the exit of Fannie Mae Chairman and CEO Franklin D. Raines.



Read all about it here.

Wednesday
Dec222004

'Who's Your Baby?' Reality Show Probably Inevitable

Now that Fox is turning adoption into a reality show with its unfortunate 'Who's Your Daddy?' (should be called: 'Who's Your Sperm Donor'? -- real Daddies father ["father" is a verb]) reality show, I predict we'll soon see an even worse development. That is, a reality show in which newborn babies are taken from their parents and the parents have to guess which son or daughter is their own.



Addendum: Cliff Kincaid at Accuracy in Media says the media is already doing something very similar.

Tuesday
Dec212004

In the Red Zone: Iraq As You've Never Read About It Before

Jeff Harrell has just published an interview that made me want to do something I have never wanted to do before: Go to Iraq (although I would not like to risk my life quite as often as did Steven Vincent, the subject of Harrell's interview and the author of the new book "In the Red Zone: A Journey Into the Soul of Iraq").



Although I enjoyed that part of the interview when author Steven Vincent described telling off a reporter from al-Jazeera (which Vincent called "al-Qaeda TV") in front of a crowd of Iraqis and American GIs, this piece is much deeper than the us-versus-them (whomever "them" may be on any given day) plotline that characterizes so many of our discussions about Iraq. You really get a feel for what Vincent was seeing and feeling as he traveled through Iraq.



There is, for example, Vincent's view of Islam as he saw it practiced by Iraqis, and how it affected Vincent's own Christian faith. Or his discussion of the tremendous strictures placed on Iraqi women by their families and culture, told through the story of one particular woman he came to know and admire. Or his very constructive critique of how the western mainstream media is reporting events in Iraq, and how a chance in how reporters use a handful of words could vastly improve the quality of their reporting.



If you click just one link today, make it this one. You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday
Dec212004

La Shawn Barber on Blogs, Rathergate and the Future of Reporting

La Shawn Barber has just had her first piece published on National Review Online.



It is a great piece and fills a void in reporting. Called "The Blogosphere's Smaller Stars," it chronicles the contributions of lesser-known bloggers in reporting the Rathergate scandal.



I enjoyed the piece immensely, not least because she interviews a number of my favorite bloggers, but also because I enthusiastically endorse her message.

Tuesday
Dec212004

Amazon.com Unavailable?





Did Amazon.com crash today?



I'd guess the economy really is back.

Tuesday
Dec212004

Loving Laurie Fenner

Received the following succinct e-mail from one Laurie C. Fenner today: "EAT MY S___ LOSERS!!!!!!!!!!" (I deleted the expletive.)



The topic that has her enraged is unknown.



A quick google of her email address, Stealheadjoe@juno.com, finds one entry: A public exhortation that Christ "asked us only to LOVE!"



We love you, too, Laurie.

Monday
Dec202004

Christian Bashing in Time for Christmas 

I saw a bizarre bumpersticker on a car today. It read: "How Dare You Presume I'm Christian?"



My first thought: Some people just can't handle compliments.



My second: How egotistical do you have to be to assume that the people in the car behind yours are spending their time thinking about your personal religious beliefs?



I found a version of the "How Dare You Presume I'm Christian?" sticker available online here.



The website's main page says: "If you want it by Xmas, you must ship it 2nd day air."

Monday
Dec202004

Men of the Years





Men of the Years 2004, 2000, 1941, 1934, 1932, 1949 and 1940 and, in my opinion (and Ed Haislmaier's), photo of the year.



(Reuters photo by Larry Downing reprinted here with permission -- aka, I paid for permission, nice and legal.)

Sunday
Dec192004

Trent Lott and Don Rumsfeld: Calling the Kettle Black

Scrappleface has a fun news parody up about the U.S. Senators who believe themselves to be more capable than Secretary Rumsfeld. (Hat tip: David Limbaugh.)



Speaking of Senators who like seeing their name in the newspaper are criticizing Rumsfeld, I had to laugh at ex-Majority Leader Trent Lott's criticism of Rumsfeld: "I don't think he listens enough..."



There's the pot calling the kettle black. Here's a story from my infinite archive of boring Washington tales:



Back in '97, when the Senate was asked by then-President Clinton to ratify the chemical weapons treaty, many conservatives were very much opposed to ratification on national security and civil liberties grounds. Then-Majority Leader Lott was in charge of the Senate schedule. He could single-handedly delay or halt a vote on the treaty.



Knowing this, long-time conservative leader Paul Weyrich gathered the CEOs of about thirty (maybe it was more) conservative organizations to visit Lott (an old friend of Weyrich's) at Lott's Senate office, to explain why we were concerned about the treaty. It was a pretty good group, full of very serious people, many of whom you would have heard of. As I recall, a significant number had flown in to D.C. specifically for the meeting.



Well, we showed up on time, but Lott was late. And later, and later, and later. Every now and then, some minion would come in and tell us he was still coming but he had some important meeting to finish. (I suspect we would have left, but when people have flown in to a city specifically for a meeting, it tends to make it harder to walk out.) Finally, Lott shows up, about an hour and a half late to a meeting in this own office, and proceeds to make it very clear that he isn't paying the slightest attention to any argument made about the substance of the treaty. I have been to many, many meetings with Congressmen and Senators over the years (I will get critical e-mails from people because I wrote that last bit -- they will say I am boasting), some of which broke down to the point that the elected official was red-faced and screaming. But although Lott did keep his "official (polite) face" on, I have never, ever seen any elected official so thoroughly convey to a group of people that he had no respect whatsoever for anything they thought or had to say.



Keep in mind that this is a guy who supposedly was a conservative Majority Leader. He wasn't even polite enough to pretend he was listening. I can't imagine why he agreed to the meeting, if he wasn't willing to pretend he didn't think we were beneath his notice. Why take time out of his day just to offend people?



Also, why not listen? Treaties are very important things. Listening does not take longer than acting openly dismissive.



Let's put it this way: If Trent Lott ever talks to the Indiana Pacers, he's a dead man. They don't wait seven years and then blog about it when they get dissed.



So, when Trent Lott says Don Rumsfeld doesn't listen, I scoff. I also note that when you read the Mississippi news media instead of the national press, Lott's real complaint about Rumsfeld becomes clear: Rumsfeld isn't shoveling enough pork to Mississippi.



Lott doesn't want to be heard -- he wants to be fed.



Speaking of Senators who criticize Rumsfeld: Blogger Ed at Captain's Quarters says: "If [Senator Norm] Coleman has lost confidence in Rumsfeld to the point of threatening an investigation over the armor issue, then the White House -- as I said yesterday -- has a potential meltdown with its own loyalists in the Senate. It's becoming apparent that the GOP expected Bush to replace Rumsfeld in the second term and are quite unhappy with his failure to do so. This has to be about more than up-armoring Humvees; something else is at play here."



I usually agree with Ed but I think he's in left field here. The GOP did not expect Bush to replace Rumsfeld. What is going on here is that the mainstream media, aided by a few who either genuinely disagree with Rumsfeld, find their careers at odds with Rumsfeld's, who are running for something or helping someone who is, is going after Rumsfeld. This means that Senators who speak out about Rumsfeld GET INK. ('Nuff said?)



(Side note: Do you suppose that maybe someone in the established conservative press -- by which I mean a publication with paid subscribers -- could be looking for a prestigious White House staff job if McCain should happen to be elected in '08? And maybe is writing copy accordingly?)



Captain Ed has spoken highly about Norm Coleman, citing particularly his work on the oil-for-food scandal. I, too, was impressed by what I have seen of Coleman's work on oil-for-food. Yet, I am very much concerned about any Senator who plays to the MSM peanut gallery this early in a Senatorial career. It usually takes them longer to be corrupted.



Postscript on the chemical weapons treaty: Back in '97, Lott not only scheduled the chemical weapons treaty for a vote, but voted for it himself. A 1997 letter quoting Judge Robert Bork about the treaty said that, if it were ratified, foreign states would have the right to inspect U.S. facilities without the grounds essential for a search warrant, even over opposition from the owner. On-site personnel could be compelled to answer questions, provide data, and permit searches of anything within the premises -- including records, files, papers, processes, controls, structures and vehicles.



Don't you just love thinking that this is the law of the land now, given the way much of the world feels about the United States?



Well, if you can actually get him to listen, thank Trent Lott.