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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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"A Feeling of Fear is Spreading"

An Associated Press report on the case of Russian billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky contains worrisome details:

The 10-month investigation against Yukos -- the company Khodorkovsky transformed into one of Russia's largest oil producers -- and its shareholders is seen by many as retaliation for Khodorkovsky's political aspirations.

Ahead of December's parliamentary elections, Khodorkovsky openly backed several parties that opposed President Vladimir Putin. The businessman also became increasingly assertive on policy issues and publicly lectured the Kremlin for its weak stance on corruption...

"The authorities, as personified by Putin and his group, have two aims: to civilize society but also a slightly contradictory goal, to control it," said Igor Bunin, a political analyst with the Center for Political Technology. "With the help of the Yukos case ... authorities have eliminated the political and economic autonomy of Yukos, which in their opinion, presented a potential threat..

Analysts say the multi-pronged attack on Yukos may be an attempt to force Khodorkovsky to make a deal and give up his assets in exchange for a lighter sentence. He already resigned as head of the company last year in a futile attempt to shield it from the government's blows.

The alternative, the analysts say, could be a long drawn-out bankruptcy process that could cost Yukos' shareholders their billion-dollar fortunes -- and still end with Yukos in state control. Either way, analysts say, it would serve as an example to other business leaders...

Yevgeny Yasin, a prominent economic expert who served as economics minister in the 1990s, warned earlier this week that the Yukos affair should make all businesses -- and Russian citizens -- uneasy.

"A feeling of fear is spreading," he said.


How Dare He?

Our Ed Haislmaier, a board member and our health care and retirement security expert, suggested that we include this Boston Herald editorial, How Dare Al Gore Disgrace this Nation?, in the blog. Said Ed: "It's concise and well put." I agree. Here it is:

He never mentioned Nicholas Berg. Or Daniel Pearl. Or a single person killed in the World Trade Center. Nor did former Vice President Al Gore talk of any soldier by name who has given his life in Iraq. And he has the audacity to condemn the Bush administration for having "twisted values?''

Gore spent the bulk of a speech before the liberal group Wednesday bemoaning Abu Ghraib and denouncing President Bush's departure from the "long successful strategy of containment.''

Yes, the very same strategy that, under Gore's leadership, allowed al-Qaeda operatives to plan the horror of Sept. 11 for years, while moving freely within our borders.

Gore even had the audacity to defend the perpetrators of the prison abuse - by name - while denouncing President Bush for "humiliating'' our nation.

How dare he. How dare a former vice president of the United States go beyond disagreeing with the current president's policies - a right of anyone in this free country - and denounce Bush as "incompetent.''

How dare Gore say that Americans have an "innate vulnerability to temptation... to use power to abuse others.'' And that our own "internal system of checks and balances cannot be relied upon'' to curb such abuse.

And this man - who apparently has so much disdain for the nature of the American people - wanted to be elected to lead it?

It is Gore who has brought dishonor to his party and to his party's nominee. The real disgrace is that this repugnant human being once held the second highest office in this great land.


Some People Don't Trust This Story

In the Reuters article today by Tom Perry entitled Governing Body, U.S. Pick CIA Link Allawi as Iraqi PM, the following paragraph appears:

"It was unclear how far U.S. officials or Brahimi influenced the choice of a long-time exile known to few Iraqis and whom people in Baghdad said was an outsider they could not trust."
Translation: I know very little about why the Governing Council picked Allawi, despite the fact that as a journalist that's exactly the sort of information I should have, but my inadequacy as a reporter is not going to stop me from inserting an editorial statement that undermines Iraq's transition to democracy.

Also, notice the phrase: "people in Baghdad." Could he have written it any more vaguely?


A Busy Vacuity, Hollow to the Core

Wow. Charles Krauthammer's opinion of the new World War II memorial certainly is harsh.


Kyoto is Anti-Environment

Check out the tremendously straightforward remarks by Russian economist and top Putin Advisor Andrei Illarionov on the Adam Smith Institute Blog.

The guy's a Russian Michael Crichton.


"Earthling, This Is the Last Chance to Purchase Your Safety..."

Just got an unusually amusing bit of hate mail:

I just read your critque of Gore's speech. What misleading crap. Of course since your rightwing idols are lying, cheating, fascist scum, it only stands to reason. Who ever heard of The National Center for Public Policy Research? This is just another ultra right conservative bullshit center that creates propoganda for right wing justification. Get a life.

David Everist
Signs of the Times Graphics

What's amusing about this is that if you put the author's email address into Google, you get a website offering to sell you vinyl Crop Circle Stickers (in a choice of thirteen attractive colors, no less) that you can use to deter aliens from abducting you.

The website says: "Earthling, this is your last chance to purchase your safety. Place these stickers on your car or notebook and maybe you won't be abducted."

This gentleman doesn't appear to be overly popular over at the John Kerry for President Blog. So I guess this letter is not a sign of an emerging belief in alien abduction among leftists generally.

That's a relief. We've got enough looney leftism already, what with Roland Emmerich claiming the Acropolis is turning into a ski lodge of the gods.

Addendum, March 11, 2006: Almost two years later, an indignant response arrives:

amy ridenour,

I am the guy you wrote about on May 28th 2004 calling me a "leftist Looney." You obviously don't know what you are talking about. I can now see why you get so much wrong. You make ridiculous assumptions regardless of the facts. I ran across your article about my "Crop Circle" vinyl designs site (which I took down for various other reasons) the other day when I Googled my name. I found it quite humorous since you got almost nothing right. You quoted my webmaster's sales catch phrase to humorously sell vinyl designs and took it to represent my political philosophy. LOL! No wonder you get so much wrong! I just like the crop circle designs and their formation is an idle curiosity to me and has nothing to do with my political philosophy. You are an idiot.

By the way, what do you think of your "Fuhrer" now that he has exposed his colors for the whole world to see? How long before you think he will be impeached and his entire administration held accountable for the crimes they have committed? As for my not being popular on Kerry's site so long ago, I only considered him the lesser of two evils and he would not be my choice for an alternative candidate in an obviously broken and corrupt system. All I can say is the Republican controlled Congress and their stolen 2000 and 2004 elections have gotten the people who voted for them just what they deserved.

David Everist

PS As far as aliens go, one of the only thing alien to the human race I can see anywhere is you and the people who think like you.


Notes About Other Places

Daly Thoughts, the Blog of the Electoral College Breakdown 2004, has kindly linked to a post on this blog by my husband David Ridenour, our VP.

Dales' Electoral College Breakdown 2004, by the way, tracks the presidential polls based on what they predict about the Electoral College. It is a fast way to make sense of the poll data we get from the news. After all -- and as Al Gore would tell you -- the popular vote doesn't decide the presidency. Only the Electoral College counts.

Meanwhile, Sean at the always-worth-a-visit "Everything I Know Is Wrong" blog posted some very complimentary remarks about posts on this blog by our executive director, David Almasi.

Finally, as long as I am talking about other blogs, allow me to recommend this Life, Liberty, & the Pursuit of Happiness post to anyone who has wondered, as I have, about the news media's practice of referring to certain geographical locations as "holy cities" -- but not others.


Silent Running

Peter Roff of UPI is reporting that The Center for Public Integrity has created

a new page on its website to monitor 527 political committees.


Under the Bridge

Peter Roff of UPI has reported that Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) has apologized for comparing some Republicans to the Taliban.


What is A German Soldier Worth?

This incident recounted in this Tasty Manatees blog story is unfortunate.

I have never been one of those who adhered to the convenient (for non-Germans) thought (pervasive in some quarters post WWII) that ethnic Germans were/are more likely to commit human rights abuses than other First World states and peoples. However, they're not less likely, either.

However, as Tasty Manatees notes, the Der Spiegel report alleging that Americans can't be trusted with POWs might not be entirely reliable. Der Spiegel has erred before.

This would be a good time for the German government to set the record straight.


Where Is Al Gore?

I've received an e-mail asking the question: Does anyone know an address for sending a letter to Al Gore?

If anyone does, send me an e-mail at and we'll share it.

ADDENDUM: I'm told Gore works at Metropolitan West Financial, LLC. They can be contacted at:

Metropolitan West Financial, LLC

11440 San Vicente Blvd., 3rd Fl.

Los Angeles, CA 90049

Phone: 310-979-6300

Fax: 310-979-6399

Gore also serves on Apple's Board of Directors:


1 Infinite Loop

Cupertino, CA 95014

Phone: 408-996-1010



Via the After Abortion blog comes a recommendation for this Dean's World blog post.


Explicit Toys

Executive director David W. Almasi finds some poor choices being made by one of America's largest toy retailers:

The Tom Cruise movie "The Last Samurai" received an R-rating largely because of its violent content. It's now on sale at Toys "R" Us. In a Sunday newspaper insert covering May 16-22, "The Last Samurai" was grouped with family-targeted movies like "The Haunted Mansion" and "Peter Pan" among the "hundreds of titles" to be found in Toys "R" Us stores at "Geoffrey's Box Office."

Online, Toys "R" Us is teamed up with Amazon. While the site is geared toward selling kid-friendly fare, it's still linked directly to Amazon's main site. As pointed out in an October 2003 National Policy Analysis, Amazon and other media and electronics stores routinely offer adult-themed videos for sale on-line without safeguards to keep them out of the hands of young people. Selecting the "all products" search field and typing in "Girls Gone Wild" (the infamous collections of girls exposing themselves on camera) on what was linked me to an Amazon catalog providing a selection of 78 DVDs and 44 video titles including "Dormroom Fantasies" and "College Co-Eds Mardi Gras." That's a problem.

Toys "R" Us is the largest toy retailer in the world, but it is losing out to Wal-Mart here in the United States. Wal-Mart refuses to stock some of Hollywood's racier titles like the Girls Gone Wild collection and even prevents people from purchasing R-rated DVDs at new self-serve check-outs without verification of age. That attracts family-oriented shoppers.

Any questions as to why some people prefer to shop Wal-Mart?


GOP Terrorists?

From executive director David W. Almasi:

How soon people seem to forget. Liberals were apoplectic last February 23 -- exactly three months ago to the day -- when Education Secretary Rod Paige called the National Education Association a "terrorist organization." Democratic National Chairman Terry McAuliffe called it "hate speech" and called on Republicans to "immediately renounce" Paige's comment.

Now Democratic Senator Tim Johnson (SD) compared certain parts of the Republican Party to the Taliban at a campaign rally on May 23.

The only difference between Paige and Johnson thus far is that Paige apologized. Johnson thus far has steadfastly refused to do so.

And none of his colleagues have renounced his comments, including Terry McAuliffe.


No Caviar in Our Teeth

A good post today on the Life, Liberty, & the Pursuit of Happiness blog about proposals by Charles Krauthammer and Gregg Easterbrook in favor of raising gasoline taxes.

I agree with all of it.


Gas Prices Are About More Than Saudi Arabia

Correspondent Edward Kitsch recommends this fine article by former Delaware Governor Pete DuPont of the National Center for Policy Analysis in today's Wall Street Journal putting all the "gasoline prices are rising" news media stories in perspective.

An excerpt: spite of what you read in the paper -- outrageous gasoline prices entered into Google gets you 15,000 links -- its current inflation-adjusted price of $2 a gallon is about its median price over its 85-year existence, and with the exception of the 1980s spike, it has been steadily declining over the decades.

Better still, improving technology has increased the number of miles one can drive on a gallon of gasoline, to 22 in 2000 from about 13.5 in the early 1970s . So the cost of gasoline per mile driven has fallen nearly in half, from more than 13 cents to a bit more than seven cents. Meanwhile median income for a family of four (in inflation-adjusted dollars) has increased to more than $63,000 today from less than $46,000 in the 1970s.
The article contains a lot more of interest.

As a side note, the next time I hear a broadcast media report that gas prices are higher I think I might scream. The fact that gas prices have increased led the local radio news stories in DC today -- despite the fact that they've been reporting this story for over a week!

It would be different if they added new information to the story each day, but they don't.. It is always the same thing: Gas prices are over $2! People don't like it! And then they invariably talk about OPEC, as if OPEC production levels were only factor involved in the pricing of gasoline.

As Pete DuPont's article shows, there's a lot we Americans could do if we really care to reduce the price of gas at the pump. This isn't all about Saudi Arabia.


Kissy-Face Detente Aside, Ivan, We Enjoy Beating You

National Center Executive Director David Almasi is a fan of the article "Wimpy U.S. Olympic Committee Tells Athens-Bound Athletes: Curb Your Enthusiasm" by James Lileks.

A few quotes follow, but we recommend the whole thing:

The United States Olympic Committee has requested that our athletes curb their enthusiasm, since we are, you know, uh, hated...

Earlier this year the U.S. Olympic soccer team was having a qualifying match in Mexico; they were up against Canada; and they won. The United States won, whereupon the crowd started chanting "Osama! Osama!"

Seventeen Mexicans died in the Sept. 11 attacks. Twenty-four Canadians died in the Sept. 11 attacks. You remember that big apology from Vicente Fox, don't you? No?

The Olympics are supposed to be above politics, but that's nonsense... When the United States beat the Soviets at hockey in 1980, the political overtones were explicit: Kissy-face detente aside, Ivan, we enjoy beating you. We really do...

Sudan, which is ethnically cleansing its Christian blacks, could hoist its flag. China, whose treatment of Tibet birthed a million indignant bumper stickers, can run around with the flag held high. Russia can flatten Grozny, and its athletes can be assured of huzzahs and applause.

It's not that these governments are better than the United States. What counts is that they are not the United States...
Blogging fans will recognize that James Lileks is more than a columnist. He also runs a truly exquisite blog. I don't use the word "exquisite" (defined by Webster's as: "carefully selected or sought out; hence, of distinguishing and surpassing quality; exceedingly nice; delightfully excellent; giving rare satisfaction; as, exquisite workmanship") lightly.

My favorite Lileks posts are the ones about Gnat. Oh, and do buy the dang book. I did. It's great.


Right in the Middle of the Karbala Fighting

I received a quick e-mail from Joe Roche Sunday evening.

He could not write a long note, but he did give a clue as to his recent activities, saying "my battalion was right in the middle of the Karbala fighting."

He also recommended "a link from the NYTimes that is really surprising because it is right on the nose!"

(I don't know if he meant that as an editorial comment about the general quality of the New York Times' reporting, or if he was simply showing his enthusiasm over this particular article).

He also recommended this ABC News Online report.

Joe also had time to add a paragraph about care packages before signing off:

We're receiving more and more packages every day. We add them to our convoys to deployed units, so all the soldiers are getting things. I really hope somehow the thanks is sent out. I know some soldiers are trying to write to some of the people. It is really hard though. Mostly, the addresses get lost when we tear into the boxes and spread things out.
I think we can tell how much the boxes are appreciated simply from the phrase "tear into the boxes."

Anyone who is thinking about sending a care package to these troops can get information about it here; there also are many other ways one can send support to our troops deployed abroad.



J'accuse, They Said, Ironically

The British left-wing newspaper the Guardian apparently thinks Americans give a damn about the opinion of effete Old Europe filmgoers.

A story titled "J'accuse" to this effect carries an astonishing sub-headline asserting that an Cannes film festival award to Michael Moore's anti-Bush film "may have changed the course of history."

How many divisions does the Cannes film festival have?

The article calls the award to Moore's film "...a spectacular rebuke to Republican and corporate America, a stunning exocet of scorn launched from the epicentre of old Europe."

They are a little full of themselves. This award represents a bunch of movie people from Europe restating something they say all the time: They don't like us, they don't like our values, and the really don't like us when we stand up for our values.

American moviemakers mostly don't like America. We sure as heck don't expect anything different from the French.

But before I end this, a note about the irony of the piece's headline:" J'accuse." For those who don't know history (let's include the Guardian here), this is a title of a famous newspaper piece condemning one of very many examples of French anti-semitism. Yet the Guardian uses the term against the USA's foreign policy -- which it despises in part because it believes we're too pro-Israel.


Enviro Guru Says: Adopt Nuclear Power or Suffer Gaian Dystopia

I'm getting a kick out of May 24 articles in the British newspaper the Independent.

It seems that the prominent Greenie James Lovelock has called upon his fellow members of the environmental left to abandon their opposition to nuclear power. Lovelock believes that global warming fears are understated and fears of nuclear power are exaggerated.

I'm enjoying the fact that a leading environmentalist is echoing something we've said many times before: If you truly believe carbon dioxide emissions are causing the planet to warm and that this warming would have dire results, you presently have two choices: nuclear power or shutting down much of the world's economic activity.

On this latter, narrow point, Lovelock apparently agrees with us. Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, according to the Independent, don't.

We, of course, believe that the theory that human beings are causing dangerous global warming is vastly overstated, but we like nuclear power's environmentally-friendly attributes nonetheless.

Lovelock, by the way, is a self-described "outstanding scientist" and "pioneer in the development of environmental awareness." He is credited by himself and others with creating the "Gaia Theory," the notion that, as Lovelock puts it on his website, "the planet Earth [is] a self-regulated living being."

The notion has been adapted by neo-paganists and New Agers, some of whom now worship "Gaia," regarding the planet Earth as a "goddess."