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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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Clinton Scandals Continue

The Clinton-era scandals continue.

Hat tip to Michelle Malkin, who has more related links.


Battleground Poll Results Perplexing

In the newest Bush v. Kerry Battleground Poll, which no doubt will receive much publicity today, I noticed something odd that won't be in many headlines.

Likely voters polled said Kerry would do better at "creating jobs," but said Bush would do better at "keeping America prosperous."

Maybe Battleground respondents were thinking of non-prosperous jobs and/or a prosperous economy without new jobs...?

Sometimes poll results make no sense at all.


U.S.-Canadian Relations: Non-Supportive Without Being Helpful

Since I have written about Canada this week, I'll stick with a theme and recommend a piece on the subject of U.S.-Canadian relations by the incomparable Mark Steyn.

Money quote:

...the two nations of North America are on diverging paths. Take, for example, missile defense. This is an American issue tailor-made for Canadian politics in that it requires absolutely nothing from Canada. It's going to happen anyway, it's got the support of both parties south of the border, and because by "national defense" Americans generally mean "continental defense" we'll get the benefits of it - as we do from the U.S. nuclear deterrent - without putting up a dime. In that sense, it's almost a textbook definition of U.S.-Canadian "cooperation": we get to be supportive without being helpful. Indeed, we don't even have to be supportive. We just have to refrain from being non-supportive. And in return some of that great gushing torrent of Pentagon gravy will come the way of Canadian defense contractors.

But sorry, even that's too much to ask...


NCPPR Director Shot

From the lucky guy himself, David W. Almasi:

In what seems like an annual event, the medical community is not prepared for flu season. This year, because of potential contamination of the vaccines, the number of available shots is currently half of what is expected to be needed.

I was lucky. I went out to the grocery store on Saturday, before the news broke, where I was one of about ten people waiting for shots and the probably the only one under 60. At the time, the nurse administering the shots praised me for being wise beyond my years.

Now, these same people and government officials are asking people my age to willingly forgo being prepared. With the dearth of doses, they are calling for voluntary rationing. Clinics are being cancelled and the ones that aren't closed have people lining up long before they open the doors.

If the American people are acting this way about flu shots, what does this say for the way they will react if our health care system is further liberalized and involuntary rationing of more important procedures are the norm?
The always thought-provoking Galen's Log examines the question: Is the shortage in flu vaccine supply a market or government failure?


Russia's Economic Liberalization Faces a Bear in the Woods

National Center executive director David W. Almasi reports on his experiences at the U.S.-Russian Investment Symposium:

In the 1984 presidential race, Ronald Reagan's campaign wasn't afraid to talk about the bear in the woods. At the time, the bear represented the Soviet Union's strategic threat to world freedom. In the famous commercial, it was noted that not everyone wanted to acknowledge the problem of the bear and asked voters if they felt America should be strong enough to counter its threat. Overwhelmingly, Americans supported Reagan and his policies led to the demise of the Soviet Union.

A relative of the old bear seems to be back. Despite years of reform, the rule of law in Russia is in decline. Elections are suspect, if allowed at all. Restrictions have been placed on the press. There is a climate of fear with regard to the government, and allegations of corruption are rampant.

At the U.S.-Russian Investment Symposium held this week in Washington, everything seemed nice and sunny. Business, government and policy leaders were all smiles. Despite the decline in the rule of law in Russia, this new bear went largely ignored.

During a question-and-answer session, I asked the Russian minister of information technologies and communication, Leonid Reiman, this question:
Despite the best efforts of the business community, the continuing decline of the rule of law in Russia serves to discourage foreign investment. What would you say to those interested in investing in the telecom sector in Russia who are worried about allegations of government corruption and the systematic erosion of the rule of law?
The room became tense. Reiman smiled and tried to laugh it off. He acknowledged the bear of corruption exists but said it is becoming less and less of a problem. The solution? Clear-cutting the forest. He says new moves towards transparency in government will make corruption harder to hide.

Transparency in a country where the broadcast media is controlled by the state and the other media is looking over its shoulders?

My concerns seemed to be shared by speaker Philip Merrill, the chairman and CEO of the Export Import Bank of the United States. In a panel held earlier, he recognized the bear as an impediment to investment. Merrill says the problem is getting worse. To paraphrase him: In Russia's recent past, liberalization of the economy and progress toward dull democraticization could be described as two steps forward and one step back. Today, it is one step forward and two back.


If There Is a Bear

Via Stop the Bleating!, which credits The Volokh Conspiracy: A website featuring old political TV ads.

It has my #1 all-time favorite political commercial, the Reagan-Bush 1984 "Bear in the Woods." (Go to the website's 1984 GOP section and click on the picture of the bear.) The same section also has the classic "Morning in America" commercial (click on the newspaper carrier on a bicycle photo) and another Reagan-Bush '84 classic, "Train." That one still sends chills down my spine.

The 1988 section has one showing former President George H.W. Bush with his grandchildren. Children then; but we are seeing many of them all grown up on the campaign trail now.

So you don't have to ask, they do have the infamous 1964 LBJ "Daisy" commercial.

A note to those who don't like 9-11 footage in their political commericals: Eisenhower's 1952 "The Man from Abilene" makes plenty of use of WWI footage. But if you go to the Ike '52 section, don't watch the commercial labeled "Ike for President" unless you are willing to have his jingle in your head all night...


The Millionaire Next Door

Did John Kerry just tell an audience he can tell that none of them make over $200,000 a year just by looking at them?

I suggest he read this book.

Addendum: Michelle Malkin noticed the same thing.


Putin, the EU and Kyoto: A Double-Cross in the Making?

National Center Senior Fellow Bonner Cohen is attempting to decipher Vladimir's Putin's strategy on Kyoto. He's just written a piece for newspapers nationwide. The Ft. Wayne News-Sentinel is the first paper to publish it.

Money quote:

The wily former spymaster may well be setting Kyoto's proponents up for one of history's grandest double-crosses by signing the treaty and grabbing the billions of dollars in promised payoffs with no intention of ever living up to its terms.

After all, the only way for the European Union or the United Nations to really determine if Russia is complying with Kyoto is to site thousands of monitors on the ground in a vast territory that spans six time zones - or to rely on Russian self-certification.

The first option is not likely to be granted by the xenophobic Russians, while the statistics generated by the second are likely to be doctored beyond all credibility.


The Washington Reagans

Speaking of Canadian resources, Washington Post reporter and columnist David Broder thinks the new Washington D.C. baseball team should be named the "Washington Reagans."

Works for me. (But I'm still going to root for the Pirates.)


The Heritage Foundation, Defense Spending and the Blame America Firsters

You've got to hand it to those Blame America Firsters -- even in the most improbable circumstances, they can find a way to Blame America First.

Consider what this Canadian says in a story appearing in Britain's Independent about the Canadian submarine that has been stranded in the North Atlantic for the last three days:

Steven Staples, a defense analyst at the independent Ottawa think-tank the Polaris Institute, said: "There is no clear reason why we needed these subs. One theory is that the Canadian Navy has come under severe pressure from the United States to have subs so that they could play 'the enemy' in exercises. It has been disastrous for us."
Would this fellow have the world believe that Canada is so weak it can't even handle the role of pretend enemy?

I seem to have a higher opinion of Canada than that fellow, but let's face it, when it comes to self-defense, Canada sits complacent under our nuclear umbrella, not pulling its own weight. Canada spends 1.1 percent of its GDP on defense, compared to 3.4 percent for the United States (2002 figures; source: U.S. Defense Department). The U.S. in 2002 spent $350 billion on defense, Canada, $8.17 billion.

Even when it comes to multinational peacekeeping operations, something you'd think would be a little more to the pacifist taste, Canada still doesn't outclass the U.S. The U.S. spent $669 million on this in 2001-2002, while Canada spent $47 million (as a percentage of GDP, the two nations' contributions were roughly equivalent, at .75 and .76 percent respectively).

To put that $47 million figure in perspective, Canada spent less on international peacekeeping in 2002 than The Heritage Foundation, a conservative DC think-tank without a penchant for taking taxpayer dollars, took in in revenue that same year ($52 million). What's more, can anyone doubt that Heritage staffers could kick %$#@ if necessary in a foreign land?

Canada can be a better steward of its own national security. And the Polaris Institute should stop whining. What goes on in the Canadian Navy is the Canadian Navy's responsibility, and no loyal Canadian should want to have it any other way.

(P.S. For a quick guide to which nations have backbone and which would need help to take on even a think-tank, click here.)

Addendum: All in good fun, a Heritage staffer responds here.


Dick Cheney and Cheryl Tiegs: More Alike Than you Might Think

Visit BeldarBlog for a funny story about the vice presidential debate... and supermodel Cheryl Tiegs.


Leonid Reiman and the Russian Business Climate

One of the featured speakers at two prestigious symposiums in Washington this week on ways to promote new U.S.-Russian investment and business is a Russian government minister around whom allegations of corruption swirl.

Since the rule of law is a cornerstone of economic prosperity, this transcends irony. In fact, it is pitiful.

Specifically, Leonid Reiman, the Minister of IT and Communications of the Russian Federation, has landed prominent speaking roles at this week's sessions of the U.S.-Russia Business Council and the U.S.-Russian Investment Symposium. (Other participants at the latter event include two cabinet Secretaries, Commerce Secretary Don Evans and Energy Secretary Spence Abraham. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage is associated with the former, as is Secretary of State Powell himself, who attended the U.S.-Russia Business Council's 2002 meeting.)

Rumors are rampant that numerous journalists are investigating allegations that Reiman has used his senior position in the Russian government for his own benefit.

Some of these rumors have made it into print:

Leonid Reiman, a key member of the St. Petersburg FSB group, deprived two leading Russian mobile phone companies of their frequencies so as to benefit a company favored by him. Fortunately, his decision was reversed by the government after public uproar.

-A Window on Russia Commentary by Anders Aslund, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
International investors will not have confidence in Russia unless and until they are convinced the corruption and abuse of the legal system are in its past and that abusers are dealt with. We Americans do our best service to Russia -- a nation with which we potentially could become fast friends -- when we model the behavior that leads to a just, thriving market economy. We can start by limiting our more prestigious invitations to those who have a reputation for advancing the principles under which prosperity and democracy thrive.


The AFL-CIO and Overtime

Via Instapundit comes a link to a story and video of AFL-CIO members attacking Bush-Cheney offices in Orlando and Miami, apparently to voice complaints over the Bush Administration's new overtime rules.

Gotta love the softly nuanced way organized labor expresses its leadership's point of view. (Not.)

Here is the truth about the new overtime rules, explained for your convenience without even a dollop of violence.

Addendum: A note from reader "EB": Being a student of history (I've lived a lot of it) and not to put too fine a point on the comparison; the behavior of some of the unions in this election is reminiscent of the brown shirts of the '30s and the communist goon squads of the '50s.

A well-argued and factual defense of one's position will always be more persuasive than this bully-boy, "I aint't got a brain in my head" activity. The rad-libs, like the silent Islamic majority, need to get up off their backsides and loudly deplore such behavior. It's just plain un-American.


Why Are Medical Costs High?

I presume it is because of the VP candidates' debate Tuesday night, but for the last hour or so we've been getting a lot of hits on one of our newsletters from last year, probably because of the lead article, "Why Are Medical Costs So High? Courtrooms Are a Culprit."


Putin, Wanniski and Dixie Lee Ray

It is fair to say that I am not a huge fan of all the opinions expressed on Jude Wanniski's website,, but I did enjoy Wanniski's open letter to Vladimir Putin on global warming posted there today.


The U.S.: Worth Dying For

Those who read about the soldier profiled in Joe Roche's "Death of a Patriot" letter posted yesterday might be interested in a couple of websites that memorialize the late Command Sergeant Major Eric Cooke.

In this photo, CSM Cooke receives donations for Iraqi kids sent by the Rotary Club. The caption states that he promised to distribute the supplies to Iraqi children, but also that he was killed in action two days after the photo was taken.

Here is a Stars and Stripes profile.

On this webpage, CSM Cooke's mother writes, in part:

Years ago, right after Eric returned from Desert Storm, we were doing that thing we so often did - drink coffee, smoke cigarettes and talk the long night through. At one point I asked him what most motivated him when things got dicey, when bullets were flying. He considered the question for a moment. His eyes gathered moisture as he replied. "Maw, I believe The United States and her people are worth dying for."
In a letter entered into the Congressional Record, it is said of CSM Cooke:
There seem to be so few heroes today. I wanted to tell you about one: Command Sergeant Major Eric Cooke of the First Armored Division. Command Sergeant Major Cooke died on Christmas Eve when a roadside bomb ripped into his Humvee north of Baghdad on a convoy to Samara. He was 43 years old.

Just before his death, Command Sergeant Major Cooke had written my uncle, David Hunter, that he had not signed up for the 2-week Christmas leave available to soldiers who were deployed to Iraq because he could not take the leave knowing that one of his men would not be receiving theirs. CSM Cooke said he was lucky to have a loving wife who would understand why he was not coming home for Christmas. He was career United States Army, and she understood his commitment.

On the day he died, Command Sergeant Major Cooke heard of an injured soldier who was in urgent need of O-positive blood, so he rushed to a nearby field hospital to donate his own. He almost missed that convoy going to Samara. Command Sergeant Major Cooke had the opportunity to have an armored Humvee, but he chose to give it to his men so they would be protected during armed escort duty, patrols and raid operations. His selfless service knew no limits.
Scroll to the bottom of this page for a photo of CSM Cooke's gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery.

I did not know CSM Cooke during his lifetime, but I find him an inspiration now. I thank the Lord for our country has been blessed with men of his caliber.

Addendum: Thanks to Ally for her comments on this blog's posts on CSM Cooke, and thanks also to Truth Serum.


Update on Shoes for Kids

Keystone Military News has the scoop on what's going on with the Shoes for Kids project.

If you have kids, be sure to read it.


Death of a Patriot

Joe Roche has written again:


On Thursday, I attended a ceremony at the U.S. military base in Heidelberg to dedicate a site in honor of Command Sergeant Major Eric F. Cooke.

This man was a true American hero, one of the great soldiers who make our military strong and our country proud. Our country is hurt by the loss of such a soldier. During the ceremony, I looked at our flag, the American flag, and felt something I feel compelled to share with you tonight.

Though you probably didn't know him, you may remember the death of CSM Cooke. It was on Christmas Day that you learned of his death in America on the news from Baghdad. The night before, Christmas Eve, he went out on a combat mission that included checking on soldiers out on other missions. It was cold, lonely, dangerous, dark, and everyone was feeling the sadness and loneliness of being a world away, in a war zone, in danger, completely separated from loved ones for many months. At the bases there were ceremonies marking Christmas and lots of effort to make things somewhat special, as best as can be, so that soldiers at base would feel, well, ok and not so homesick. How many people in America really know what that is like?

The soldiers in Baghdad that dark and lonely night were cold and sad. No better way to put it. Every one of them wanted to be home. For some of the young soldiers, this was their first time away from home, not to mention being in the Army in combat in a foreign country on the other side of the world where they are facing death and injury at any moment. While Americans at home enjoyed parties with the comfort and coziness of home and family and friends, the soldiers of your military were deployed on combat missions. There were soldiers in Afghanistan, the Philippines, Yemen, all over the world, but I am speaking of the ones in Iraq, Baghdad specifically, right now.

While there were celebrations, somber and sad despite the best efforts of everyone to make it special -- including the local Iraqis at each base who helped out -- the most difficult, lonely and sad ones were those soldiers out on missions that night, Christmas Eve in Baghdad, facing danger and hardship.

The reason I am stressing this is because CSM Cooke, a top-ranking enlisted soldier, did not have to do anything that night. He could have stayed on base, enjoyed the comforts being provided, and huddled around the phones and Internet stations to communicate with home while enjoying a hot meal. He could have avoided the danger of missions in the streets of Baghdad. Instead, he cared too much for his soldiers, for us, for your loved ones in the military, so he went out to check on soldiers who were out on missions that night. Of course, this meant going to some of the most dangerous areas, because that is where U.S. soldiers were guarding, patrolling or otherwise on duty.

The soldiers he was with were my fellow soldiers. The admiration and respect for him was the highest. No soldier who met him and worked with him failed to be affected by his courage, determination, optimism and positive outlook. General Bell, the commander of the Army in Europe, said "it didn't matter where or how difficult a mission was, Sergeant Major Cooke always did it." Those who knew him well said he treated everyone with respect, and that he was absolutely committed to the whole mission in Iraq. He kept the soldiers going even when they were hurting and tired. He was the type of military leader who could inspire us at the worst and most difficult times. He always saw hope and purpose in what we were doing.

CSM Gravens told us that CSM Cooke "would make and inspire soldiers to do more things, no matter how hard or challenging, than they themselves thought possible." He was the type of leader who respected and honored his soldiers, seeing that his example was important to our performance. As such, he always set the standard for top quality performance and incredible determination to overcome obstacles. It was also this that, on Christmas Eve, prompted him to go out when it was actually the job of other soldiers to do that. He went, so they would not have to go. And as such, when he was killed, "he took one for another soldier," as CSM Gravens pointed out.

This was just like him. CSM Cooke had served 25 years in the Army, joining in 1978 when it was not fashionable to join and patriotism was not so honored in an America reeling from the Vietnam War. He worked hard, climbing the ranks through an amazing career of duty, dedication and service to our nation. He served in the 1st Gulf War, in the Balkans, and in many other deployments and operations.

From soldiers who knew him well, I learned that he was a rugged tough man who reminded them of the great heroes of our past. He smoked cigars and loved to inspire love and patriotism in his soldiers for our country.

In Iraq, he led us as a only a hero could do. I believe such people as him are the best that America has, and I wish you and more Americans could get to know such people.

In the Army, we are instilled with seven core values that every soldier is pushed to learn and to grow with. They are: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage.

Sometimes we soldiers struggle with these, and we sometimes feel cynical about them because of the daily challenge in doing our jobs. It isn't easy being a soldier. When you encounter a soldier like CSM Cooke, however, you realize right away that such values are the core of being a good soldier, and that they are the distinction that separates us from other militaries.

His career reached the critical height in Iraq of commanding the 1st Brigade of the 1st Armored Division, dealing with some of the most difficult events of last year. CSM Cooke exemplified the seven core values in his job. General Dempsey, the commander of the 1st Armored Division, said that his leadership and dedication to the soldiers even more emphasized Selfless Service. I think we can all appreciate that.

Gen. Dempsey quoted Will Rogers in speaking of Sergeant Major Cooke. "The most a man can hope to accomplish in life is to leave the pile of wood a little higher." This he did, every day, every year. Today I'm struck by the impact and loss of this man to our nation.

I know that Americans are caught up in a political season in which all the major issues of the day are being debated. I am sharing this with you as best I can because I think people should also pause to bear in mind that behind the issues are true American heroes like CSM Cooke. He isn't the only one, either. I think, though, that if some people feel distant and disconnected to the soldiers who are serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places, they should pause to reflect on this man and realize that he represents something that should make us very proud to be Americans and very proud of our women and men in uniform.

It isn't every country, every military, that produces such leaders. General Dempsey said he was "a true soldier's soldier." On Christmas Eve, he made the ultimate sacrifice to our nation, to our mission, to our flag and all that America represents. His life, and his death that sacred night so far away from home, was truly the Last Full Measure of Devotion that a citizen will ever make to our Republic.

Amy, I know that you have some special people who follow your work, who believe strongly in our country and in our military's missions, and that they respect and honor the sacrifices that our soldiers make every day. This is perhaps the case more with the people you work with than most other people because your work is so dedicated to upholding and preserving our country's values and principles. I remember how so many people listened to you to send us soldiers in Baghdad care packages, and that really made a difference.

All of us strive to make the pile of wood a little higher, and I know that you are doing that. Few of us, however, will ever achieve what CSM Cooke did in his service to our country.

I hope that people will take today's issues affecting our soldiers seriously, and that they will continue to support the soldiers now deployed. The holiday season again is not far off. Let us all bear in mind that others will be following in the example of CSM Cooke.

George Washington called us "citizen soldiers" because though we become soldiers, we never stop being citizens of our great Republic. Let us do endear ourselves to our nation this season and always seek to honor our soldiers with patriotism in the flag they are serving, and with gratitude for the service and sacrifice they are making. They are the ones defending the Constitution and our way of life every day with their lives. Freedom is not free.

I think this is a proper tribute for our fellow citizens in America to do tonight in honor of CSM Cooke. I can tell you from the bottom of my heart that thinking of CSM Cooke brings me such pride in being in the U.S. Army. What incredible people these are and what a special nation we are serving. Thank you for taking the time to read this.



The Garden Of Angels

If you ever have cried, as I have, after learning of an abandoned newborn in a dumpster, or a mistreated child, please read Strengthen The Good's story of Debi Faris and The Garden Of Angels.


France: Our Oldest Enemy

Thanks to a tip from Professor Bainbridge, I intend to get this book.

Many of us think the French have been hostile lately, but were great friends to America during the 1700s. This is not so. I expect John Miller and Mark Molesky's new book, "Our Oldest Enemy: A History of America's Disastrous Relationship with France" will prove the case nicely.

As an amateur genealogist, I was struck by the number of times noxious policies by the French hurt my ancestors and my husband's. For example, in the 1750s, my ggggggg-grandfather was murdered in central Pennsylvania by Indians at French instigation. He left a widow and several young orphans. (The many and brutal murders of this sort in that area at the time were one of the factors leading to the Revolutionary War -- settlers were dissatisfied with the amount of protection being provided by the British government, while the British government thought it quite reasonable to tax the colonists for the cost of said protection. No doubt France was gleeful.)

Ancestors on both my side of the family and my husband's fled France and areas near France a few centuries ago because the French government tended to slaughter innocents, especially Protestant ones.

(By the way, if anyone thinks my last name is French, don't. Some of my husband's paternal ancestors changed their German surname to this spelling long before my husband was around to have a say in the matter.)

I do think highly of some individuals in France, including an old and very pro-American Parisian friend I haven't seen lately, but that friend is only alive today because his Dad was sick and missed school one day back in the 1940s -- the day all the Jewish students were rounded up by French authorities. I suspect I don't have to tell anyone what happened to those children.

I'll say this for France, though: It drove a lot of our ancestors to get the heck out of Europe, making us Americans. That, at least, is a debt we can never repay. But I'm still willing to put down $16.97 for "Our Oldest Enemy."

Addendum: Ally at Who Moved My Truth, one of the blogs I read regularly, sent over this comment: "I just wanted to respond to your post on France. While I guess some are misinformed regarding France's relationship with the U.S., I had a very good history professor who put that myth to rest. During the U.S. founding, the French only were interested in us when it provided something to them without any risk. Look at the Revolutionary War. They laughed at us, until they saw that we had the upper hand. Only then were they willing to commit - precious little - help in our direction. And later, they fought against us with the Native Americans (if they were on the Native American side for altruistic reasons, I would have more respect for them; alas, they were just as guilty as us for using the Native Americans for their own designs). The French have always been Machiavellian in their hearts - which is why the world comes knocking at our door for help, and not at the Louvre. They might have the prettier language, but we will always have the bigger heart."