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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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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?


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


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: "'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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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.


"Mr. Rumsfeld, I Want You To Know..."


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."


Surprise of the Year

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

What were the odds?


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.


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.


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.


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.


'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.