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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 Samples: Defund Everyone

John Samples of the Cato Institute explains why the Armstrong Williams affair is just the tip of the iceberg: The Bush Administration, he says, "spent $250 million on public relations during its first term," while President Clinton spent about $128 million on publicity during his second term.

A far bigger point, however, and one which Samples makes in his conclusion, is that the government should not be providing subsidies to politically-active groups. Samples doesn't give a figure for federal government grants to groups of this type, but I bet the figure would make $250 million seem like a pittance.

Jonathan Adler has more on the subject on The Commons Blog, with links to information about sizable federal grants to environmental organizations.


First Annual Flat Earth Award

This is an award I would love to earn. But I have to admit that the three finalists are more worthy choices than I. Great men, all.

And, alas, regardless of how hard I work to spread the truth about the global warming theory, I probably won't get a chance to win in future years, since the award for best truth-telling is being awarded by students as part of the course work in a Middlebury College class. The kids are bound to lose interest as soon as they aren't getting college credit for the enterprise.

The class is called "Building the New Climate Movement" (is this climate science or political science?), and it is taught not by a climate scientist, but by an Assistant Professor of Economics.

I majored in economics myself, but I don't recall ever being asked to build a greenie movement for credit. (Back in the old days, we were so deprived.)

The kids cite this article as proof of a scientific consensus in favor of the global warming theory.

I wonder what the kids think of this -- assuming the fine economists at Middlebury College (tuition and fees $40,400 per year) have told them about it.

Is it fair to expect impartial scholarship for a mere forty grand a year?


Previewing the Volcker Investigation

The Heritage Foundation has released a paper providing guidance on how to judge the report the Volcker Investigation is releasing today.

Heritage's Nile Gardner says there is a "strong possibility" the report will be a "whitewash of most of the U.N.'s leadership, including the Secretary-General."

The Volcker Committee lacks, Gardner says, the powers it needs to conduct a full inquiry:

The Independent Inquiry Committee is severely handicapped by its dearth of investigative power. Even if it wanted to, the committee clearly does not possess the means to fully investigate this gigantic scandal. As outgoing U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Danforth has pointed out, the IIC is not equipped with the necessary tools to conduct a thorough investigation:
The fact that [Volcker] doesn't have subpoena power, he doesn't have a grand jury, he can't compel testimony, he can't compel production of documents and witnesses and documents that are located in other countries might be beyond his reach...

Those are tremendous handicaps.... [W]hat is possible, is that his focus would move from the bad acts, from the criminal offenses to something that he will view as more manageable - namely the procedures and was it a tight enough procedural system, which might be interesting but not the key question to investigate.
At the same time, there are also major questions regarding the independence of the Volcker Committee.... It remains unclear how many former U.N. employees are involved with the committee. It is self-evident that a truly independent inquiry into U.N. corruption should not be staffed either by former U.N. employees or by any other people with significant ties to the U.N.

Without any kind of external oversight, the Volcker Committee is clearly open to U.N. manipulation...
Addendum, Feb. 4: Everything I Know Is Wrong has a good write-up of the Volcker report.


State of the Union Reaction

We've seen the Democratic Congressional leadership's "prebuttal" to the President's State of the Union Address.

Here's the other side of the coin, from some conservative Republicans in the House:

"It takes a lot of courage for any politician to touch the so-called 'third rail of politics.' By laying out a vision for Social Security reform that guarantees benefits for current retirees and creates personal savings accounts for younger workers, President Bush has shown that he's more concerned about preserving and improving the program than he is about partisan political fallout."

- Rep. Jeff Flake, AZ-6

"As the leader of energy policy in Congress, I was encouraged by the president's remarks regarding our need to decrease dependence on foreign sources of oil. I am determined to fight on Capitol Hill for a comprehensive energy policy that meets America's energy needs while reducing our reliance on other nations for help, and look forward to the support of the White House."

- Rep. Joe Barton, TX-6

"As President Bush made clear tonight, freedom is a priceless right. Whether it is in the form of joyous new voters in Afghanistan and Iraq or in the form of financial freedom here at home through responsible Social Security reform and tax reform, freedom must be promoted and defended. I share President Bush's bedrock embrace of freedom and his desire to create an 'ownership society.' I look forward to working with President Bush on policies that will enhance liberty and make the American dream a reality for more people."

- Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, FL-25

"George Bush is a leader who has proven he is not afraid to tackle tough issues head on. I look forward to working with the President to spread freedom and hope around the world, strengthen families here at home, and reform those programs that simply cannot meet the demands of tomorrow. In the end, these policies will make our nation safer and stronger and our future more secure."

- Rep. Joe Pitts, PA-16

"I agree with the President that there is a real need for responsible reform of our broken social security system. I support creating personal accounts that allow younger workers to invest a portion of their contribution, while still protecting the benefits many seniors depend on."

- Rep. Dan Burton, IN-5

"President Bush really made the case for bi-partisan support on a lot of these issues. The things he discussed - strengthening Social Security, making America safer, celebrating freedom - these aren't Republican or Democratic issues, they're American issues. We've got a lot on our plate this year, but I think the President's optimism will be contagious and we'll accomplish a lot, too."

- Rep. Phil Gingrey, GA-11

"I share the gratitude of the President - and the American people - for the amazing job being done by the men and women of the United States military who are fighting for freedom around the world. The success of elections in Iraq and Afghanistan speaks to the courage of our men and women in uniform and the Iraqi and Afghan people - and is an encouraging step forward in the pursuit of freedom and democracy throughout the world."

- Rep. John Kline, MN-2

"By speaking of his support for our troops and his determination to win the war on terrorism, President Bush continued to provide the resolute leadership that Americans need during a time of war. I'm proud and supportive of President Bush's vision to keep our nation safer by advancing freedom in the world."

- Rep. Joe Wilson, SC-2

"President Bush has set a bold second term domestic agenda and pledged to continue the effort to protect and advance freedom across the globe. Although this aggressive plan will likely encounter political resistance, it is important to recognize that the President's leadership will foster greater security for future generations, both at home and abroad."

- Rep. Tom Feeney, FL-24

"The health of every American is important to me both as a congressman and as a physician. President Bush's State of the Union Address has set out a bold agenda. We are in a health care revolution poised to make incredible changes. Through my work on the Energy and Commerce Committee, I plan to make America's health care the standard by which all others are judged."

- Rep. Michael C. Burgess, TX-26

"From continuing to wage the war on terror, to creating new opportunities for every American, President Bush's State of the Union Address serves as a blueprint for a new era of freedom, security and prosperity. I look forward to working with the President as we forge the policies that will move America forward."

- Rep. Connie Mack, FL-14

"Although politically perilous issues, energy, tax reform and social security must be addressed; This President is obviously the right man for that job. We can't confuse the seeming stoicism of the Democrats with their obvious politics of obstruction that are stifling this country from forward progression. The President's bold agenda in every arena, including a comprehensive energy plan and urgent social security reform, will save future generations from having to spend trillions of dollars that could mean the vital difference between a bitter America and a better America."

- Rep. George Radanovich, CA-19

"President Bush's commitment to driving perpetrators of terror back into their foxholes continues to bear fruit. Just three days ago - amidst intimidation, threats, and actual violence - the people of Iraq spoke out against the past oppression of Saddam Hussein and his dynasty of tyrants and spoke loudly for democracy. I was privileged to witness first hand, during my visit to Iraq this weekend, the unfolding of democracy that has resulted from the President's steadfast leadership and dedication to extending freedom and liberty."

- Rep. Judge Ted Poe, TX-2


John Howard Defends U.S. to Europeans has a report that will cheer anyone who wonders why America is not appreciated more overseas.

Hint: It has to do with Australia's John Howard accusing some European nations of "ridiculous" anti-Americanism.


Heritage Policy Weblog: Blacks, Social Security and the Associated Press

The Heritage Foundation's Heritage Policy Weblog chides the Associated Press for saying that "only" the Heritage Foundation has said that the present Social Security system cheats African-Americans.

Hey AP, haven't you ever heard of Google?


NAACP to IRS: Drop Dead

This story about the NAACP refusing to comply with an IRS request for documents -- a typical IRS action in an audit of this type -- amazes me. Does the NAACP really think it can retain its tax-exempt status while refusing to comply with an audit -- or are the documents the IRS wants so damning, the group has little choice but to try a hail-Mary strategy?

As the AP reports it:

The NAACP, the nation's oldest civil rights organization, is refusing to cooperate with an IRS investigation into whether its chairman made an improper political speech, charging that the timing of the probe was itself politically motivated.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said in October that the group's tax-exempt status was under review after its chairman, Julian Bond, gave a speech that criticized President Bush.

In a letter to the IRS on Thursday, NAACP attorneys said the group will not hand over documents requested in the probe and argued that the IRS followed improper procedure by launching its exam before the group filed its 2004 tax return...

...The IRS could request that the Justice Department ask a federal court to enforce the summons and hand over the requested documents.
Under tax law, charities are not allowed to endorse candidates or support their election or defeat. Without taking a position on whether the NAACP did this, I can say (speaking as the CEO of an organization that operates under these rules) that there is nothing you can say on your tax return that makes it OK to engage in otherwise prohibited political activity.

Perhaps the NAACP thinks it can intimidate the IRS into backing down. I am skeptical that it can.

This matter makes the resignation of Kweisi Mfume as the NAACP's president, which became effective just a few weeks ago, all the more interesting in retrospect. Perhaps the resignation is unrelated, but it is worth noting that Mfume resigned rather unexpectedly before the audit began, but after the IRS's intention to conduct an audit became known to the NAACP. Perhaps Mfume perceived the audit would prove to be a painful experience for the group -- and preferred not to be associated with the results?


Patrick Moore: "Environmental Movement Has Lost Its Way"

The National Center's Ryan Balis has suggested I recommended this Miami Herald op-ed by Patrick Moore to blog readers.

Moore is a founder of the environmental group Greenpeace.

In the op-ed, Moore explains why he left Greenpeace ("By the mid-1980s, the environmental movement had abandoned science and logic in favor of emotion and sensationalism. I became aware of the emerging concept of sustainable development: balancing environmental, social and economic priorities. Converted to the idea that win-win solutions could be found by bringing all interests together, I made the move from confrontation to consensus.").

He also complains that the present day environmental movement brings us "environmental policies that ignore science and result in increased risk to human health and ecology," and explains. Sample sentences:

On Greenpeace wanting to ban vinyl: "Apart from lowering construction costs and delivering safe drinking water, vinyl's ease of maintenance and its ability to incorporate anti-microbial properties is critical to fighting germs in hospitals."

On nuclear power: "Nuclear energy is the only nongreenhouse gas-emitting power source that can effectively replace fossil fuels and satisfy global demand."

On activists who want to stop tree harvesting: "If we want to retain healthy forests, we should be growing more trees and using more wood, not less."

On the campaign against salmon farming: "Salmon farming takes pressure off wild stocks, yet activists tell us to eat only wild fish. Is this how we save them, by eating more?"

I'd like to quote more, but then I would be quoting the whole thing.


Maybe the Teachers' Union Should Sit in the Corner for a While

Washington State's Evergreen Freedom Foundation is wryly noting the National Education Association's participation in this week's national "No Name-Calling Week," because the NEA's Washington affiliate has referred to Evergreen and its staff as "lying dirtbags," "hate group," "evil band of zealots" and "trolls."


Most Outrageous Lawsuits of 2004

Randy Cassingham has just announced the winners of the True Stella Awards for the most "wild, outrageous, or ridiculous lawsuits" of 2004.

You can read a short summary of all six winning lawsuits here.


Optimistically Cynical

From Cranky Neocon:

Today, I am going to be a misty-eyed optimist. Tomorrow, I'll probably read that over seven million Iraqis are actually CIA operatives.


Glad He's Back

I never pictured Beldar with a beard...


How the Democrats Can Win

My two bits to the present discusson on Instapundit on how to save the Democratic party...

When the Democratic party has something to offer, policywise, that voters prefer to what the GOP offers, the Democrats will do better at the polls.

That may seem like a "well, duh!," but that's what it will take.

Sure, they might win some major elections here and there (such as Clinton's two terms), but if the Democrats really want to reestablish themselves as the majority party, they have to present a coherent, consistent and appealing policy platform, and market it well.

Right now the Democrats are defining themselves as the "anti-Republicans." That's honest, but it does not tell voters how they will govern. And it (mostly) limits the party's appeal to those voters who already dislike Republicans. Where's the appeal to the voters who dislike both parties, or sort-of like each?

So, perversely, if the Democrats want to win elections what they need to do is stop worrying about winning elections and start working harder on what they would do if they did win.

For example, they might start by getting together on what they want to do about health care, an issue they talk about a lot, but never seem to do much about (Mrs. Clinton's disaster notwithstanding, and even her plan was never seriously proposed as legislation -- in fact, it was proposed in Congress by a Republican, Dick Armey, who did it just to watch it die).

The Democrats, speaking generally, want government-run health care. But even with this degree of broad agreement, they don't bother to get together behind a plan.

Last week, John Kerry had a major press conference to tout his plan to have the federal government block-grant cash to the states if the states offer expanded health care coverage. On January 12, Ted Kennedy had a major press conference calling for the expansion of federal Medicare coverage to every man, woman and child in the United States within ten years.

So we have two liberal Massachusetts Democrats who supposedly get along offering two differing versions of the road to socialized medicine in the same month. If Kerry's and Kennedy's goal was to enact policy, they'd get together behind the scenes and work together to push one plan. But if their goal is to maximize press coverage, and stop Bush from succeeding, well, two press conferences saying any old thing, as long as it is not what Bush is saying, will do just fine.

The day the Democrats stop trying to maximize their press coverage and start trying to maximize their efforts to actually deliver something for the people that the people want (which won't be socialized medicine, but that's something to discuss at another time) will be the day they take their biggest step back to power.

In the meantime, watch for them on TV. They'll be the ones titled "minority."


David Almasi: I Am a Pet Owner

NCPPR executive director David W. Almasi asserts his dominance:

My wife and I adopted a dog a few months ago and now have Madison (a corgi/sheltie mix) enrolled in obedience training at a local pet store.

After Maddie performed exceptionally well at finding me hiding behind a stack of dog food, the instructor remarked on how excited she was to find her... [long pause] ummm... "owner."

It took the instructor about 20 seconds of indecision to identify me as a pet "owner" rather than a guardian to a companion animal or some other sort of politically collect claptrap.

(I'm not sure if he was trying to not offend the humans or the dogs.)

Doing away with the notion of pet ownership is a disturbing trend that is promoted by the animal rights movement. San Francisco has gone along -- it even formally threw out the term pet owner altogether.

When we first adopted Maddie, I was a bit taken aback by the fact that we went through three rigorous interviews before getting the green light. I know there are people out there with bad intent that need to be identified and weeded out, but one look at my wife's eager face should have been able to convince anyone of her unconditional love for about 20 of the dogs up for adoption at the time. Since then, we have been a one-stop shop of care giving for Maddie: Three walks a day, free-flowing premium dog food, treats and toys out the wazoo, free health care, chauffer service to the doggy park and constant attention when we're home (to the dismay of our two cats).

We also know that we are responsible for cleaning up after her, keeping her from harm and from harming others. Along with lacking an opposable thumb, Madison also lacks the conscience and judgment that sets humans apart from beasts. That's what defines our relationship as ownership as opposed to guardianship.

Changing the terms of the human-pet relationship is just another step in the true goal of the animal rights movement: The total extinction of pets. Dr. Elliott Katz, president of the animal rights group In Defense of Animals cheered San Francisco's change in semantics in 2003, saying, "The term 'guardian' denotes a positive relationship and mutually beneficial bond between two living beings, where constant care, attention, and affection are necessary for a thriving relationship. It instills respect for and appreciation of our companion animals." It's a bit deceptive, considering his 1993 statement in which he said, "It is time we demand an end to the misguided and abusive concept of animal ownership."


Bloggers: Increase Your Blog Traffic

Blogger Alert: Norman at Expresso Sarcasm has found a sure-fire way to increase blog traffic.

What's more, it's free.


Repudiating Ann Coulter

Very many conservatives have spent years explaining to their fellow Americans and to people overseas that the United States is not aggressive toward other nations, that our military policy is based on national security and that we genuinely wish other nations well.

Then there is Ann Coulter.

Unendingly trotted out on the Fox News Channel in the guise of someone representative of modern American conservatism, Coulter is seen here speaking about Canada in this undated clip from Hannity and Colmes. Some snippets:

When you are allowed to exist on the same continent as the United States of America…

They had better hope the United States doesn’t roll over one night and crush them…

They are lucky to be allowed to exist on the same continent…

I have no problem with criticizing Canada (I do it myself here, for example). But remarks like Ann’s in this clip are worse than damaging to conservatism — they hurt the United States. These ideas need to be repudiated as utterly unrepresentative of the philosophy of any significant segment of the United States.

One has an obligation to speak responsibly. The greater the audience one has, the more important it is to do so. I sometimes wonder if the New Media realizes that there is more to breaking up the monopoly that was the Old Media than simply dancing on the Old Media’s grave. Put simply: We have to do better or we are no better.

Please, folks, whether you are on Fox or blogging or on talk radio, think before you speak!

Now, repudiation aside, here’s something a little more constructive in the way of criticism of Canada: A (reportedly) leaked conversation between our President and their Prime Minister.

Hat tip: Musings of a Caffeinated Mind.



Let the Dems Speak

The American Conservative Union's Dr. Don Devine is supporting the Administration's new proposals to promote federal employees at the Department of Homeland Security based on their performance rather than their seniority.

Don ran the federal personnel system during the Reagan Administration, so he knows this issue minutely. (He also was the faculty advisor for my College Republican club in the 1970s, but that's quite irrelevant.)

I'd love it if some talk show host somewhere set up a debate between him and one of the folks at the DNC I blogged about earlier. The more often Americans with private sector jobs hear the DNC's claim that seniority is more important than competence, the better. I have every confidence that most voters want competent government -- especially at Homeland Security.

I wonder of the DNC thinks the U.S. Army should run promotions this way?


Conscientious Objector in Harry Reid's Ranks?

From David Almasi:

It turns out one of the protestors arrested for disrupting President Bush's inaugural address was a staffer for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

It's interesting the lack of attention this incident seems to be receiving considering that The Washington Post could find the time this week to research the current employment of Bush activists involved in the 2000 Florida recount.

What's interesting to me is that Reid staffer/protester Nathan Ackerman held up a banner reading "no war,” yet he works in Reid's "war room" to combat the majority agenda in the Senate.

Was Nathan making a statement to Bush or to his boss?


Pelosi Claims GOP Wants Race-Based Social Security System

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has this sentence in a recent press release: "Republicans... have proposed providing African American and Hispanic workers with different [Social Security] benefits than white workers."

So there can be no doubt that I have quited her accurately, here is the entire press release:

Pelosi: Latest Republican Proposal to Cut Benefits Hurts Middle-Class Workers

WASHINGTON, Jan. 25 /U.S. Newswire/ -- House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi issued the following statement today in response to reports that the Bush Administration is considering cutting future Social Security benefits for retirees based on their income.

"Today, Republicans proposed yet another cut in Social Security benefits for American workers. They have proposed cutting benefits by almost 50 percent for every single senior in the years to come. They have proposed cutting Social Security benefits for women because they live longer than men. They have proposed providing African American and Hispanic workers with different benefits than white workers.

"This latest Republican proposal to cut benefits for middle- class American workers is just more of the same. Under this proposal, middle-class workers would see a severe benefit cut but continue to pay the same level of payroll taxes.

"Trillions in increased debt, drastic benefit cuts, and the false promise of private accounts are the wrong ways to go. The Republicans should try something new -- keeping their promise to American workers. Millions of Americans have earned their Social Security retirement benefits through a lifetime of hard work. Rather than cutting benefits and betraying seniors, we should be fighting to protect Social Security as the foundation of a secure retirement."

No support for the allegation is provided within the press release.


Fisking the DNC Blog

What balderdash -- the Democratic National Committee is claiming on its blog that a Bush Administration proposal to pay and promote federal employees based on their work performance rather than seniority amounts to "eliminating their right to negotiate the terms of their employment."

Proof, perhaps, that the DNC is putting labor union interests over those of the taxpayers?

(As one of the latter, I vote for performance promotions.)

I also think the name of the DNC's blog is needlessly offensive. (It's dumb, too, referring as it does to kicking the symbol of the Democratic Party.)

I'm also not sure the prominent image of a "troll" (their term for non-Democrats who post comments on their blog) getting his head smashed by a large hammer is worthy of a major political party.

I'd like to think a group that seeks to run the government disapproves of fighting dissent with violence.